Thursday, December 31, 2015

Week 52: When the Earth was Amber

   The last book of 2015 is titled When the Earth was Amber. There are no words in the small 3 x 2.5-inch cord bound book, but each page of used teabag paper has a hand-traced map of somewhere on the earth, a hieroglyphic symbol, and possibly a sliver of local mica.

tea bags of tracings, hieroglyphs, and mica
The book was constructed based on constraints derived from the Artist's Book Ideation Card set created by book artists Barbara Tetenbaum and Julie Chen. For order information go to
This creative tool turns making artist's books into a game, but also opens the mind to unique combinations of design as well as focusing on specifics in a unique, yet random way. There are seven categories: Text, Technique, Image, Paper, Layout, Color, and Structure. Each category has seven different choices and all a book artist needs to do is select one card from each pile. A second stack of 52 (surprising!) Adjective cards accompanies the set. The book artist may choose one or more of these.. return one for another, or generally make up the rules as they go along.

...Amber with all seven Ideation Cards and the Adjective Card..
The Text card drawn specified that text be abstract, non-verbal, or gibberish.
Hand drawn heiroglyphic symbols were placed somewhere on each page. Some have documented meaning, others were created as the personal language of the artist. Actual translation of the symbols is not necessary as each person sees their own meaning in the words.

...Amber with the Text card drawn... 
The Technique card drawn directed that the book be made with mixed media. Incorporated into the used teabag paper pages are leftover tea leaves. Mica flakes collected from the ancient Appalachian mountains in North Carolina were glued on most of the pages. Jute was used for the cord bindings, and linen thread was used to sew it all together. All of these elements have been used by peoples across the world and the ages... with commonality and timelessness as well as reverence. Gold thread was specifically NOT chosen because it might detract from the communication expressed by the other elements. 

with the Technique card.. and mica
The Image card indicated that the drawings should be traced, re-drawn, or lifted from outside sources. For When the Earth was Amber, parts of a vintage National Geographic European map were traced with Sharpie marker onto the used tea bags. 

with the Image card... and vintage map
The Paper card specified that the paper be transparent or translucent. For this book, a collection of the artist's used tea bag cache was raided and proved perfect for the requirement. This also fit the specification of the Adjective card, layering.

with the Paper ideation card...

The Layout card indicated that it should be minimal and restrained. The natural dyed markings on the paper made by the seeping tea, the simple pen tracings, and the single hieroglyph per page work together to give a strong voice with little effort.

with the Layout card...
The Color card drawn said to use muted or pastel colors.

with the Color card...

The Structure card directed to create a codex style book... Though several more modern structures were suggested, the artist chose to use one of the oldest codex forms, the cord-bound book. It's historical significance, as well as the way the cords are reminiscent of a warp and weaving... add to the narrative of the continuum of time and man's relationship to the Earth.

with the Structure card

on the sewing frame, getting bound into a codex

As mentioned, the Adjective card drawn, specified that something in the book should be layered. Cambridge English Dictionary defines a layer as a ​level of ​material, such as a ​type of ​rock or ​gas, that is different from the ​material above or below it, or a ​thin ​sheet of a ​substance. Both the mica and the thin translucent tea bag paper serve this purpose... But especially the way the lines of the tracings show through the paper... overlapping each other, and alluding to how countries' borders and geographic landmarks change through the ages.   

with the Adjective card... layered...

   In the recent past our Earth has become very small. We can fly around the world in hours, and speak to someone across the world instantly.  Now, this year, our world leaders are faced with finding solutions to unprecedented changes to the Earth's surface. The last map book of the year, When the Earth was Amber, is really about how we will find our way into the Earth's map of the future. May we find the right path.

   The last book of 2015 is done. It wasn't what this artist expected... but none of the books really were. For the friends and students who have been nearby and had to listen to the whining and complaining about how hard this theme of map has been...and how LOST this artist has often felt, a true apology is offered. And also grateful thanks for listening. For those who have taken the time to read the blog, a huge thank you. It has to be the power of the book and the written word that makes it all worth it, and ultimately delicious and irresistible. 

   The blog will continue in 2016, but with a new twist... Rather than a book a week, each month a new book will be created using the Artist's Book Ideation Cards. 

Have a Joyful and Bountiful New Year!

Dedicated to Paulus... who has always honored books and poetry, but especially the Earth.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Week 51: Elizabeth (in the Roundabout Waltz)

   The last book of The Roundabout Waltz series is the car book Elizabeth. It fits into the last slot of the box garage and is the same 1 x 1-inch accordion style as the other car books. The outside is covered in vintage yellow and white striped wallpaper, and the inside is laser printed with Times New Roman font on white text-weight paper. The little book fits into the black paper luggage rack of the little cardboard car which has been covered in green pastepaper with pastepaper windshields and headlights.

