And This Utterly Familiar Thing

landscape 3

I am returning for a bit to “the things I used to do.” Mainly it is the graduate work on a series of books about the men of Brasstown and my relationship within the group on a daily basis. I made a file box and then the books, all had to be black and white and all had to in some way reflect my favorite quote from Thomas Wolfe. Above is one of several simple Carolina moon landscapes in tapestry. Each previous page had a window into the next bit of stitch and weave.

Below is the progression of a variation on the old practice of changing collars. I will show the last page first as it has Thomas Wolfe’s quote in total. The entire book was shaped like collars.

turning collars last pageturning collars title pageturning collars

turning collars page 1turning collars page 2turning collars page 3

turning collars page 4turning collars page 5turning collars page 6

There are several books in the file box. Here is another with marks made from things found around their common work space.


And here is our separate places of “work”.

where we worked

I used black and white photography back then because I had access to dark room equipment or sent the film off to be developed. This process is so much easier now with iphone and photo programs.

tunnel book

A tunnel book of what the men and I would see every day….the common things.

men at work

good woman

And their clothes and rags collected and used to represent our common presence on a daily basis. I think this one is my favorite of all of the books. It is a book I could open and feel their very existence through the cloth. My time with them is represented by the passing through of the black stitching.

our clothes

our clothes last page

Funny how this format of the accordion book returns when I am telling a story.

The other day I was working on an idea I had about taking the decades of your life and placing the pieces that represent best that time. So lets say birth to ten years of age, then teen years, twentys, you get the idea. It was a strange and sometimes discomforting process. I chose eighteen inch squares of cloth of varying materials that felt right for that time of my life. Then proceeded to select bits of fabric, pieces of wallpapers, images, etc. A total of eight pages are somewhat finished as far as the selections and placements go, but now have to be stitched….lots of stitching. I want them to look and act like the very old scrap books we used to have. The soft pages folding over to the left and showing the marks of what held you together for the next phase of your life.

My friend, Patti, and I thought it would be a good class to teach because I do so much with teaching memory vessels. It simply won’t work. There is way too much that you need to have at hand and it is such a personal story. I won’t even get to the stitching part until later in the winter when holding cloth with needle and thread comes easier for me.

But to close off this return to the familiar, here are two of the “quilts” I made about the men with their cloth and my stitching. I used their tools to ink up and make marks and wrote a bit about them in places. The final image is a small bit of practice on type setting I made using my small wood block and type at the Women’s Studio Workshop in upstate New York during my time with the men…maybe 1998.

patriarch quilt 2

Patriarch quilt 1

the familiar

This is the decade of the fifties page. There is a few collected objects on it as well as cloth and papers. It is the time of going back to college and then graduate school and how that opened new ways of seeing for me, new ways of understanding the importance of the familiar.

I will come back to this as I proceed on the scrap book. But for now this is just a small return to the things I used to do based on a discovery in a fabric box.



Finishing Up – well sort of – Down the Rabbit Hole

book on board shear

This blog is just a wrap up of how the book was put together.

After printing ten books worth of pages, twenty sheets per book and all but the three return sides of the covers and colophon required going through the printer.  Everything was laid out and saved in Microsoft Publisher so it was just a matter of bringing them up, making sure to check the right paper type and best photo options. Each page had to be loaded separately as most printers do not like being asked to do multiples of heavier paper and can get a bit off which is not a good thing.

My board shear was a tremendous help in the constant trimming of pages to the size of approximately 8.5 x 7 inches. The back cover is cut longer as it has to be the spine wrap as well.

using a straight edge

With twenty separate sheets per book there needed to be nineteen hinges made. I used a cotton office paper (white) cut into 7″ by 1/2″ strips and then carefully folded in the center. The book pages are stacked in the order they are to be pieced together in front of a metal yard stick that is weighted so as not to move. This allows me to align the sheets. A small glue plunger is the best for the very little amount of glue needed on each side of the folded hinge.

They will be glued by doing all foredges first. That means the mountain fold of the hinge is placed up and the left side is glued to the edge of the sheet to be on the left side. Here is the back cover and last piece to be paired and glued on the foredge.

foredge hinge

When gluing the right to the left on the hinge I brought them as close together as possible without overlapping them. Each pair of sheets is checked on both sides to make sure they are properly glued down.  Paper cuts along the edges of the sheets and hinges can easily happen. Just the smallest amount of blood can not be wiped away on the good papers that I used and once a sheet needed to be pulled away and a new one printed. After that I kept a paper towel between finger and paper edge.

paper towel handy

After the stack of ten double sheets are glued together it is time to adjoin them together using the hinge valley side up for the spine edge of the book. Here I did not butt them up close but left enough space for the pages to fold against each other without buckling the edges.

spine glueing valley fold hinge

I kept them aligned along the straight edge and folded the book together as each hinge is dried in place.

