Sunday, December 30, 2012

Word Carnival

   It's the last week of 2012 and I've had a wonderful time marking each week with a newly finished book-of-the-week. The year has flown by but somehow is fuller because of the physical nature of the books... sitting on the shelf in the studio, scattered about the house, and in the hands of friends and relatives. The year is now recorded by these 52 books. That is why, for this last week,  I've chosen not to make a traditional book, but a game.  A game can be played over and over again... shared with friends and relatives.. it can become a tradition. In our family there is a tradition of playing a board/card game called Tripoli. We also play Bingo, Scrabble, Poker, and Monopoly... We're a family who loves games! The book-of-the-week for week 52 is titled Word Carnival. I didn't make up this game, but have combined two existing games, Scrabble and Tripoli, and added several variations.. with which my family has helped.
The gatefold coverboards of Word Carnival
A vibrant blue-green intaglio print covers the outer surface of the cover. Two copper pennies and a strand of waxed linen serve as closures for the gatefold coverboards.  The pennies allude to the pennies used to ante into the game and the  determination of the ultimate winner.

    Open the gatefold 'doors' to see a second set of panels covered in an intaglio print of a pretty rose garden. The back side of the opened panels is covered in orange pastepaper and the labels for 6 of the 'carnival booth' sections: Blank, JLX&Z, Match, 5-letter Word, 6-letter Word, 7-letter Word. To know what these sections are about, you must get the game! But for a hint, play the game Tripoli.

   When all 4 panels are opened, the gridded board is seen. This is where the words get spelled.. just like the game Scrabble. And so there are tile letters... and pennies... and everybody puts a penny in each of the sections (the Carnival booths), and takes turns spelling words from the letter tiles they get.. And if a word has a certain criteria.. like 4 letters, then the first person to play a word with 4 letters wins all the pennies in that section! Just like at the Carnival! Isn't that fun?!

Before we start, the board is clear and the sections are empty of pennies..

But in playing the game my family and I realized the original game was missing something... the words had way too many criteria that weren't being noticed.. There ARE so many cool words! So we created a section for foreign words, a section for palindromes, a section for words with 3 letters the same, a section for words of a theme,.. and we haven't stopped thinking of new criteria... we ARE running out of pennies though.

A game nearly over.. the pennies get won from the "booths" along the side..

What word criteria would you add to our game? Perhaps you should make up your own game?

  Thank you for following this year-long rambling of artist books.  I hope it has inspired you in creating your own books and with your own voice. An exhibit of the 104 books of the 2012 Book-of-the Week Challenge made by Jenny Mahaffey and Kathy Steinsberger will be shown at Pullen Art Center, 105 Pullen Rd, Raleigh, NC from Jan 2-31, 2013. An opening reception will be held from 6-8pm Thursday, January, 17, 2013.

   And finally, I have decided to continue the Book-a-Week challenge in 2013. How could I quit?! but will limit myself to creating books based on the stiff leaf binding. It you would like to join me, please do so!

See you next week,

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Little Tree

The Little Tree
a little pop-up book...

   Week 51 book-of-the-week is titled
The Little Tree. It's a small pop-up book about
4 x 4½ inches with a flat back spine of hand marbled bookcloth and wrinkled paste paper cover.
marbled bookcloth and pastepaper cover..
Hand lettered and painted with acrylics.
open up!
The fun with pop-ups is when you open the first page...and then the second... and then the third! Actually pop-up books are ALL fun.
Little Tree sheltered by her mother and aunties...
grew and grew and grew...
until one day Little Tree looked around and saw she was sheltering the older trees.
and she was very happy 

   Sometimes time passes by so quickly that in what seems a blink of an eye the clock has turned full circle... a year has passed... two years, ten years, thirty years or more...and a person finds they have moved through the stages of life...  The Little Tree is about that change in status during a lifetime.. that choreography of being.


Monday, December 17, 2012


   The book of the week is titled Kaleidoscope. It's a flexagon-style book which contorts into six different patterns. Kaleidoscope is a little book about flexibility and balance... all the things we need to keep our world running smoothly.

Home, side 1: a refuge
By pushing in the side panels of the book, the whole thing can be transformed into a different pattern. Then, the apex is folded back and the new side lain flat...

Push in the sides to make a star-like form then fold the apex back...

Home, side 2: our community
Not only is Kaleidoscope about the sanctuary of our home and man-made communities, but it includes the environment and nature. Mother Earth is the entity that feeds us, gives us clean water and air, and awes us in its majestic beauty... and blasts us with it's powerful catastrophes.
Care of Earth, side 1: in our cities...

