Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I'd like to pose a similar question about raking those golden leaves. Is it more efficient to wait until every single leaf from the tree is down and rake them all at once, or better to do it a little at a time?
You can see that my neighbor and I have a different answer to this question:
Sunday, October 28, 2007
What that meant for our autumnal parade of trees was minimal color (the trees need moisture all summer to produce their fall brilliance) with a trade-off of longer than normal "hang time" for the leaves. That is, no one has been raking much yet.
We had our first real freeze last night...approximately 20 days later than normal...and I walked outside this morning to hear an unusual sound. I stood under a maple tree and watched the tree release all of the yellow leaves that it had been hanging onto until the cold came. I was literally in the midst of a shower of gold. And the sound? Up and down the street was the gentle dry whisper of all of our neighborhood trees letting go.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
So I'm now in serious production mode: the dining room table has been cleared ...one side has a large cutting mat laid out, the other has a gluing station set up. I have to admit that I've been really enjoying this work. You learn so much about efficiency and technique when you're doing the same box or book over and over again. And this may sound strange, but I've loved using my tools again. A teflon bone folder is just the thing for smoothing wrinkles out of paper on the inside of a box. And the really large cutting mat I bought last year is a godsend when you're cutting small pieces out of a large sheet of paper. One of the most inexpensive tools I picked up a few years ago was several pieces of brass "keystock." You can find the material at any hardware or hobby store in many different widths. I love the 1/2" for quickly determining the margin or pastedowns that I need when I'm covering a box....no ruler needed! As I was using mine today on some small interior work on a box, I kept stabbing myself in my chest with the end of the keystock (it's 12" long). In a moment of frustration, I thought "I wish this was just a few inches long!" And thus inspiration hit. My brother, who has all the tools in the universe, was able to cut the keystock down for me and now I have a lovely little straight edge just right for me!
Here's what I'm working on this weekend. A few years ago I designed a business card box and made a series of them for friends. I've gone back to that design and am building a number of them for the sale. I hope to get to some additional boxes and books as well and maybe a little bowl of felted beads for fun.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
The story of Print Gocco is a charming one. According to the web site SaveGocco, the printing system was created in Japan and introduced in 1977 as an easy way to make multiple prints of image and text in your own home without the mess and hassle of screen printing. (I had actually heard that it was created for children to make prints of their drawings.) Just as computer design and printing began to take over the terrain of Print Gocco in Japan, artists in the United States discovered its charm and portability and began to introduce it to each other. My favorite art store, Wet Paint, has held in-store workshops on Gocco for over 10 years. I bought mine from them in 1997, but as is often the case with me, I didn't use it until the following year. I remember that it was getting very close to Christmas and I had a design and message I wanted to send to my friends. Late one evening (way too late, really, to be starting a brand new project) I unpacked the Gocco for the very first time, read the directions, ran to a Kinko's to make the needed black and white copy (to burn into the screen) and came back to make over a 100 cards by the time I went to bed. I couldn't believe it was that easy, that the print was so beautiful, and it was so much fun! It was almost like baking a real cake in an Easy Bake oven.
The following year I attended a one-week Book Arts workshop in upstate New York and there was another Gocco demonstration. A group of us were inspired by our work together and organized a Gocco print exchange the following month when we were back home. I took a beloved black and white photo of my first dog and ran it through the copy machine pushing up the contrast button to "high." I used that high contrast copy to make my Print Gocco screen and did my first edition of a photo. That's the remarkable thing about Print Gocco....you can make a screen from your handwriting, a photo, type or an image...anything that can be turned into a black and white photo copy. And you can use multiple ink colors on the same screen. All from your kitchen counter or dining room table.
When Riso (the Print Gocco manufacturer) announced two years ago that it was discontinuing the manufacture of the system, Gocco fan Jill Bliss created SaveGocco.com Clearly, from the fact that it's reached the attention of the New York Times, her work has built a new audience for the little printer that could. The Times quotes a Riso VP as saying that the future of the product is "not dead and it's not alive. It's in something of a contemplation stage." As new ones are still hard to find, if you can find one, you should definitely grab it. You should always have some fun in your studio!
Update: I checked with Wet Paint and they have over 40 Print Goccos in stock.
