Finishing Up The Stitched Australia Book

Here is the finished book with its wrap tie. I got to use the last two small pieces of wood patterned by Toni Rogers in Queensland.  All threads used in the book came from Australia.

And besides using Australian tea to color the pages and shellac that I bought in Australia, I used my little geometry set bought in Brisbane many years ago to make circles, etc. Even my needles came from Richmond, Tasmania.

The images were harvested from this book.

There is something magic and charming and educational about all the pictures used in this book to tell a bit about the settling of Australia.

I used a coptic binding for the folios and spacers in the book.

And after I got all the folios shellacked, tea dyed and stitched I put them into some sort of order of settling the land.

I realized that I wanted it a bit thicker and had this picture of four surveyors/telegraph workers sitting there. The reason it sat there was because it is my romantic idea of what a true Australian male looks like. In fact several years ago while teaching in the Northern Territory the assistant to the Craft Alliance there introduced me to her husband. She knew I would like him because he had this look of pure Australian bloke. When she finished work that week he was going to take her on trip around the perimeter of the continent on his motorcycle. He had that truly capable look about him and had me grinning in his company. Any one of the men below could have been related.

Anyway aside from all that, these men in the picture and two more random images became the in between two-folio signatures to make the book larger and eliminate seeing the empty space between those folios.


I liked how they inserted themselves into the other images and the country. It might matter that I listened to Lyle Lovett music while I put these boys into the book.

There are other images, lots of other ones of people settling into the country, displacing the aboriginal culture.  And kangaroos.

And the convicts….all accused of one of the nineteen crimes that got them deported to the other side of the world.

I will stop here and maybe figure that I have enough samples and books that involve the stitch. There are only four in the class so far and I have no idea until I start teaching where each of their interests lie.

It will be my last class taught for John C Campbell Folk School here in Brasstown, NC. Thirty years and six months is quite enough. I look forward to really enjoying this last one and hope the students do as well.

Til next week when I can show pretty outside pictures again.

Changing Out Sketchbook Signatures

This is a quick cover to hold three signatures from my travel sketchbook below and a pocket to hold collectibles from my trip in March to Australia.

I simply snip out the used signatures and then restitch them into the spine of a new cover.

Then replace them.

Now I can use this book for my next trip down under. Which by the way is now all sorted with a first stop in Hobart to be with friends a few days before coming to Melbourne to stay a day or so at my favorite hotel and then off to Grampians Textures with exciting students. One of them is taking me up to Baldessin Press for several days before I head off to Geelong area to teach before returning to Melbourne and flying home. If it goes as my travel agent has planned, I will be flying Virgin Airlines Australia. Never used them before but always up for new adventures.

Anyway, back to the sketchbook. I designed this travel box/book to hold just the right amount of paints, hand made and purchased watercolors, pencil, sharpener, eraser, brush etc. The leather cover part has a pocket attached inside to hold a small palette and is a good place to tuck things.

Here is some of the insides of the transferred signatures.

First stop and most favorite stop is Jude’s in Hobart for a cuppa.

Space between signatures.

How three hole signature is sewn….going in through center hole in signature and rigid spine, in one of the other two holes, across the center hole and out the third hole to come back in on the other side of the inside long stitch to do a square knot over that long stitch. Easy and secures it just fine.

Here is the spine.

And there was enough space left at the back of the book to glue in a sandwich bag to hold all the bits and pieces collected on that trip.

I always glue these “pockets” with the opening toward the signatures so as not to lose things but still have access.

So now to just stitch those new signatures into the old sketch portfolio and I am all ready to go.

The past few days I did get twenty sets of cards packaged up. Tonight is another small dinner party for just four of us. The shrimp pasta dish the other day was quite successful and tonight it is a new recipe for balsamic chicken over rice.

And here is the dam this morning….beautiful as they lower the level for winter. I used to take my students out here to gather pigments for making local watercolors. Pretty isn’t it?

Til later when I find something else that looks interesting.

Printmaking and Pigments


I did not like the way the first carving for the cockatoo turned out. Too much white on white.

I should have taken the time to do a drawing and then it would have been obvious. Late in the day I have little patience and should just leave the studio.

I had to carve a new block for the cockatoo and gum tree bloom. The other did not have enough contrast for the bird that is white. But since there was no more of the linoleum blocks that were the same size, I resorted to a very old EZ cut rubber sheet. It worked but the material is so crumbly I don’t think I would use it again. Anyway the three birds of the Songlines series is finished. And the best thing to do the rubbing for transferring the image to the paper is this old child’s shoe last. See that flat spot? It is perfect! And it fits into the hand just right. No wooden spoon needed and the pressure is more evenly directed.

The emu and banksia was fun to carve.

Here they are colored in.

I used more of the Songlines book pages for these as well.