Care of Earth, side 2: in the forests and countryside.
The final chapter of Kaleidoscope is about finding joy and beauty through singing, dancing, and playing... our art. We first do this within our own psyche's and imagination. It's important to find this place of art within ourselves. Like an opening fan, we unfold layers of meaning and beauty in our world.

Sing Dance Play, side 1: our core...
And then, we take the hands of others and join the dance, sing in chorus, and play on a team. It is that community that takes a single voice to a level more powerful than a man alone. 

Sing Dance Play, side 2: with others.

   Kaleidoscope really has no beginning or end, but flexes between the different panels on the whim of the person who holds the book. You should try it!

   Flexigon books are fascinating folded books. A flexagon has the appearance of a ring of hinged multi-sided panels, and has the intriguing property of displaying different arrays of faces when it is flexed. The individual panels in a flexagon, called leaves, are all identical. There are many variations of flexagons. Kaleidoscope, the simplest, is based on an equilateral triangle and is called a trihexaflexagon. The tetrahexaflexagon has four sides and is more complicated. There are also pentahexaflexagons (5-sided) and hexahexaflexagons (6-sided). To read more about flexagons and see directions to make some of these folded books on your own, check out:

   Arthur Stone, a Brittish mathematician, is said to have discovered flexigons in 1938 while playing with strips of paper as a graduate student at Princeton University. Several of his colleagues went on to explore the range of simple and complex flexigon structures and their mathematical relationships. Not only are flexagons fun play-toys and interesting book structures, but have led to innovations in conceptualizing complex chemical, physical, and mathematical phenomena.  Wow!


Sunday, December 9, 2012


   The Book of the Week is titled Marzipan. Marzipan is a gently sweetened confection made of almond paste, sugar and honey. It is often sculpted into tiny fruits and vegetables, lightly tinted with food coloring to resemble pears, apples, bananas and oranges. The book Marzipan is a soft cover Italian longstitch book with pastel marbling inks swirling across the cover and pastepaper on the fore-edging and inside the cover.
A macrame strap holds the sweet little book closed
   One year, when my little daughter was deep in the throes of tulle and satin and rehearsals for The Nutcracker Ballet at the local ballet school, she asked me, what is marzipan? I showed her some of the little candies sold at the grocery store and we bought a box to have for Christmas day. Now, whenever I see the word marzipan... I think of The Nutcracker Ballet! ...and my 10-year old daughter.

A marzipan Christmas tree 
   In the Nutcracker story by T. A. Hoffman, marzipan is mentioned as part of a wonderful imaginary toy brought by Godfather Drosselmeier..

Pastepaper and marbled paper inside Marzipan

    "Whenever he came, he had something in his pocket for the children⎯now a little man who would roll his eyes and bow in a most comical way, now a box that a little bird would hop out of, now something else. But every year at Christmas he took great pains to turn out a work of wonderful artistry, so precious that the children's parents always put it away in a safe place.
   "Oh," Marie cried out, "what do you think Godfather Drosselmeier has made for us?"
   Fritz said it was sure to be a fortress, with all kinds of soldiers marching up and down and drilling, and then other soldiers would come and try to get in, but the brave defenders would fire their guns, which would boom and thunder wonderfully.
   "No, no," Marie interrupted. "Godfather Drosselmeier said something to me about a beautiful garden with a big lake in it and lovely swans with golden necklaces swimming around on it and singing the most beautiful songs. And then a little girl comes across the garden to the lake and calls the swans and feeds them marzipan." -excerpt from The Nutcracker by T. A. Hoffman

Creamy pastepaper and a wintry image from stamps.. 
In the Raleigh area, the Carolina Ballet puts on a magnificent performance of The Nutcracker every year. I have seen it many times and it is always a delight. Order tickets for The Nutcracker and read more about the Carolina Ballet at

   Growing up in the south, marzipan was not a traditional holiday dessert in our family. At my Grandmother's Christmas Day table we traditionally had three or four choices of the following... Coconut Cake, German Chocolate Cake, Pound Cake, Carrot Cake, Chocolate Meringue Pie, Lemon Meringue Pie, Chess Pie, Pecan Pie, Pecan Chess Pie, Lemon Chess Pie, Sweet Potato Pie, Chocolate Bon Bons, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Hershey's Kiss Cookies, Peanut Butter Cookies, Kris Cringles, Dolly Bars, Oatmeal Raisin Cookies... Bananna Pudding..and on and on.. but no marzipan. Until the year my daughter first began to dance in The Nutcracker Ballet...

