Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Nag Hammadi Book

  Nag Hammadi is a city in Upper Egypt, about 80 kilometres north-west of Luxor. ...And Luxor was known in antiquity as Thebes...the "city of the dead" and one of the most spiritual and splendid cities in history. The Nag Hammadi Library is a collection of 13 books which were written sometime around 350AD and hidden in a clay jar near Nag Hammadi until they were found by an Egyptian farmer in 1945. They are the oldest western-style books in existence; and to the followers of the Gnostic religion they are the True Word of God. There are many sources to read more about the Nag Hammadi Library, but two online sources are and

Hearing of the Nag Hammadi library for the first time, I was fascinated by the sound of the name... and when I read more of it's history I was truly impressed. I looked it up online and studied a picture of  several of the simply bound leather-covered codices which now reside in the Coptic Museum in Cairo, Egypt. I read some of the texts, which are referred to as the Apocryophon, The Gnostic Gospels, and The Nag Hammadi Scriptures.

The web page gave me exact measurements of the leather and papyrus books (30 by 15 centimeters, closed) and the binding style (tacket).  For week 25 of the Book-A-Week challenge I have made A Nag Hammadi Book of Lists.

...this will be a wedding gift for dear friends
The cover is painted canvas with blue leather thong ties on the fore-edge flap and also at the head and tail. Inside are 10 folios gathered into a single quire and sewn with two tacket bindings through the spine... much as the sacred papyrus folios were bound in 350 AD. Unlike the Coptic scribes who hand- lettered the script, I used a letterpress and lead type.

This book is meant to be filled in by the owner. I've created the lists categories, and the user needs to fill in all the items.. like List of Wishes, List of Dreams, List of People I Love, List of Favorite Foods, List of Celebrations..
List of Greatest Books Ever...
So, it's similar to another Book of Lists I printed, but this time in a Nag Hammadi format. I like that. I even put it into a clay jar.. just to see how it looked in there. Really small! and lonely.
I guess I need to make more books to fill the jar. Perhaps that can be Next Year's challenge!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Blue Window

Sometimes an ordinary week really isn't so. Small events can be more than they seem.  Blue Window is the book-of-the week and it also signifies this phenomenon.
   The story begins more than a month ago in my class, "The Perfect Book." I had pushed my students to add content to their pages.. to make their own decorated pastepapers, to consider adding words, poetry, drawings, musings, collage... anything to move past the empty blank pages of uniformity and share themselves in the books. I told my students a "perfect book" is not empty. A "perfect book" is not even really perfect. One student, Kirsten, who had always made lovely blank journals struggled with the idea of content and wrecking her perfect book with words and mark making. During that time she also missed a class due to the illness and passing of her beloved grandmother. But she returned and after a couple weeks we finished our flat back "perfect books."

   On the last day of class, Kirsten told us of her grandmother's last few days.. as the family gathered around her bed, the Hospice nurses had been called in to help, and her grandmother was feeling well enough to tell stories of her life. As Kirsten sat beside her grandmother listening to the stories, a relative said someone should be recording all of the stories and my student jumped up to go find a writing pad somewhere in the house. As she rushed around looking she saw one of the lovely blank journals she had made several years ago and given to her grandmother. She grabbed it. For the next few days the family all took turns recording and writing their grandmother's stories in the beautiful handmade book.

   When Kirsten told us this story, (after we all stopped crying) she said she imagined our group of bookmakers making handmade books to donate to the local Hospice organization. I really liked the idea.. but nothing happened for a few weeks.  I retold the story in my next series of classes which was attended by a wonderful book artist, Cheryl, who is also a nurse. She too was intrigued by the idea of making books to donate to Hospice and told the Hospice representative at the medical center where she works. Cheryl showed the Hospice representative some of her handmade books. The Hospice representative was REALLY excited about the idea!! So the two of them came up with a plan. They set a number of twenty books we would work on and donate to the local Hospice facility; which would show all of the books available to the clients and they would choose their book. Finally I got to do something... I sent an email to all my book artist friends and this Saturday (yesterday) nine of them came to my house and we finished all twenty books.
Six of the Books for Hospice
There's something heroic about giving... something about doing for others... helping... reaching out and caring when someone is in need. I believe the nurses, doctors, administrators, volunteers and others who work at Hospice are a holy group. Because when it's Hospice it's about nearing death, fighting pain and fear, maybe regret, surely sadness and always loss. But there is also bravery, faith, hope, and love. And memories and stories. So, to have our handmade books used to record the final days and life stories of beloved family members and friends is an honor.

The Blue Window is a book about seeing into another place.. either ahead or behind... and making note of what is important. This week was important. This week has somehow been more than it seemed at the time...
Last page of Blue Window


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Paper Flowers

The Inspiration
It's 10 minutes 'til five on Sunday, June 10, 2012 and the three-day TRAC (Toe River Arts Council) Studio Tour in Mitchell and Yancey counties, North Carolina is almost over. I'm babbling.. a little giddy... nearly brain dead... But not because of the amazing guests we met this weekend, No, it's because of my current book of the week, Paper Flowers. 

