zines in a time of crisis

I’ve been struggling to figure out how to respond to the current crisis – and I have decided to share my experience as a teaching artist with parents everywhere who are searching for something to do with their children while we are all practicing social distancing. I’m going to make a short video everyday using materials you might already have at home. For today’s project you need a sheet of paper and a pair of scissors (no scissors? you can probably tear it instead!)

Zines can be about anything and can use drawing, writing, or collage, to create content. You can make one on your computer, but it’s fun to go analog and get sticky with some glue every now & then Maybe you could make a zine of some inspirational poems and pictures, and leave them on neighbors porches to cheer them up, or scan or photograph your zine and send it as a pdf/jpeg to friends and family with instructions on how to fold it up, they might enjoy it while they are waiting out the virus at home.

Want to learn more about zines? Try these resources

this is a really cool video – wish I was this good at videos!

here’s a quick look at zine history

and if you want to keep learning more – read Notes from the Underground: Zines and the politics of alternative culture by Stephen Duncombe

I made this zine from an old drawing that wasn’t really working, I’m going to add text to it next

If you make a zine, please leave me a comment and let me know how it came out. I’ll be back tomorrow with another project – until then be well!

An unbelievable journey -part 1

In November I had the great fortune to travel to the magical Orkneys to take a workshop led by India Flint and Alison Mountain. This was largely due to the generosity of my amazing and long suffering hubby (who gave me the trip as a birthday present), but also because two local organizations had faith in my work, and helped defray part of the costs with some grant funding, so a huge thank you to the United Arts Appeal and the Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua Fund for Women for their support. It’s really hard to find the words for my experience there on the island, but I’m going to give it a try.

woodwick house web

We stayed in the charming Woodwick House, that’s the sea right at the end of the garden!

As an introvert I always approach these kinds of workshops with equal parts excitement and dread. I don’t lack confidence in my work or my ability to learn new skills, and I am not shy, but I find interacting with people I don’t know exhausting and a tiny bit terrifying. I needn’t have worried. Talk about finding your tribe. It was one of the easiest group of “strangers” I have ever had the privilege of spending time with. From the first meal together it was clear that an unusual chemistry was at play, and I was able to relax into the work without trepidation. I really want to thank ALL the amazing artists for being so open and grounded, but I especially want to thank Jo, who took my awkward self under her wing and smoothed the way. She has a truly unique gift for seeing people and facilitating communication – so big hugs Jo!

I don’t want to bore you with a blow by blow description of everyday – so I am just going to share a few highlights. The first day we headed out after breakfast to “shake hands with a place” as Andy Goldsworthy has so eloquently put it. We spent a blustery few hours outside wandering, collecting impressions, sketching, I’m sure like me many people took some photos. Alison provided us with these adorable little vintage country dance books to use as a sketchbook, it had never occurred to me to draw in a printed book before, but it was an interesting challenge to marry an impression with an existing page!

In the afternoon Alison led us in a workshop to try and capture those impressions. We worked with a variety of materials including some incredible natural inks. We began by working on a large sheet of paper which was then folded to make a simple book form. Then we worked back into the pages the folding created. I was amazed to find myself working comfortably in a pretty crowded room without “walling myself in” with my stuff.

My final result looks to me like my work, but I can clearly see the influence of the place and the process. I was envious of the artists who could really work freely – I struggle to just make marks and be loose – and this was a feeling that came back to me again and again during this workshop and is something I am really hoping to carry into the new year. The first marks were pretty loose, but the end result seems a little tight and maybe overworked?

book 3book 2book 1

The first day was so rewarding, and the experience would only keep getting better! Stayed tuned for more!

 

embroidered at WNYBAC

Like many artists I am so fortunate in the people and places the muse throws into my path. Regular readers will already know that I love spending time at WNYBAC – the Western New York Book Arts Center, in Buffalo. Its a bit of a hike from my home (1.5-2hrs by car) but I finished the second half of my undergraduate degree in Buffalo at UB as a commuter, so I can find my way there and back in my sleep. Last year I was offered an opportunity to have an exhibition in their gallery and that show opened earlier in the month. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you will already have seen some images from that show, but in case you don’t here’s a few images

As part of the exhibition “package” they ask you to design a workshop to tie in with the show, and today I taught a cheerful group of 13 students, many of whom had never made a book before, a pretty challenging two signature, two needle cross stitch binding. If you’d like to give it a try, or were in the workshop (thank you!) and want a refresher here is a brief tutorial. To begin you will need the following supplies:

  • This two signature cross stitch template printed on a sheet of letter sized (8.5×11) cardstock
  • 8 sheets of 9×12 paper (grained long)
  • some linen thread and needles
  • an awl, a bonefolder and an x-acto knife

Begin by cutting out the pieces from the template.

