These embroidered allium journals are probably the most time-consuming of the ten journals that a friend has commissioned from me, so I thought I had better get cracking on the embroidery part. This is Number 2. They always take longer than I think they will: the painted canvas is leathery, hard to push through, and my index finger already bears small cracks and cuts where I use it to push the needle in. I suppose I should use a thimble, but I don’t own one (I have yet to find one that fits me properly).
The puffballs are very pretty (I think so, anyway) when embroidered…they don’t look as nice, painted or drawn. But it’s incredibly boring work, the same star stitch, over and over. Thank god for audio books! They make the repetitive stitching bearable. I have been listening to Barbara Mujica’s “Mi Hermana Frida” in Spanish. It’s my second time to listen to this audio book…a year and a half has passed since I first listened to it. I’m enjoying it so much more, this time around, because my Spanish is much better than it was then. It’s a nice way, too, to hang on to what I know of the language, as I hardly get to use it over here…
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.
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.
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.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
excerpt from Little Gidding, T.S. Eliot
I went away for two years, to marvel at vine-hung jungles up muddy rivers, at tepuys rising like wizards fortresses out of a sea of greenery, at waterfalls so high that half the water had blown away on the wind before a drop reached the ground where I stood. I clung to mules as we descended near-vertical mountain paths in the Andes. I bedded down for the night in bus stations, in traveller’s inns that felt like army barracks, in 18th century mansions filled with antiques, and in a crash pad in New York—eight Latin Americans in one room, of whom one spoke English.
I stayed with locals in disparate settings of 18th century charm, or 18th century poverty…in a clapboard house sinking into the squishy mud on the edge of a filthy canal, in a house in the old slave quarters of a medieval city, where the young prostitutes drank and argued on the old cobblestones, and I spent one night in a communist-style block of Cuban apartments where the water and electricity came on for a few hours each day, but every resident owned an instrument and the building twitched its hips to salsa music, morning till midnight.
Naturally, when the time came to return home, I was a little worried that life in Darwin, Australia, would seem poorer for all the places I’d been.
I needn’t have worried.
As the old cliché goes, “There’s no place like home.” Back up the creek on our houseboat, SonOfAGun, the mangroves swayed in the sea wind, and morning sunlight lay slick on green-gold water like fine olive oil. For many months I was utterly spellbound.
When Kris and I moved our boat to this spot, I loved it right off the bat: the solitude, the natural surroundings, the quality of the light, the chi of living surrounded by water. I didn’t think it was possible to love this place any more, until I came back from my wandering and found that I did.
“Paradise Found” was made for the exhibition “Gypsies, Vagabonds, and Wild Mad Women”. I priced it to discourage anyone from buying it and, luckily, no one did. I’m glad, because I want to live with this one for a while. It’s the beginning of what I suspect may be a bunch of love letters to my home and my life.
It’s composed of watercolours, acrylics, collaged papers (linocut, textured or painted beforehand) and a bit of colored pencil. I’ve just uploaded the image to my Society6 shop, so it’s now available as a fine art print on acid-free rag paper.
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.
WHY 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.
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.
Inspired by a fortune teller’s symbol, this painted wooden hand went into the Gypsies, Vagabonds & Wild Mad Women exhibition. These photos were taken before I’d finished…later on, I added the words “Here & Now” to the golden circle in the center of the palm.
Red and black horses, symbols from Russian folk art, run around the base of the arm. Traditionally, they represent Day and Night.