Collaged journal covers

Water Traffic“Blue Circle Bay”, paper collage, acrylic paint.

The Green Pond“The Green Pond”, paper and fabric collage, acrylic paint.

Tea & chocolate in Barcelona

Té y xocolata
Another teacup book cover in what’s become a whole series of hand bound journals, over the years. I am making 10 journals of various designs, commissioned by a good friend and loyal collector of my one-of-a-kind handbound journals over the years.
Té y xocolata
Getting started was hard—I am rusty at designing bookcovers (the extra-wide format, and one must always bear in mind that the cover will fold, later on, to form front and back covers, plus a spine.)

These teacup ones are especially baffling, because  they use so many different mediums (layering, sewing machine appliqué, paint, spray paint, collage, painting, embroidery, stamping or stenciling…for this one, I also printed the teacup with fresh leaves) but after a few false starts, I have finally found a rhythm, and the other 8 books are coming along more smoothly than this one did. They aren’t all of teacups.
Té y xocolata
I named this book after Barcelona, because of the Barcelona based chocolatier, Simón Coll’s, chocolate wrapper used for the flower vase. This chocolate bar wrapper design has been in continuous use since 1880.

rombo-simon-coll

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