Feeling creatively refreshed

Over the past year, the linenlaid&felt studio has been a busy place. I've been working on new projects, experimenting with new ideas, and learning new techniques. And while I've spent lots of time making, I've spent less time blogging. But I'm aiming to change that, because I just have so much to share. 

Embroidery sampler on handmade paper by Claudia Lee.

Embroidery sampler on handmade paper by Claudia Lee.

I teach several bookbinding classes and workshops each semester in Nashville, but I've also decided to take more classes myself. Over the past year, I've brushed up on my papermaking skills, tried my hand at making marbled paper, learned some traditional bookbinding techniques, and made handmade paper boxes

Each of these classes have helped to give me a new perspective on my work, and I plan to write about them all in more detail. But for now, I want to start off with the most recent workshop that I took. 

A work-in-progress: The handmade paper box I made during Claudia Lee's workshop.

A work-in-progress: The handmade paper box I made during Claudia Lee's workshop.

I recently spent a weekend with Claudia Lee learning to make an elaborate box out of handmade paper. Working with materials I use on a daily basis — handmade paper and waxed linen thread — I made something quite different. My box (once it's complete) will be a place to store all of my bookbinding tools, elaborately decorated with embroidery and collage. 

Despite an entire weekend of stitching, my handmade box is still a work in progress. But I truly enjoyed the process of selecting color schemes, creating small compositions on each panel, and hand-sewing detailed patterns. Each surface of the box (including the bottom and the inside), is embellished with some sort stitching or design. It's a time-intensive, detail-oriented, and tedious undertaking — which happens to be right up my alley. 

Handmade paper boxes by Claudia Lee.

Handmade paper boxes by Claudia Lee.

At the end of the workshop, I felt invigorated, inspired, and creatively refreshed. And really, what could be better than that?  

From sketching to screenprinting: A unique Coptic bookbinding project

handmade books screenprinted by Katie Gonzalez
It's no secret that I'm enamored with decorative and handmade papers. After all, the name of my studio, linenlaid&felt, is all about paper textures: linen, which is embossed with distinctive weaves; laid, which features impressed lines; and felt, with its mottled texture.

However, even with all of the gorgeous papers that are available, some patterns do surface often in bookbinding. That's why I'm so excited to share one of my recent projects.

I wanted to create something really unique, that no other book artist would have. I wanted to create my own patterned papers. This would allow me to bind books with all of the materials purposefully chosen, right down to patterns that I illustrated and printed by hand.

Inspired by a recent exhibit at The Frist Center in Nashville, I completed a series of sketches, followed by inked illustrations, then screenprinting onto papers and leathers, and finally books bound with those materials. A handful of these unique books are now available in my Etsy shop.

Here's a look at the process, step by step.

Aztec pattern sketch from Frist Center
Step One: Sketching
Inspiration first struck during a visit to the Frist's Art of the Ancient Americas exhibit. I think I've always enjoyed ancient art more than most friends my age, perhaps because of the incredible collection that I grew up visiting at the Art Institute of Chicago.

After seeing the exhibit and a guided tour one time, I returned with my sketchbook (yes, one that I made by hand) and got to work on some sketches. I captured some shapes from Peru, took interest in a ceramic llama, and took a few turns drawing some Mexican homes. Ultimately, an Aztec pottery pattern was among many inspirations blended into patterns.

ancient patterns by bookbinder Katie Gonzalez
Step Two: Ink illustrations
On the day I pulled out my India Ink it didn't take long for every surface in my studio to become filled with illustrations that needed to dry. For some, I worked meticulously with a pencil grid, but for others, I worked very quickly, making slashes, dotted and dashed lines, and vaguely organic shapes.

screenprinted handmade papers
Step Three: Screenprinting
If you've never screenprinted before, I can briefly describe the process. First, I turned my inked illustrations into transparencies using a photocopier. The transparency is then placed onto one of the fine mesh screens used by printers, which has been treated with light-sensitive emulsion. The screen is then exposed to light, which burns the pattern into the screen. When it comes time to print, ink can only pass through the areas you've chosen based on your pattern.

I took care to mix my own inks in colors to coordinate with all of the handmade Lokta papers that I brought into the print studio for this project.

I printed nearly 100 sheets and also dabbled with screenprinting onto leather.

screenprinted handmade journal by Katie Gonzalez
Step Four: Binding
Once I had all of these materials at hand, I had a lot of momentum to begin binding. I also used this as an opportunity to sift through my paper collection to explore color combinations. I also decided to use the four-needle Coptic binding style, which allows for two thread colors along the spine, and a chance to go even further with color schemes while quite literally bringing everything together.

I'm excited to use these screenprinted papers in the future. For now, I've bound four Coptic books with the screenprinted papers, and four with screenprinted leather covers. I hope you'll take a look at each one in the shop and share them with friends!

