This Is A Good News Blog

Halloween is coming. Today is our fifty-second anniversary. I finished my six-way book. This fun card came yesterday from the one member of the Art Group that stays in touch. Love it. Our doctor came for dinner last night and had some suggestions.

So I left off talking about the pages for the six way book. Then it went together under the supervision of Gian Frontini. Here are the stages.

The two larger books facing opposite directions and I added running stitches to the spines of each to give more texture to match the fore edges.

The top view.

Four smaller books glued to the stabilizing boards on each back of larger books.

Gian shaping the spine edges of the four cover pieces.

And sanding them.

While I picked out cover material and made six clasps and cords.

Gian recessed vellum loops for clasps into the covers.


Nice fit.

Bit of fiddling to get the right length of cord to close the book…put in press and done!



Here is Gian’s leather book that works the same way.

Gian is much more the traditionalist than I am. He would never hammer the edges of the covers to make the book look and feel more comfortable in the hand. I like doing that. Makes me want to pick a book up and hold it.

So now what to do with my book.  The thought came after an old friend called me after she read my novella, Kind Gestures. At first she thought it was a group of short essays on seven different women and had just read the first part. Then she copied the whole thing off and read the story. She told me to keep writing because she loved it. It reminded her of a favorite book of hers titled, The Road to St. Ives, now out of print. BUT she was so kind to call back a bit later to tell me she found one on Amazon used books and it is on the way to me. Isn’t that kind?  I decided that since I have been wanting to return to Oliver, NC where the fictional account takes place and revisit some of those women, I will use this six way book to write about some of them. Just phrases to get me back to writing, to getting into their heads. And more importantly getting me out of my own head! And I really like that each of them has their own personal diary that latches their thinking in secret places.

So that is how I will use my book. Will I ever make another? Doubtful. Tedious work and especially since it was originally designed for six separate prayers that I would be hard put to come up with, I am satisfied with this one off.

And speaking of writing, the haiku has continued. A friend in Australia told us about haiga, the Japanese practice of writing haiku and doing small related illustrations.  Which is what the six of us are doing with our Drawing A Day and Haiku.

Here is the latest of mine.

How can you claim that

“They are light as a feather,”

when some are grounded?


They march across time

and distance only to be

trapped in my journal.

We believe we see

ourselves in most everything

that crosses our path.

The stones are dressed up

waiting to be told where to

push their weight around.

The pens and pencils

wait in the company of

a blank paper pad.

Three restless chickens

wandered off to the sea shore.

They came back impressed.

Cooking starts with a

mirepoix of onions, carrots

and some celery.


And yesterday….


A book that opens

six ways can inspire me for

several stories.


Now I am off to bake more of those Second Best Malted Cookies I Ever Ate and do another drawing….maybe the cookies.

Tomorrow someone from the doctor’s office will call about being a rent-a-friend. Just a couple times a week for a couple of hours would be so helpful right now for both of us.

More later. But thanks Gwen for the encouragement on writing more, and Dick for keeping us smiling.


More of the Drawing a Day and Other Things

My sunflowers are drooping while I am trying not to.

I love getting flowers from the sale table at the grocery store. I can just stick them into some water, put them on the table and hope that someone stops by. This week we did have a friend come for a good visit over dinner. We miss that. It was the one thing that made a perfect ending to our Art Group meetings….dinner and conversation around the table. I would pick out funny, arty cocktail napkins, plan a mostly delicious meal, set the table with real cloth napkins that have been used by so many over as many years, and make the centerpiece for the table. We’d talk about politics, art, movies, books, trips…..whatever. And often when other friends were in town, they, too, would come for these Art Group dinners.

Other than one member of Art Group that stays in contact through facebook, I have not heard a word from the others. When something is over, it is really over. So when someone comes for dinner with Lee and I, it is so good to have a few minutes in the studio to talk about what we as artists and makers are doing now.

This week I spent several  days preparing pages for a book that will open six different ways.

I am using Thai kozo paper for four of the smaller signatures and mulberry for the two larger signatures. Because both are so absorbent I had to gesso all sides.  So two text blocks of sixteen folios each and four text blocks of eighteen folios each coated on all sides used up quite a bit of gesso. But now I can write, draw and/or paint on the pages without bleed. My friend from Canada who is an expert on Medieval bindings will come to the studio this week to show me how to put it all together.

I am contemplating on what to use for cover material…more later when I have it finished.

In the meantime I am really enjoying the drawing a day with Haiku. Here is the catch up on that.

The stones just sit there.

Taken away from their homes

they  have gone silent.


Potters will always

sell their pieces that look back.

I know this because…..

I’m not a dancer.

But with these shoes on my feet

I can change my mind.


My pins and needles

wait for cloth, thread and my thoughts

to come together.

Ask if there are more

and the clerk will bring out all

the close relatives.

So now I have another page done on the flip side of the “relatives” and will post when I get further into the book.

I need to get back to the Hands of Responsibility sketchbook. Lee is losing a bit more of his capabilities since I last drew in it. He can not tell which way to turn the handle on the faucet to get hot water and I find him waiting and waiting for the water to heat up. This morning I fed the deer and birds for him as he gets confused as to where the cans of feed are in the garage.

On Friday we went to the salon where I get my hair done and he either gets a pedicure or full body massage. It was his massage day and he seems so relaxed and smiling when I go back to pick him up. The masseuse is wonderful with him because she says he reminds her of her grandfather. I am so lucky to have her do this for him.

My friend from far away suggested I ask around about getting someone to take him out for a bit…..she called it “rent a friend”. I may check on that this week. I keep saying that, but if I am the only one who can help him get words out, how is that going to work?

