My Mind This Week

We are having some beautiful skies this week. It is the Summer Solstice here, Winter Solstice down under where I see they too have exquisite sunsets happening. It seems I am more in touch with what is going on down there than here according to my facebook feeds. It is the shared frustration with our politics as well as our interest in the arts that keep us in touch. The fears of “otherness” has put deep scars in not just our two countries but the world as well.

Ever since the seventies in the time of “free love” I honestly thought that we were headed toward a more enlightened way of seeing. Naive at best. And maybe it is being an artist, caught up in my own passions to visualize an awareness and then wanting to share.

It was sad to see an article by the BBC about how the truly American expression of quilt making has become so divisive here in this country. Conservatives squaring up against those who use the quilt form as expressions of opposition to our present government. How can that be justified? Objects, large objects made from the very medium that covers our bodies and “protects” us has always been one of the most expressive materials to make us think. Just think the Aids Quilt to start, then the narrative quilts of Faith Ringgold and others like her. I remember being so impressed to meet the young woman who was making quilts depicting the threatened owls of the Northwest through deforestation.

It is the responsibility of artists to use whatever medium is at our disposal to make a point. Whether the viewer likes it or not is hardly the point. I made this one after one President Bush left office and we were in the middle of another one. It is titled, “Lost Peaces”. The base cloth scraps were from canvases I had painted and collaged about the peace and calm of tai chi movements. Onto them I shaped fragile paper birds starting with the dove of peace coming in from the top right only to be shot down and added to specimen drawers full of his predecessors. Each of them tagged on the leg with a small excerpt from a gardening book why certain plants need to be kept away from other ones so as to avoid contamination of species. It is also filled with rusted nails lined up like armaments. It hangs behind me here in the office right now and only had one public showing. A textile show in Asheville where it was kept off to one end away from those that were more about cloth and surface design.

I will probably take it to the landfill after removing all those wonderful rusty nails….but not yet. It seems more important this week after reading the BBC article.

On another subject this week I just want to give a nod to the women who have touched me in ways few have. I am thinking of only three right now. One who is always there at the end of the phone or in person to remind me to laugh. She is always there before I knew I needed her to be here to listen, just listen with a scotch in hand. Another called last night, again with scotch in hand. She lives in Canada and we have known each other since graduate school twenty years ago. Her call was to commiserate about our pitiful state of politics in this country and how we have allowed ourselves to become so fearful and easily manipulated. Of course they have what most of us would consider the ideal leader sitting in their capitol while we have whatever this is…a combination of all the worst when there is such an absence of integrity.

And another who my thoughts are with as she struggles with perhaps the final stages of cancer. I never knew her well but I wanted her to know just how much I needed to hear her answer to a question I had asked myself for years, “Am I doing enough and am I doing it right?”. I would ask every older woman artist that I respected if they were constantly nagged by that question. Most said they never gave it a thought. One time a friend and I asked an online ouija board the same question and after several minutes…it spelled out “maybe”. How silly was that! But this woman who I spent little time with and so admired her artwork told me, “Sandy, it doesn’t matter.” I stopped asking the question after that and wanted to thank her for her simple bit of insight that had escaped me.

My art group meets here this weekend and I am forever grateful for their willingness to talk and listen to the things that matter. This week they will see all the specimens framed and the journal I am working on. And they will also understand the deep importance of the Land of Lethe map still tucked into its blank journal waiting for words.

So finally in this rather rambling blog are more of the specimen journal pages.

One signature is finished and I am well into the next one. It has been a great distraction working on this, an imaginary place to go. It works like tai chi and some yoga stretches. You come away from it refreshed and ready to tackle whatever is next.

The next few days I will be sewing clothes. Taking two shirts or more to make one I would wear. Sewing up fabrics I just had to have from Dairings in Australia and throwing out scraps that at one time seemed important and now have no reason for being here.

Til next week. And if you have a friend who drinks single malt scotch, you have a good listener, a good friend.


Wrapping It Up – For Now

I have set up the last of the 8 x 10 gessoed board’s subject matter. Sticking with the Nature theme, I just picked a selection of things from the large rock and stick bowl in the foyer.  More of the things that are just picked up and once in the hand, can not be put back.


I like the feel of these pieces. They came from New Zealand and Tasmania mostly. Very seldom are there things from “here” in that bowl. It must weigh at least thirty pounds. Each thing in it told a story that is now mostly forgotten. Sad in a way. I wish I knew that the only thing left in a few short years of slipping these things into my pockets would be the feel and not where I was exactly and who I was with and why it caught my eye in the first place. Maybe, just maybe I would have left it lie there in the sand by a pounding surf of some place so far from where it was going to end up. Maybe. Do children want their mother’s bowl of rocks? I think they have their own and would feel badly having to say, “No thank you.”  Someone should start a home for the collected things like these that meant so much to someone so eager to own them.

I wrote a poem about them, those rocks and will add it here.

Owning Stones


I take the stones to own.

There is no thought

given that they are

removed from their

home, their place.

Once in my hand they

are mine. And other

things I own

will be left behind

to accommodate

the stones’ passage

back to my home,

my place.

Here they are arranged

to my liking…sorted

stacked and circled.

Each stone offering to

be held again and

again as I make them

into my story.

Each bearing the

marks of memory

from their own.

 Here is the finished board behind a mat and a detail of just how badly these boards were gessoed.



See all those holes and rough spots. They look and feel more like plastered panels and are the most thirsty surface I have ever painted on.

I am tidying up some other unfinished work in the studio. These books whose covers are altered images of details of large paintings are printed on both sides and folded in such a way that the front cover is three layers of imagery. For some reason I stopped making these in the middle of the assembling and decided this past week to finish the bindings. It is just a simple two signature three hole binding with the addition of complementary beads. What I do with them now is anyone’s guess. But at least they are finished and packed into clear envelopes.


They are just plain blank journals and if it weren’t for the complexity of fitting the images together in the layout and printing and folding, I don’t think I would have bothered with them. But I like the look and feel of them. Probably the feel is nice because I waxed the covers.

A friend is coming down this week to work in the studio. We will do gelatin plates. Just playing really. And that is hard for me. To just do something because it might be fun. I need it to be more complicated than that. I need to be saying something or at the very least learning something. Maybe I can learn to just have fun, just expect nothing more from myself. But it is hard for me. I think I am still dogged by the two questions, “Am I doing enough?” and “Am I doing it right.?”

I remember spending so much time asking women artist my age and older if they asked themselves these questions. Every one of them said, “No.” And then once a friend and I asked a ouija board on the internet. It took a good long time to spell out the word, “maybe.” How silly is that? Not long after I asked a printmaker/artist in Kentucky and she looked at me closely and said that the answer to my questions was, “It doesn’t matter.” I was quite relieved at the time and thought it was all behind me. Now I am not so sure.

But I will have some fun this week with my friend and next week I will show pictures of what my fun in the studio looked like.




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.