“Building Your World”

“Building Your World”

In a recent program at the Westwood Branch Library, children created their own worlds inspired by architecture, repurposed materials, and their own imaginations!

Participants engaged concepts of architecture, design, engineering, construction and environment, finding new uses for cast-off items, and recycling what could have been trash into  fanciful constructions of joy, wit, whimsy…and always, creativity.

Creating and using color…pipe cleaners, a wooden clothes pin, plastic and paint samples and cardboard ribbon spools!

Arranging a wooden cutout (left over from a furniture-making class) and a pipe cleaner on a project board…ready to add other materials.

Another young maker using the same wooden cutout in a whole different way. Clothespins and empty spools become hooks and clips for jewelry.

Drawing combined with unique packing material and plastic tiles topped by small spools form the visual structure for this young boy’s world.

Here the project board is used as a flat base, and din=mension is added with a gift box top, straws, and yet another employment of empty spools.

Participants worked flat on tables in the library’s multipurpose/community room, and most came at the start of the program, and stayed for its 1.5 hour entirety, allowing them time to truly play, design, experiment and build.

Lawrence worked what looked to be upside down on his project,

perhaps turning his project board base around to see how it was developing from both vantage points.

This lovely world of color, flowers animals and doors/flaps which lift up was created by a young girl of preschool age, working quietly in a corner with her mother. She made beautiful use of the materials, arranging cardboard, tile and paint samples and pipe cleaners to beautiful effect.  I would love to visit this world for a bit!

It was exciting to see children visualize wolds in real time, then create them concretely. I have to believe it was wonderful and empowering for the children and their adults as well.

Le Papier V

Le Papier V


Side-bound book, repurposed paper, cloth, paint chips, vellum (?) and cord.

“Maggie’s Book”
“Folded fan” flag book, repurposed brochure, vellum (?), photo corners, brochures and postcards.


Le Papier IV

Le Papier IV

When a discarded placemat just screams “book”

Single signature binding

Side bound book made from packing material, twisty ties and jute.

MemoryMaking Books

MemoryMaking Books

In celebration of the 125th Anniversary of the Santa Monica Public Library, I had the opportunity to lead a bookmaking program at the  Montana Avenue Library, my home branch of the SMPL

“Making Memory Books” was requested… a single signature style book, embellished with fabric.

WEBaLeather, denim, beads, as well as decorative papers and fabric scrap were some of the goodies laid out for participants to use.

WEBcThe signatures were already prepared, with holes punched. Once bound with the three-hole pamphlet stitch, the first and last pages were glued to the inside of the front and back covers, and the book was formed.

WEBiThen, the fun could really begin!  let the embellishment commence!

WEBkPaper, “eco-fi” felt, cloth, lace and leather transformed the book structures into unique works of art.

WEBdUpon request, a square shape was used, instead of the more common vertical  rectangle.

WEBeA mother daughter duo enjoyed adorning their book covers with butterflies.


WEBfIs this a pink planet, surrounded by butteries?


WEB2The inspiration for the project was a series of fabric covered sewn book models,

WEB8with cloth pieces applied patchwork style.

WEB1The colors, patterns, shapes and tactile quality of cloth and textiles can evoke powerful memories.

WEB2The effect can be pleasing visually, as well as tracing remnants of life stories barely remembered but held in the body, memory and emotions through the sense of touch.

These books, that may hold memories barely discernible to the maker, can now become the repository of new memories, as scrapbooks, photo albums, journals, or sketchbooks.

What a beautiful gift.

Happy Holidays, and peace and blessings for the New Year.

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.

Material World (4)

Material World (4)

One of the pleasures and deep satisfactions of bookmaking is delving into the visual, visceral, and tactile pleasures of materials.  Though many artists do not make the kind of money that allows for indulgence in what might be termed, “material pleasures”, we may be seen as materialistic…for materials are the very warp and weft of our trade.  We can find our way to the ineffable through immersion in the materials and techniques we choose to create with. Here I share some of my own investigation into the qualities inherent in materials that create texture. Though I am a visual artist, I find the sense of touch as powerful as that of sight, and am fascinated with how the two work together.

web1“A Stitch in Time Saves 9”, Flag Book, Title stitched onto flags, covers textured with crumpled tissue paper and adhesive, collage and repurposed beads stitched onto cover.

WEBaTextured Fan, covers covered with textured, painted and glazed paper, accordion spine made of repurposed Neutra VDL House brochure

WEB4“Brown Paper Bag”, Covers textured with crushed plain brown paper and brown paper bags, bound with hemp cord.

WEB4PaperPaintPlant, single signature binding, using paper containing plant material.

WEBcTeapot Book, Japanese Side Stab binding using thick highly textured handmade paper for covers, and drawing paper for pages, teapot rubber-stamped.

Synesthesia” isa rare neurological condition in which two or more of the senses entwine.”

