Bush Boro Book 2 – Finished, I Think

It is the end of April. The Bush Boro Book 2 is complete, or at least I am thinking it is. The color of the sunset the other night is similar to the colors of the book. It is an iron-filled sky with bits of brightness.

I chose eight folios and used six as the text block that gave me twenty-four pages to work on or at least be aware of as I stitched into them. The other two folios were used as the concertina binding/spine and the last one to act as back cover, foredge protector and tuck in cover. See below.

I never know how a book should be bound until I finish it. I like how this one can be opened and the whole “bush” explodes out.

All it takes is the release of the cover from the front spine flap. Here is more or less the title page. The one thing about working with these contact prints is that they are just lovely left alone. And most people do just that – let the beautiful image be the story.

I wanted more of myself in the book so chose to stay with the addition of prints. These are those small dry point etchings using an umber ink. They were trimmed and stitched to the page where there was not something just too lovely to cover up. The edges of the prints were toned with a watercolor wash. I worked on each folio individually but keeping in mind the previous and next one in the order I chose for them to appear.

After deciding on the binding format and using a three hole stitch with the knot inside the folio, I thought I wanted to drop the prints further back. So using my mix of cornstarch paste and PVA I brushed on small additional patches of the contact printed fabrics.

The final step was to create my own “tracking” through Australia’s bush mark using a watercolor I made from the soils of that country. In this case, Bachus Marsh Salmon, a cheery pinkish yellow ochre.

I was thinking of adding text in some way but decided it was more than I wanted or needed. Maybe the next Bush Boro Book will have text. There are enough of these folios to make another three books if I use this format.

But I could use all of them by tearing them in half and having them hinged in a way so as to make a long meandering path through the bush. And text could also meander along…..AND the whole thing could be flipped over to take another walk.

Binding that particular experience is going to be fun to figure out….maybe a small suitcase or back pack-looking thing….maybe a passport holder…..maybe….

This book like Bush Boro 1 feels good in the hands. I think that is essential in a book – that it feels good. It should be inviting to touch and require manipulation, more manipulation than simply turning a page. Anyway that is my thinking.

One more thing on my mind this week. I see there are more book releases on how to think creatively. Did we ever need assistance with that? Did we ever need to give someone else money to tell us how to assemble parts that are likely just sitting there in front of us. Sitting there with endless possibilities and little prompting required. Even if we made something totally pitiful in appearance at least it was ours, and not part of an assembly line of someone else’s ideas. I think that I am at a loss on this.

Or, I could join the fray. Get a couple sticks, one rock, some glue and for a fee tell you what to do with them. Maybe, maybe not.

Til later.


Using the Stitch to Hold an Idea

While trying out my new XCut Press this week I put in a concertina folded strip of walnut ink on gelatin plate. I used two of the etched plates that I recently did with Australian subjects, the emu and some gum nuts. I also found an old wooden stamp of another emu. So for fun I just printed along the strip on one side only.

Anytime a concertina or accordion book form is used the viewer can’t help but read it left to right as a narrative of some sort. I added a few emu tracks along the way and when I was through playing with the imagery, it needed something else. Some sort of density….a thickness….a denseness.

So I went to the small pile of contact dyed scraps of fabric that I found at Beautiful Silks while teaching there last month. They were fun to do with  absolutely no idea how they would turn out. I just fitted them in between scarves I was making for friends and family at home.

The duller parts were perfect for tying into my theme of the bush. So now I have started a new series of books titled, “Bush Boro Books”. The paper was amenable to being poked with a needle and the thread is a four strand silk that I also acquired at Beautiful Silks. Here is the cover.

And another view of the book completely opened.

It seems that lately I have been using the “stitch” more often. The recently finished book titled, “Decenia Scrapbook” had it on every cloth page and often stitching through papers and other memorabilia.

I am not a very good stitcher. Sometimes it is all I can do to just thread the needle. But I like the marks it makes. I like the back side where you are not paying that much attention and the messiness of poorly placed stitches really shows how little care the sewer is actually taking.

When in graduate school there were so few of us working with textiles that they asked me to critique a new student’s work that seemed to be a statement about the heritage of women and quilting. The patterns were so familiar in the language of quilting and were of little interest or impact. But when I asked her to turn the work over and look closely at the marks that were more her own, perhaps she could look at the idea of women, herself in particular, and the use of cloth and thread as an identity in the world of art in a whole new way.

A few years ago I used the stitch in different ways with small scraps of cloth on copies of my white line prints. And then for a recent master class in Australia I went further and used the actual print itself to stitch through.

The students over there were so much better at stitching. Their work was wonderful. Here is a sample in Patsy Bush’s work.

