Some very simple sketchbooks

The art shop where I work was recently sent a big stack of paper in mill packs. According to the manager of the main warehouse in Perth, the paper was not selling quickly enough and so the line has been discontinued. “Find a way to get rid of it,” we were instructed.

Always curious about paper, I opened some of the mill packs up, and was amazed to find a really beautiful text-weight paper from some mill in Japan. It has a delicate laid texture, and comes in 15 hues —from a dark blue-black to a pale cream color—with yellows, greens, greys, blues, reds, and tints of apricot in between. It reminded me a lot of the old Fabriano Artist Diary that used to be made in Italy by the nearly-300 year-old paper mill Fedrigoni. Those Artist Diaries used to feature 10 to 12 different colors of paper…not just the pale and muted hues of sand, fawn, and so forth, but also bright reds, greens, and a sunflower yellow that never failed to cheer me. Fabriano still makes its Artist Diaries, but the colors these days are restricted to pastels and shades of grey or brown.

I asked my boss if I could buy the paper from the business, a little bit at a time, to make some very simple, strong, rustic-looking journals with strong, unadorned calf leather covers, for use as field and travel sketchbooks. She loved the idea, and I used my lunch hour that same day to fold and cut just enough sheets of this gorgeous paper to make two books.

I figure I have enough calf nubuck from my last trip to Asia to make 20 of these A5-sized journals…and probably some smaller scraps of the same leather to make little A6 ones, too.

For as long as the leather and paper last, I’m accepting orders at my ETSY shop for these. The colors have been listed as options…you can get a book in just one color of paper, or a mix of all the hues available, as the books in the photos are. And if you want to select just two, three, or however many colors? Just arbitrarily pick the “Mixed” option, but send me a message to let me know which colors you want included. Some of the colors are in very short supply, others come in full mill packs (or two!) so it really is first in, best dressed.

For my own journal, I think I’m doing on that is just sunflower yellow and Prussian blue… ooh, yummy!

link to my ETSY Shop RIGHT HERE. Thanks!

Tiny books…


These miniature books are among a couple dozen things—paintings, artist’s books, hopefully a pendant or three—that I’ll be putting into a group show of miniatures, The Goddesses of Small Things, later this month.

I have been trying to make only miniature works of art for the last few months, and I’ve arrived at the point where I must admit defeat. I find miniature art very hard to make! First of all, I am unable to come up with “miniaturized ideas” to go with the miniature formats; so making a painting or drawing that is 10 centimetres across is almost as taxing—emotionally, mentally—as making one that is 1 meter across. And yet, physically, the severely limited surfaces upon which I have to work are too small to fully explore those ideas in: I find that I have barely started making marks…and the thing is done! No more room!


I also found myself heartily agreeing with what Lesley Millar, as quoted in the article “Small is Beautiful” (Embroidery Magazine, Nov/Dec 2011), has said on the matter of miniature textile art (although the difficulties and criteria would apply to many other mediums):

‘Creating miniature textile art is not easy: it is so difficult to avoid the cute, or looking like a sample….The work must be entirely complete in itself, a work of art that is appropriate to its size, expressive of a particular concept, which through its size gives access to what Ayelet Lindenstrauss Larsen has described as a primary way of interacting with the world: the way in which we look at a beautiful seashell or a convoluted piece of driftwood…’

I do not know how to create a miniature art work that captures this ‘primary way of interacting with the world,’ although I know exactly what that feels like in relation to the seashell, or the piece of driftwood. A kind of ‘rightness’…a perfectly natural diminution, highly detailed, highly concentrated; not without dignity or integrity…possessing beauty in and of itself, and none of the cloying appeal that some things have simply because they are small versions of larger things.

Armed with all this, still I have not managed to produce anything I’m happy with. Yet. I’ve a few weeks left before the show, let’s see if I can come up with something closer to the demanding spirit of Millar’s miniature artworks. (That said, I can’t wait till all this is over and I can go back to normal-sized books and larger canvases…I need space to breathe and move around in!)



About these tiny books:
The first three pictured are accordion books, measuring 4 cm. tall and 2.5 cm. wide when closed.
The last photograph is of a tiny blizzard book, its pockets containing handpainted details of siphonophora, radiolaria, shells and jellyfish.