A sweet gray and yellow baby book

Handmade book with Japanese stab binding and floral print

If you've been looking around lately (hint, hint, on Pinterest) you're probably familiar with "grellow." That's the chic gray and yellow combination that's as popular in home decor as in fashion. This book takes that scheme and glams it up with silver accents in one of my favorite handmade papers.

Floral print paper handmade book

This baby book was made for a little girl named Zoe, and in my opinion, she has one of the prettiest baby books around.  The paper used for the covers was made in India from natural plant materials, and was printed with a yellow floral pattern.  Depending on the way the light hits the book, the silver outline around the flowers shimmers.  The hinged spine edge of the book is covered with a grey linen bookcloth that I made myself, and the book is sewn together with a sunshine yellow ribbon using the Japanese stab binding. 

Custom handmade baby book

I designed the pages of the book to coordinate with the yellow and gray color scheme, and handmade photo corners are attached to each photo spot so pictures can easily be added to the book.  There are pages for Zoe's parents to record all of the important details, starting with pregnancy memories and baby showers, and spanning through the delivery, her baptism, important milestones, and holidays. There are also pages for a family tree, for handprints and footprints, and for Zoe to write a message to the future on her fifth birthday. 

Handmade baby book

Handmade baby book family tree

Japanese stab binding with ribbon

Made with love for my dad

Today is my dad's birthday, so it seems like as good a time as any to share some more details about the photo album that I gave him for Christmas.  

My dad started to get interested in photography back when I was in high school taking some photography classes.  I taught him some of the basics, and he started incorporating the rule of thirds into almost all of his pictures (including lots of off-centered pictures of me at graduation).  But since then, he has become a really talented photographer with a great eye for capturing unusual sites around the historic city of Charleston, South Carolina.

Each time I would come to visit, my dad would pull out his camera and to show me his latest pictures.  I'd flip through one by one admiring his work on the tiny camera display screen and wonder why he never made prints of any of his photos.  Showing them off in this way just didn't do the pictures justice, so I decided that he needed a better way to display them.

After I gave him the book, my husband and I helped my dad pick out all of his favorite photos and we added them to the book with photo corners. He's taken some great photos like the one above where he chose to photograph the back of a statue, or some complex reflected images inspired by my photos of store window reflections.  I'm glad that he now has a proper way to display his pictures, and I'm sure he'll soon be ready for a companion album to store his newest shots. 

Paper samples

When it comes to placing a custom order, picking out the decorative papers for the covers of the book is one of the most important decisions.

At any given time, I have dozens of different papers in my studio.  I order small quantities of each to keep my work fresh and original, and my paper stash is always changing.  

Here I've shared a sampling of the papers I currently have in stock. Hopefully this selection can serve as a starting point if you're considering placing a custom book order.  And of course, if you don't see what you like here I can always search for something that's more to your liking. 

Please note: Due to availability from my paper suppliers, I may be unable to order more of certain papers shown here. Please e-mail me if you have any questions about available papers: linenlaidfelt {at} gmail {dot} com.

Inspired in Athens

While I was in Athens, GA for the Athens Indie Craftstravaganzaa I had the chance to meet some extremely talented and inspiring artists.  And I'm always looking for ways to improve my own booth set up, so it was also nice to see such engaging booth designs.  I've featured a few of my favorites here, ranging from fabric design to pottery, that all really appealed to my love of bright colors and bold patterns.

Sara Lee Parker
These first two images show the work of Sara Lee Parker, who designs her own patterns and handprints them in rural Georgia with the help of her husband.  I first came across her work on Design Sponge back in January, and was thrilled to see it in person at the show in Athens. Her display was absolutely gorgeous; it was eye-catching yet simple and allowed her work to shine.  Check out her website here and her visit her etsy shop to pick up some lovely handprinted notecards or textiles. 

I was a huge fan of the Platypusfile booth.  Janae Easton of Tallahassee makes these amazing one-of-a-kind bird pillows from vibrant patterned fabrics and adds a vintage button as the bird's eye for a finishing touch. She also makes necklaces from small pieces of fabric, and displayed them resting on an open book.  It was such a nice experience to walk into Janae's booth and to be surrounded by her cheerful aesthetic. For a similar experience, visit her etsy shop and be sure to check out her mini bird paperweights.     

Jeanette Zeis Ceramics
Jeanette makes cupcake stands and cake stands that would be perfect for weddings or other celebrations, and she also makes some adorable berry bowls. She even has a special line of vegan pottery.  Her booth was just a few away from mine in Athens so I had the pleasure of glancing at her work often throughout the day.  For more information, visit her website and online shop

Liddabits Design Shop
Liz Jahn (the designer behind Liddabits) and I met while studying graphic design at the University of Georgia.  She was a semester ahead of me and I always really admired her work, especially the series of wrapping paper designs that she created as part of her senior thesis show.  Liz launched her etsy shop earlier this year and it's been refreshing to reconnect as two small business owners.  Plus, it was fun to catch up in person at the Athens Indie Craftstravaganzaa in our college town.  Liz's shop features her custom banners (perfect for birthday parties and weddings), and she also designs stationary and custom invitations.  And if you still need a father's day card, she has some great options in her shop. 

