Sunday, August 26, 2012

Postcards From France

"Dear Mom,

   France is beautiful."

   Those are the words on the front panel of the tunnel book, Postcards From France, my book of the week for week .. um 34.  Next month I start teaching a 6-week class on tunnel books and carousel books at the local art center in Cary, NC, so wanted to make a book to introduce the class. And I miss Paris! and the Loire valley! and Chateau du Pin!... and pate!... and the fresh fruits and vegetables of harvest season in France! Here is the front of the book...

The cover is a map of the Loire Valley, France on which is glued a velum pocket with an antique french postcard. Inside the velum envelope are three more postcards bought at an antique shop in France.

The "story" is written on the postcards... an imaginary journey... real impressions...and a sort of poetry.
Open the book to see the tunnel inside. There are seven panels that make up the scene of acrylic paint and pen and ink drawings. There's a castle... an orchard and fields...a vineyard... a village... mountains... two floating balloons and a brilliant yellow sunrise... or is it a sunset?

Looking down, the accordion sides and seven panels are clearly seen... and the front panels open like a window in an old french chateau.

I love the idea of a place that symbolizes the phenomenon of journey... that starting point and that anchor. My tunnel book with the postcards reinforces the transformation that occurs on a journey...  the part that's grounded in place and the part that moves from one point to another.
What would your tunnel book be about?

Friday, August 17, 2012


Think of your favorite philosophical question... not the one that you're absolutely sure about.. but the kind that you can see either side as a possibility... having merit or not... or just impossible to decide... too much grey and not black and white. It's pretty confusing just reading about it, huh? That is what you call a dilemma.

   What's an example of a dilemma? There's always the question what is art? There are lots of answers to that one. And at Penland School of Crafts, where I sometimes live and work, when someone brings it up, you hear a low groan throughout the room. Nobody wants to get into a discussion about it, because there's just no agreement on the answer. So what's another example of a dilemma? How about the question: do you leave old books to be ignored then rot and molder away, or do you cut them into tiny pieces and sew and glue them into newly made books? The dumpster or the scissors and paste-pot? That's what I've done in making this week's Book of the Week. It's called Dilemma and I chose the scissors and paste-pot.

   I dismantled an old book titled The Readers Encyclopedia, copyright 1965... I found it like this, headed for the trash bin at the local library...

When the urge to do surgery gets too strong the book begins to look like this...

Pages come out and are showcased in a way that they are seen and enjoyed just for themselves.
This illustration is a copy of the original title page of Don Quixote, 1605. How beautiful is that?! Then it all becomes a new book for writing notes, journaling, daily living, collecting the snippets of a life lived and windmills tilted. Among the blank pages are some earthy colograph prints and the excised pages from The Readers Encyclopedia.

And like Richard Minsky, you begin the process of altering the text from The Readers Encyclopedia pages to become a story of your own by circling the words you like and marking through the ones you don't.

 "...survives...after...studying..and traveling...into the magic lore...of..knowledge... and ...the...story. The Poem...divine...poem." And so on.

So that's my Dilemma... a change in the status quo to write my own story. What's yours?
p.s. I'm still not sure that altering the book was the right thing to do...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Midnight Blues

   What is it about the color blue that is so appealing? I've heard that 90% of all people prefer the color blue. When I'm dying textiles with indigo or processing cyanotype prints, I'm struck by the lovely shades of navy and turquoise blue produced and I understand the sentiment. The book of the week, Midnight Blues, a tribute to those shades of blue.
Midnight Blues
The painted canvas cover is a miniature version of the Nag Hammadi Book of Lists I made several weeks ago. This tiny soft cover book will fit into the palm of a hand. An antique shell button and satin ribbon wrap and loop to form the closure.

