Sunday, June 29, 2014

Week 26: Mountain Gate

The Road to Heaven's Above at Penland School
   It's week 26 of the year and we are now starting the last half of 2014. The solstice was last week, and now the days... though long and (mostly) sunny here in North Carolina, are starting to shorten a little every day. In a way, we are coming down the other side of the mountain that is the year 2014. This week's book-of-the-week is also about a mountain... a particular mountain... the mountaintop that is the home of Penland School of Crafts in Penland, North Carolina. The book is titled, Mountain Gate because Penland really is a gate.

 The cover, leaf imprints on paper...
   The book is constructed as a cased-in tunnel book with a green leather cover and a handmade paper title-plate natural-dyed with leaf prints.

the poem on the doors of the tunnel book
Inside, the case is lined with a 1960's era topographical map of the neighboring area of Mitchell County. The gatefold panels, which open to the tunnel book, are lined with more leaf-print paper which has been printed with a journal entry about a moment in time at the Penland School of Crafts... 15 years ago, on June 28, 1999. 

I’ve been at Penland for 3½ days now.
It’s Wednesday.
I hear the hammering of the metal smiths
Making their silver and pewter
Chalices, vessels, and masks.
I hear the beating of drums of
Caribbean music coming
From the clay studio behind me.
I see the weathered brown and 
Grey clapboard of the quaint log cabin 
known as the Dye Shed.
It’s nine-pane windows blink back at me,
Silently waiting to be included
In the bustling activity that is Penland.

As a cat contentedly watches a household
While curled in the sun.
The grassy pasture before me touches the 
Base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Bright green
Becomes olive green...
Becomes forest green...
Becomes dark pewter green...
Becomes pewter...
As the furthest mountain becomes
I feel the warmth of the sun
And the gentle breeze of a
Perfect day.

Journal entry of Kathy Steinsberger, June 28, 1999

the strata of the mountain...
Opening the gate-fold panels... one sees the silhouette of the rooftops of some of Penland's busy artist's studios. The clay studio with it's big kiln shed is the front panel. Behind that is the metals studio.. and then the historic Lilly Loom textile studio rises up three stories in the back row. 

the view, on a Sunday morning, June 29, 2014..
   On the back cover of the book is the book's colophon, a brief background of the book, Mountain Gate. The journal entry poem was written on June 28, 1999, during this artist's first (ever) visit to Penland School of Crafts... to take a class in pottery. The tunnel book was created as a demonstration during this same artist's class teaching a book arts class at Penland School of Crafts, fifteen years later...Week 26 of 2014. 

Then and now...
Below is a view of the path to the Penland Book Arts Studio. For this artist, it took some time to get there.
Northlight Building in 2014
And yet, like all the doors to Penland's studios, the Books and Paper Studio door is definitely a gate. To visit or learn more about Penland School of Crafts, go to

Come in!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Week 25: Flood Gates

The book-of-the-week for Week 25 is titled Flood Gates. It's a poem about the bounty of rain.

cover paper painted with indigo dye then letterpress printed
The poem was written in India ink onto hand-dyed paper that was glued together to make one long accordion folded strip. Hard cover-boards were attached to each end, and the title was letterpress printed using Brush typeface.
handwritten poem and pages tipped end-to-end
The pages, of handmade paper, were splattered with natural dyes... including walnut, osage orange, brazilwood, and indigo.
a close-up of the pages 
This is the poem...Flood Gates

Who knew when it started
it would be such a day?
The clouds came in
filling the sky gray

and the air cooled
the shadows 
one big
overcast mass
of stillness

In the distance, 
its deep bass 
rumble and growl 
warning, warning, warning us all.

Then the first drops fell
big and happy
plopping and pinging
all over the roadway,
the sidewalks,
the parched yards
the trees 
and the flowers.

The rain came in then 
sure and drenching
in sheets
flapping and waving
and washing away 
the dust
the grime
and every little bug 
and bud
in it’s way

It poured over the rain spouts
and into the gutters
rushed down the hillsides into 
the gullies and creek beds
quickly swelling
and clogging
the low spots and flatlands
with puddles and pools, 
and broad little lakes

So the drivers slowed down
it was that hard to see
and the walkers took 
in stores and doorways
and under bridges and trees
as best 
they could.

The wind blew the rain 
and turned umbrellas inside out
sent hats wildly flying 
while the raindrops pelted us
like BB’s on bare skin
and the window panes
rattled and the air
was  a roar.

Meanwhile the thunder 
grew louder,
its growl more insistent
followed by snap cracks of 
that startled the nerves 
frightened little babies 
and the grown folks 

And the water just kept coming
the rain never ceasing
the torrents above
and the torments below
It was a drenched world
of wetness
the Sky Gods 
were weeping

and everything not sheltered 
was soaked, sodden or 
and the mud just kept 
the Flood Gates 
had opened.

Who knew 
when it started
it would be 
such a day?

streaming down the stairs...

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Week 24: So Much

   The book-of-the-week for Week 24 is the last book of the Baby Gate series. It's an interactive book titled, So Much. It's cover boards are covered in combed marbled paper of vibrant oranges, blues, yellows, and greens. On the cover is a volvelle with a swing out panel of a baby gate, behind which are photos of some of the many items that come into life with the addition of a new baby...
a Volvelle on the cover...
Crib, high chair, car seat, diapers, toys, and rocking chairs... all those things that begin to take over life and house..  When the volvelle wheel is turned, a new one swings into view.

turn the volvelle to see a baby crib in the window cut-out...
Inside, the true interactive element of the book is indicated by the letterpress header To Do printed on every page... What new parent isn't inundated by the myriad of lists of things to do?  And, finally, the background is a cacophony of block patterns in shades of blue... indicating change and activity. Of course!
in shades of blue.. for baby boys..
The binding is created with a longstitch/chain stitch on bookcloth made from a 1950's ladies apron... a family heirloom from  a certain baby boy's maternal great grandmother. The circular pattern repeats the shape of the volvelle wheel on the cover and also indicates the circular aspect of life. Longstitches, straight and intertwined, refer to the relationships forged throughout a lifetime, and the chain stitches at top and bottom, refer to the loving guidance of two devoted parents.

