Lynne Chapman has expanded my sandbox

Accordion sketchbook 180° view
Week 4 on Sketchbook Skool put us in the able, chirpy hands of Lynne Chapman, an Urban Sketcher and professional illustrator. We went on a walk to watch her sketch on the pavement, and we spent a lot of time in her gorgeous, custom-built studio, hearing her talk about art materials, the tricks she plays to get past creative blocks, or to make something good about a sketch gone…not ‘bad’, but just not quite the way she wanted it to. She shares all of the good Sketchbook Skool tips, plus much more, on her website, An Illustrator’s Life For Me

But what really delighted me the most was her use of the accordion sketchbook. Now, as a bookbinder, I make the accordion format quite often. I teach it to my students, and have even made a diagram for how to fold a strip into 8 parts without measuring each section, here.

But it was a “slap-your-forehead- and-holler” moment when I saw her use the full potential of the accordion sketchbook by recording on its unfurling pages such things as the passage of time. A story. A process. A journey, or a long panoramic view.

Accordion sketchbook 180° viewWHY DID I NEVER THINK TO USE THEM THIS WAY? I’m flabbergasted by my lack of imagination. I might fold a strip of paper, fully 1 metre long, down into a book with 14 pages (8 on the front, 6 if you count the back and add covers), and then I will boringly see each page separately, as one does a regular book…thereby squandering all the delicious potential that lies in a 1 metre long picture that collapes down to a compact size. Good grief.
Accordion sketchbook 180° view
So our homework for Lynne’s class was to construct an accordion book, and fill it. I did a 180° view of the inside of my room on the boat. The perspectives just about did my head in, because the roof of the wheelhouse slopes to either side, and the walls lean inward. I got as far as 6 pages of the 8, then gave up, because I’d added colour and realised that I liked the drawing better when it was just orange linework. I might finish the drawing this weekend, but won’t colour the last two pages in (because I don’t keep a sketchbook in order to slog through chores, what would be the point?)

I can see all sorts of projects, now, that I would love to make as accordion books. The invitation to PLAY on a river of paper that just keeps going and going is SO EXCITING! Lynne shared a lot of things with us in the week, but for me this one was the keeper.

Shanghai chai

Tea in Shanghai - 1

And here is journal number two, Shanghai Chai.

In the grand old tradition of Western-made chinoiserie, it’s a little bit of a hodge-podge of Oriental stereotypes, rather than anything correctly Shanghainese. Awkward cultural appropriations, I’m sorry…the journal has more in common with this Manhattan Transfer song (but then, that’s Singapore…what a dog’s breakfast I am making of this!) than real places.

These babies are ready to go to Finland.

Tea in Shanghai - 4

Tea in Shanghai - 2

Tea in Shanghai - 3

Tea in Helsinki…

Helsinki tea time

Here’s the completed made-to-order journal, incorporating those painted dishes I showed in the last blog post.

Helsinki tea time

Such a headache coming up with a background color that suited! Painted several canvas backgrounds…all much too dark and detailed. This one, though perhaps still busy, is lighter and softer. Pink is never the color I try out first…it just doesn’t occur to me. (How unlike the feminine and fun work of Hanna Anderson, where pink is the foundation for nearly everything!) But I’m happy to give it the stage if it does the job, and it has saved the day, here.

Helsinki tea time

Helsinki tea time

My Finnish patroness wanted two journals: number two will be out from under the book press tomorrow. Then I CAN FINALLY PACK AWAY MY PAINTS AND BOOKBINDING GEAR! These are pretty much the bindery’s last books before the trip.

Woo hoo!

Brown bag sketchbooks

brown paper bagsI have wanted to do something about this stack of large, heavy-duty brown paper bags—the kind that you get your bok choy and bananas in, at a farmer’s market—that I carried home from some yard sale ages ago.

Today I cut the bottoms off, leaving a kind of paper ‘tube’; I then slit the tube with a large kitchen knife at the side folds into two pieces, cut the resulting two sheets in half once more, and then folded the sheets, ten at a time, to form signatures or sections. A few quick stitches using heavy linen upholstery thread, some cloth tapes cut from a scrap of printed cotton, some glue and half an hour under the press. Just like that, I have two brown paper books, a hundred leaves (200 pages) in each. I may, or may not, worry about covers (I’m a bookbinder. That means most of my own books spend their lives half-finished and coverless…)

brown paper journalsI have a lot of good art papers, and at least a dozen hand-bound drawing and watercolor sketchbooks, to take on my travels…but I needed some scribbling-and-doodling books that didn’t feel precious; made of the cheapest possible paper and roughly sewn together, so that I wouldn’t be afraid to waste the pages, to draw and write utter garbage, to jot down phone numbers and shopping lists. I like that the pages in these two books are creased. There are some stains and spots where the bags got rained on last year. I even left the double-thick strip—where one side of the bag was glued to the other—to form a margin on some pages.

