Pushing the Envelope

Pushing the Envelope

Using the form of the envelope to create an artist’s book can be evocative, provocative,  crafty, conceptual, fun, somber, expressive, “artistic”, creative, engaging, and baffling. As with many artists’ books, the question can be raised, “What are these for? What is their purpose? Are they meant to be read, observed and perused, handled, shown behind glass?”  And in the case of the envelope book “…sent through the mail?”

I don’t presume to answer these questions, and can imagine another post which delves more deeply into them.  In this one, my  intent is to share a few of my own envelop books, the materials used in them, some of the motivation, thinking and feeling behind them, and let the observer draw their own conclusions, and perhaps becoming inpsired to explore, and even create one of their own.

Note: in this post,  we see books created in the form of an envelope…as opposed to books created from existing envelopes, which is a whole other story. Also, hemp cord was used to bind the sewn books, and acid-free UHU glue sticks were used as the adhesive for anything glued on all the books depicted.

WEBa WEBbCutting, Folding, Stamping, Sewing…

In this book, the basic form is cut and folded, and a single signature is sewn into the last fold with a pamphlet stitch.  A single rubber stamp image stamped in varying ways is used to develop and adorn the piece, and delicate handmade paper containing plant material adds a finishing touch to the pages.

WEBdWEBaWEBbWEBcLone Stories Connect…Discover “I Think I Can”…It’s Everything

In the piece above, the basic structure is cut and folded from a sketchbook cover, and the pages created by a concertina/accordion folded paper strip glued into its next to last section.. The collaged elements, ranging from printed material cut from magazines,  personal writing, repurposed corrugated paper, ribbon scrap and copied illustration images, tell a story of pain and isolation with the potential of redemption through connection and story.

WEBa WEBb WEBcPainfully Animal

This mini book opens on four sides, with pages sewn in a single signature into one fold. Soft handmade paper is used both for adornment and  pages, attached with a running stitch which is threaded back into the sewing holes so that the two ends can be tied together. The single message greets the viewer right in the center. What does it mean? Well, ponder it for awhile, and notice your associations with the phrase, “Painfully Animal”. What does the term evoke for You?

WEBa WEBb WEBcMixed Media Envelope Book: Work in Progress

This mixed media message piece has been underway, along with a number of bookish siblings, for over two years.  It’s structure is cut and folded, like the first envelope book depicted in this post, and it’s graph paper pages stacked into a single signature, and sewn into the end fold with a running stitch as described above. The  painstaking, step-by-step process of developing the book’s content requires time and focused attention.

Every bit of image and text must feel ‘right’ in how it looks, what it evokes and where it is placed in the book. The ‘story’ that emerges, however non-linear, is discovered in the doing as much by the artist, as it may be later by the observer. Time itself is one of the most significant materials used, as such a piece can’t be rushed.

In these works, many aspects of the creative process come into play: patience and impulse, technique and tension, methods and materials, effort and evocation.

The medium of the envelope book may be on  a mission to become a missive to the outside world from the maker’s heart and soul, hands and head. If it gets a little heady, or crafty in-between, well, that might be just another aspect of this long strange trip we’re on.



“The world is so full of a number of things,
I ’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.” —Robert Louis Stevenson


Today I celebrate an embarrassment of riches…a gaggle of glorious words and images exploring all manner of fascinating facets of the worlds of art, architecture, design, environmental art, maps and cartography, and more. And more to come.


The arts and crafts movement, at its height towards the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, influenced painting. architecture, craft, the decorative arts, and the design of books, textiles, furniture, and gardens, to name a few. The next two images are from this book, which is filled with richly colored illustrations replete with pattern, design and image.


Here is the magnificent main door at  Pownall Hall, Cheshire, 1886, set off by shots of floral color.  Though imposing, it manages to be warm and welcoming at the same time. What would it be like to come home to this door?!


Above, William Morris bed hangings at Kelmscott Manor, Gloucestershire. Looks like a magical place to lay one’s head at night…


A fascinating look at artists working “directly within the landscape”, and the groundbreaking (!) work they create/d. This volume contains images of earth/body/performance art by one of my long-time favorite artists….


Ana Mendieta. Above we see “Birth”, from the “Silueta” series: self-portraits …“in which Mendieta literally inscribed her presence onto the landscape….” using earth, mud, gunpowder, rocks, plants, and her own body


“The series encompassed an extensive spectrum of media, materials and method.”


Maps, which  employ line, color, shape, create composition, words, numbers, and images, are rife with meaning  that can bridge to message. To many, cartography begs to play a role in artmaking. Which came first, the art or the cart?


Above:  “Untitled”, by Guillermo Kuitca, made of acrylic on mattresses with wood and bronze legs..there are 20 beds which comprise this piece.


A closer view reveals more detail.


“Contingente”, by Adriana Varejao….unframed photograph, from an edition of 100.

Moving from the built to the natural environment…from the earth to maps of it, and back to the body and where we live. We begin to see how all is connected…did Ana Mendieta map the earth with her body as a form of art?

Stay tuned for part 2….as we delve into “bibliographics”, and art created from the book itself.  An embarrassment of riches indeed…just a book away.