Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Librarian's Halloween

With it, a favorite poem by Frank O'Hara,
that has the color orange in it,
"Why I Am Not A Painter"

You can read it here.
Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Save the Book Art Program at Mills College!

Book art faculty at Mills College recently found out they have just three weeks to gain support and make a case for why the Book Art Program should continue. While other programs at Mills are being compressed, theirs is in serious danger of being completely cut. Julie Chen and Kathy Walkup are working hard to try to save the program and need your help.

If you're here reading this, you are probably already a fan of bookmaking and know that making books brings together math, writing, art, project planning, design, learning and refinement of fine motor hand skills, and so much more. It is a truly interdisciplinary art and craft, not to mention an expressive and creative outlet that contributes to contemporary culture and feeds our souls.

Whether or not you know and appreciate Julie and Kathy's work, if you've taken a class at Mills, know someone who has, or if you support book arts in general, you can begin by signing the online petition posted by Mirabelle Jones. Here at

Letter from Kathleen Walkup regarding the issue:

Addendum (10/29/15): You can also show your support by sending letters and/or email to the Mills administration: President Alecia DeCoudreaux,; Provost Sharon Washington,; Dean of Letters Ajuan Mance,

Addendum (11/9/15): Update from Julie: The board of trustees is meeting on November 20th to discuss a budget counterproposal that will be presented by the faculty. The deadline for the 2017 budget is December 1st. There is no way to anticipate what the board will decide.

Addendum (11/24/15): Update from Kathy: They remain in limbo, expected to plan for future projects, re-do all of their courses to fit the new credit and core requirements, fight off charges of elitism from some students (they charge a lab fee), and be ready to be told it's all over. Meanwhile, they are asked to guarantee new MFA students for next fall, register new minors, overfill the classes, keep up with the paperwork and "yes, raise a million dollars."

Thank you for reading, and for your support for my colleagues at Mills College.

Monday, October 19, 2015

An Art Quilt Called "Strength"

When I was about eight, someone gave me a pre-packaged bag of quilting squares. I did not know how to sew. I had never pieced anything before (and didn't know that sewing the squares together is called piecing, not quilting). So I sewed them together by hand in a ninepatch (didn't know that, either), and made a pillow. 

At thirteen, I embarked on a quilt which was to cover my bed for a decade or more. My mom took me to the fabric store and helped me choose and coordinate the colorful patterns. When my daughter was ten and into the lime greens and blues I had loved in the 1970s, I pulled the quilt out of a bag and put it on her bed. A year or two ago, I took out the tufted yarn bows (I left one for the memory), re-quilted it, this time with embroidery thread, and patched the threadbare areas and places the seams were pulling apart. Turns out I really liked it better with the patches. Neither my daughter nor I ever liked the bows of yarn.

Happy with the patching process and the way it looked, I patched the quilt on my bed last year as well. Probably made it originally in the early 2000s. By this point I had seen the Gee's Bend quilts in an article in the New York Times (2002), but couldn't seem to shake the traditional and symmetrical style.

I made a crib-sized quilt for my son by taking him in his wheelchair to the fabric store and bringing him bolts of cloth to examine. If he smiled, we got it. He liked the chickens.

Made this small one in 2008, five years after he died. A kind of healing. It begins: I let go / of my take-apart self / cold, I confront / a tumbled scene: and includes the line: growing rings / over a scar

Started this small one out of found cloth and stenciled imagery a few years ago and finished it a couple years after that. I use it to cover my letterpress rollers. Very much happier with the free-form look.

This small one last year for my mother-in-law. Used cloth leftover from my son's quilt as well as fabric from a quilt my daughter had made.

And now, after letterpress printing on cloth, I've made a new, larger one. It's about half a twin size. An art quilt I call, "Strength." My thoughts were of community and the union I'm working with, and how we help each other by first getting to know each other. I woke up one morning with a vision of the woman in profile, actually a variety of women's profiles in one image. She's new. The other linocuts were taken from blocks I've carved before: hands, the egg shaped frame, the ampersand. I've been also thinking about the phrase, "Yes, and…"

I have another batch of patches printed for a second quilt, and an idea for a third. This should keep my hands busy for the next couple of months.

Meanwhile, I visited a quilt show last Sunday, called "Yo-Yos & Half-Squares" at the Oakland Museum of California. Pictures from that to come.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Inkless Printmaking with Velvet (burnout technique)

This little project is categorized in the file: "keeping myself sane in the midst of other obligations." A brief detour. All that is necessary is a carved linoleum block or wooden block with something carved into it, some velvet, and an iron.

I have no memory of where I learned this. Wikipedia says it is called "devoré" or  "burnout technique,"and the entry says it was done with caustic chemicals. Apparently it was popular in the 1920s, and revived in the 1990s, which is probably when I first encountered it. I don't think this version is toxic. Just watch out for the hot iron.

For an example, I chose one of the blocks used in my clownfish print.

velvet cloth, carved linoleum block

Place velvet right side down on the block.

Preheat iron to the highest setting.
Place the iron on the velvet and count to 20.
Remove the iron.

Remove the velvet from the block.

Wherever there was a raised area on the block,
the velvet was burned away.

I tried it on burgundy colored velvet as well.
It's a bit easier to see in this photo.

And an enhanced detail of the black "print."

After doing this I ended up back in my studio at the letterpress with a new project: printing linoleum blocks on cloth. Just keep swimming!