Often, it is in such cheap and accessible books that the best work gets done. The mind is so strange.

stranger things have happened

I began to test various dip pen nibs on the rough, hairy paper, trying to figure out which nib would work best. This random line from an audio book—Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives—I was listening to as I began to write appeared on the first page. I guess I have unwittingly named one of the books…

testing pen nibs on the paper

GOINGALLIVANTING : : ETSY Coupon Code

etsy banner galiivanting
I’ve set up a coupon code for my ETSY shop, The Smallest Forest

Buy a handmade journal, or both of Kris’s books (or anything else on there) for a total of AU$40.00, and get 15% off the price of the items by using the code
GOINGALLIVANTING
at checkout.
Watch the spelling (or Copy/Paste it from here to be sure,) and look out for the blue link “Apply shop Coupon Code when you’re on your Shopping Cart page

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Applied properly, you should see how much of a discount you’re getting BEFORE you proceed to checkout.

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Runs until November 15, 2014, or the shop runs out!

Thank you!

A few new journals, and Kris’ books, in my ETSY shop

I’ve been trying to photograph and write the listings for some new journal designs to post to my ETSY shop this past week, but there have been so many social commitments, lately…I can’t believe the number of my friends with their birthdays in September, there sure was a lot of baby-making going on during the Christmas holidays! Oh, curious thought: Maybe Santa’s your real dad?

Here are four new journal designs in my ETSY shop…these are made with Spoonflower fabric designs by other talented designers, not me. Sometimes it’s nice to see someone else’s ideas on a journal cover, I get tired of my own style.

Clicking on the image will take you to my ETSY shop. If you want to purchase the fabric, instead, click on the designer’s name under the picture.

Hither & Tither journal. Fabric is “Time Travel” by nadiahassan
Little Mothers journal. Fabric design is “Matryoshka Russian Dolls” by LittleSmileMakers
Tweet Forest journal. Fabric design is “Fun Trees” by Bethan_janine on Spoonflower
Der Deer Party journal. Fabric design is “Oatmeal Spice Deer” by scrummy on Spoonflower

I only bought a fat quarter of each design, so there are only four journals of each. This is pretty much the last bit of bookbinding that I will be doing for a while, so if you’ve had your eye on something in my shop, best grab it now! I can’t take these with me when I leave Darwin (too heavy!) and I will have to put my shop in stasis until I manage to make something new on my travels. I know this all sounds so vague, but I feel as though I am standing at the edge of my known world, about to hurl myself into an abyss! I don’t know any more than you do about what is coming…only that I’ll be with my love, again, and that makes up for everything else!

Speaking of Kris, he left me some of his self-published books, and I have decided to put them up for sale on ETSY, as well! They were printed by small presses in the Philippines, but Kris bound them all by hand (very roughly, but the point of these books is the story, not the binding), so they can legitimately go on ETSY. (As of this listing, Kris is in Africa, cycling through Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia.)

I am selling his two best books:

Monsoon Dervish by Kris Larsen

“Dream. The day you stop dreaming, you are as good as dead.” —the Monsoon Dervish motto.

On a home-built Chinese junk that had no engine, electricity, radio, GPS, not even a compass, my partner, Kris Larsen—a carpenter by trade, an adventurer at heart—crisscrossed the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific for seven years, from Australia to Madagascar and Japan, covering a total of 45 000 miles.

Forever broke, dodging officials and flying by the seat of his pants, Kris found himself trading spices in Zanzibar, collecting sea-cucumbers on a deserted island, and entertaining gangsters in a Japanese night-club. In Sri Lanka he was arrested as a suspected Tamil terrorist; in Comoros he was chased out of the harbour by gun-waving policemen. He survived a 360º rollover in a typhoon off Taiwan, finally stopping on a beach in the Philippines to write this book.

For the next seven years he tried to find a publisher for his work: anywhere, anyone. Nobody was interested. Frustrated, he typed the text onto a CD and on the next trip to the Philippines he paid a printing press in Davao to run 200 copies of the book. Each book has been bound by hand and covered with old sailing charts, and every copy is different. The first printing sold out in 4 months around the Darwin waterfront. Roughly bound and roughly written in Kris’ pronounced Russian-English, this book is surprisingly funny, entertaining, and inspiring, too…it’s gathered a small following of readers from around the world.

Out of Census by Kris Larsen

“If I could choose one thing to take with me on a round the world trip, I would take a warm sleeping bag. If I was allowed two things, I would add a good passport. In that order.” — opening lines of Out of Census

This is the first volume of an autobiography by my partner and belovéd—a mad adventurer and prolific writer— Kris Larsen. It follows Kris’s growing up in Eastern Europe under communist rule, his days as a tramp and a rock climber, his brazen escape into the West, going half way around the world as an illegal alien with dodgy papers, over-landing to India and beyond.

It’s a humorous take on the life of a would-be refugee that nobody wanted, showing how little you really need in order to do the things you always dreamed about. You want to go on an expedition? Put on your boots and go.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ― H. Jackson Brown Jr.