The sense of sight and the sense of touch. How can we separate the two?  Does something feel like what it looks like, or does it look like what it feels like? Powerful questions for anyone working in the visual, or any realm of communication and expression.  Powerful stuff.

Material World (3)

Material World (3)

One of the pleasures and deep satisfactions of bookmaking is delving into the visual, visceral, and tactile pleasures of materials, and how to employ and combine them. The following shares one step of my journey exploring and investigating the qualities inherent in specific materials.   Though many artists do not make the kind of money that allows for indulgence in what might be termed “material pleasures”, we can be seen as materialistic… for materials are the very warp and weft of our trade.  We find our way to the ineffable through the use and exploitation of the materials we choose to create from.

The following books are created from basic but sturdy  cardboard, the kind that drawing pads are attached to, wrapped with a felt that is made from recycled plastic bottles. That aspect alone would lend these pieces a feel-good quality, but the fact that they become warm, fuzzy and strongly tactile books for some reason is currently irresistible to me. Playing with the single signature bound book form in this way has been pure joy. All the books employ the pamphlet stitch.

WEB1WEB2WEB3WointerSuite: Gray

This is a multi-signature (gathering of folded pages) book structure, even though each signature is composed of a single folded page, stitched separately to a piece of felt that was then glued to the whole inside surface of the book. The pages are high quality drawing paper  designed for pastels.

WEB1WEB2WinterSuite: BlueBlack

This piece is also a multi-signature structure, each signature composed of a single folded sheet, stitched separately to a strip of felt that was then glued to the spine. Two other cerulean blue sheets of felt were then glued to the inside surfaces of both covers. The pages are also pastel drawing paper, of a different sort. Yes, that is a working zipper on the spine. “Unzipped“?  “All Zipped Up“?

WEB1WEB2WEB3 WEB4WinterSuite: BabyPink

Fascinated by the use of Eco-fi felt, I wanted to see how felt pages would look and feel, and so bound this “BabyPink” book.   It’s 6 pages are created from a single signature of 3 folded felt pieces, stitched to a strip of felt that was then glued to the spine. A piece of off-white felt was  glued to the inside surface of each covers. The corners that were cut off the felt “wrapper” and other felt fragments were used for embellishment, in an effort to use the felt to its fullest. In this way, such activity becomes piece / peace work.

 There is something primal about doing this… primal as regards to materials, and creating the basic form of covers, spine and pages.  Even when open, the book remains  mysterious and primordial form in feeling. It seems to start at the very beginning…

Books3: Bookmaking, Artist’s Books, and the Art of Emptiness

Books3: Bookmaking, Artist’s Books,  and the Art of Emptiness

I love to take materials that I have..either saved, given, or just sort of showing up in my life, and set myself the task of weaving them together into unique/one-of-a-kind handmade “artist’s books“…sometimes literally weaving.

The books below are single signature bindings, a signature being a gathering of folded pages, as the marvelous book artist, teacher and author Alisa Golden would put it.

To give the books more heft, I sewed boards, several of which already had holes in them, (because the were backings for sketchbooks, and that’s how the drawing paper was attached…through those holes), to the insides of the covers. Other materials were sewn where they seemed to need to be.

Animal“, repurposed board, paper and business card folder, hemp cord, ribbon.WEBbWEBa

BookShow“, repurposed board, paper and business card folder, hemp cord, collage.WEBaWEBb

Like White on Rice“, repurposed board, paper and business card folder, hemp cord, ribbon.WEBbWEBa

There is an intentional emptiness in these pieces. There is very little text in or on them, and the pages are primarily blank. They aren’t made to be written in either.  They just are. A pure exploration of materials floating through space, bound together, literally, by hand.

Books2: Humbleness and a Deceptive Simplicity

Books2: Humbleness and a Deceptive Simplicity

I have been exploring making simple books using  humble, recycled and repurposed materials that seem to “occur” (meaning, I don’t actively seek them out with a plan in mind) around me. I place these materials in service of a book structure such as side stab binding, and put them together in an instinctive, yet considered way. The materials must feel like they need or are meant to go together in a particular way, that I discover in the doing…

I realized at a certain point that these works could be seen to express the principles of Wabi-sabi…  “the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete” —http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wabi-sabi

Embracing the “incidental” or existing patterns, coloring and marks on the  materials’ surface, I see what emerges.

Fixing Broken Hearts“:  found cardboard, repurposed paper, hemp cord, collage. Side Stab Binding technique. WEBbWEBaWEBb1

Full“:  found cardboard, repurposed paper, hemp cord, collage. Side Stab Binding technique. WEBc

Pencils“:  found cardboard, used pencils, tissue paper, Mod Podge, used book of matches, repurposed paper, twine, hemp cordSide Stab Binding technique.WEBdWEBeWEgfWEBf

What have you created from humble, repurposed, materials that show up in your life? (on your doorstep, in your mailbox, in your purchases?) Do you  embrace the philosophy and principles of Wabi-sabi? How do you use them in your work and life? What does Wabi-sabi mean to You?