Back in the saddle

This past week felt almost normal, working long days, stress, and lots of teaching!!

Last weekend I taught an online workshop for Kalamazoo Book Arts Center. It was a course I’ve wanted to try for a long time, a morning of slow stitching a fabric cover for a long stitch book, followed by an afternoon of designing a fancy long stitch binding. It mostly went well, but the afternoon session was a challenge when the limitations of technology made me feel like a less than stellar teacher. We muddled through and I think at the end of the day the students were happy.

A cover in progress

I decided to assuage my conscience and create a handout for those students, and an extra tutorial video. Which got me thinking about that book of binding patterns I’ve been toying with for years now. During lockdown I did simplify and chart out several of my black work embroidery inspired designs. Thanks to social media, I have a team of ten testers trying out this first pattern. If the feedback is favorable I plan to put some real thought into finally pulling that together.

Here’s the design that flummoxed my students and now my testers are trying out!

I rounded out the week teaching a workshop at SUNYJCC as part of their new makers series, in conjunction with the Weeks Gallery and the art and design department. I was an adjunct at JCC for years, so it was a little like a homecoming. I had a really enthusiastic group of students from many different fields, and everyone left with a finished book. I created a little refresher video for them, you can see it on my YouTube channel. If you’d like to give it a try there’s a printable cover we used to get started. Links to both are below. I printed it on a really heavy card stock. (And before all the binders out there jump all over me, we didn’t worry about the grain direction on the covers, the idea was just to get an experience of making a book as simply as possible with the resources we had available.) Many students glued recycled materials like old painted canvas or box board to their books to finish them off, which will hopefully help them be more durable. If you’d like to give it a try you can download the handout, and follow along on the video. I think there’s enough information even if you weren’t at the workshop.

I also picked up a couple of commissions, and committed to sending work to two exhibitions. And now I’m exhausted! I’m out of practice at this level of hustle, so I’m looking forward to an afternoon of puttering, tidying the studio, and sorting materials ready to hit the ground running next week.

I’m also looking forward to handing out sweets to all the little trick or treaters later! Blessed Samhain friends, I hope there is a sweet treat in your day too!

An aha moment

Last week I was teaching a blackout meditation class in a hilltop pavillion at the Pfieffer Nature Center. It was about as blissful a situation as one could hope for, which is probably why it happened.

The participants were busy making their blackout meditations, and we were talking about using stencils to add images if you are intimidated by drawing pictures. I grabbed a leaf from a nearby tree to illustrate my point, resulting in this

As I was driving home it occurred to me that maybe I could do some botanical contact prints on found text and use them for meditations. And I love them! The botanical print adds a random element to the page and narrows down the amount of page for meditating on.

I decided to use coloured pencils to do the “blackout” part of the process, and then I added in some slow stitch. (I’ve used stitching to make blackouts before).

Here’s the result

Serendipity at work.

Back to the studio!

2 festivals and a workshop

What a busy week! It started Sunday with a perfect afternoon at Chautauqua Institution, warm sun, gentle breeze off the lake and lots of vendors set up for an afternoon of local shopping. I got to visit with lots of friends and move some merchandise, a fun afternoon! 

Hot on the heels of that was the fourth of July holiday and some family time. I often have a hard time keeping track of what day it is in the summer, but a holiday in the middle of the week really messed me up!

Wednesday I headed out to a new teaching venue. The Springville Center for the Arts is housed in a beautiful old church.

I’m teaching a month long class exploring different ways of manipulating and playing with paper. We started out doing some eco-printing. Here’s my sample

I made this one using some heavy cotton paper I use for etching. After soaking the paper in a bath of water containing a little alum, I make a sandwich of leaves and paper, with a ceramic tile on the top and bottom of that leaf/paper sandwich. Then tie the bundle with some gardening twine or big rubber bands, you want the bundle snug so the leaves make contact with the paper but not really tight. Put the bundle in a large pan and cover with water. I added old coffee grounds to the water, but you can use any organic or commercial dye. Bring to a boil, then simmer for at least an hour. Some people just steam their bundles, but I never have much success that way. Then unbundle and rinse in cold water. I hang mine on the washing line to dry.

Because I knew we were going to make a mess, we opted to work outside rather than in their classroom space. The workshop participants made some gorgeous papers. We used a RIT dye in denim blue instead of coffee, and I used a big turkey roaster crock pot to cook the bundles. We also discovered that clover from the garden added a bright yellow to those papers.

We also tried dyeing some paper using some other traditional dyes, tumeric made a gorgeous brilliant yellow, onion skins make a beautiful ochre and beets with vinegar in the bath gave us a delicate blush pink. 

We also experimented with dip dyeing using some commercial dyes. We really accomplished a lot in a short two hour class, and cleaned up just ahead of an incoming thunderstorm! Next week we are going to try some monoprinting techniques.

On my drive home I was eating some almonds in the car when disaster struck, I broke a tooth. So Thursday was an emergency trip to the dentist. Not fun. 