Monday, October 15, 2007
The afghan above is from the Garnet Hill holiday catalog. When I saw it I caught my breath...it was the perfect throw for my living room. The colors are delicious and an extra blanket is always useful in Minnesota's winter. The price was horrendous, but after looking at it closely I realized that I could duplicate it myself pretty easily with my basic crochet skills. I went to my favorite yarn store, The Yarnery, yesterday and their wonderful staff got me started with a skein of beautiful sport-weight alpaca yarn and a book on granny squares (the squares, or hexagons in this case, that make up the afghan). I spent a few hours back at home working on the pattern, trying a number of different combinations from the book and adding some variations of my own as I started to understand how the shapes changed as I added or deleted stitches. I was close to a pattern but I decided I didn't like how soft the alpaca was. I wanted a "harder" finish for my throw. I went back today and switched to a worsted weight yarn (Cascade 220) which comes in a spectrum of gorgeous colors. When I started up again, I could tell almost immediately that it was going to be right. I made a few more alterations in the pattern and finally arrived at the kind of square I wanted: flat and with fairly dense stitches. I love the fact that the afghan above has a folk art look to it and I don't want to detract from the colors and design with an overly lacy square. I'm really pleased with my effort to create the right pattern for this project. With knitting and crochet projects, I'm usually content just to follow the directions but I probably made and unraveled 10 different squares before I was satisfied. Even though I'm inspired by the afghan above, the pattern is my own creation (as well as the coming handwork).
This will take awhile, but I'm fine with that. I don't even have to buy all the yarn at one time. There are plenty of variations of each "square" that I can do with just a few colors in the first weeks of this project. I know it may seem like I have crafting schizophrenia or ADD, but I've put away the soldered pendant information for now and I continue to work on some book arts projects during the day that take more thought. I haven't knit or crocheted for years until this fall, but now I know how satisfying it feels to have a project that can be picked up at any time without much thought and just as easily tucked away again.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
This is a good visual demonstration of soldering a piece of glass with copper tape. (Nice french music, too!) She adds some lovely silver wire to her work, but that's another chapter for me!
Update: Yikes, the music isn't French as the lyrics are in Spanish or Portugese. Maybe it's a little Brazilian jazz?
Thanks BG for the correction!
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
At the end of August, I got into a "back to school" mood. There were so many classes that I wanted to sign up for that I had to create a spreadsheet to list them out, organized by how much they were and when they were scheduled. It was the only way to manage the space in my head between reality and dreaming. In the end, I signed up for a one-night class on speaking well at the Guthrie Theater, a one-day writing workshop at The Loft and a quick class at a local bead store on soldering collage pendants. (To prove I have some restraint, my spreadsheet documents the classes that I did not sign up including a print making class at MCAD, a class in using PhotoShop Elements at the VoTech and a fall session in Taiko drumming. And yes, I'm serious about the drumming.)
At some point I'll write up the voice and writing classes. Interestingly, they both used an "everyone speak out loud at the same time, saying different things" technique. It seems it may be a trend.
Last night was the collage pendant class. I had had the thought of framing some Japanese paper in glass as a pendant, so I was pleased to find a low-key class where I could learn the soldering part. As slight as the class originally seemed, the new craft has clearly awakened a monster in me. A monster who loves to buy new tools and supplies, to learn how to master a new technique and above all, to dream about all the wonderful things it (the monster) can make, and who distracts me from what I really should be doing. Actually it's more like a Muppet monster than a scary one. Orange fur with big feet and pointy ears.
In about an hour, we had learned how to enclose a small collage inbetween two pieces of glass, tape it all up with copper tape, solder the tape and add a jump ring. Pretty simple, though as our teacher warned, our first efforts were pretty messy. By the time I went to sleep last night, I had thought about a better way to use the tape (which is the key to a neater piece), how to attach the ring so it was actually centered and perpendicular to the pendant, and researched the best supplies on the web.
Sally Jean Alexander called "Pretty Little Things" (it's Sally's lovely charm that is featured at the top of this post). Hoping that there might be some tips on how to improve my soldering technique, I did pick up her book this morning. The scary news? The news that made my Muppet monster dance with impatience and delight? You can solder ANYTHING. Paper, glass, stones, wire spirals, glittered feathers...there's really no limit. Jewelry, crowns, lamps, sculpture, ornaments--it's all possible with just a few tools that can be picked up anywhere.
