Archive for the ‘books’ Category

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Gone to the Dogs at SeaStrands Studio

I have just posted a review of Gwen Diehn’s excellent book on journal design, construction and use in the afore-mentioned blog. The link to that review is here:

Review: Real Life Journals: Designing & Using Handmade Books, by Gwen Diehn.

Please swing by and have a look. It’s a book worth getting to know.

Also, please update you RSS feeds and links to reflect my new location!!


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I was cruising CBC today and saw fellow craft council member Tara Bryan’s name jump out at me from the from page of the website. Her work is amazing and she’s an incredibly talented, well-spoken and intriguing person with whom to chat. I had the pleasure of being in the booth next to her at the Anna Templeton Christmas Sale over the weekend and can vouch for her talent, of which I am in constant awe.

Even cooler is that she lives just up the coast a little from me, in Flatrock, Newfoundland.

For a look at her creations (and a glimpse into the mind of the artist), check out her website!

Congrats on the article, Tara!

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I'm currently working on (among other things) an accordion-style book that is attached on both ends to its cover, the inside of which forms the background to the piece.

Since that description's about as clear as mud I'll clarify. The pages are attached to each other and, when compacted, pleat like an accordion or concertina. The string of pages is attached on either end to the front edges of the front and back covers. While the covers are standard, rectangular book covers, the pages are not standard shapes. A continuous strip of ground runs along the bottom of all the pages. Emerging from this intermittently are standing stones. There is no sky or edging to each page (apart from the bottom), so the stones are standing freely and not touching each other. The insides of the cover will be decorated with the background for the stones, with a hillside, sky and smaller, more distant stones making up the design. The overall effect is of stones emerging from the book. When opened, the book will be able to stand on a flat surface and the stones will form a ring.

I've got the fabrics selected and the cover partially done. The stones have been drafted and are under construction. I'm using fusibles to layer slivers for texture and shadows on the background rock fabric. The resulting stones will be heavier than your average piece of fabric, but still quite floppy. They'll be backed with night sky fabric,I think. not quite sure on this yet. I was thinking either of night sky fabrics with star formations and constellations, sky fabric to match the background sky fabric or possibly some other fabric on which I could write. Still leaning towards the first two.

Anyway, I'm currently wrestling with how to stiffen the stones and ground so that they don't flop or twist. It's turning out to be trickier than I thought it'd be. Heavy-duty stabiliser isn't enough. Neither plastic canvas nor template plastic are quite sufficient. I was thinking about acid-free matte board, foam core or possibly corrugated plastic. Anyone have any suggestions? I'm hoping to use something that will remain stiff over time, is acid free, will not discolour fabrics or leech into them and also that will not warp in humid weather.

I'll make up an entry on stabilisers and stiffeners from any info received….

Thus far I have the following possibilities:

  • plastic canvas
  • fusible stabiliser
  • corrugated plastic (is somewhat thick)
  • matte board
  • template plastic
  • plastic canvas
  • old board books (note – not acid free)

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I spent this morning putting the finishing touches on the most recent book…

Primary construction is cotton fabrics and assorted threads. The pages are stabilised with Pellon heavy-weight stabiliser (not super heavy weight, just plaint heavy) and the covers are stabilised additionally with the pages from an old kids' board book. I found the cover on the last book flopped too much when used with a Coptic binding. 

This tome is wrapped in an organza book cloth, which I think adds a nice touch. The tassel is silk, hand-dyed embroidery thread and the bead is glass.

book in book cloth

The front cover features a panel made with foam, glue and paint, the combined effect of which is a metallic, embossed surface, without the weight and corrosion problems that can go with metals.


It's bound with a Coptic binding and the holes are reinforced with rivets this time. Bought a scrap-booking riveting tool and really like the effect. I also made leather clasps:


The clasps fasten like buttons, using glass beads: 

cover detail

The edging on the front and back covers looks quite red in these photos, but it's really more of a wine-magenta mixture. These pieces were added both to enlarge the cover so that it extended past the pages and to accentuate the clasps.