Today I spent the day at Bookfest at WNYBAC. I had a fabulous day despite the stupid tooth catching up with friends and I managed to sell enough books to cover my dental bills, win-win!

This was my last festival of the summer as I am heading back home to the UK at the end of the month.

Tomorrow I need to finish up a commission and finish my entry for a book exhibit. Monday that tooth is coming out, it broke below the gum and can’t be saved. And then I need to clear the decks of some restoration work before switching gears to finish an installation. How does summer fly by so fast?

Being a student

Last weekend I took a workshop at WNYBAC with Jill Kambs. I have done plenty of printing and book binding, but never any gelatin plate printing, and I rarely make books with words, so I thought it would be great to try a new way of working.
I really tried hard to work fast and to pick materials I wouldn’t ordinarily choose, although I did cheat and work mostly in black and white. I swapped colors with others at the workshop, picking colours like peach and pink I would never usually pick. I was amazed by the delicacy of the prints, the texture. After about an hour I had a heap of prints, that looked as if they had been made by someone else, but sort of like me.
Once the prints dried, we selected and bound them into little pamphlet stitched books. Since I had worked in such a random way it was a challenge to make any sense of the images I had created. Deciding what went with what was a tricky process, mostly accomplished by eliminating the ones that didn’t fit. I managed to make 2 reasonably sensible compilations but I also had a lot of extra prints that made no sense with each other!
The last step was to do some simple Xerox transfers of text selected by Jill. Again working with someone else’s choices was hard for me. Words that speak to other people’s practice don’t always speak to your own.

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Here’s the final product, I keep taking it out and looking at it. I can’t believe I made it honestly. It is subtle and delicate. Needless to say I’m pleased!

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I’m so glad I took the workshop, and I can’t wait to try more gelatin printing. I hope I can keep the freshness working in my own space.

Summer week 5

This week finally feels like summer, something has subtly changed and I feel the weight lifting. The week began with a journal workshop with a summer reading program. We made paste papers using natural materials and then  made nature journals using a simplified stab binding. Here I am at work!

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Tuesday I hosted a wonderful group of creative ladies at my studio. Together we made recycled long stitch journals, drank tea and coffee, and had fun! Here they are at the end of their workshop with their finished books.

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Today I needed to go to Chautauqua Institution to make some small changes to those chalkboard menus. It was a glorious summer day here with a brisk breeze off of the lake, just perfect! After that I took in a lecture at the hall of philosophy on ethics in the visual arts. I ended my morning by looking at the shows at the Strohl And Kellogg galleries. I saw some fabulous art, and I returned home refreshed with the well filled.
This afternoon was spent doing paperwork, cleaning the studio again and getting work ready for this weekend’s festival, “A Stir of Artists” in Bemus Point. Hope this beautiful weather holds!

Maple binding tutorial.

This weekend I am at SMU in Dallas teaching at the DeGolyer Bookbinding Conference. I was very surprised to be asked to come and share my “embroidery as binding” technique with this wonderful group of fine art binders. Please follow the link – their work is amazing!

I have been teaching a maple binding pattern in workshops for about a year, but this event is a challenge because the workshops are quite short at 2.5 hours, so I modified the pattern to a smaller, single leaf version for this group.

I am trying to put together a book of my binding patterns and so I have not put any of them online yet, but now I have taught this particular pattern several times, so it is already loose in the world and I thought now might be the moment to post a free tutorial.

If you’d like to give it a try you will need:

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A text block, 88 sheets of 80lb text weight paper sized 7.5″ h x 9″ w, folded and collated into 11 signatures
2 boards 7.5″ x 4.75-5″
Decorative paper to cover each board
Paste or glue and a glue brush
Decorative ribbon or tapes for sewing
Colored linen thread or embroidery cotton
An awl
2 blunt sewing needles
This downloadable PDF: small maple pattern

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Step 1: use the decorative paper to cover the boards.

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Step 2: cut the punching template from the handout. You will need to add two stations based on the width of your ribbons or tapes. Lay the ribbon next to the second mark at the head and tail. Mark a sewing station next to the tape\ribbon and another .25″ from that mark.

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Step 3: punch all the signatures!

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Step 4: sewing on the bench, using two needles to sew the head and tail simultaneously, attach the ribbons using a French link stitch and two kettles on the 4 sewing stations at the head and tail.

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Step 4: beginning on the one inside of signature 2, station B follow the sewing diagram, according to the handout.

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The version I created had room to sew the pattern twice, but the finished sewing should look like this! If you’d like to try the double pattern – this is the sewing pattern: maple binding but you will need  to create your own template for punching the signatures.

Finally to attach the covers you can glue down the decorative ribbons to the cover, and if you like you can trim the front page down and glue it down like an end sheet.

And you are done!!

NYC – Day 2

I hope no one out there was waiting with baited breath for me to finish the tale? Life this year has a way of laughing at my best laid plans. Oh well, for those who do want to hear the end of the tale, here we go.