So I am taking it one step further and adding the bits of cloth to the prints to turn them into a narrative of sorts. I have several white line prints I made while staying out of my students hair while teaching and think there are definitely more Bush Boro Books to make. I will post more as I do them and certainly will write about my next adventures with the new printing press….that wonderful little XCut XPress machine.

Five Students – Three Days – Then More or Less on My Own

Reliving just one of the workshops recently completed in Australia. I am in the Botanical Studio at Beautiful Silks in Allensford VIC. There are are five students, myself and my hosts, Marion and her husband. The class is the first of two workshops about Memory Vessels.

We seem to always start with making watercolors from their collected soils/rocks/dirt from someplace special to them.

And once we talk about their hopes for the class, all I have to do is get them there. Easy. Here they are.

Trish and her pigments from France that she wanted to use in some book forms with mementos from her time there. And another book about her time spent in Norway. Here is what she wrote when the class was over.

“Your workshop was fabulous! More than I could have anticipated. Not only in new processes and techniques, but in stimulating the thoughts that go behind and beyond the work. It has reinvigorated my approach to my own work which has been put to one side while other things needed my attention and energy.”

It was very generous of her to say that and I look forward to seeing more of her work through emails that go beyond these few things she did in class.

And Ros who had a large pile of letters saved from an old friend named Tom, I think. They were the kind of letters that email just does not do justice to. They were philosophical and thoughtful. They deserved a special place. She gave them one. Made from scraps of silks turned into a fragile backpack.

Kaye wanted to work on her seemingly endless collection of bones from roadkill and pastures to create boats that would accompany her on a journey back to a childhood when she was more “girly” as she put it. An entire fleet that increased in size trailed after a bone representing her in a pod lined with a pink doily and heading from west to east.

Joy, a book binder, was recreating the trunks of old burned out trees and the stories of her past and perhaps theirs on the inner barks. So much intriguing materials to choose from. Her space just mushroomed out with the selections, thoughts and trees. Here are some of her choices and results.

That last image is of her sketchbook made from three covers of old salvaged books. Two are used for front and back covers of a portrait format book and the third is bound to the bottom of the back cover to create another book out the bottom back which is a landscape format. I thought it very a clever re use of materials.

And then there is Jillian who seemed to pull magic bits and pieces from her hand felted pouch and sewing case to make a small concertina book about her daughter’s childhood fairy friend and a pouch of her own inspirations from walks. I love her use of the shifu thread she made in class as part of the weaving in the stick that helps keep the bundle closed. And another shifu thread in a weaving for the small book cover.

And here is what Jillian wrote to me after the class was over.

Thank you for all your guidance. It was a very special workshop to be part of.
You have so many amazing skills but your ability to help students translate their ideas into something they can see and touch is truly special.

Very kind of her as well. But I learn so much from them. Not the least of which is to just get on with it. Use what you have to say what you need to say. Just pick up something and manipulate it into your desires.

After they were gone I did get on with it. A trip to the Southern Ocean to gaze toward Antarctica with a glass of champagne. I dined on some of the tastiest meals of the trip. And finished my stay there with botanical and indigo dyeing loads of things to send home.  Thank you Marion for asking me to be a part of one of the most beautiful places on earth, for the hospitality, for the students and for thinking I should do it all over again.

The Things You Remember


Well that twelfth time teaching in Australia is over. I am back home remembering how wonderful it all was. Taking photos helps bring back everything around the initial reason for holding onto a moment. I can hear the students’ voices, laughter and rustling of tools and materials while they dip into places they never thought to explore. Above is a kangaroo family and the constant efforts to capture the essence of color and shapes of the magical Eucalyptus leaves. What time I had on my own was in pursuit of leaves, kangaroos and soaking up the experience of being there again.

Australian students are in a class of their own. I simply set up an idea to work around and they take off. They sometimes even have completed works based on that theme before I even arrive and are just getting started. This time I watched and recorded their hands, their collections of materials and their tools. Take a look here at hands.

Boat building.

Assembling small collections of books with memories.

Putting pieces together.

Spinning fine threads of paper.

Turning their paper threads holding secret words into sails for a boat.

Making compartments for more secrets.

Working on white line prints.

Presenting their finished work.

The beautiful pincushions!

And the things they bring to rummage through.

Inspiring isn’t it? To just be among them and their bits and pieces makes me glad I say, “Yes, I will come back and start all over again.”

Just one step over the threshold and I am busy trying not to miss a thing. On the door of one of my classes they posted this series of signs because I told a student she was not to think for a moment that she was having a “crisis of consequences” about her work. We all just need to take times like that as a reason to “pause for thought.”

Clever students. Busy students.  All they need in a class is to be let go so I can follow along after showing them a thing or two.

And here I am rushing to catch up and being sidetracked again by those oh so beautiful Eucalyptus leaves.

I will be back.