new year – new goals

It feels rather like tempting fate to be posting any goals after 2020, but I’m going to throw caution to the wind and do it!

a snowflake inspired binding on my studio bench

To be honest, I didn’t think I had any studio goals after last year – which was a real wash for me, I had a hard time getting motivated to do ANY creative work, but a friend of mine suggested I try taking a free workshop on art goal setting with Art NXT Level and it turned out that lurking inside me was a goal I have been pushing to the bottom of the list for years – to finally gather all my notes, samples and diagrams, and publish a book on sewing my “bindings as embroidery”

So I have set to work. I am hoping to gather up one or two bindings a month, so by the end of the year I should be able to put them into book form. So far I have revised the instructions for one of the first books I ever made, called bound, it featured a simple repeated chain pattern. You can see some of my struggles with that binding, many years ago here. And here’s the simplified version sewn on a spine like a long stitch binding.

I’m also revisiting the maple binding I used for this book, Maple, yeah I know – not the most imaginative title writer here!

So I guess stay tuned to see if I actually manage to stay on track – or if 2021 has a curve ball of her own to throw out. I’ll try to keep updating here as a way of staying honest. Now – Back to work!

free workshop for the Big Read

the ghost book

I was invited by the Prendergast Library to join some other local artists in creating projects inspired by this year’s Big Read book – Pretty monsters by Kelly Link – which could be shared via a free virtual workshop. My project is inspired by The short story the Constable of Abal. The story opens with a strong visual image which really sparked my imagination, of a world where people wear ghosts hanging from ribbons as accessories on their clothes. That was an idea I could run with! So I created what I am calling the Ghost Book.

Because the workshops are not being held in person, I tried to create something that was made from materials it would be easy to access at home. I raided the recycling bin for many of the things I used, and then added some supplies from my studio to dress up the final book. If you’d like to join us on Tuesday, October 13th at 5pm the link to register is here

To craft along with me in the workshop you’ll need to gather up the following basic supplies

An envelope – I used a #10 with a window to add a little peek-a-boo effect on the cover, plus some magazine pages or scraps of paper to glue onto it – on the outside I used pages from a magazine, on the inside of my book used old pages from a discarded book

Some pieces of paper, in my book I used a couple of pieces of sketchbook paper, which I tea-stained and splattered with paint, an illustration from a book, some pages from a magazine, and some scraps of decorative paper I had in my studio, you need about 6-8 pieces of various papers

Tags or scraps of cardboard, I used a couple of mailing tags and an old postcard to make the tags to hold my ghosts – who are pictures cut from an old book – and some ribbon or yarn to attach them to your book

I added a paper flower and some charms and beads to jazz up my book – but you could add these in later if you don’t have them on hand.

Plus some simple tools – A needle & thread, a glue stick, a pair of scissors

I hope to see you Tuesday!

a tiny journal

In today’s installment of what to do when you are in social isolation I give you a fun notebook using an old greeting card or note card. I often use this project in intro to bookbinding classes, it’s a simple binding, and it is an easy way to get to grip with all the niceties of paper grain and using simple tools. To be honest you don’t really need any tools except a big tapestry sewing needle to make this project – and you can use any papers you have on hand.

I started making these little note books for myself many years ago – my Mum writes to me regularly from the UK, and it is a way to carry that letter around with me in my every day life. I write my to-do lists and grocery lists and lists of books I want to read in them, stuff like that, and so my daily life is wrapped up inside notes from my Mum, my husband, my kids, my friends – entwined with people who love me, many of them so far away from me.

Anyway – have fun making one for yourself and I’ll be back in a few days with another project from every day stuff.

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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!!

Summer

This summer it final feels as if I am getting this work/life balance thing down, okay honestly I am still a bit heavy on the work side, but this summer I am managing much more studio time for projects I want to be working on. There are still not enough hours in the day, but I am balancing out production work for clients and festivals like these lovely things

All of which will be making their debut at the Miller’s Park art fair at Chautauqua Institution on July 2nd and Bookfest in Buffalo on July 8th.

I’m also finding time to squeeze in work on a huge new installation and experimental new things, here’s a peek at the installation, women hold up half the sky

More to come on this soon!

I’m also hoping to check in here more often. I miss writing about my work, and I really feel that loss when I look back. Writing here helps me understand the cyclical nature of making, the natural ebb and flow of my year. It also helps me to see, I have been here before, this too shall pass, and most of all encourages me to find growth, change and renewal in my studio life. 

And now back to work!

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.

Botanical inspiration

I have a show coming up in November. Trying to come up with a new body of work can be terrifying! I keep reminding myself that if I go into the studio and keep working then something will show up. So I have been trying hard to safeguard my studio time, and stop my teaching from eating up all my spare time. I have been setting a timer and when time is up I set my school work aside and get back to my “real” work. It’s working in terms of getting something done, but until this past weekend nothing terribly new or exciting was really happening. Things were feeling forced.
Then this past weekend, as part of our anniversary celebrations, hubby and I went to the Buffalo and Erie Botanical gardens. Not our usual kind of outing, but wow! First the building itself is magnificent.

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And then just a few minutes in the cactus room, I was smitten with the sculptural shapes and textures. Instant inspiration!
Yesterday I pulled out some paper I made earlier in the year with my students, a combination of hosta, day lily and abaca. It smelled fresh and green and summery. I folded half sheets into accordions and bound them using a Coptic stitch on the valley ends to make this barrel like structure.

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Then I embroidered the folded outer edges in red.

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Then I sewed the loose ends of the accordions and folded back the raw edges

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For a first crack at a cactus book, it’s not so bad! And like all interesting beginnings it just sparked many more ideas. It feels good to be working sculpturally and letting the materials speak and shape the object.

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Looking forward to playing around with these ideas some more.