I was first into the building on Sunday morning (after another delicious bagel) and was glad I had an extra pair of student hands to help navigate all the keys and alarms. I think I am not really cut out for big city life!

On day two there is a lot of folding – twenty two signatures, and then all those signatures needed to be punched at quarter inch intervals. Once that task was completed we created a book block using a french link stitch over two tapes, leaving a space in the center of the binding which would hold the embroidered design.

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Really creating the book block takes more time than the actual embroidered binding – especially once someone has worked out the sewing chart! What is so exciting for me as a teacher is seeing how every participant takes an idea and then sets about making it their own and brainstorming ways to incorporate the new knowledge into their own practice. It makes prepping for a class, and travel, and airports, and noisy hotel rooms all worth while!

After class I just had time for a quick visit with Esther Smith and a college friend who lives in Brooklyn before a terrifying taxi ride to JFK to fly back home again. It was a wonderful break, and much of the snow was gone by the time I got back, an added bonus! I wish the class hadn’t been in the middle of the semester – I felt like such a traitor not going to see a single museum, but hopefully I’ll be back soon.

AEDM – NYC part 1

Well the past weekend was exciting! It began on Thursday with a trip through the arctic tundra of Buffalo (you may have heard we had some weather here!) to catch a plane to NYC. I would never have made it without the help of my wonderful hubby Glenn who drove through a blizzard to get me there. He’s a good man – I am so lucky to have him as a part of my life. I flew to the city Friday morning and arrived tired but safe at the Center for Book Arts that afternoon. After a little time prepping for class and getting the lay of the land I checked into my hotel with some take out and collapsed!

sun comes up in the concrete canyons of Manhattan

sun comes up in the concrete canyons of Manhattan

Saturday dawned and as the sun came up in Manhattan I was serenaded by the gentleman in the next room as he showered. and the sound of hammers from a renovation going on across the street, the fabrics they were using to cover up the furniture in the room were lovely, a spot of colour in a sea of grey stone.

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Coffee and a bagel, and it was time for class at last! I was really nervous about meeting my class, but wow! what a wonderful group! What is so wonderful about the opportunity to teach classes like this is all the things I learn from my “students”. Right from the start there was an amazing energy in the room, and ideas were soon flying for innovation and improvisation.  It was such a privilege to work with this group. Together we retraced some of the pivotal discoveries and ideas that led me to start making the embroidered bindings, beginning on day one with a two needle cross-stitch binding and then moving on to create a soft cover fabric journal using Portuguese stem stitch.

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I was buzzing with energy by the end of the day, and was glad I had some prep work to do that gave me some time to process all the new ideas and information. After a great meal I was glad to get back to my cushy hotel room and rest up for the next day!

still here in the trenches – AEDM week 3

I rounded out last week teaching a workshop at WNYBAC and making the travel arrangements for a workshop I am teaching in NYC this weekend – I love saying that – it still doesn’t quite feel real that I have been invited to teach there – or that people have signed up to actually take a class with me! Most of my creative time has been funneled into making samples and prepping materials – so really not much to share as far as pictures go. Instead I am going to leave you with this link to a great broadcast on BBC Radio 4 shared with me by Elena Thomas. And this- just so you have something to LOOK at!

plate 3 from my reduction lino print demo - don't judge!

plate 3 from my reduction lino print demo – don’t judge!

day 13.

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Feeling a bit blue today as it is the final day of my “break” from school. Classes start for me in the morning at 8:30. Of course I didn’t really have a break as we lowly adjuncts have to have second (and third) jobs to make financial ends meet. I didn’t accomplish as much in the studio as I had hoped, and now I am beating myself up about it.

wish I could just stay home and sew!

wish I could just stay home and sew!

I have been working on the sewing for map of hours (above) as it is going to be exhibited again in March, as part of “Women Create”, and I have some pieces I am working on for “Love for Sale” again this year at Studio Hart. But I really wanted to wrap up women’s work, and although the pages are stacking up and the the lists are still coming in, it isn’t ready for binding and I haven’t resolved what to do with the cover. I am just mad because this always happens and despite my good intentions I let myself down over and over. This is one of the things I want to work on in the new year, making my own work a priority.

poor book - still in progress - will I ever finish?

poor book – still in progress – will I ever finish?

But I guess all I can do is pick myself up and resolve to do better going forward. I have managed to stay on track with the 30 day journal project, but I wonder if I ought to be doing something else (more serious?) Here’s few more images

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I did manage to squeeze in a workshop at the studio. This was really important to me as I wanted to give something back for my funding for attending Paper and Book Intensive. Here’s one of the participants – Kyla – with her finished long stitch binding, complete with wrap around vellum cover and button closures.

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well back to work – just wanted to do a quick update. Watch this space for lots of juicy curating/exhibition news coming soon! (no wonder I never have time for my own work!!)