1 web

Next score the lines along the spine and fold to create the cover ( printed side inside)

Punch all the dots to create the sewing stations in the cover

Fold each sheet of 9×12 paper in half and tear down into 16 pieces that measure 6×9

Divide into two sets of 8 pages, and fold together in half to create two signatures

Using the stripy punching guide from the template, punch the sewing holes in both signatures

Cut a piece of thread 24-30 inches long, and thread with a needle at both ends. Do not tie any knots in the thread

To begin sewing enter the spine at the head of the book. Each needle should go into the first sewing station, through the signature to the inside of each.

Then take each needle out the second sewing station in each signature, back out to the outside of the spine.

I always sew left to right because I am right handed, but as long as you are consistent it doesn’t really matter. With the spine facing you, take the needle in the left hand row and take it down into the third sewing station in the right hand making a diagonal stitch across the spine.

15 web

Using the same needle, sew down into the 4th sewing station and back out to the spine

16 web

Take the right hand needle and sew into the left side, completing the cross stitch, again take the same needle out though the 4th hole to the outside again. This is now the left hand needle, sew across the spine to make the next diagonal, and repeat until you reach the end of the sewing stations, alternating needles so the crosses form on the stitches in the same direction

 

At the end, sew up to the previous sewing station, but only through the signature (NOT the cover) tie off the two ends in the gutter and trim.

You can increase the numbers of signatures in pairs and sew into a larger book, like this one. You could also sew between signatures 2 & 3 in the same manner if you wished.

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I chose this binding for the workshop because learning it gave me the idea to experiment with making samplers as bindings, which lead to making bindings using lots of other kinds of embroidery – especially blackwork embroidery.

Its been a pretty perfect day – now I am relaxing at home with tea and chocolate. Taking a few minutes to let all my good fortune wash over me, before I get back at it!

 

Summer’s swan song

Tomorrow the new school semester begins, so for this past week I have been rushing to cross things off my summer list. I’m feeling really ambivalent about teaching this year, so I think it is time to plan my leap. More on that thought to come, but for today, here’s the last update from my summer in the studio. To warm up this week I made this little guy, heavy flax covers from a deckle box several years ago, suede spine, twin needle cross stitch over two signatures, and it has pockets!

Feeling happy and confident I turned my attention to a piece that I wanted to finish for my exhibition at wnybac in September. When I first started making the blackout inspired bindings I really wanted to make an Elizabethan style collar, but I couldn’t quite make it work.

Then during PBI earlier this year I had a bit of an epiphany in Beatrice Coron’s class. I made myself a cut tyvek collar, and I experimented with this accordion folded Lacey cut.

So this week I was determined to get back to that first idea and see what I could make of it now. First up was a period inspiration, taken from a Holbein painting of Jane Seymour. In the painting you can see her blackworked cuffs, and so using that pattern I embarked on a new binding design.

I wanted to try binding this on the bench, so I drew a graph and started the binding. By the time I reached this stage it was pretty late at night. After many false starts where I lost my place and had to unpick my sewing, I went to bed feeling a bit defeated. (Following the graph is like sewing counted cross stitch, if you lose your place it’s really frustrating!) This was the end of day 1

The next day I decided to leave the final mistake in the pattern, as this was just a test and pushed on to the end of the pattern repeat. Here’s that binding

I am just going to have to pay really close attention when I do the real thing. So I put this aside and turned my focus to a paper lace page.

I love how this looks, but the book will need 46 more signatures folded and cut like this, so stay tuned patiently! Especially as now I will have to squeeze them in around teaching.

Ah well, back to the grind.

Clearing the decks

I can’t believe winter break has already been and gone. Somehow I always have more ambition than time, and this year was no different.

The first week of classes usually has the potential to run off the rails, this semester it was technology, or the lack of it, which caused the biggest hurdles. It didn’t help that my classes weren’t confirmed until less than 2 days before classes started. Luckily I am not teaching anything new, so it was just a matter of brushing things up. I am also auditing a printmaking class so I can learn Japanese style wood block printing, which will hopefully get me in the studio a bit too. By the end of the week I was starting to get my feet under me and fingers crossed all goes well from here on out!

During the week I embroidered some leaves, because my umbrella plant always drops leaves in the winter, and they are great to work on. Here they are fresh

And here they are again a few days later.

I love how ephemeral they are, the process makes me think about manicured gardens, about trying to control the natural world, possess it, and how nature resists our desire to order and control it.

I spent the weekend trying to clear the decks in the studio, I still seem to have a stack of unfinished projects lingering. Some things just needed a little work, like this stack of journals, which just needed the covers

Glad to have those finished, and they will be heading out to local galleries in the next few weeks.

These brown bag lunch journals have been knocking around partially completed for months, today I finished all the decorative sewing on the covers, now all that’s left is sewing in the signatures. Hopefully I can get these buttoned up this week.

I’ve also got a stack of mending, alterations that need my attention, and then there’s the 3 pairs of trousers I cut out but haven’t sewn yet! I really want to get all that done before the grading starts piling up. So I guess less talk, more action is needed here. Back to work.

Eco journal tutorial

Recently I taught a class to make a journal using eco-dyed and printed papers, using a hybrid sewing (French link & Coptic) and wood veneer covers.

This is a really brief tutorial on how we did it!