I had thought I might buy a soldering iron today, some copper tape and glass and work on a few projects, but now I can see that the only way to keep the orange monster under control (for the time being) is not to buy it any new toys. Or maybe I'll promise the monster the toys for Christmas. Isn't it more fun to get a soldering iron than another sweater anyway?
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Within a few months, I left my job of 25+ years. The previous summer I had hired a wonderful guy to assist our producers and who turned out to be a daily joy in our work lives. Knowing my interest in book arts, he gave me a book he'd made with his girlfriend as a farewell gift. Hand-drawn images were gocco'd into an edition bound with twine and told the story of finding a hurt bird. It was one of the most charming gifts I'd ever received. I packed it away carefully in the items I was taking home from work, but when I went to retrieve it I couldn't find it. It was also gone.
In the months after I left, I found a physical metaphor for my journey of change by going through closets, drawers (and of course, eventually my studio) sorting out what I didn't love or need and finding new homes for everything. I opened boxes that I had packed in a move 10 years ago and found letters from friends and family that were 30 years old. I discovered a treasure box that a dear friend had given me...still wrapped in newspaper after a move....and brought it out to my living room to fill with new treasures. When I opened the drawer of the box, I came across a second set of car keys that I thought had gone missing permanently. Every time I went into a new box, drawer or closet, it was like rediscovering parts of my life that I'd forgotten. But despite intensive searches for the bird book and the bracelet, I couldn't find either. I wasn't obsessed, but I couldn't forget them either. I wanted them back in my life.
This summer I finally had to give in to the belief that they were both just lost. I had done all I could to look for them. A month ago I went to my bedroom for some earrings and started thinking about the bracelet again. For some reason, I opened a small cupboard filled with bulky sweatshirts and fleece and gave the clothes a push. A white rectangular box peeped out and I knew, even without looking, that my bracelet was in there. I opened it and literally gave a shout out loud. The bracelet was there. Nestled next to it were 2 or 3 other items that I had given personal meaning to and tucked away for safety...and then promptly forgot where I had tucked them. I was so delighted to find the bracelet that I could only laugh at my foggy brain.
I wore the bracelet as a totem last night, even though I don't need it as much as I did a year ago. But I love all the different messages it has for me now: family love, its disappearance and my own tenacity in finding it again, patience with my own failings, the joy of rediscovery. I came home after a wonderful evening with new friends and put it away where it belonged, where I know it will be the next time I want to wear it.
And the bird book? It has not reappeared yet. Still I'm now confident that some day I'll open a drawer or file and it will be there all along.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Believing that conservation does not mean duplicating old bindings or worse, providing formulaic solutions to any book in need of repair, a few years ago a group of bookbinders began to explore the concept of using 21st century materials and methods to conserve older books...to "respond in a thoughtful and principled manner to the individual needs of the book." (Jen Lindsay) They began to display their work annually as part of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association fair in London and now Carmencho Arregui has brought together the images, binding information and binder's history on her site, Out of Binding.
There is a treasure trove of information here. Descriptions of bindings, intent of the book binder and a number of photos have been assembled. The best pictures are available by clicking on the dates of the exhibit. You can then click on the individual bindings to see a larger image. The binder's page gives more detail on the book but the photos are a bit smaller. (I would love to see how Hedi Kyle's piano hinge binding "works" in her book...the photo does not show the mechanics of the structure.)
I've had the opportunity to study with Hedi Kyle a few times and I've always been personally inspired by her ability to learn from the past and create for today with clear values and purpose. It's just as inspiring to browse the "Tomorrow's Past" site and find more like-minded colleagues.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
About the same time, I found instructions for the beads on the web, bookmarked it and promised I wouldn't buy the roving until I was ready to try rolling the beads. Since the final details of the sale are now complete (I just sold my fabric stash on Craig's List), last night I went to my new favorite store, Crafty Planet, and picked out just a few packets of roving. This morning I set up the kitchen: bowl of warm water, ivory soap and the printed instructions. I went through the packet of lavender wool and despite trying many different ways of rolling a ball of dry roving before soaking it never got much better than this.
No matter how softly I made my ball of wool, once it got wet it rolled into a kind of tight comma, or "baby butt." I decided that there was probably more than one set of instructions on the internet and read through a few more. This one worked very nicely and I got these lovely little sky-blue beads.
What am I going to do with them? I have several ideas, one of which I hope to share in a week or two. In the meantime, now that I've mastered the technique, I'm going back to make more.