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!

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.

Bringing in a new year

I don’t usually make resolutions in January, the start of the academic year in September always feels like a more natural time to change things for me, but as the year turns and we travel back into the light this year I feel I need to set my life back in order. But what order?

The winter break is a time to hunker down for me. I don’t really enjoy winter except for the beauty of the cool north light, so it’s a good time for me to buckle down and get to work in the studio. So far this has mostly involved clearing the decks from last year, like these two books which had been partially finished on my bench since spring.

But as that weight clears I am making mental space for some new work for two back to back solo shows at the end of summer. What was I thinking? Well actually I know, I was afraid if I said no I would miss an opportunity, fear, fear answered for me. I am genuinely excited about both shows and both venues. They will each demand something different of me and give me a chance to show unique bodies of work, but seriously two shows in 9 months time, gah!

Okay, so you know there will be sewing, and I was really happy to get this book from my hubby for Christmas

And I have been slowly working my way through it using her techniques but on paper

I have been sucked into her orbit and also ordered her book of clothing designs (because I am going to have time to sew too?!)

I’m also back to my daily blackout meditations, I need to get grounded if I am going to pull this year off, so here are a couple for those who don’t see them on my Instagram feed

Im hoping to blog at least once a week about each project, mostly because that will hold my feet to the fire and hopefully keep me on track. So here’s to a brighter shiny new year.

Heading to summer break

It has been a really crazy week, not only is it finals week, I have also been teaching a workshop at a local elementary school. Today I gave my final exam of the semester and my sculpture students presented their final portfolios. Most of them are graduating so we had a pizza celebration and talked about their future plans. I’m excited that it is almost time to disappear into my studio for the summer. I decided to take a bit of a break from marking this afternoon and play with some kozo scraps instead. 

Not exactly sure where I am going, but I have been thinking about the ghostly leaves of beech trees that hang on through the winter, the fine kozo I sew on reminds me of those leaves. 

Can’t wait to finish up my grades and dig in!

working with paper

I have work in a new exhibit which opens this Friday (Working with paper, Center Gallery in Olean, NY, 6-8pm). Regular readers have been sharing my struggle to get this work completed, so I thought I would share this moment of resolution with you too.

This is that monigami scroll which almost ended up in the bin

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And here are all those little tea bags I saved obsessively and then printed on

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It would be wonderful to see some of you at the opening, but I will also try to post some better pictures once the show is finished and properly lighted.

Thanks to everyone who encouraged me through the dark days and helped me reach this moment.

Snowflake

First time back in the studio really getting down to work. A while ago I started a series of snowflake inspired bindings. Yesterday I finally started another in the series.

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I start out drawing on graph paper. All the snowflakes are being adapted from some illustrations of black work borders.

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Next I copy that design onto a piece of graph paper mounted on some card stock.

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Then I start sewing. As I go I write out the steps. Once I have figured out how to sew the pattern I make a book block. Cutting, folding and punching the signatures always seems to take forever! This design has 21 signatures! I draw a scale pattern of the binding to help punch the right holes in the right signature.

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I bind the top and bottom to hold the tension even as I sew the design. Here I used a french link with a kettle on either side over a translucent ribbon with a little sparkle. Sometimes I use coloured thread for this stage, but I wanted to keep the focus on the snowflake for this one.

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Here’s the sewing finished.

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I have been trying to make bolder choices with my colours and patterns, to make things less “matchy”. The last step is glueing the covers and ribbons down.
About 8 hours later it is all done!
Feels good to add a new pattern to my repertoire. My goal is to draw them all up and publish them for others to use over summer break this year.

Keeping my head above water!

This semester I have a crazy teaching schedule, 5 classes at 3 different schools. It hasn’t left much studio time! I did finally wrap up the Berehinia book, I ended up hand dyeing some paper using tea and rust and making new covers.

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She shipped out this week, along with “maple” and “women’s work” for this exhibit. I am so excited to have work included in this exhibit again! Can’t wait for the opening.

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I am also working on a guest book commission, and a book for a DNA embroidery related exhibit. The binding was pretty easy to work out. But I had a crazy idea to hand stamp a human genome sequence inside. Where do these crazy ideas come from?  Why do they come to me?!

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Thankfully fall break is coming up this week at all 3 colleges, so I might get to play with some new ideas in the next few days.

Summer, day 5.

I had a hard time getting started today, the general anxiety of family worries hung over me. Eventually I sewed the binding for half a dozen more little brown lunch bag journals before starting the project I really wanted to work on, the finished incarnation of the Berehinia binding.
It took most of the afternoon to very carefully punch all the holes, and more time to set the tension with a double row of kettles at each end of the book block – slow going. I was using some beautiful antique Irish linen thread, but it had been wound tightly for a long time, so sewing with 4 needles involved several tangles!
By dinner time I was ready to start the fun part, sewing the exposed embroidered design. I designed the pattern and sewed the model 2 years ago, so even deciphering my decisions has been slow going. By late evening I am about a third of the way through the pattern.
Hopefully I will finish it up tomorrow.

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