And here's the inside! Page one and the inside cover:

inside front cover, pg 1

Pages 2 & 3:

pg 2

Pages 4 & 5:  

pg 3

Pages 6 & 7: 

pg 4

Pages 8 & 9:

pg 5

Pages 10 & 11:

pg 6

Pages 12 & 13:

pg 7

Pages 14 & 15:

pg 8

Pages 16 & 17:

pg 9

Pages 18 & 19: 

pg 10
Page 20 and inside back cover:

pg 11

Back cover: 

back cover 2
back cover

Apologies for the pictures. I realise they're not the greatest, but my tripod is elsewhere and I wanted to get the book up and on the blog. 🙂

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Nearing completion

page 1
I'm getting close to done on this book. I did put it aside for a while and worked on a few other things, mainly because my brain needed a rest from the mental juggling that is involved in planning and preparing a book of this sort.

The first book wasn't so tricky. I did up pages and, after they were done, decided which were to be attached back-to-back and in what direction they would fold. The order was intuitive (that's an artsy word for haphazard), but seems to have worked.

Yes, it's upside down. It backs onto the picture following it!

page 2
This book is slightly different. there are ten pages and it'll be a coptic binding again. This time I made the covers stiffer and the pages larger. The major difference, though, is that there are windows through the pages throughout the book. Sounds cool, right?

What it actually means is that each page that has a window must be backed with a page that also has a corresponding window, reversed. Everything has to line up. The edges of the windows have to be finished in some fashion. Even more importantly, the views throught the windows have to justify the apertures and the openings have to be incorporated into the page layout, overall design and construction process. It's been…. fun. Definitely educational, but I had to take a break for a while because I was going stark raving mad trying to keep track of it all. I had gotten to the point at which each step taken entailed changing something which caused a ripple-effect throughout. What stopped me was not knowing what to do next that wouldn't cause adverse effects.

So it sat on the design boards for a while. I am now back at it and think I can finish it this week. The pieces have settled in my mind and I can now see my way again. The pictures are rotten, but you can sort of see where this is headed.

I really need to work on easier projects for a bit….

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On March 6th, my sister-in-law Heather sent me an email about a book called "Living the Artist's Life" by Paul Dorrell. Specifically, she sent me an email telling me that they were giving away FREE copies to bloggers and had just extended the offer to locations outside of the continental United States.

A sentence containing the words "free", "book" and "artist" was impossible for me to pass on and I dashed off an email to them, never suspecting that I might actually be among the first seventy people or so to do so. I simply assume that everyone is like me and, upon hearing the words "free book" will start salivating, twitching and frenetically typing an email request. Apparently not everyone has the same reaction. Weird.

So the publisher sent me a copy which I received on my birthday (excellent timing, folks!). I spent a couple of evenings perusing and digesting and have to say that it was a fascinating read. While it left me with few major revelations and told me very little that I didn't already know or suspect, it performed the all-important function of affirming for me that my take on my life and that of others in this profession is close to the mark.

We do what we do because we simply cannot stop doing it without losing a piece of our beings. In persisting as artists, we struggle with money, relationships, self-esteem, other commitments, money, family & friends, public perception, self-esteem, money and feelings of futility. Did I mention self-esteem and money? Dorrell resolves the great paradox that artists face each day; we persist in a life of frustration because we can't bloody stop. (Sometimes it feels like you're whacking yourself on the head so that, eventually, you'll get it right and be able to hit that perfect spot that won't hurt. In the meanwhile.. ouch.) Our work can obsess us, infuriate us, elate us and deflate us. Sometimes the bad feeling outweigh the good. We run this gamut, sometimes monthly, sometimes daily, and constantly question why the hell we do what we do. Then we go back and do it again. And trust me, it's not for the money.

Dorrell writes frankly and candidly, without pulling punches or hiding the unsightly. It was a profound relief to read this, in the way that having any major suspicion about your life confirmed is a relief. Kind of like being told that you weren't imagining things, that you really do have a disease of some sort. At least you know what it is, that you are (within the realm of your abilities and personality) "normal" and, to some degree, what you can do to keep going. Nothing helps misery like knowing that it will end. Trust me. Women who have given birth know these sorts of things. Dorrell's own life, experiences and trials are presented with a candor that allows the reader to evaluate his or her own life and recognise similarities and merciful differences. Don't disparage the, "I'm so glad that's not me," Syndrome; sometimes you'll take whatever gets you through the night.