Our dear friend, Andy, who passed away suddenly a few weeks ago was the only one to think of doing this. He would come by to take Lee out to lunch after a hardware stop. He would take a good stab at what Lee would like to eat knowing that Lee can not read menus, and Lee would later try to tell me all about his time out. The other thing Andy did for us was go to Costco and get whatever we needed. He would let us know when he was coming to town and ask that we email him a list. But now we have used the last of those wonderful immense packages of toilet paper that come from there, the last Starbucks coffee beans, the last case of tomato sauce, the last lamb chops, the last four packs of butter sticks, the last, the last. We miss him and are getting over the sadness and onto smiling at memories.

His partner reads my poetry book and does find comfort there. Makes me glad I took the time to put that book together. I would also like some time to go back to the imaginary town of Oliver, North Carolina that is central to the novella I wrote that is on my website under its title, Kind Gestures. I feel I left some of those women with so much more to tell me….maybe later when more free time comes easily.

We will be just fine.

Til later…


Australia Pigments Book Getting Companions

I like this arrangement for the table. It started a couple of weeks ago for the art group dinner. Each small pot got some mountain laurel. Now I am on to whatever I can pick in the garden. This morning yarrow and whatever this little maroon and golden bloom is, and just a bit of mint for green. It is nice to have them spaced along the center of the table instead of one larger bouquet.

The last of the coreopsis is in there as well.

And I decided to make the folios for another book of small illustrations about Australia. The edges of them were sanded to make them compatible with the pigments book by absorbing more of the watercolors from down under. I made over one hundred of them. Then I scored and folded each one at the spine. I learned to fold in both directions to make the creases work better for opening.

Then after just putting images on a page or two, I got out the Australian Bird Book. It was given to me by a book dealer in Asheville several years ago. She told me, “No one else will want it.” I loved her generosity and I love this book.

Originally I thought that the pages would all be coptic stitched together like the pigments one. But after doing the drawings/paintings on all four sides of each folio, I thought the fun of these is to be able to turn the pages. That would be impossible with a long string of folios.

So I decided to make fourteen (one for each trip to Australia) separate books of eight folios each.

Naturally the first page of book one is a Eucalyptus branch and leaves. Here are some of the illustrations on pages in between the leaves and the hopping away kangaroo.

A couple of pages for the basket makers and a nod to why I was first hired to teach there in 1997.

And of course the cane toad.

I am also learning or at least trying to learn not to put each illustration in the middle of the page. It makes the book more active.

And I must say that it feels lovely and intimate in the hands. This is going to be a fun project for me to work on. And once eight folios are finished, just thread those needles and stitch them up. No covers necessary as I want the feeling of things spotted along the way in my travels down under.

And here it is tucked in next to the pigments book. When the fourteen small illustrated books are finished I think they would look good in a box just tumbling around the soft undulating pigments book.

Both pieces are very inviting to the hand. Both make me feel like I am there.

In the meantime the only parts of the novella Kind Gestures to put on the website are the final chapter and epilogue. By Friday I think it will all be there. Then if I am not escaping to Australia, I can go back to Oliver, North Carolina and see how the “girls” are doing. For now I am taking my distances where I find them.

Til next time.

Something With Pictures

I saw one of these on someone else’s blog. They are made from Lake Michigan rocks and encased in vellum. How could I not want to buy the last two available from Shanna Leino. She is an extraordinary book artist and tool maker. Now my responsibility is to keep them clean. Do not sit them onto painted, smeary, muddy, gluey surfaces. They are between 3.5 and 4.5 inches and quite heavy. Perfect for holding things in place….clean things.

This week in the studio I painted 192 small 2″ x 4″ sheets of kozo paper with 153 watercolors made from the soils of Australia.

When they were dry I sealed the color in on both sides. Sorting them according to colors so that they move through the country by color was a bit of a challenge. I am fairly satisfied now.

Even the very pale sheets have some color clinging to their edges. Here you can see that they go from the greys to creams to light terre vertes to pale yellows and then on to more intense colors. Deeper yellow ochres through the browns to reds and finishing with a nice caput mortuum…deep brownish red….old blood.

My intention with these is to stitch on each sheet before it is folded into a folio and then coptic stitched to the next one in line. I want the long book to flow like the endless landscape of Australia. I want to roll it back and forth between my hands. At least that is the plan.

The thread will be something I bought over there. A cream or beige or Eucalyptus leaf green. Not sure about that yet. Maybe all three?

I have been dipping into these watercolors for several projects.

This one now housed in the South Australia Museum.

This one now in Australia’s National Library.

The Lake Mungo book housed in Queensland State Library.

There were many, many hand pulled prints colored with these same watercolors.

Another thing I did this week was take all of my pop up book collection to Western Carolina University where I received my BFA in 1997. There were over ninety titles. So many were gifts and so many more I just found irresistible. Many came from museum gift shops and were extremely complex in their movements.  They were very happy to receive this collection and told me that the artist book collection I gave them late last year is now housed in their museum. I like that students can have access to these books. Much better than having them in boxes here.

Here is the only pop up book I kept, the one I made myself….Art History Pops Up.

This one was so much fun to make. Ten iconic art images throughout history. We do not have access to the shiny slick papers that make pop ups work so well. It is tedious and very wearing on the movable parts to make one. At least that was my experience so far. I have been asked to work on another with someone knowledgeable on the history of the book. I hope I can live up to his expectations. More on that project later in the year.

Meanwhile that is it for now. But one more thing, the novella, Kind Gestures, is now on my website, offered in spaced out chapters.

Til next week.