Jordan Grace Owens
I really enjoyed chatting with Jordan when I stopped by her booth.  She's an illustrator based in Greensboro, NC and she was selling quirky magnets, pins, and paper dolls.  I was drawn to her work when I saw it, but it wasn't until I was back home and perusing her website that I realized that I'd come across her work before.  On a trip to Greensboro not too long ago, we stopped by a coffee shop downtown called the Green Bean where some of Jordan's work was on display.  If you'd like to pick up a paper doll for yourself (or even a personalized one!) be sure to visit her online shop

Congratulations, Braeden and Chika!

It's been a while since I've shared a custom book here, with all the blogging I've been doing lately about teaching workshops and exhibiting at craft shows. But I'm thrilled to show this custom wedding album that I created for Braeden and Chika, who got married last week. 

The couple has been living in Japan, but flew back to the US for their wedding. Coincidentally, my best friend and her fiance have been living in Japan since last year, and they'll also be coming back to the US to tie the knot later this month. (I'll be making a book for their wedding too, using one of the marbled papers shown here.)

I used a chiyogami paper printed with a cherry blossom pattern for the covers, and the book is bound using the Japanese stab binding technique. The first page features a space for Braeden and Chika to display one of their wedding photos, as well as some flower illustrations created by me. 

They also wanted to include the phrase "The best memories are made with the best people" on the opening page. What a fitting sentiment for a wedding album. My wedding day was truly one of the best days of my life, and a huge part of that was being able to spend the day with all of my favorite people. My friends and family live all over the globe, and it was amazing to have everyone I care about in the same place at the same time for one special weekend. I hope Braeden and Chika had a similar experience and were able to celebrate with everyone who means the most to them.

Braeden and Chika were planning to have a photo booth at their wedding, so they wanted a guest book that would double as a photo album to hold the photos taken of their guests. Each page of the book has space for two 4x6 photos. I made more than 300 photo corners by hand to hold all of the photos in place. The photo corners were made from the same brown cherry blossom paper that was used for the covers of the book. There is space beside each photo for guests to write a message to the bride and groom.

I'm so pleased with the way all of the details came together for this book. I love the delicate design of the pages, the one-of-a-kind photo corners, and the soft edges of the paper created by tearing each page by hand. I hope Braeden and Chika are as happy with the result as I am, and that this book will be a cherished keepsake from their wedding day for years to come. 

Sneak peek from the studio

This book likely hasn't arrived at it's new home yet, so I don't want to share photos of the completed book now and ruin the excitement. But I couldn't resist sharing a few photos taken in my studio while working on this custom baby book.

All of the pages were designed by me, and include spaces to record special memories and envelopes to preserve keepsakes. I even created handmade photo corners using the same paper used for the cover, so the parents-to-be can fill the pages of the book with photos once their little girl arrives.

New Coptic-bound journal sizes

If you've been checking out my Etsy shop and facebook page lately, you might have noticed that I've introduced some new sizes into my product line. Throughout most of 2010, my sizes consisted of the large square, the medium vertical, and the mini. I've since started making my Coptic journals (which are also perfect for wedding guest books or sketchbooks) in three new sizes.

Sometimes it can be a little tricky to pick out the right size when shopping online, so I wanted to take a few photos showing all of my sizes that you can use for comparison. Hopefully this helps, and if I can answer any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. The dimensions of my journals are listed below.

Sizes of Coptic bound journals:
Large Square --- 8" x 8"
Large --- 6" x 9"
Medium --- 5" x 6.5"
Medium Horizontal --- 6.5" x 5"
Small --- 3" x 4.5"
Mini --- 2.5" x 3.5"

Which size do you like best? How would you use one of my handbound journals in your favorite size?

Mission accomplished

If you remember back to my first post of 2011, I made a New Years resolution to make at least 20 books per month. Knowing how busy I've been lately, I was a little worried that this goal might be too lofty and that I wouldn't have enough time to make all the books I'd planned to. But somehow I managed not only to reach, but to surpass this goal.

During the month of January I made the 32 books pictured here, in addition to two custom books which I will feature on my blog soon. I made 13 Coptic-bound journals (which also work well for wedding guest books and sketchbooks), five Italian Long-stitch books, and a slew of pamphlets, softcover concertina notebooks, and hardcover sculptural concertina books.

About half of these books are bound for a few local shops that sell my work, and the others will be listed in my Etsy shop over the next week.

I'm already looking forward to the books I plan to make in February. I'll be focusing on making more Italian long-stitch books with suede, leather, and cardstock covers. I'll also be making some new photo albums, which sold out during the holidays.