“Artissima Transitiona” I

“Artissima Transitiona” I

Three years ago, for a number of reasons. my husband and I moved to Los Angeles…Santa Monica to be exact.   Since that time, I  have become involved with the making, study and teaching of artist’s books. I teach bookmaking around Santa Monica and LA County, and am continuously  evolving my own expression of this unique art form. Bookmaking, creating handmade books, unique books, artist’s books, and the book arts overlap as activities. In essence, they employ the form of The Book as an expressive vehicle.

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I have been the principal of my own decorative painting company, ArtiFactory Studio, for many years, primarily in San Francisco, where I resided, also for many years. In this post, I begin to share how I am finding ways to put these two forms together, one, bookmaking, often associated with the small-scale and intimate, and the other, decorative painting, often large-scale, which includes mural painting, glazing, faux finishing, gilding, and a myriad of other ways of “treating” the built environment, IE, the environment created by us humans as the setting for our activities.

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I hope to approach this subject in a series of posts, each showing a slice of what I am doing, and hope to do. I am fascinated with notions of scale, with materials, texture, space and design, as well as with the expressive, provocative,  and multidisciplinary nature of handmade books. In this post,  I will share how I brought techniques and notions specific to the field of decorative painting to the form of The Book in my own work. This process has been part of a greater transition in my life, work, business and career on all fronts.  Hence the post’s title” Artissima Transitiona“. The transition continues…

WEBa1Gilding, or the act of adhering metallic leaf over a surface adds a bit of bling, depth and dimension to an already complex surface on this handmade book cover. The gold rectangle also provides a focal point for the eye to rest on, adding order, focus and coherence to the piece. A piece of board was gilded, then added to the surface collage.

web1Texture can be a huge part of decorative painting. The artist manipulates glazes, paints and other materials over a surface to create both visual and physical texture. Here crumpled tissue paper is adhered to the surface in layers, giving it a satisfying texture, variation of color, and contrast to the look, and feel of the other materials used, which include cloth, hemp cord, beads and paper media.

WEB2The covers of this book are made of boards that have been dragged or “Striéd“, a technique by which paint or glaze is applied to a surface, and a large stiff brush is used to drag through it while it is still wet, leaving a up and down stripe-like pattern/texture.

WEB4Here a “brown paper bag” feeling is created by using humble brown wrapping paper (and bags) to create an earthy  texture on the surface of this book’s covers. Individual pieces of hemp cord are used for the binding, adding to the homespun simplicity and feel.

WEB5This book is created from boards that were originally painted with metallic paint and glaze samples for a client. I loved how these samples looked together, and added the rust, iron and verdigris sample pieces above them.  The rest of the book is made of paper with plant material flowing through it.  It  is bound with linen thread in a  single signature  (gathering of folded pages).

WEBaFinally, here is a book with an accordion spine; a “found” spine…meaning that I happened upon a design brochure, and its size, weight and color worked perfectly the book I developed. The covers are made of paper that has been textured, painted and glazed, then glued onto boards. The contrasting “edge design” is created by the addition of another painted and glazed decorative painting sample, glued on the open edge, then folded over, and glued onto the inside of each cover, giving it more stability, integrity, and visual interest.

I hope you will join me as I journey through this time of creative transition, exploration, and discovery. Although the waters feel uncharted, there are plenty of inspirational and provocative artists, makers and craftspeople to help light the way.  Here’s to diving in!

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TJ’s…and Me

TJ’s…and Me

I am sure many colleagues, fellow artists, artisans, decorative painters, solopreneurs,  “creativepreneurs” (does that word exist yet in our lexicon?)  and many others, can relate to the feeling that I had not so long ago, after a spec visit to a potential new Client.  We love what we do, interacting with people, the excitement of beginning a new project, the creative collaboration with our Clients, the focus, commitment and connections required.  What we don’t love is that sometimes the continual reaching out into the unknown: people, projects, ideas, materials, challenges (the weather, for heaven’s sake!), can at times be momentarily exhausting, even overwhelming.