   Holiday baking is such a tradition and food is such a rite of communion... what are your family traditions for sweets? What stories come from these? What are the recipes? Imagine your wonderful holiday sweet pastry sideboard... the colors, the patterns, the aromas, and the deliciousness of all that sugar and butter! and then perhaps write about it in a book.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Upcoming Classes

The new 2013 Winter-Spring classes are now posted at Pullen Arts Center in Raleigh (NC) and Cary Arts Center (Cary, NC). Here are the descriptions and dates in case you are living in the area and interested in taking a class in book arts.

At Pullen Arts Center, 105 Pullen Rd. Raleigh, NC: 
919-996-6126 and

Belgian Binding: This hard cover book is a fun little book for notes, journaling, or an artistʼs book of your own creativity. Itʼs woven binding thread across the spine makes an interesting visual element which is lovely as well as contemporary. A supply fee of 15-$20 is payable to the instructor on the first class. This does NOT include the Belgian chocolates which WILL be eaten during the class!
Tuesdays: Jan. 22- Feb. 5; 6pm-8:30pm #134530
Belgian Binding
Heart-Made Books: In this class weʼll make beautiful blank journals to donate to the patients of Hospice of Wake County. Weʼll paint decorated pastepapers, then fold and tear the pages for the rest of the book. Weʼll bind the journals with the multi-needle coptic stitch and add some fun embellishments. No supply fee. All books will be donated to Hospice of Wake County and weʼll make as many as we can in the time allotted..Please bring an apron and your own cutting mat.
Tuesdays: Feb. 19 - March 12; 6pm -8:30pm #134284
Heartmade Books for Hospice
Stiff leaf book of symbols, Oyster Love
A Book of Symbols: In this fun class weʼll explore a number of surface design techniques using symbols as our theme, and then bind them using the stiff leaf binding. Transfers, pastepainting, stencils, and touch painting will be we also discuss the meaning of symbols in our own lives. This is a class of creativity, personal exploration and incorporating content into our books, so be prepared to discuss and write a bit each night. A supply fee of $35-40 is payable to the instructor on the first class.  
Tuesdays, March 26- April 30; 6-9pm #134543

Weave-A-Journal: Journaling can consist of MANY different mediums: writing, drawing, painting, and weaving. In this class we will make a book that includes pages for weaving. Then we will practice basic tapestry and woven collage techniques. Learn a free-form way of journaling memories, observations and imagination. This is a fun way to capture your summer memories in a weaving journal. This class will be co-taught by Kathy Steinsberger, book artist and Mary Kircher, textile artist. (To see a sample of a weaving journal, see Mary’s website A supply fee of $25-$35 will be collected at the first class meeting. 

Mondays, Apr 1-May 6, 6:15-9:15pm #135102

At Cary Art Center, 101 Dry Avenue, Cary, NC: 919-469-4069

Pastepaper Play for Books!
Pastepaper Play for Books- In this fun class weʼll make lots of pastepaper for use in envelopes, folders, stationery, cards, books, wrapping paper and for framing. Most supplies are included in the cost of the class. Additional supplies needed for the first class provided on registration confirmation receipt. 
Mondays, Jan. 14 - Feb. 4, 6-9pm Code: 65284.

Miniature Books
Miniature Books- We'll make a variety of tiny books that fit in your hand, but are usable and beautiful too. This class is perfect for the beginner as well as the accomplished book maker. Please bring your own cutting mat, bonefolder, awl, and pencil. Other supply list provided on registration receipt. 
*Thursdays, April 11- May16, 6-9pm Code: 65285 (*note: the date is changed from the Brochure)

Hope to see you!


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Shadow Bridge

   Shadows can be beautiful or grotesque. Shadows are the absence of light.. a partial darkness and a part of existence... wherever there is light. Hans Christian Anderson wrote The Shadow in 1847 about a man who's own shadow took over his life. Read this story at your local library sometime. The Book of the Week for week 48 is titled Shadow Bridge. It's not as scary and depressing as Anderson's tale, and instead, indicates the beauty and complexity that shadows add to our life as a sort of bridge between darkness and light... reality and reflection.

   Shadow Bridge is made in a double concertina format with two accordion strips sewn together with pamphlet stitches. Once sewn, the two strips weave in and out of each other through cut out windows in the back accordion strip. Cut-outs on the forward accordion strip throw shadows through the book.

Shadows from the cut outs allude to shadows of the psyche
The book is covered by paper marbled with Japanese suminagashi inks, which repeat the shadowy theme of the book. When the book is closed, a satin ribbon holds everything snug and tight.
A satin ribbon to keep the shadows tied up tight

Shadows move like pastel inks floating on water... quietly impacting
This small book speaks without words, just as shadows do.