The Weekly Letter – B is for Bookmaking

photo 1Making books is often a natural progression for those of us who love letters. Sometimes I begin with a binding in mind, but this one started with a stack of suminagashi (japanese marbling) paper I had made.  The paper is Arches text wove and the ink is sumi.  At first I had thought to use each sheet individually, but they seemed to belong together.

As I began to envision them as a book, I added black Hahnemühle Ingres paper between each sheet.  I chose the Japanese stab binding because I wanted to be able to take it apart for writing, adding more pages or rearranging the order.  The covers are Davey board, black bookbinding cloth and burgundy thread.

But what to write?  The paper seemed to call out for something about water.  Rivers, perhaps?  As I searched for a text, most of the public domain poetry seemed too old-fashioned for the simple feel of the paper.  Contemporary words were often copyrighted.  With this in mind, I considered Haiku or Tanka (similar to Haiku but with more lines using simile, metaphor and personification).  I settled on using my own Tanka and  A River’s Journey to the Sea for the title.

IMG_4711Now with a goal firmly in mind, I began the writing.  Thirty-one syllables, five lines, one thought.  Little by little each of the tanka began to emerge as mist wandering in clouds to storms, rushing waters and finally an exit to the sea.   Each tanka has been written and rewritten in pencil, monoline caps and finally combining brush letters with caps.  Meanwhile I searched for a white gel pen that wouldn’t fade into the paper (I settled on the Uni-ball Signo) and ink (Bleedproof white) for the brush letters.

photo 2

I’m still searching for a way to connect the texts visually, so the book is still a work in progress. When I’ve found that moment that says “Finé”, I’ll post some of the final photos.  Meanwhile, like a river this book remains in motion.


Coptic Binding update

Many of you have seen my Coptic bound sketchbooks online or at workshops.  They were the result of a wonderful workshop with Laurie Doctor at Cheerio and the realization that I had a myriad sheets of art papers that I’d accumulated from workshops and random studio projects.  I decided to randomly tear those papers down, glue them to boards and include them in signatures created with Bugra, Ingres and Arches Text paper.  The art papers became magical inspiration and the resulting Coptic bound books became great places to paint, draw, write and play.  Soon I had half a dozen and often I had them with me at meetings and workshops.  Continue reading “Coptic Binding update”

Workshop remnants

In the previous post, I added that I’d cut my workshop papers to fit into a coptic bound sketchbook similar to the ones I’d made before.







The papers are interspersed with plain sheets of Arches text.



There are seven signatures and just for fun, I included beads in the sewing. As in the other books, I will used this one for sketching, adding lettering, collage elements, etc. wherever the papers lead me.

After the party’s over.

This past weekend our guild hosted a marvelous workshop with Harvest Crittenden.  There was much playing with walnut, coffee and other natural dyes.  We experimented with bleach, salt, mica powders and even watercolor crayons. There were techniques for transferring laser copies of photographs with acrylic mediums, blender markers and contact paper. We made coffee clay ornaments and tried out various rubber stamping techniques. The final focus would be to create an antiqued square paper adhered to binder’s board with a smaller frame, similar to the one to the rear of the photo here.

It was great fun, but the real challenge is coming back home and finding out how to incorporate these techniques into one’s own work without becoming what I like to call a “workshop clone”.  We’ve all been there.  It’s so tempting to repeat what you’ve learned and suddenly you have a studio full of paste papers or fancy curlycue doo-dads.

That doesn’t mean you can’t make a frame and background.  Here’s mine, which while unfinished, gave me a chance to try using acrylic pouring medium to transfer the photo here at home.  It resulted in an interesting puddle of acrylic rather than the smooth flat acrylic skin you get when you brush on multiple coats of gel.  Since it comes in only gloss finish, I added a coat of matte medium over the finished skin to take down the glare.  Although I may never finish this project, the experimentation was great.


The ultimate goal in any workshop should be to take what works for you and see how you can use it in your own work. The paper we used was Arches text wove.  I cut my experimental workshop pages in a 5 x 14 inch size so that I can include them in another of my coptic bound sketch books.



The photo to the left is a detail of one of the sketchbook sized pages where the paper has been bruised with a ruling pen, covered with coffee stain, walnut ink and instant coffee granuals.  The transfer was done with contact paper, but I didn’t like the plastic look.  When I peeled it off, it left a wonderful shadow.  Happy accidents are always welcome.