There were five us in Lisa's book art and letterpress studio, Common Life Press.. and when Michelle  arrived for set-up Thursday night with a bouquet of paper flowers as our centerpiece I was charmed. The origami-folded papers reminded me of the beauty of words, of poetry, of love letters and maps to magical places...

Sunday... when things slowed down a bit and sales were not happening... we asked Michelle to teach us this folded wonder. I started making notes...
Sometimes the written word is not the most effective way to communicate... I needed notes for my notes... and my handwriting is awful! The first paper flower attempt was a mutation.
Not quite right.. a mutation?
The solution was a sample of every step. That's how it is in making books, in writing, in anything with many parts and manual (or mental) dexterity.. not always as easy as it looks.. A sharp crease burnished with a bonefolder is a necessity... actually many sharp creases.. many, many folds...

My friend made this bonefolder
The steps in making a paper flower are shown below. There are 8 steps shown here... each step has many parts.. like that man going to St. Ives with the sacks of all those cats and the cats with all those lives... Making a paper flower is complicated.

The Eight Steps to a Paper Flower
                                                          This is them too....

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight...

It's a good way to learn a complicated process. Each new step includes all the previous steps... so by the eighth step the first step has been repeated 8 times.. which is about my level of necessary repetition for memory retention.
Finished paper flower of the blue roses print
And finally paper flowers are fluffed out, wrapped onto a wire stem with waxed linen thread and ready for a paper vase!

Inspiration comes in many forms.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Castle

About Chateau du Pin... I've been reminiscing and including photographs of my three trips to France for many months. Many of my handmade books are inspired by the beauty and charm of the Loire Valley chateau where I stayed, made art, and learned. The place is called Chateau du Pin and you can read it's history, see pictures, and learn about renting an entire wing of the 400 year old castle by clicking on The last time I went to France, my husband, seven friends and I shared rental of an entire wing of the chateau for two weeks. We had a ball!

The Chateau and the Topiaries

The Coach House and Back door

One of seven reflecting pools.. a great place for reflecting...

I've also taken two book arts workshops at Chateau du Pin with fellow artists from all over the country. In addition to sleeping in the 400-year old palatial bedrooms, we were served delicious seven-course french style meals in the dining room, had the opportunity to explore the 300 acres of exquisite formal gardens, ancient chestnut forests and ruins of a Roman road, and then immersed ourselves creating artists' books in the quaint carriage house "studio"and front lawn. From this blog you can see the influence and impressions gathered during those workshops extends beyond the limited time spent there. To learn more about the arts workshops led by artist and co-owner Peg Gignoux, click on and then click on Make Art in France.

I encourage you to consider a workshop at Chateau du Pin. The experience is priceless.


Sunday, June 3, 2012


   The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines wonder as 1. a cause of astonishment or admiration 2. the feeling of astonishment due to something new, mysterious, or amazing 3. a feeling of doubt. The book I've made this week is titled Wonder. It's another book-in-a-box from the class I'm teaching.. a flat back case-bound book housed in a box that resembles a flat back case-bound book.

   When you open the box-that-looks-like-a-book, there stands the book... like some silent sentry. Merriam-Webster defines sentry as a "guard or watch... standing at a point of passage." I love the idea of a "point of passage." One example of a "point of passage" is a door. Doors are fascinating! ...the perfect symbols of transition and transformation... the wonder of transformation... of change so drastic that something new is created. And this box resembles a sort of door. So there stands the book, a symbol of change and wonderment, but with a basic and simple form. (Actually this book form is sometimes called a simple binding.)
   So I chose for the book's spine area a piece of marbled fabric I made to look like cells under a microscope. The cell is the basic building block of all living things, and is also the most dynamic and awesome entity in it's role of transformation. Inside each cell is a soupy mix of protoplasm.. mysterious and complex.. containing DNA, RNA, mitochondria.. all busy in an assembly line of processes and biological cycles.



   On the cover is a photograph of a tangerine sky at sunrise over a castle in France. Truly a wonder! I remember awakening around five am and peeking out of one eye toward the window of my castle room. I meant to roll over and snuggle back to sleep, but the sky was aflame with the most insane colors! Fuscha, gold, red, neon pink, violet, lavendar, and tangerine! I jumped out of bed, grabbed my camera, and shot the photograph you see on the book. During that trip to France, everyday the sky was a wonder to me. Clouds were ridiculously fluffy, blues were aqua beyond any tint in nature (except a certain local university's school color scheme), and the stars at night made me cry they were so beautiful and twinkly. Yes! Twinkly!

   The third definition of wonder concerns "doubt"  ...wondering if something is really true... wondering how it came to be.  Questioning. Asking questions is good and wonder of that sort is good too. It gets to the truth which opens the door to change transformation.

Wonder is everywhere and always... you just have to open the door to your own awareness.