Making Our Own Books: Together!

Making Our Own Books: Together!

I had the wonderful experience of teaching “MAKE YOUR OWN BOOKS’, an enrichment class offered at Franklin Elementary School in Santa Monica by the CREST Enrichment program.

webaThe sweet and talented students ranged from first to fourth grade, and had a blast making books of different sizes, structures and materials.

webcThey first bound together their portfolios, made of hanging file folders, then designed and developed the outside covers of these,

webegetting acquainted with each other, their materials, myself, and their own creativity and imagination.

webdThen we began our book projects…which included accordion fold books, flag books, fan books,

webbsingle signature bindings, and side “stab” bindings.

webfTo celebrate our achievements, learning and fun, we had a “last class” family event.

webtFamily and CREST staff were invited to Make Books Together!

webkDid we have fun making “double” single signature books, learning the pamphlet stitch, and embellishing up a storm!








webpand Dads got into the act,




webvalong with our delightful students…

webwand CREST staffers who got to take a creative break!

i will miss this class, and the open, fluid creativity of the students. I hope to have the opportunity to work with them again!

 Wishing everyone a creative and healthful New Year…and a celebration of the positive power of the Imagination. Let us imagine a better world…and Make It, Together.

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.

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” —

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?

BOOKED (5): German Expressionism in “The Written Image” at LACMA

BOOKED (5): German Expressionism in “The Written Image” at LACMA

WEBl “The Written Image: Books and Portfolios from the Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies” is a gem of a show at  LACMA, and a fitting accompaniment to the big exhibition  Expressionism in Germany and France: From Van Gogh to Kandinsky,which you can read about here.

WEBmYou can read about the show, which is comprised of books and prints fusing visual art, writing and design, created in fruitful collaboration by expressionist artists, writers, teachers, innovators, book designers and publishers.

WEBpThe Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies “….is a research facility devoted to the study of the expressionist movement, which flourished in Germany during the early twentieth century. The center houses a collection of approximately 5,000 prints and drawings and a catalogued library of more than 6,000 volumes. This collection is available by appointment only to art historians, scholars, and students.” -

WEBaWEBbUtopia I-II: Documents of Reality“, by  artist, teacher and color theorist  Johannes Itten, with a cover designed by artist  Oskar Schlemmer, both Bauhaus teachers, was a first attempt at formulating what became the basis for most modern design school curricula.  Bauhaus was a new design school at the time. This original volume has a oddly quaint hands-on quality, its cover combining watercolor and metallic paints with lithography.

WEBeWEBcWEBdKurt Schwitters designed this cover of “The Cathedral”. Schwitters was a practitioner of  Dada, and the creator of  Merz: “Merz has been called ‘Psychological Collage’. Most of the works attempt to make coherent aesthetic sense of the world around Schwitters, using fragments of found objects. These fragments often make witty allusions to current events.” –  Schwitters said, “In the war, things were in terrible turmoil. What I had learned at the academy was of no use to me and the useful new ideas were still unready…. Everything had broken down and new things had to be made out of the fragments; and this is Merz. It was like a revolution within me, not as it was, but as it should have been.” –

WEBfffWEBffAn richly textured book cover and design, made by artist Richard Janthur.

WEBgWEBhThe Expressionist artist Oskar Kokoschka combined lithographs and text in this extraordinary work. The vivid colors and black outlines belie the adult subject matter, although the piece was commissioned as a children’s’ book.

WEBiWEBjI had not heard of the artist Carry Hauser before seeing this show, but was entranced by the combination of powerful woodcut image and side stab binding technique.

WEBkThe beautiful simple sewn binding and use of black in this piece by Josef Achmann allow the powerful image to take center stage. The words are masterfully integrated into the design of this piece entitled, “The small town“.

WEBnWEBoMax Oppenheimer, (not to be confused with the film director) achieves incredible detail in this etching and drypoint, “Untitled (Stag Hunt)”. The piece is small, and you really have to look closely. If you do, you will be rewarded by a glimpse of intaglio genius.

Not a large show, this gathering of works is intimate, yet requires time and effort to take in. It requires thoughtful observation, indeed scrutiny, and a reading of the historical period in which these (many collaborative) works were created.  Knowing more about the artists, writers, designers, and the political and cultural climate in which they were working will make your viewing experience all the richer.  As a lover of books and the integration of the verbal and visual, I found “The Written Image” to be the gift that keeps on giving. Revel!


Zuan: Japanese Design Books

Zuan: Japanese Design Books


I was recently entranced by a beautiful. fascinating and elegant show of “Zuan”, Japanese design books, at The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, housed in the Pavilion for Japanese Art there. Zuan “… is one of the terms besides dezain formed at this time to describe this new notion of applied art. The term zuan refers to a design prototype to be applied on an object. These drafts and patterns have a long history in Japan. In the early 20th century however, they not only had great popularity as a decorative element, but also were considered as artworks, mainly in the form of opulent design books.” —


Zuancho  are design idea books, or  textile design books for the kimono trade, and this exhibit reveals their beauty, magic and whimsey.  It is also a great accompaniment to the neighboring “Kimono for a Modern Age” show, displayed along the spiraling walkways connecting the floors of the pavilion.


Zuan, a form of elaborately printed Japanese design book, reflect an evolution in textile design that influenced the art of kimono in the 20th century. For example, the exhibition includes zuan design books produced in Kyoto that display startling color combinations, large-scale patterns, and edgy abstracts that pushed kimono fabric designers to new considerations that influenced both formal and informal kimono. Zuan were also referenced by decorative artists for media whose designs were more graphic in nature, such as fans, lacquer wares, ceramics with overglaze enamels, or cloisonné. The exhibition includes more than 50 books and prints dating from the 19th and 20th centuries.”

The books are displayed flat, or propped open in interesting ways. Their bindings are also fascinating…employing a side stab binding technique that I have had fun doing myself, and teaching to students. There is something very satisfying about the process, and the result.



WEB3Sometimes the designs cross from one page to the next…

WEB5WEB5aGlorious a celebration.

WEB6One of my absolute faves…is this a design for a sleeve…or another part of a Kimono? I love the gradated sky…and the tension of the blue and orange…complimentary colors which set each other off.







WEBaBeautiful example of  side stab binding technique.

WEBbHere we can see the age of the book…the thread that binds it and its weathered cover give it an earthy quality.


WEBfSide stab binding in hard cover…

WEB13The  new and the old…the technological and the handmade…”à la fois”: a video about Zuan, and a handmade example…dating back decades. Such is the nature of art…exhibitions…and learning! The LA County Museum  does a beautiful job. GRATITUDES to LACMA!