Inspired! By 0 the 1’s Muse of The Week

Kat’s gorgeous blog, 0 the 1, has really taken off in the past year…she’s made a score of changes to the art, design and layout of the pages, has added regular ‘feature’ type entries, and—as always—slathers the whole thing with scrumptious photographs that have been given what I am really starting to think of as Kat’s signature “Elegant & Quirky” post-processing treatment: dreamy veils of layered colours, mosaics and intriguing juxtapositions, curly elements tucked into the corners, vintage graphics.

The result is a coherent and harmonious blog about being creative, starting a family, making a simple, self-sustaining, joy-filled life, and taking that life for long walks around (sigh!) Italy. She did a guest post about the city of Turin for Poppytalk that was so visually stunning, I ached with unconyeved excitement, a restless giddiness, and wanderlust for weeks.

In her most recent Muse of The Week post, Kat put together a short documentary about Stefania Giuliani, a book maker and typographer with a studio/laboratory called Librare. Librare is in the historical center of the city of Ancona, a seaport on the Adriatic. The sight of two medieval rooms full of Stefania’s gorgeous artist’s books, photographs, and trays full of metal type sorts, makes me jealous as heck! But also I feel so inspired to be able to glimpse into this warm, inviting creative space, and doubly lucky to have an adventurous and artistic friend like Kat, who took the time to put together this inspiring video and generously share it.

Salamat, Kat!

P.S. I sent Kat a mail art booklet—postcards, swatches of fabric, a cd, a bit of embroidery, a bit of everything, really!—some time ago, and here she’s done a post of the thing…including an animation where a smaller booklet of embroidery and writing slips out of a pocket in the bigger booklet. I was going to do my own post on the mail art I sent her, but this sort of leaves me (happily) deflated…I wouldn’t do anything as cool, so better just send you over to read her post on the matter!

animated GIF by Katerina Bona Vora of 0 the 1 (zerotheone)

Red Rooms: A model accordion book for teaching

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Made this little accordion book in a few hours yesterday, because I wanted to give my bookbinding students ideas for their own. What fun! I haven’t been able to open up and play with my own work the way I did when I made this…a reminder to not take anything too seriously, and treat everything as though it were just a playful model for something grander.

My first meeting with the new class is tonight, and I’m nervous, as usual…don’t know why, every class has been wonderful, so far, and past students have always enjoyed themselves. Better scared and prepared, than overconfident and careless, I guess. Many of my students went on to bind more books at home, and I am now thinking of doing a follow-up class of more difficult bindings, as well as some fancy-shmancy techniques, that we didn’t have time for in the Introduction to Bookbinding.

Folding an Accordion Book
These steps are for folding half of your paper strip; to finish the book, turn it over and repeat steps 2-7 with the other half of the strip.

Into one valley of the accordion, I stitched a 6-page pamphlet made from old magazine pages:

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I painted up a page of the accordion book (left) with acrylics and glitter paint (on the right is the first page of the pamphlet, from a torn-up Le Gun magazine):

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A very basic pop-up, using a postcard from Phaidon’s Art Box:

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(From left to right)

A felt heart stitched directly onto a page of the accordion, with rubberstamped borders…

A red “snowflake” wall sticker and an artist’s stamp (scan of my work…reduced, printed onto photo paper, and cut with wavy craft scissors) mounted on a smaller piece of foam board…

An “envelope” of red silk dupion, pamphlet stitched into a valley fold…

An old yellow and orange lino print attached to a page of the book by making diagonal cuts in the black paper and sliding the corners of the print into these cuts.

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Played with the pamphlet of Le Gun magazine pages, too, by cutting windows in the pages and adding my own paint and doodles to the illustrations…

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A pocket made from some junk mail holds a painted-up paper tag; more rubberstamping and wall stickers fill the empty spaces between one page and the next…

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Some upholstery fabric from my stash makes a quick front covering material over pieces of thin book board…nothing flash, just something to get the class thinking of ways they can jazz up and use the accordion books they’ve made.

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♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