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The beginning of the school year has been brutal. I just can’t seem to get into a rhythm. Perhaps I am too distracted by the unfinished work for my upcoming show. I am slowly figuring some things out in the studio but as of right now the work still feels strained. It has lyrical moments, but now the deadline is creeping up on me and I feel like I am forcing things. Here are some partially resolved struggles. Your thoughts are always welcome.

another summer ends

Its grey and raining here today.

It perfectly suits my mood, I’m a little sad and grey myself.

Suddenly summer is over. Technically it has been over for me for a week. Classes started back up at both schools where I teach last Tuesday, but it has felt like summer because my sister and Mum were here visiting after the wedding. We had a lot of fun playing tourist in my backyard, visiting parks and museums and just spending precious time as a family. Yesterday they went home.

It is beyond words, living so far away from them all, my parents and sisters, their spouses and children. I am incredibly lucky in my life here, I have the love of a really good man, and my children, and my grandchild. I have a beautiful home. I have meaningful work. I have friends. Somedays though I am still sad to be so far away from the place that will always be my home.

Life goes on. My work calls to me. Life has laundry and dishes and papers to mark.

And I can look forward to a less grey day, next summer, when hopefully the entire family will be back together again, even if it is only for a few brief glorious summer days.

kozo

Recently I was invited to join a group of artists from various disciplines working with kozo. Needless to say I was thrilled. About a week ago we met to cook the fibres and start cleaning and beating. This sort of work is always more fun in a group, and especially if there are snacks and drinks! We took turns working and so there was plenty of time for socializing. One of the artists wanted to try spinning the cooked but unbeaten fibre, which she was able to do! Amazing! This meant at the end of the session there was a piece of cooked unbeaten fibre which had been pulled apart for her experiment. I rolled it up in my apron and yesterday when I went to make paper (and so needed my apron again) I discovered it again. 

What I found was a beautiful organic structure full of holes, and regular readers may already have an idea where this is going…. yes, holes = needlelace. So I sat down with a needle and thread. And produced this

I loved how the needlelace reflected the structure of the fibre, it was an interesting intersection of natural and man-made. I liked it so much I decided to press on. Next I tried a bright contrasting thread.

And then I unpicked it because it just felt all wrong. So I switched to another more organic/neutral colour, a cream and added more. Better. So I just kept on working.

I never thought of working with just the fibres, but I love how this looks. I think a bigger experiment may be in the near future.

dream.do.detach


Now I am in full-on summer mode and can barely keep track of what day it is, I find myself in a bit of a philosophical mood. This is partly prompted by the slow unfurling that happens when my hands are engaged in my craft, but this week it was also prompted by a friend who wrote about weeding her CV, and about ambition. I’m really happy (and a tiny bit envious) of anyone who has reached a point in their career where they need to weed out their professional accomplishments to make way for more important or prestigious achievements but it does rather give one pause and make you feel a bit, well, stalled, or in a rut.

On most days I am entirely happy in my little dominion. I get to spend most of my days making art, or teaching art, or doing other arty things. And this is the life of my dreams. It’s the life I have been steadily working towards all these years, and yet, well comparison is the thief of joy, and I do occasionally wonder what I am doing, and why, and if it will ever be important or have relevance to anyone but me. And if not, does that matter?

Luckily I don’t get much time to sit around and worry about these things. There is always more to do than will fit in a day which is a good thing for a worrier like me. 

I FINALLY had an idea for my upcoming show in November. It’s not a clever or particularly intellectual idea, but I decided to just follow it anyway because it is something I have wanted to do for a while. And I have a reasonable chance of finishing it by the end of October. I am putting my caryatids on the back burner because I realized I was trying to squash a big idea into a space and time frame too small for it. So I am going to do more research and take it more slowly.

In the meantime I have been walking in the woods and eco-dying everything in sight and making lots of paper. 

None of these are radical things, but they make me feel grounded and connected. I remind myself that my job is to show up and do the work. And then to let it go.

Busy making books

Summer = festivals. I have been busy making lots of blank journals to take to some festivals next month. And I’ve been posting pictures on my Facebook and Instagram as I finish things up. Here’s a few samples.

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And these woven bindings

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Which sparked some interest in how they were constructed. I haven’t made any of these in years so I had to think about where I first learned how to make them. I finally tracked it down to an Alissa Golden book, making handmade books. She calls it a cross structure binding.
To make it you need two soft covers twice the width of the signatures plus the width of the spine. I used two pieces of cardstock here.

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You need an odd number of tabs cut out from each cover and spine, leaving just the front and back covers intact. Then I cut the slits in the front and back to coincide with the tabs.

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To prepare the signatures mark where the two tabs cross the spine and add an additional station at each end for a kettle stitch

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Then sew over the tabs and add a kettle at each end to secure the signatures

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Then you just weave the tabs through the covers

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And done!
If you want more detailed instructions I’d recommend the book, it has over 100 bindings.
Well back to work. Maybe I will see you at a festival later this summer.