lining up pages for glueing

I used a bone folder with a thin edge to crease the cover in two places where it wraps around to become the spine of the book and glue to the underside of the cover.

spine gap before filler

To reinforce the spine I covered a piece of book board with lokta paper that fills the gap between the spine hinged pages and the creased cover spine.

spine filler being madespine filler glued down

Here is the finished book.

finished book open

As of right now there are only five books completely finished and five more printed. I am very happy that there will only be an edition of twenty of these. Now I am wondering what to do with all the cut offs from the pages. I might try to print on them using my etching press. Christmas cards is a possibility.

book page waste

It seems a waste not to use these somehow. There will be close to 400 when I get this edition finished. Next week I am taking a break and going to a friends in Asheville just to get out of the studio and have a good visit over a bit of single malt.




Telling a Story – Making the book titled Down the Rabbit Hole


In Search of Lost Time packaged

This week I am going to talk about the very, very tedious process of making a book. After I finished putting together a limited edition of Lost Time I wanted to return to the drawing into of existing marks. The pages were made from chemically rusted papers that create their own patterns as they are dipped and maneuvered before being allowed to dry. Much of page has is colored with soft golds and beiges. They are a perfect complement for graphite.

With the pages I had left in the pile, I pulled out the ones that seem to suggest and accommodate the narrative for my story about pursuits in life. There were to be no words like in the Lost Time book, just pictures. And it had to be larger – maybe 10″ x 8″. But what really determines the size of a book for me is what my printer will take in paper size. The larger Epson Photo Stylus R3000 has a daunting cost of nearly $300 to replace the multi colored cartridge. So I went back to the possibilities of what my Epson XP-600 could offer. This printer will only take 8.5 by 11″ papers and the cost of replacing ink cartridges is considerably less expensive.

But first the illustrations:

Down the Rabbit Hole Book layout

These are the papers laid out in how the colors flow together. There are no illustrations drawn in until I see if there is enough paper. Then I decide what each page should have drawn into it to carry the story forward. Remember there are no words – this is to be a picture book.

laying out sequencing colors

And sometimes a sheet is wasted due to having an idea that simply does not work.  See below.

big foot

This foot of the man stepping into the rabbit hole was heading in the wrong direction for one and when reversed in a photo program, it still was wrong. It was simply too big. The more I looked at it the more I did not like it. Best to put it away from the other blank pages. Rethink how to get him down there.

page3 lo res

Here he is stepping in just over the rabbit’s head and I get to introduce the rabbit in a very large way due to the way marks existed on the paper. I really like this rabbit. Keeping the story moving and the background colors continually flowing was a concern and some of the papers and even the illustrations moved about in the order I originally laid out.

page 6 lo res

Some pages were just so lovely on their own that very little drawing was needed. The rabbit continues to leave things for his hunter to enjoy more than the hunt itself.

When all the twelve illustrations and cover are finished, the fun part is pretty much over. The rest is work! Each one must be scanned into the computer. I prefer my HP Scanjet G4050 for this as it takes a larger size page and these originals are sized at 7.5″ x 11″. To get a proper color reading I prefer to put black paper behind my image so that the scanner does not make its own decision as to where the edges should be. I can do that in the scanning program before saving it. Of course each of them will be taken into a photo program (I use the free Fast Stone one) and be corrected if there is any tiny black along an edge that will show up later. Note the one above on the left side before it was corrected.

All of these images are scanned at the highest resolution possible for the scanner. I want all those subtle marks to show if possible.

After scanning and then the images being corrected in Fast Stone, they are adjusted in another free photo program I have come to count on called Paint.NET. There is lots I can do in this program and it is an easy one to figure out.

But regardless of what it looks like on the computer screen, you still have to see it in print. This is a bit painful as you watch your ink levels go down deciding on the correct size and how the pages will connect to one another.

Much as I hate to do it, the only way to get the picture book the size I want is to not only hinge the pages in the back but the foredge as well. This will be a pain to put together. The Lost Time book was small enough to have a folded foredge but I want Down the Rabbit Hole to be bigger. It is a picture book. There is not the intimacy of words carrying the story as well as the illustrations.

So I test out each page after making the decision on paper weight, borders and size. Luckily very few of these had to go back into a photo program to be adjusted. Each of these are saved after making sure that “best photo” is checked and the proper paper type logged in.

Finally there is the question of what font to use for the title page and colophon and then laying those two pages out in my Microsoft Publisher program. Every page and front and back covers are now saved in Publisher. I am hopelessly schooled in PC and have no way of changing to a likely more artist-friendly Mac. I need to work with what I have.

For now I think the book will be soft covered like Lost Time. I have increased their sizes to accommodate the minute addition of double hinging and I might want the back cover to wrap around to make the spine. This book will look similar to Lost Time only it will be about twice the size all round.