The feeling can overtake us at any given moment, after a meeting (hopefully not before, or during), unloading supplies, working through the numbers for a bid, or even working on a blog post (not me.. no, never!)

Suddenly, the professional interaction feels demanding, carrying supplies becomes lugging, the numbers seem either too high, or too low, and perfectionism and procrastination rear their challenging heads.

I felt that way recently, when I found myself trying, as we all do, to pull the various factors of a project together to make it work out well for the Client and myself, to say nothing of the associated painting contractor.  I left the meeting, and since Trader Joe’s was  right on my way home, I decided to stop in and do a little shopping, knowing that I always enjoyed the experience.

Why do I always enjoy the TJ’s experience, especially at my “home” store?

Well, for starters, there is the free coffee and samples, an offering  to the weary traveler (ah- customer) ready for a little TLC.  Whether it is a mother with young children clutching her cart, a couple on a budget preparing for a party, or, like me, a working gal needing a break, the TJ’s temple of artisanal eats is there to serve.

And serve me that day it did.  The instant I dismounted my vehicle, traversed the parking lot, and entered the grocery’s hallowed hall, I felt that blast of energy one gets when stepping  into the stream of animated humanity there for but one reason: to gather forth sustenance for themselves and their families, and to have fun doing it.

The sights, scents, and colors (yes, colors ARE part of sights, but so much more, as my colleagues in HUE will attest to…) of flowers, fruits, cheeses, chocolate, (I recommend the Trader Joe’s truffles, to all who are looking for a little something sweet to bring to a gathering), among seemingly millions of other things, all of which I knew I could love, greeted me upon entering.  I made a beeline to the samples station,  reanimated myself with a tiny cup of perky cafe, and snarfed down a thimbleful of something hot and delicious that was being featured, once again thinking, “What an awesome marketing strategy…this great free stuff makes one want to come here, without one even knowing it…one looks forward to the goodies one knows one is going to get!”

Not only that.  The Trader Joe’s “wait staff” is a part of the total energizing quality of the place, at least at the store we patronize.  Fresh and positive, they make you feel as though you are making their day just by being there.   They are just thrilled to share with you where the soymilk is, how many kinds of Parmesan there are, and whether a favorite item is ever going to show up in the store again, or has been discontinued.  After a few interactions with these folks, I felt the tension drain away, and a new lease on life take its place.  After all, how bad can it be, when one can treat oneself to a frozen vegetarian pizza, or stack of salmon patties so reasonably?

If it all is part of a marketing strategy, it is working. Stimulated by the coffee, and nourished by the tasty sample and friendly chat, I was ready to shop, and of course ended up buying more than I had originally intended, which was pretty much nothing.

There are so many business and life lessons embedded in this experience.  First of all, the resonance of a positive experience had already been established by many visits to TJ’s in the past, which drew me to go there expecting to have one again.  I had sense memories of sights, sounds and  tastes that had been enjoyed there.  I knew the whole philosophy of the place is good value in a fun atmosphere.  I knew I’d be fed, both literally and figuratively, in the process of food shopping.

TJ’s gives us a break from our normal routine of constant commerce by offering us up that little treat to keep us going: that sip of coffee, swallow of juice,  bite of something delicious, a smile or a  joke without, ostensibly, asking for anything back.  But what they do get back is something so much more: customer loyalty, continued patronage, and increased sales, just because people have so much fun being there, perhaps walking out feeling better then when they walked in.  Of course, the goods are delivered: healthy, artisan goods of  quality, delivered  at a reasonable price.  Everyone knows what they will get when they go there, and they keep coming back.

This is what we all want from our businesses,  from our lives…a continued commitment in quality relationships, goods and services, something we can afford, and gives us pleasure and satisfaction, something we can, in this precarious world, depend on.  Something that doesn’t disappoint, but keeps us coming back for more.  Maybe keeps us hungry for more.

TJ’s, thank you for being there!  I will continue to learn by your example, and enjoy your offerings.  Now…where’s that vegetarian pizza?