Sunday, May 27, 2012

Week 21: The White Gate

The White Gate, that's the title of this week's book of the week. It's a tiny book in its own small drop spine box.
The white gate is on a farm I visited in the Loire Valley of France. It is a beautiful country, not too different from our North Carolina landscape. When I was there I felt as if I had opened a gate into the past. Suddenly my mind was filled with visions of French royalty, medieval jousting tournaments, village crafts guilds and bountiful farms. The white gate was a reminder of that era in France.

The photograph I took of the white gate is pasted on the front of the drop spine box. The box, covered in my pastepaper and a piece of silk brocade book cloth is only 4 inches tall by 3 inches wide... and the photo is the size of a business card.
Inside the book are pages from an antique book I found in a trash bin in Angers, France, The Troisieme Race, copyright 1826, which is a long list of people who were leaders of France during the reign of Louis XIV. Also in the book are some colograph prints I made..  the lush greens hint at the rich opulence of old France as a growth chamber of arts, culture, and societal change...
If you feel bad that I dismantled the book, perhaps this excerpt will change your mind.."Ce Miniftre quiavoit fuccede a Cuprogli, gagne par l'argent des Hollandois, avoit empeche des l'an 1677, que M. de Noitntel, Ampaffadeur de France a la Porte, n'obtint les honneurs duSopha, & lui avoit donne tous le degouts qu'il avoit up, jusqu' a trouver mauvais let rejoiffances que fit cet Ambaffadeur pour let fucces de Louis XIV, mais M Nointel ayant perfifte a ne point recevoir fon audience, fi cet honneur ne lui etoit accorde, l'obtintgen la France de l'infolence de ce Miniftre." It goes on and on like this... but the paper is exquisite.

It stands in its tiny box... the book of The White Gate, beautiful and sad in its solitude and refinement and long ago lived golden days.
Not to end the post on a downer, I must introduce Charlemagne and Louis, my two new kittens who came to us this week, Week 21!
Charlie, 5 weeks
Louie Lamour, 7 weeks
Two very royal cats...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Week 20: My Grandmother's Wedding Dress

The 20th week of the year was this week, May 14-20th. It ended in a beautiful weekend which I spent demonstrating and representing my local art center, Pullen Art Center,  at our annual city art festival, Artsplosure.  I spent the two days sewing a book on cords using a sewing frame; which is a class I will teach in the fall. We'll each make our own sewing frame, then sew a traditional cord-bound book.
The book and the sewing frame
The rounded spine is made from a piece of hand-dyed fabric I made several years ago. It's mauve and grey coloration reminded me of a colograph print I made of roses in shades of pink, lavender, grey and black. ..Somehow the feminine aura of the book led me to a stash of photographs I had of some of my grandmother's things..her oak dresser, her hat boxes, her wedding dress. And then the book began to come together.. a conservative and conventional book with a hint of Southern blush and more than a little bit of hard steel...and that was Sadie Carver as I knew her... pink, lavendar, and gray... and hard as steel.. And so the book became My Grandmother's Wedding Dress.
Roses of lavender, pink blush, and steely grey
I inset the photograph into the front cover of the book. The sun shines through an unseen window, glistens off the polished wood floor, and spotlights the hand tatted dresser skirt, the pink hatbox, a group of tiny figurines. In the mirror can be seen the reflection of my Grandmother's wedding dress.
Grandmother's Wedding Dress
This photograph was taken many years after my Grandmother married, lived, and died. But the book reflects the southern lady I knew as much as the mirror reflects her dress. She was all pinks and lavenders with a head of blue-grey hair and a backbone of steel. Sadie Carver was a widow, and a substitute school teacher in her rural North Carolina town. She was known for her no nonsense determination to live independently, and with pride and honor. She had one son, my dad, whom she adopted in 1928 when he was four. She loved being a mother. She loved being a grandmother too.
Steely black roses, shadows, and pink silk
    Like this type of book, she was prim and proper, and fit well into her community. But the stories behind her choices over the years show a lady who did more than was expected of her, who went beyond the standard role of southern lady in her area, and that story is written on the many pages of my memory. So, this book is a diary of sorts, meant to be written in by it's future owner, who's own story will fill the pages...but hopefully with as much sass and spunk and surprises as my Grandmother Sadie Carver.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Emperor's Toy Chest

"Every curio box is well designed and full of interest. In the process of opening and closing a curio box, one can enjoy the same feelings as when playing a hide and seek game. One may find a new surprise every time it is played."