Now I just have to print up sets of cards and package them all up to take to Australia.

The back of the Australia pigments map was bothering me….just plain off white paper. So now I am doing this. Only three more sections to go and it will be finished. Probably put a sealer on it because it will be handled so much.

Here is a detail.

I am only using the watercolors made from soils of Australia. It seems as though I will never use them up. The studio smells of cloves because this box of watercolors that holds eighty-four different ones was rushed into the containers and closed up too soon. So I had to open each of them, to clean off and add oil of clove. That was a few years ago and they still smell like the old dentist offices of the late sixties, early seventies.

Anyway there is just enough of this painting on the back to leave a ghost like image when you hold the map up to the light. And that seems somehow appropriate. And it certainly takes care of my horror vacui.

Next week I will start printing the photos for Lee’s book for provoking memory.

We are having company for dinner tonight and again next Tuesday. If I keep the meals simple and wine at the ready, I can do this….but no where near as often as we did before. Things change.

Til next week.

Keeping At It

This morning on our walk at the dam. I love how the mist stays low and hugs the ground as the sky tries to pull it up.

And here is last night outside the dining room window.

The light is at a nice angle as we approach fall and things in the yard just get more interesting.

I wanted another large leaved plant for the bog garden below the kitchen window. Where I usually shop for plants in the Asheville area I was told this one would be interesting with its white marks. So I bought it. It is no where near the size of the purplish/green one from the past few years. It took its sweet time showing the “white” and hardly grew much larger than when I bought it. But I do like the watercolorish look of the color panels through the center.

Two days ago at least six fawns showed up with their mothers. Here are four of them outside the dining room window.  Another sign of fall is the changing color of the deer….back to a taupe tone.

This week I carved a small linoleum block. A magpie, gum nuts and leaves. I wanted to try color on them. First the watercolors made from Australian soils, then other watercolors and then gauche. It was very hard to get any even-ness to the color washes.

But then I decided to just go with fewer colors and like it better. It seems my way of working is pile it on, then take it off. Why can’t I just see the obvious in the first place?! I go through a lot of erasers.

I made nine usable prints on plain white printmaking paper. The non-usable became the test prints for adding color, but still ended up in the waste bin.

Then something I have been wanting to do….print the image on pages from a book. Here they are printed on pages from the Australian book, Songlines. The book is frankly a tedious read. Lots of conversation and not so much the description of landscape that one would expect from its reputation. But an interesting backdrop for the image….and an interesting title for the series.

I have two more linoleum blocks this size to use up. The next will be the head of an emu with a banksia pod and leaves. And the other a sulfur crested cockatoo with a pink gum blossom.  I will show you those when I get them designed and printed.

The ones without the Songlines background text I will turn into sets of cards to take down under in March. With the original prints and cards I should be able to pick up some spending money for my time there. I canceled my first teaching venue as it is on the east coast and few if any sign ups this early. I did it because I know the other classes are filled or likely to be and I really want to control more of my time and who I spend it with while in Australia this time. I am cutting down on any stress whatsoever and going for pure enjoyment.

It is tempting to just say “yes” when asked to teach a workshop. The pay is fun to spend in the country while finding interesting things to bring back to the studio to use or just buy gifts that can only come from there. I love buying from fellow artists/craftsmen and at the airport shops where just one more silly souvenir is irresistible.  And whatever I buy as a gift is so appreciated by those who will only know Australia from those wonderful travel images of outback and empty endless beaches.

On another subject altogether. A friend told me about a woman who is making books in black and white photography to jog memories and conversations with those having forms of dementia. In my vast amount of saved pictures I am collecting images that should be familiar to Lee. Adjusting them to black and white and resizing them for a picture book, I will make a book for Lee to have. Or more likely those visiting him can show to him and perhaps start a conversation or a smile to cross his face. We are no where near that now, but I know it is coming.

Some days it is like the tangling of these small trees on another walk we take closer to home so we can get back here before the cleaning lady shows up at eight am.

I like this image and how dense the growth is. I think Lee’s mind must get like this as he struggles to find the word and often gives up. I know him well enough to just fill in. But for others that haven’t spent over fifty years listening to what matters to him, it can be hard to understand what he is trying to say. The best of them will just fill in a blank or change the subject. Just saying, “A lovely bird went by the window”, or “How’s your sandwich?” is such an easy way to distract his anxiety.

Now he is out using his new battery operated weed eater and leaf blower. The ones that took gas and a hard pull to start have been removed from sight. The batteries only last an hour or so and then he has to quit and come in and rest….a good thing.

I think this will be the cover for the book I am making him. Inside will be pictures of house construction, his cats, deer, rabbits, trees, birds, gardens, food…..lots of things that are in there somewhere.

Til next time.