So, amid the new baby smell, the lack of sleep, the bundles of new clothes, new furniture, breast pumps and baby wipes, the unexpected crying spells and spit-ups, the doting grandparents and relatives with their wobbly awkward handling of the little guy, and the constant diaper changes... round and round go the days. And it all moves so fast. Still, though there is So Much... To Do, it's never too much. But just right.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Week 23: Baby Gate, Vol. 3: Umbilical Cord

   The last book of the Baby Gate Series is this week's book-of-the-week, Umbilical Cord. 
Umbilical Cord and the Baby Gate box
It accompanies Dreaming of Running the Bases and the title book, Baby Gate.

3 books in the Baby Gate box
Umbilical Cord has a green pastepaper cover, with a photograph of a baby and a mobile phone. It's boustrophedon pages are folded accordion-style then tied with a green grosgrain ribbon.

the modern baby gate...
Inside, the title page continues the imagery of the cell phone...

Title page...

...which leads up to the text of the book... cell phone text messages between a mother and her son starting the day before her grandson is born... and leading until his one-week birthday.

text of text messages
24 hours of intermittent texts...
waiting.... and waiting.... and waiting....
(Mom, 6:36pm): "I'm comfy in the waiting room..." ...then,
(Son, 9:42pm): "Sam is here. And wonderful"
Imagine lots of cheering, hugging, and jumping around in the waiting room; and much snuggling, hugging, and tears of joy in the delivery room. Then, a query from the waiting room...

(Grand'mom):  how's our girl?
Great. She wants the grandmas to come up...
Imagine a huge Woohoo! in the waiting room. And the remainder of the book? .... 36 pages of photos of a new grandbaby.

standard to all grandma's cell phones... a full photo cache of grandkids
At the end of the first week...

Gram and Sam
... the Umbilical Cord stretches in a new way.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Week 22: Baby Gate

  This week's book-of-the-week is the title piece of the box set started last week, Baby Gate.  Children's first books are very often made as stiff leaf books, and this week's little book follows that style... which is not surprising since it is about a baby's first day. The cover paper is a collograph print of a brilliant night sky that resembles a sort of flower garden and the bookcloth for the spine is handmade from japanese silk. The title plate on the cover and the page illustrations are from photographs of a mural painted on a baby's nursery wall that were then inkjet printed on Magnani Velata text-weight paper. The text font is Papyrus.
the title plate on the cover
When Baby Gate is not being read, it can go inside one of the  sections of the 3-part box. The little book measures 4 inches by 4 inches and just fits into one of the sections...
the book, Baby Gate, ready to go into it's compartment on the left...
This is the little story, Baby Gate....
wall mural... the tire swing and birds in the tree,  the cow and donkey in the barn
On the morning you were born
the sun shown warm in the 
beautiful blue sky.
and  the flowers were abloom in 
reds and pinks,
fuchsia, purple, and lemon yellow 
and the chartreuse grass was 
wet with dew. 

On the afternoon of your birth
a mother bluebird flew to get a 
fat worm
to feed her baby birds
and the father bluebird
perched proudly
in his showy blue feather coat
singing songs of joy 
and love.
wall mural... the shining sun
On the evening of your birth
the sun set 
at the edge of the sky 
in a mass of brilliant gold, 
neon pink and rowdy orange.
And then the dusk moved in 
and the stars came out
twinkling in the sky, 
happily anticipating your near 

On the evening of your birth
the family gathered anxiously 
and excitedly 
at the hospital
and prayed you would be safe,
would have an easy journey,
and not tarry too long
into this world.
And they waited... and talked in 
hushed voices.
wall mural... the ball field and balloons with waving people
On the night you were born
suddenly there were fireworks 
in the sky!
and the booming sound
and the brilliant lights
filled the night with celebration!
Some of us looked on the sky 
with awe, and all of us smiled... 
and our hearts were filled with 
excitement and joy. 

And then,
you were here!
wall mural... the aviator in his plane, with the banner GOAL!
On the night you were born
Your mommy and your daddy 
held you in their arms.
Your daddy washed you 
tenderly and wrapped you up 
in a soft warm blanket, put your 
tiny hat on your head,
and held you close.

And your Mommy held you near 
her heart and gazed into your 
bright blue eyes, so wise
and already full of fun and 
mischief... and love.
And they both fell hopelessly 
in love with you, 
Little Sam.
wall mural... the sailboat in the lake
On the night you were born
the family all came up from the 
waiting room
to see you.
And were awed by your perfect
little body
and your beautiful 
little moon face.

On the night you were born 
the family each looked 
into your newborn eyes 
that were taking in the world for 
the first time...
smiling at your mommy with so 
much love..
and at your daddy with so much 
Wall mural... the barn with the cat,  and the sunflowers nearby
On the night you were born,
the big world shifted 
a little
for the better
and we were so happy!

So far, there are two books finished for the boxed set, Baby Gate. Here they are perched atop the box lid. 
Baby Gate and Dreaming of Running the Bases
When one goes through the Baby Gate, there's no telling what's ahead.