Turquoise and navy and powder puff blue
   The pages are cyanotypes on handmade Arches and Rives BFK paper.  A cyanotype is a photographic printing process that gives a cyan-blue print. The process was first discovered in the 1840’s by Sir John Herschel. By the 1870's the process was used for making blueprints. Blueprints are still made by this technique today. Toward the end of the 19th century and to the present, cyanotype printing became popular among amateur photographers because of its simplicity and low cost.

   To make a cyanotype print, the paper is first treated with a sensitizer solution containing a mixture of ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide. After drying the paper, images in the form of cut-outs, stencils, negatives, or actual objects are placed on top of the paper and  exposed to ultraviolet light (sunlight works great!), which produces a blue shadow. After sufficient exposure, the paper is washed in water to remove the soluble unexposed salts. Upon drying, the image darkens as a result of slow oxidation in air. This blue pigment, known as Prussian Blue, has been used for printing ink, paint pigment, typewriter ribbon, and carbon paper. Treatment with oxidants, such as hydrogen peroxide or potassium dichromate, produces a darker blue (almost black) image.
A cyanotype painting
   I always imagine this will be a great "craft activity" to take to the beach... just coat the paper, lay it in the sand beside some sea oats, and watch the events of the day cause the shadows of blue hues... So that is on my TO Do list. For now, I just chase the 10 minutes of sunlight all around my tree-filled yard until I get enough UV rays to create the blues. And that reminds me of music... which John Lee Hooker said so well... "The blues tells a story. Every line of the blues has a meaning."


Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Bowl and the Book

   This week's book is titled The Bowl and the Book.  I wrote this little story when I was trying to decide whether to continue being a potter or become a book maker. But it's really a discussion between a bowl and a book about which is better... and that brings me to the word competition. This book is really about competition between two equally wonderful things. This week, with the Olympics occurring in London, the word competition is a really big deal!

   If you've been reading this blog, you know I'm taking a 2 ½ week woodblock printing class with Belgian print artist Goedele Peeters at Penland School of Crafts. Goedele is an amazingly talented artist and a wonderful (and tireless!) instructor.  She has led us into a process of creating complexly layered woodblock prints which is just a jumping off point for years of playing in this medium. Now that the class is almost over, we can look around the classroom and see many different approaches to what we have been taught, and a room of beautiful prints.

   So, I started planning the design of The Bowl and the Book last week. I drew the images and planned that the woodblock prints would be in black ink with the text set and printed on the letterpress. I was influenced by an antique Japanese storybook I had from the late 1800's ...and thought to make something similar in size with a black line border around each illustration. I knew I was in a competition against time. I had seven days to finish it. I set my goal to carve a block a day. I did that! ...wood chips a-flyin'! Then I set the type to letterpress print the story. Yesterday I printed it all! Woodblock illustrations on the pressure press and text on the letterpress. Fourteen hours later I was done with everything but the cover. I let the ink dry a bit then I printed the cover paper and bound the book today. It's still a little sticky, but here is the story.
A woodblock print covers the small flat spine book
And the story goes like this...

There once was a bowl 
and a book. The bowl led
 a very busy life. He told 
the book, "I am so important,
 people reach for me every day! 
I feed the world. Without me 
man would starve!
"I feed the world. Without me man would starve!"
Into me people put their rice
and their beans, their soup and
their strew, their ICE CREAM!
I am most important. I feed the world
"...their rice and their beans, their soup and their stew, their ICE CREAM!"
The book stood quietly on the
shelf. "It is true. Sometimes
I stand for months on this shelf, and 
no one even touches me.
I stand for months on this shelf...
But sometimes they do take me down
 from this shelf, carry me to a quiet
place and read my words.
...carry me to a quiet place and read my words.
Into me people put their thoughts and 
their theories, their histories and 
their prophesies... their whispers from GOD!
 I also feed man, but instead of food, 
I feed him ETERNITY!"
... their whispers from GOD!
And the bowl said, "Oh, you're
so dramatic!"

The End

I wish your team the best of luck, but just being in the competition is good enough for me!