We actually started by binding the pages as it was only a one day workshop, but I would recommend sewing after you dye your pages.

For more information on dyeing, check out this blog post or you could do a you tube search for boiled books, that’s how I got started!

After you have dyed your pages and they have completely dried, you need the following in order to make this binding, two pieces of tape, ribbon or bias binding, some linen thread, a book binding or crewel needle, an awl, scissors, pencil, ruler, and a scrap piece of paper the same height as your pages.

1. Make a template to use when punching your pages. To make mine I measured .5″ in from each end, then .5″ from that mark (so 1″ from the end). Next I laid my tape by those second marks, and made a third mark leaving a bit of space so I don’t catch the tape when sewing. Finally I divided the remaining space so there would be 3 more sewing stations.

2. Next fold all your pages in half, then punch each one, using the template, with the awl.

3. To begin the sewing, thread the needle with the linen thread. I like to use shorter lengths and add more thread, so I always start with an “arm’s length”. Enter the first signature at the head or the tail of the book.

4. Then from the inside come out at the second sewing station

5. On the outside sew across the tape and go down the 3rd sewing station

6. On the inside skip the next three sewing stations and come up through station 7.

7. Come out through station 7, see across the second tape and back inside the book at station 8. Then come back out to the outside through the final sewing station

8. Lay the next signature on top of this sewn signature, and take the needle down into the page through the corresponding station on the second signature

9. On the inside come out through the next sewing station next to the tape. Take the needle down through the stitch over the tape to make an x

10. Go down through the sewing station the other side of the tape. Then come up from the inside at the next station. Take the needle down through the corresponding station on the FIRST signature.

11. On the inside of this signature is a long stitch, take the needle around this stitch to anchor the sewing, and exit through the same sewing station you entered.

12. Take the needle up to signature 2, go into the signature through the same sewing station you exited. Travel to the next sewing station and repeat. Do this for all 3 center stations between the tapes.

13. Sew out the next station, next to the tape, take the needle down though the stitch over the tape to make an x then sew back in next to the tape. Finally sew back out through the final station. Tie the tail of the initial sewing to the thread on the needle using a square knot

14. Lay the next signature on top of the sewn ones, take the needle into the corresponding first station on the 3rd signature. Come out at the sewing station next to the tape. This time sew down through the longest side of the x over the tape. Sewn down into the page on the third station next to the tape.

15. Come out at the next sewing station, take the needle behind the pair of stitches between signatures 1 & 2. The sew back in the same station you exited. Repeat with the three central stitches.

16. Sew out through the station next to the tape, sew through the longest leg of the x over the tape. Sew down through the page on the other side of the tape.

17. Come out through the last station, lay the 4th signature on top of the sewn ones. Make a kettle stitch and sew into the corresponding station on signature 4.

Continue sewing until all your signatures are attached.

To finish the book you will also need, 2 pieces of book board the same size as your pages ( mine are 6×6″), two pieces of decorative paper slightly larger than these boards, some scrap paper the same depth as your tape, pva glue, and two pieces of wood veneer the same size as your boards.

1. Cover both boards with decorative paper. Make sure you mark the direction of the board’s grain!

2. Press the books under weights until the glue is completely dry. Attach the book block to the board’s using the tapes

3. Next you need to fill around the tapes using scrap paper. Sand this paper to get it level and smooth. This makes a nice flat surface to attach your veneer to.

4. Attach the veneer to the board. Make sure that the direction of the grain in the veneer and the board’s match or you covers will curl! You could use a double sided adhesive like gudy for this step, or a spray contact adhesive, or pva works fine.

5. Lastly, gently sand the edges of veneer, round off the corners, then varnish or oil the covers.

Please note: usually you would have the grain of the board running parallel with the spine, but if you don’t want the grain on the wood running that way you’ll have to break the rules!

If you found the sewing instructions hard to follow you could always use a different sewing you already know, or search for a good video tutorial for the two different styles online.

I just love the wood with the dyed paper pages, a wooden board Coptic or Ethiopian binding would be lovely too. I’ve dyed lots of paper and I plan on experimenting with some other bindings this winter once the semester ends.

Until then, enjoy, and comment below if you have any other ideas!

Tale of a tooth

So, as I shared in my last post, on my way home from my workshop last week I broke a tooth, so my week started out at the dentists. I ended up needing a surgical extraction as the tooth had broken below the gum in my jaw. So my plans for this week we’re slowed to a snail’s pace while recuperating. I did start work on a project I have been thinking about for a couple of years after seeing Kevin Steele’s books at PBI.  

I started with this accordion book form, those are Kevin’s PBI handouts under the book

Then I bound it to look like this

I want to add a black work binding to the spine, so next up was adapting a black work design from a period painting by Holbein

And then testing the pattern on some scrap paper

So now I am ready to translate all these sketches into the finished book, although I am going to wait to cut into the fancy paper until I am feeling more the thing. 

On Monday I am starting a big restoration project, and teaching a kids workshop. I can’t believe it is almost time to go to the UK. Time flies!!