Elizabeth (as a car)  on The Roundabout Waltz, with the other car books in their box garage

A velcro dot has been glued to the bottom side of the little car... so the car can ride around each of the 'Waltz volvelles as The Roundabout Waltz is read.

Elizabeth car on the title page of The Roundabout Waltz
The book Elizabeth can be slipped out of the paper luggage rack and read.

Elizabeth out of the luggage rack and open to its title page

the accordion book Elizabeth, opening up
This is the story, Elizabeth...

   Elizabeth tries to concentrate as she steers her lime green Kia-van "juice box" down Hillsboro Street.. past NCSU, and around all the parked cars and darting students.  In the backseat 3 and 4 year-old Alex and Logan are in their car seats, slapping at each other and yelling. Her mother calls them Irish twins. Elizabeth's too busy and tired to think about it. 
   The five years since she was one of those darting students seems like forever. She’d just decided on a Veterinary Science major when she found out she and Brian were expecting…Oh well. They’re a family now. “It’s God’s blessing,” her mother says. At least now Brian’s done with school and they’ve moved out of her mother’s…
   She’s driving the boys to their Meet the Animals class at the Natural Science Museum downtown. They go every Wednesday. Last week they saw a live alligator; the week before, it was an ocelot. The boys are hoping this is snake week. Alex just loves snakes. Logan loves the bunnies. 
   Elizabeth always knew she would be a mom. But when she started college, new ideas began to surface… Maybe she would be a chemist or an engineer... At State, she loved her biology class, writing poetry, learning the chemical make-up of things.. philosophy! Her backpack was always full of books. She felt all grown up and like a little kid at the same time. She joined the Biology club and met Brian. They had so much in common! Same background, same goals…When she and Brian got married and set up house in the married housing on campus, she thought her life was perfect! She remembers nights studying in the library, meeting Brian for pizza, then going back to cram before he met her at the door to walk her to their little two-room place. She walked everywhere back then. It kept her thin and fit. Now she’s got 25 pounds of baby-fat and's always driving 'round in this darn minivan! 
   As she slows down for a stoplight, she looks past the passenger seat at D. H. Hill Library tower. Students in jeans and leather jackets are swirling about, walking in pairs, laughing and chatting…or trudging alone in a concentrated daze, eyes to the ground, bookbags hugged to their side… trying to remember something for a test… or worrying over what they got wrong… College is like that.. along with the amazing learning.. is stress and worry and late nights and everything taking so much energy! It’s a lot like having kids... 
   She nears the roundabout at Pullen Road and hears the bells ringing the hour from the NC State bell tower. The boys quieten for a moment.. mouths open, listening. As she swerves around the circle she feels a twinge of queasiness. In six months Alex and Logan will need to make room in the backseat… 
                                    The End

the real roundabout at Hillsboro St. and Pullen Rd. in Raleigh, NC

   Elizabeth's story is about the way a path can lead to the expected as well as the unexpected. Regardless of the obvious patterns seen on a map, sometimes no matter how hard one tries to steer in the right direction, life has a way of creating a landscape that is unique and unexpected and which can leave one feeling lost... Yet, mixed with the challenges and disappointments are serendipitous connections and unimagined rewards which are surprisingly often gained through failure. The Roundabout Waltz, written about a real place and that had some challenging issues at first, is really about maneuvering one's way through the circle of life.

the N.C. State University bell tower (beside the roundabout)
inscription on the bell tower door: "and they shall beat their swords into plowshares" -Isaiah 2:4
It is this artist's wish... this week and always... that you have PEACE and JOY.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Week 50: Brandon (in The Roundabout Waltz)

   The Roundabout Waltz books continue with Week 50's book-of-the-week, Brandon. The little board car for Brandon is covered in red pastepaper, with yellow pastepaper headlights and blue pastepaper windows. The black luggage rack is paper from the French Paper Company. 

the Brandon car (story) on The Roundabout Waltz

When the little car isn't riding around the roundabouts, it can be stored in the little box garage along with the other story cars in the series.. Sadie, Maxie, and Wally. There are five partitions in the cigar style box, with an extra spot for one more car... The garage is covered with pastepaper and a gray Japanese print paper. The hinge is made with Japanese silk bookcloth.

out of its box garage and driving on the roundabout

The tiny 1 x 1-inch accordion book (luggage) is covered in red and gold-checked Japanese chiyogami paper. The story is digitally printed on white text paper..

the Brandon story as luggage, unfolding out of the luggage rack

Close-up of Brandon title page

the unfolding accordion book, Brandon on The Roundabout Waltz 

This is the story Brandon...

