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?  

Anniversaries, the traditional way

Earlier this month my husband and I celebrated our two-year wedding anniversary. We exchanged gifts made of cotton. Last year, we exchanged gifts made from paper. 

We've decided that we're going to follow the year-by-year categories of traditional wedding gifts. Since I'm a bookmaker, I was especially excited about year one's paper gifts and that's probably why we started off with the tradition. I think the themes make the gift giving so much fun. The materials give us a place to start with the gift-giving brainstorming, and then we get to come up with a contemporary idea to fit within the traditional boundaries.

Last year, Tony surprised me with a little handbound book made by Ruth Bleakley. The book features hand-drawn jellyfish illustrations, which was especially fitting because jellyfish are some of my favorite creatures and they often appear in my own artwork. (Ruth is a book artist and illustrator living in Cape Cod. To see more of her work, visit her etsy shop or her blog.)

I know I've mentioned before that my husband loves maps. (He couldn't resist getting one of the East Nashville maps at Porter Flea a few weeks ago.) So for his paper gift last year, I got him a silkscreened world map from These Are Things. We also own their map of Europe, so between all of these we have quite the map theme developing in our home decor. 

This year, the theme was cotton. Tony picked out a bird pillow for me, which is now adding a lively splash of color in our new living room. The pillow was made by Janae Easton of Platypusfile, who I met back in May at the Athens Indie Craftstravaganzaa. Each of her bird pillows is made from vibrant fabrics and a vintage button, and each one is named after an opera singer. My bird's name is Josella Ligi. 

I got my husband two cotton t-shirts from Out of Print. I settled on the To Kill a Mockingbird and The Catcher in the Rye shirts, because I liked their designs best, they are some of our favorite classic novels, and because we read them together in high school back when we first started dating. The shirts from Out of Print are based on book cover designs, and with each shirt sale they donate a book to a community in need. 

Next year our theme will be leather. I've already got my eye on these lovely handmade leather bags...

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

Fold, tear, glue, and sew

I recently taught a two-day bookmaking workshop at the Shenandoah Valley Art Center, and I wanted to share a few photos from the class.  Aside from casually teaching a few friends how to make some simple book structures, this was my first time teaching a class and everything went incredibly well.  

Before the class, I talked my husband and our friend into being guinea pigs for me as I practiced teaching the four binding structures I was planning to teach in the class and got a feel for how long it would take my students to make their own books.  I also cut down all of the bookboard, bookcloth, decorative paper, and leather ahead of time that we would need in the class.  This was a smart move because it saved a ton of time during the actual class, and allowed us to dive right into the fun part without worrying too much about measurements. 

I started off the first class with a little show-and-tell.  I brought in my collection of handbound books, both made by myself and other bookbinders I admire (like erinzam and minusplusminus), to inspire my students about the possibilities of bookbinding.  

Then we started creating ourselves by making two accordion books, while learning the basics of paper grain and folding and tearing paper.  The first book was a structure similar to this style, where the softcover books are assembled without adhesive or stitching.  Next, we took it a step further and created a double concertina book with a hard cover, like this

Day two of the class focused on sewn structures.  First we made a simple one-signature pamphlet book to get the sewing basics down.  Then we made Italian long-stitch books with leather covers, which were certainly more complicated but also more rewarding when completed.  You can see examples of my students' books in the photos directly above and below.  I've heard from several students who have continued to make a few books since the class, including one who just learned the Coptic stitch!  It was so much fun for me to introduce some new people to the world of handbound books.  

Flashback Friday: "Cortona Clothesline" concertina

This week's Flashback Friday is a book that involves two different printmaking techniques, applique, embroidery, and, of course, bookbinding. As the title "Cortona Clothesline" suggests, the inspiration for this book came from my summer spent in Cortona, Italy. I began to love the daily sight of hanging laundry on lines strung from Tuscan mountainside homes. When I returned stateside, I channeled the imagery into my artwork.

These photos were taken in the courtyard behind the historic building where I lived in Cortona. After hand-washing our clothes, we would hang them here to blow in the breeze until dry. Can you imagine a more beautiful setting for laundry? When in Italy, even something as mundane as laundry day can create inspiration for years to come.

On both sides of the cotton rag paper that I used for the pages, I layered ink using the monoprint technique to create an expressive blend of rich blues and greens, inspired by the Italian countryside. I then transferred my drawings of women's garments to a woodblock to be carved. The woodblock was coated with a transparent blue ink and printed atop the monoprint background. Next came the hand sewing of yellow embroidery thread to represent the clothesline.

The book is bound in the concertina, or accordion, style. To create the covers, I cut out the shape of a dress from blue fabric and appliqued it onto green fabric. I hand-stitched clothespins and the line on the cover as well. This book is one in an edition of eight books. Each is unique, using different colors of ink and thread.

This copy of "Cortona Clothesline" is currently for sale in my Etsy shop.

A colorful quilt from mismatched scraps

Aside from a quilted Christmas stocking that I made as a kid (and which still adorns my parents' fireplace each December), I'd never done much quilting. Nor did I have much of an interest to. But during college I was blow away by the Gee's Bend quilts, and I also started doing more sewing of my own (thanks to this lovely book). When I saw that a quilting class was being offered through the local parks and rec department this spring, I jumped at the chance to take my sewing hobby to a new level.

On the first day of the class, I brought a bunch of colorful fabrics with me. Some were leftover scraps from previous sewing projects, some were given to me by a friend, and some were purchased at a fabric boutique on my honeymoon. I paired the mismatched prints together and hoped for the best.

In the end, I'm incredibly pleased with how it turned out. I finished most of the quilt during the four-week class, but I finally took the time to complete the hand-sewn binding (made from leftover fabric from my craft fair table cloths!) this weekend. Seeing it all put together is such a wonderful feeling, and the colors and patterns just feel so "me." I can't wait to use this quilt as a colorful wall hanging in our apartment, and maybe sometime in the (very distant) future it will get some use as a baby blanket.

After finishing my very first quilt, I feel inspired to keep quilting. I plan to participate in Rainbow Around the Block, a volunteer project aiming to provide quilts for families who lost their homes during the recent flooding in Tennessee. People from all over the country are making 12 x 12 quilted squares and sending them in to textile artist Anna Maria Horner. I'll be sure to post pictures of my squares here as I get started.

My upcycled shirtsleeve wine bags

There's a great little shop in downtown Waynesboro that features a rotating assortment of wine and beer (especially local varieties) and unique gifts. River City Art & Wine Emporium is one of my favorite shops, and is definitely a highlight of a slowly regenerating downtown. And every other Friday, they host a wine tasting that Tony and I usually try to attend.

Earlier this week, I stopped by to meet with the owner about selling some of my work in the shop. I couldn't be happier about her enthusiastic response. She wanted me to bring by some of my work right away because she's expecting a busy weekend (the city is hosting a fly fishing festival tomorrow). I currently have two handbound photo albums and five of my sewn wine bags for sale. The wine bags are made from upcycled shirtsleeves, and I made the coordinating gift tags from extra pieces of fabric from the shirts.

Upstairs in my studio, I have a stack of about 20 cut-off sleeves ready to be turned into wine bags. And I'm looking forward to another thrift store trip to sift through racks of men's dress shirts in hopes of finding some new gems. I'll also be posting photos soon of the albums I have for sale in the shop.

River City Art & Wine Emporium

407 West Main Street, Waynesboro, VA
Tuesday - Saturday: 11 am - 6 pm