To the right is a page from one of my current sketch books where I tried transferring a photo with the chartpak blender pens.  I highly recommend these as an alternative to the very messy and smelly acetone transfer technique that some books suggest.

Another experiment involved using matte medium and artwork from cocktail napkins.  This is lots of fun and the results were lovely, but probably not something I’d use in my original artwork since there could be copyright issues involved in using the artwork on the napkins.


All in all, it was a great weekend.  Harvest is a master teacher and her techniques are all applicable to artwork from antique to modern.  I enjoyed every minute and could spend hours experimenting and creating here in my studio.


Sketchbook update

Laurie Doctor’s advice to our Cheerio group last spring was to make and keep some sort of sketchbook or journal and to not let a day pass without writing or drawing in it.  I confess that the latter is easier said than done.  Here are some of my more recent entries.

I have several books both horizontal and vertical since I most often use watermedia to write, paint or draw. That way I don’t have any reason to not keep going if one of them is waiting to dry.

For those of you new to my blog, I created three coptic bound sketchbooks using previously painted papers as well as blank pages. The signatures were designed with Bugra, Arches Text Wove (Velin) and Hahnemuhle Ingres.

Books, Boxes and more

I’ve been creating my own sketchbooks lately and thought perhaps I’d try my hand at making some boxes for photographs or perhaps books for gifts.  Arches text wove is a great paper for watermedia.  It takes a lot of abuse so there’s never an excuse to throw that paper away, just paint over it and see what happens.

With that in mind, I’ve been working on quarter and half sheets until I accumulated a rather large stack of pages with interesting designs such as the one here.

Some have lent themselves to artistic or calligraphic interpretations. These were done with Daniel Smith watercolors.  The writing is either sumi ink or a mixture of W&N permanent white gouache and with Dr. Martyn’s Bleedproof White.

Arches text wove is also a brilliant paper for gluing onto Davey Board to create end boards for books and boxes. The black and orange box here consists of two 4×6 boards and a 3/4″ wide board.  Glued together first with bookcloth and then adding the text wove using PVA, the inside is a folded structure made from Arches Text Cover.  It could hold photos or small pieces of art, even a soft covered book.


I also made a cover for a coptic bound sketchbook I made several months ago.  When the sketchbook is full, I’ll mount it permanently to the cover, until then I’ve kept it separate so it can be opened flat for easier painting.





Art Every Day

For me one challenge after a workshop is making the techniques my own. We’ve all been to galleries where the artist’s inspiration is so evident in his or her work that you immediately conjure up the name of the inspiring art.  While it’s fun to come home and repeat what one has learned, eventually it’s more important to allow the art to speak through you and not someone else.


That’s what set Laurie Doctor’s workshop at Cheerio apart. Through a series of exercises and readings, she invited us to reach inside and pull out our own thoughts and ideas.  She also challenged us to write or draw every day.


From her inspiration, I made the three previously posted small 5×7 coptic bound books and have been making a conscientious effort to use them daily.



The photos here represent a few of the ideas that manifested themselves when I was able to put aside the worries of a “finished product” and just play.

Two More Sketchbooks

Just finished binding two more sketchbooks.  I’d intended to make two books, but I’d covered the boards first and then when I gathered the signatures, I didn’t like the color combination.

So I went back into the paper stack and covered new boards in black and white for the already gathered signatures. While the new boards dried, I chose more papers for signatures in the horizontally stitched book.  This time I used Arches MBM and Bugra (camel) paper with more blank pages which should make the horizontal book a little more watercolor friendly.


It’s fun, easy and I have no reason now to skip daily drawing and writing.

Random Papers and a Coptic Sketchbook

Here’s something to do with all those papers that aren’t quite frameable art, but way too wonderful to toss away. The paper is Arches velin (text wove). Using watercolor, pencils, china marker and sumi, I’d made quite a collection of paper. Using precut Davey board from John Neal Books (5×7), I covered them using one of the half sheet papers.  The inner signatures are made using the decorated papers, plain Arches text, and black Hahmemule ingres.  Bound with a Coptic stitch using black book thread, I now have a small sketchbook to carry with me. You can find Youtube video  instructions online in several places for the coptic stitch. 


Thanks to Laurie Doctor for sharing her wonderful sketchbooks with us at Cheerio and spurring me to create some of my own. I promise to post some of the pages when I’ve added to them.