   Brandon’s been living in Raleigh all his life. He grew up in North Raleigh in one of those new, pine-treed neighborhoods with bonus-roomed McMansions and a soccer goal in every backyard. The mom’s drove Volvo station wagons and the Dads worked at RTP as engineers or scientists, or managers of engineers or scientists. 
   But in 2008 Brandon’s dad got laid off. That was wierd and scary  It happened right before Christmas. Really! Five days before Christmas, Brandon’s dad came home from work.. they’d had the office party that afternoon…Brandon’s mom had made her special Jam Shortbread cookies for all his co-workers. She’d bought Christmasy gift bags and stuffed each with a Ziplock baggie of cookies and a wad of tissue…and tied three colors of ribbon on top, taking the time to curl each ribbon strand with the scissors. Brandon’s dad had left that morning with arms full of red and green gift bags… When Brandon and his mom and little brother, Seth, came home from basketball practice they found his dad sitting at the kitchen table in the dark with a glass of whiskey in front of him. He was pale and his hands shook as he lifted the crystal glass to his lips.
   “What’s up?” said Brandon’s mom as she flipped on the light and the boys charged to the den.. Brandon thought he heard something about a pink ship. He wondered if they were going on a cruise for Christmas. Later that night, his parents gathered the boys in the den and he heard it was a PINK SLIP..  His dad had been laid off. And starting in two weeks he would be on UNEMPLOYMENT. His parents told the boys that there wouldn’t be many more movies and dinners out. The Christmas presents were bought and couldn’t be returned, but they would ECONOMIZE from now on… until his dad got a new job. Maybe they would have to MOVE…
   The boys were determined to make the best of things and on Christmas morning ripped into all the presents like crazy! All the new computer games were played with... multiple times, the sports equipment played with wildly in the backyard, new clothes donned, the candy bars and sweets in their stockings ripped open and devoured. On the surface it could have been any Christmas, but under all the glitter, it seemed like it was their last. The two boys savored every minute of that Christmas of 2008. The coming year they learned to pull together. And they grew up…  in more ways than just height and shoe size. As Brandon drives his red Honda into the roundabout at Hillsboro Street and Pullen Road, on the way to his engineering class at NCSU, he remembers that year… the feeling of spinning out of control, trying to steer around the whole thing, and the change in himself as it all happened. Just like the view from the other side of the roundabout… he saw things totally different.
                                                           The End

The Roundabout Waltz and its parking garage box

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Week 49: Wally (in The Roundabout Waltz)

   This week's book is a story of another vehicle in The Roundabout Waltz. This little story is titled Wally.  

Wally and the other cars.. on the cover of The Roundabout Waltz
When not being read, this tiny 1 x 1-inch accordion book with brown pastepaper covers is secured in the paper luggage rack of a brown cardboard truck. A dot of velcro is adhered to the bottom of the truck so it can ride around the roundabout volvelles inside the big book The Roundabout Waltz.

Wally's story, unfolding 

This is the story Wally...

   Wally Broom’s been driving a Get-It-There truck for 30 years. Started as a box jock in 10th grade (loading), then promoted to driver. Back then, the money was good, he got great exercise (mostly outdoors), all the guys were always joking… it was cool… and eventually he got his own route. What more did a high schooler need? He even bought his own truck… red for NCSU. 
   At GIT all the trucks are brown, Wally’s coveralls are brown, the boxes are all brown…dirt brown.. manure brown. All these years… still tossing boxes, still driving, still making the same ’80’s pay. Wally thinks the color is right on. Now, he thinks GIT stinks! 
   Wally’s wife, LuAnn works at the Minny-Mart. The kids are all gone now, well not that far.. really. Junior and Betsy live in Apex, Bud lives over in Johnson County,  Dee-anna and the grandkids are in Garner, and Hazel’s here in Raleigh living in some apartment complex near the prison. She says it’s safe… She’s studying to be an architect at NCSU! Good golly, who would have thunk it! Hazel'll be the first to graduate university… Wally hardly ever sees her these days.
   Wally thinks about what Hazel might be doing today as his brown GIT truck nears the Hillsboro St.- Pullen Rd. roundabout. Hazel’s just a couple blocks away, right now… He can see the big building in his mind (kattycorner from the Pullen Rd. roundabout). Tall white marble columns on the front porch, and a dome on top! Some wierd metal sculpture in the front space. Pretty fancy. 
   But Hazel always had unusual ideas. When the other kids were scrubbing around in the yard behind the trailer playing tag or war or some wild game, Hazel was inside at the kitchen table drawing pictures,  having tea parties, or doing homework! She insisted on taking that ballet class. The whole family got dressed up to go see her dance as a fairy or something. LuAnn insisted they had to buy a bunch of flowers to give her for when it was over. Six red roses all wrapped in tissue. Cost $20! Sheesh! For three months those roses stood in a jar on the kitchen table.. dead and wilted, turning brown like a GIT truck. 
   Wally thought about Hazel.. maybe she was in some lecture hall, learning about walls and roofs and stairs; or maybe she was at her studio table, making some little toy model.. an assignment for a museum add-on.. Wally imagined himself driving by the building with the marble columns... He knew he might get in trouble for going off schedule, but heck, everybody needed a break, especially after 30 years! Wally swung the brown GIT truck into the roundabout, drove right past Hillsboro St. and exited to Pullen Road. He drove up to the other roundabout (by the building with the marble columns)... and then he drove around that roundabout 4 times.
                                                             The End