The business info in the book was written mostly from an anecdotal perspective; Dorrell presents the system that he and his artists use that has evolved from years of trial and error. It's presented as a take-it-or-leave-it pool of experience, in which he gives examples of what has worked for him and tells why. There's info about how to do up a curriculum vitae, portfolio, artist's statement, biography and other forms of material presentation. He covers how to deal with the press and it was interesting to see how much what he said jived with Craig Welsh's excellent four-part series on How to Pitch to an Entertainment Writer.

Dorrell's reflections on art fairs, juried shows and soliciting a relationship with a gallery are good and solid. What is refreshing is how he is able to alternate between his role as a gallery owner and art consultant and his own personal forays into the world of the creative spirit as a writer. When he discusses portfolios, he is able to pinpoint what will draw the eye and interest of a gallery owner. His role as an art consultant allows him to recognise that not all artists are starting from the same point of departure and some will have more content for such a portfolio than will others.

He touches on just about all aspects of life as an artist, from the miseries to the commissions, promotions and dealing with clients. His own personal examples and the examples of the lives of other artists with whom he works serve to illustrate at once the diversity of experience of artists and the sameness of certain facets of life through which all artists seem to pass.

All told, it was a good book and one that I will read and reread periodically for a refresher on the basics and an affirmation that I'm on the right track. Worth a read, especially if you periodically suffer from misdirection, a fundamental questioning of the path your work is taking (or even its basic validity) or a desire to crack a window into the life of artists everywhere.

As an addendum, Dorrell himself is a writer, and recognises that much of what he says about the psychological aspects of the life of an artist extend into artistry with words.

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I picked this book up last night by grace of the generosity of friends. It's one I've heard raved and rhapsodised about on several listservs, discussion groups and blogs. Perhaps because of this, I delayed buying it for a bit. Silly, I realise, but I tend to shy away from trends almost instinctively. Perhaps it's because there can be a sameness to the work of people who use the same books as road maps. It may be that I simply have a good bit of teenage rebellion left unchecked. Most probably, it's just my heel-digging reluctance to jump on bandwagons. (As a side note, have you ever noticed how people jump on bandwagons and fall off wagons? Is there a correlation?)

Now that I have the book, though, I will say that it's worth having. More than that, I will kick myself for not having bought it earlier.

This book is not a how-to. It's not a limited notion of how to construct and embellish fabric books. It's a toolbox of ways and means of performing techniques that could be used in fabric books. They could equally be used in personal shrines, wallhangings and heaven knows what else. It is fabulous, though, to have them pulled together.

For instance, there's an entire section on ways of putting text in a book. If you're stuck for inspiration on how to finish the edges of a page or wallhanging, there's a full section on the possibilities, complete with pictures so that you can see what the resulting effect might be.

The photos are good. The text is well-written and full of additional possibilities and inspiration. In effect, it lays out the basics of embellishing a fabric book and then gives you the tools to continue along yourown merry path of creativity.

There's plenty of eye candy, a number of references to excellent web resources and a long list of where to get materials and supplies. The section on materials to use at the beginning of the book discusses what to use, when and why. Most importantly, from my perspective, is that it doesn't rely on huge quantities of expensive stuff or equipment. In fact, there's a section devoted to making a book on a budget and incorporating everyday items.

If I were recommending a book on making fabric books to anyone, I'd send them in the direction of this book AND Fabric Art Journals by Pam Sussman. The Art of Fabric Books excels at the pages, their layout and embellishment, while Sussman's book does a bang-up job on codicology (book structure and construction). They are different, yet complementary works and the combination is as good an introduction as one could ever hope for and then some!

Synopsis: Absolutely worth buying, if you have any interest at all in either art quilting or fabric books. 

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