The one thing I do know about this whole process is that you just have to love your own ideas enough to see them through. An edition of only twenty will be just about enough to exhaust that love.


Let’s Take That “Creative” Thinking to Another Place

Picture1 at 600

Since my last blog about being “schooled” in creativity, I did a bit more research into how instructors are sharing their abilities with the public. And did you know there are restaurants where a person can partake of “one of America’s latest trends.”  It is often referred to as “Creative Social Art”. A group comes together at a location to experience painting and drinking wine. The sessions last between two and three hours and often happen in a place that serves refreshments/food.

One site online even suggested that any one could become “the hostess with the mostess.” All you need to do is bring in some friends, furnish the paints, brushes and canvas and maybe even the instructor if you can’t take on the responsibility of assisting your students to a finished painting. Either they bring their own wine or it is furnished at an additional fee. You are hosting your own painting party. Catchy names for these events include, Fear no Easel, Paint and Sip, Wine and Design, and a favorite, Creativity Uncorked! Note that all of these events involve wine. There is no other alcoholic beverage used to enhance the experience.

The key here is to stress that no artistic ability is necessary. Everyone is gathering to have fun while experiencing the motions required to get a painting done in a set amount of time. It does not matter that almost all the paintings look the same. What matters is that the result be a happy person who has made a painting more or less all by themselves. And maybe, just maybe will try this at home, unsupervised.

But this is what stands out to me. Almost without fail these “learning to paint” encounters consist primarily of female participants. What about those guys? How to they get involved in Creative Social Art? And then I hit on the answer. Beer.

We need to take it to them. Men already in attendance. Men already being sociable. In the pub. In the tavern.

So, being completely caught up in those catchy titles for “Creativity Time”, I thought of the following for those in a bar who would prefer not to watch a ball game.

Let’s Paint with Pints and Points.

There was help on this one. My friend, Patti, suggested darts in a bar with small balloons partially filled with paint. Others would be filled with water to keep things blending and dripping. The instructor we will call him, just needs to get the scene ready with a plastic sheet on the floor and the canvas fixed to a wall with filled balloons pinned in place. After a determined time the scores of hits are talleyed and the one with the most points is allowed to turn the canvas any direction he wishes. More creative drips and colors later, the time is up and the winner takes his new painting home. Believe me if patrons can find themselves involved in karaoke, they can do this. They can do this and learn about color and gesture at the same time. Sort of a social Jackson Pollock approach to abstract expressionism. I would do this in a pub in a nano second.

And how about a more intimate group adventure into social creativity. This one takes place sitting side by side at the bar and is called:

Portraiture with Beers and Smears

If the patron wants to play along, he asks for the 7 x 9 inch piece of paper and the paint. It could be a very limited palette presented in shot glasses. There are no brushes because this is going to be learning the art of finger painting. Each of  them attempts to do a portrait of the bartender or each other with gentle blending and shading – all done using just his fingers. The cocktail napkin is for wiping away unwanted marks and his fingers before reaching into the bar snacks bowl. I have tried this after one Bloody Mary and before drinking down this nice dark beer…..and here it is! So pleased, I signed it!

bar finger painting

I think that both of these pub/bar/tavern creativity courses might have a better chance of being a hit in Australia. Down under there is more of a spirit of adventure when they come together in their social groups. At one point in time they even tossed dwarves about in outback pubs when their gum boots came up missing. (I read about this in a book titled, The Greater Nowheres, by a couple of young adventurers working for National Geographic.

But anyone could take these ideas and turn them into cash. Get the ball rolling and get those students hooked on getting in touch with their creativity. I heard about a woman who actually has a following of people who for a whole week she can talk into sitting in the grass and communing with Nature. Evidently they can’t do this at home….it takes instruction. And I really don’t blame them if they live around here. Our grass right now is full of those nasty chiggers. No one is sitting there. I’m getting side tracked here, sorry.  Back on topic.

I am still thinking about a title for my own workshop on creativity using the dot to dot method that struck my fancy last week. “Wine and Line” is the best so far. No paint necessary. Just a handout showing dots with numbers and a pencil with an eraser. I want to start out slowly and hopefully drag my students through long deliberate steps to creativity.

There is just one more idea I need to put forth. Our son, Patrick, has warmed to this whole concept of taking creativity classes on the road and for a short time only he will be offering a workshop titled, Creatively Caffeinated. These classes will be at the average cost of most Creativity with Sustenance events and be held in coffee shops. Offered in the greater Detroit area for limited time and only $47.50 per head the students can gather not only around their computers and iphones but a paint by number assignment sheet with a brush and brown watercolor. The pictured pile of coffee beans are to be painted according to a numbered system for light roast, medium  roast, and dark roast. Just coordinate the color with its number. Easy and fun to do with the guarantee of a finished painting in no more than two hours.

Creatively Caffeinated

We could now consider this subject of social creativity classes closed… least for now.