Wally's brown truck, entering the roundabout

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Week 48: Maxie (in The Roundabout Waltz)

   This week's book, Maxie, is the second little story about a car entering The Roundabout Waltz... (Week 46's poem about a roundabout.)  Like Week 47's little book Sadie... Maxie is another tiny (1-inch by 1-inch) accordion book that is made as a luggage rack for another tiny cardboard car. The car is covered in floral print Japanese paper, with collaged-on paper headlights and windshields. The little book was digitally printed with 10-point Times New Roman font on text paper, then folded accordion-style. Its board covers are covered in fusha, orange, and gold-printed paper from Nepal.

Maxie's car, Tulip, on title page of The Roundabout Waltz
A black paper luggage rack glued to the top of the car holds the little book in place. On the bottom of the car is a velcro disk for affixing the car to any of the 5 rotating roundabout signs in the big book, The Roundabout Waltz. 

 Maxie.. off the luggage rack and opened to its title page
This is the story of Maxie in the Roundabout Waltz...

   Maxie’s car is named Tulip. Tulip is a 17-year old Subaru Outback with 220 K miles and a bad muffler. Maxie is a 60-year-old artist with two grown kids, a husband who likes sports, and a cat named Charlemagne. She’s painted flowers all over Tulip in order to hide the rust (and the dents.)
   Inside, Tulip is filled to the roof with Maxie's art supplies…and other things. Paints and papers, stacks of empty yogurt cups, fabric scraps, old T-shirts and sheets she’s collected for rags, and an easel, two Dremel tools (with boards), the cat crate, sandpaper, a bag of books for the used book store, maps, her water bottle, last week’s lunch (uneaten), the mail, recycling (for the dump), a stack of mat board, a stack of card board, wooden dowels, towels, bits of scrap iron, and wax paper, a box of laundry detergent, a pair of eyeglasses, a pair of sunglasses, a tube of hand cream, a brush. On the back seat floor are some flakes of mica, bits of moss, lichen, rocks, pieces of driftwood, some shells, and a box of Kleenex. 
   Maxie can’t really see out of Tulip’s back window so she uses her breaks a lot! That way, if anyone’s behind her, they’ll be on guard and not run into her if she needs to make a sudden stop. Maxie slows down for the roundabout at Hillsboro Street and Pullen Road; pumping her breaks 5 or 6 times. She knows about roundabouts. She saw them when she took an art workshop in France five years ago. 
   As she nears the roundabout, she grips the steering wheel and opens her eyes wide, getting ready to enter. Her Hawaiian-print drugstore glasses slip down her nose and her gray bangs fall in her eyes, tickling her face. She sees a gap in the circle of cars ahead. She hits the gas as Tulip barrels into the loop of cars. In the same motion, everything in the car shifts as Tulip lurches forward and then tilts to the right. 
   On the dashboard, Maxi’s favorite coffee mug takes a flying leap towards the back of the car. From the corner of her eye, Maxie watches as it lands facedown in the middle of the front passenger seat. She watches the dregs of her morning coffee seep into the tan seat cushion and marvels at the spreading stain. She smells the aroma of her French roast coffee... with half cup of cream.. knowing it’ll really be rich tomorrow!
                                                The End

the accordion book, Maxie, coming out of Tulip's luggage rack

   When Maxie isn't being read, it can be placed in the little car's luggage rack and parked on the stationary roundabout sign on the front cover of The Roundabout Waltz.. along with the other little car and book Sadie.

Maxie and Sadie in The Roundabout Waltz