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?  

A pack rat's nest

I'm sure I've mentioned a few times that I'm a bit of a pack rat.  I save scraps of leather that are too small for book covers.  I find ways to make even the tiniest bits of paper useful.  And I even save pieces of leftover thread.

I hate the feeling of running out of thread just as I'm about to finish the binding of a Coptic journal or a Japanese stab bound photo album.  And it's so much easier to tie a final knot to complete a book when you have some extra thread to work with.  So I usually cut a bit more thread than I'll need when working on a more complex binding.  But as a result, I'm left with short -- but still potentially useful -- pieces of thread.  I've been saving these bits of thread for months in a colorful nest-like pile thinking they'd be perfect for sewing little pamphlet books, and this weekend I dove into my stash and made a bunch of new booklets.

Each of the books has a different decorative paper for the cover (all coming from my box full of leftover papers, of course).  You might recognize some of these papers from previous custom orders or books in my etsy shop.  These little books are perfectly pocket-sized, and small enough to fit inside an envelope to send to a friend as a little "just because" gift.  I'll be bringing all of these little pamphlet books with me to Athens, GA this weekend for the Athens Indie Craftstravaganzaa.  And soon I'll be selling them in my etsy shop in little color-coordinated bundles.  

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.  

Win a little leather book

My journals made from a pair of red suede pants have been incredibly popular online and at art shows, and now you have a chance to win one.

Elena, one of my good friends from high school, is hosting the giveaway on her fashion blog called caffeinerd. (PS- Elena got engaged last week to an ultra-talented photographer. Congratulations to them both!) You can enter the contest right here, now through Tuesday, December 7. To enter, just leave a comment on her blog mentioning your favorite item from my etsy shop. And for three extra chances to win, you can sign up for my newsletter, follow my blog, or become a fan on facebook. Good luck!

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.

New papers and thread

The past year has been an eventful one. The process of planning a wedding was certainly not lacking in creativity, but it also included a fair amount of stress. I designed save-the-date cards, invitations, menus, programs, and announcements. The invitations were even hand bound into mini books — no small task, for sure. And I letterpress printed and hand bound our guest book as well. After returning from the wedding and honeymoon, I took a few months to relax and rebound, and as a result my art making slowed.

But 2010 has started off right. I am off to a fresh start, and I have some cheerful new materials to incorporate into my work. The photo above shows some decorative papers that I selected on a trip to Paper Source in Washington DC a few months ago. And the bookbinders thread below came from Oblation Papers & Press, a delightful store that Tony and I visited on our honeymoon in Portland, Oregon.

Throughout the past few weeks, I've already put some of these papers and threads to good use. I have several new books that I'm looking forward to showcasing in the upcoming days, and many more books in the works. Please stay tuned for new posts, as well as the upcoming launch of my Etsy store.