The first time I visited Taiwan I was awestruck by an exhibit at the National Palace Museum in Taipei City called The Emperor's Toy Chests. The exhibit was a room full of curio cabinets from the 15-18th centuries. Each curio cabinet was a unique and fascinating piece of craftsmanship containing between 12 and 92 drawers each... many of which were hidden behind revolving doors and in secret spaces. Inside every drawer was a tiny treasure.. a carved ivory elephant, a cloisonné perfume bottle, a tiny watercolor painting, a gold and pearl necklace, an embroidered coat clasp... Each item was precious and beautiful and made by hand.
Emperor's Curio Boxes (see
I imagined the person who received the chest of treasures, opening the many drawers and admiring the lovely things inside... and I imagined the many craftspersons who created the beautiful objects... I know the feeling of creating something beautiful for others.. imagining how it will be used, imagining the "life" of the object.. I have tried to recreate that gathering up of handcrafted beauty several times.. and again with this week's Book of the Week, The Emperor's Toy Chest.
   A round brass button and a jade green satin ribbon allude to the wealth and opulence of the Qing Dynasty when the emperor's toy chests were created. The cover reminds me of the doorway leading into a royal palace. The emerald green paste paper cover reinforces the richness and variety of jade.. a lucky stone in asian culture.
   And my Emperor's Toy Chest opens into an accordion book of pockets... filled with treasures and labeled with fortunes.
Inside The Emperor's Toy Chest
Page 1, a tiny book of handmade paper; Page 2,  pieces of  mica
                               Page 3, Mother of pearl carved heart; Page 4, print of Grandma Sadie on her wedding day

                                                        Page 5, Copper enamel 'love, love'; Page 6, dried pansy
Last Page watercolor painting and its Fortune
The back side of the book has the same number of pockets as the inside, but these pockets are empty.. for treasures that come along... a sort of "activity book" for collecting small (flat-ish) objects of beauty...
Back side... an accordion of colored pockets to fill...
It touches your imagination, yes?
What would you put in your own Emperor's Toy Chest?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Summer Books Classes

New classes in bookarts I'll be teaching for the summer start next week! The costs are crazy cheap, class size is small, and we have a great time. Please sign up soon, as I'm beginning to pack all the goodies for class... and classes get canceled if enrollment is too small, alas!
 Starting May 15 at Pullen Art Center...
Book in a Box

A Book in a Box: We’ll make a flat back book that slips into it’s own drop-top box case. This class covers cutting and covering bookboard, binding using the french-link/kettle stitch, and adhering 
the textblock into the cover casing. This is a lovely book for journals, storybooks, or very special celebratory registration books. All levels. Supply fee of $35-40 payable to instructor at first class. 
Four Mondays, May 15- June 5. 6:30-9:30. 
Call Pullen Art Center at 919-996-6126 for registration information.

Starting June 4 at Cary Art Center...

Movable Books! Books that pop-out, wave, fold, and transform are the emphasis of this class. The dynamics of how two-dimensional planes can become 3, the subtleties of hidden spaces, and a lot of silliness are the main themes of this class. Please bring your own ephemera and words to incorporate into your books and to share with your classmates. Three or more books. An additional $15-20 studio fee is payable to the instructor at the first class. Four Mondays, June 4-25, 7-9:30 Call Cary Art Center 919-469-4069 for registration information.
Dragon Book
Hope to see you!


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Where the Wild Things Are..

Rest in Peace Maurice Sendak... June 10, 1928- May 8, 2012. You did so much to shed light on the world of childrens' (and our own) shadows.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


This week's Book of the Week is titled Honeycomb. We all know that a honeycomb is the reticulated wax structure where bees store their eggs, honey, and pollen.. It's where they Live, where they Thrive.  When I visited Taiwan several years ago, I was awed by the honeycomb like feeling of this bustling metropolis... it's array of high rise architecture and patterning in everything from the window grates to the rooftop gardens to the sidewalk tiles.
Between 2.6-7 million people live in and around Taipei
In Taipei, people ride on little motor scooters, bicycles, motorcycles, and sometimes.... cars. The streets are lined with tall buildings, street markets, and walled gardens.. bamboo and lush foliage peak from behind the garden gates, patio decks, and window boxes..
Vibrant and colorful, yet strangely serene...

Imagine the stories in each of these apartments. A bustling honeycomb seems a sweet analogy. There are many films which center in Taipei. Ang Lee's Eat, Drink, Man, Woman is one of my favorites.. especially because of the delicious food I see being created! We ate at the street vendors' shops near my brother and sister-in-law's apartment every day and shopped at the Night Market.

Night Market

My brother teaches english in Taiwan, so I was able to meet several lovely families when I visited. I rode on his motor scooter through the convoluted streets of Taipei to the apartment homes of his students. All I remember is we crossed Kang An street every time.

From Kang An Street
There is a mixture of the very old and the very new in Taipei. Old men with red betel juiced lips, incense infused Buddha shrines in every shop and apartment, and young men and women in stylish clothes rushing by the new underground metro to their design jobs in buildings like Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world during the year I visited in 2005... Taipei 101 looks like a stack of Chinese Take Out boxes.
City Center
Temple of Hello City

Like any old culture, Taiwan is rich and complex.. it's poetry and art, it's heros and tragedies, the weave of it's soul through history is a pattern of the most ornate silken Emperor's robe, the fullest of the most complex of the Emperor's toy chests.. each tiny hidden drawer holding it's own priceless golden treasure.
Ornate and Exotic are the Emperor's Toy Chests
On the island that is Taiwan, the honeycomb that is Taipei, one can find everything under the sun (except maybe snow..) It is open for all to see and experience it's own a hidden sort of way..

Land of the Lucky Dragon
May your own life be sweet like a Honeycomb.