Friday, August 31, 2018

The Owl and the Book-Box

It started with the owl. No, it started with the book-box. Actually, it started months before, when a colleague gave me some old books she had picked up for free, thinking she would make something with them. I, in turn, was sure I was going to pass them on to friend who could give them to her students. But I kept forgetting. At this point you say, who cares?

Who. Our owl doesn't say Who. It says What. It's a barn owl. And it isn't ours. It lives in a palm tree around the corner from us. After all these years of knowing, we finally saw it.

Around the same time I was preparing for my last "Friendly Writing for the Visual Thinker" workshop and had just discovered a work by Joseph Cornell that I'd never seen before. Anywhere. It was in a museum collection in Spain. He had hollowed out a book and built a little gridded, partitioned box. Was this really by Cornell? While he did draw and make collages, most of his work is assemblage in wooden boxes. 

I found a collection of his archives at the Smithsonian. And look! The photo of him on the front page shows him holding this book-box. Now I had to make one.

I chose one of the four books given to me: A Mingled Yarn, published in 1952 by H. M. Tomlinson (the contents of which are digitized and may be read here), and began to hollow and build. 

One of the essays in the book was "The Brown Owl" (1928), so I primarily used those pages as the wallpaper of the divided insert. On purpose, I did not read the essay first, knowing I probably would not cut it up if I did. I clamped and cut, built walls and glued them to the bookblock sides, then collaged the page pieces with Liquitex acrylic varnish. 

As I worked I didn't know what would go into the compartments. Ultimately, I printed out the owl photo I had taken, and the piece became about our owl. I also had to make and include a little book.

I really like this barn owl, so I spent more time with it while I made a new linocut card and small sachet-pillow. They'll go up at nevermindtheart soon. Both are four by six inches.

a calming hint of lavender

I just read the Tomlinson's essay. It's a sweet story. Yes, I probably would have kept the book. But I like that our owl stories are now mingled.

“The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together: our virtues would be proud, if our faults whipped them not; and our crimes would despair, if they were not cherished by our virtues.”

― William Shakespeare, All's Well That Ends Well

Monday, August 27, 2018

Street Printing: Roadworks Steamroller Event at SFCB

My carving is done. I let it go and brought the three-foot-square piece of linoleum over to San Francisco Center for the Book, where it will be printed in the street on Sunday, September 23, 2018 at the Roadworks event. I am both excited and a little nervous. Excited, because I've been wanting to do this for years. Nervous, partly because most of the work I've seen has been precise and in an illustrative mode, and I tend toward the expressionistic and work in a looser style.

I also work small, or assemble the large out of the small, so this was a terrific challenge for me. First I drew a rough sketch, about nine inches square and submitted it for consideration. Accepted!

I scanned it, blew it up in Photoshop, reversed it, divided the sections, printed out the pieces, and taped it all together. Big bird!

Tracing over some artist's transfer paper (coated with graphite), I transferred the image to the linoleum, then worked on the drawing with ballpoint pen. The drawing is the most important part. The carving, I knew, would go pretty smoothly.

As I mentioned in this post, I bought some new carving tools to facilitate the big bird's emergence. How is it possible I've been using the cheap Speedball tools for over thirty years? The new tools made carving so much easier. And they include a larger gouge to clear away larger areas. I worked from my original screen shot, which was a still image from the Osprey camera, as well as my own large drawing. For company, while I was carving I was chatting.

Eventually, it was hard to tell what the image was going to look like. The wings had to be right! Because I do all my printing on my letterpress, I don't have a large stand-alone inking roller, but I do have some small ones. I inked up a little four-inch brayer and inked up the linoleum. After thirty minutes (or was it an hour?), I could see what it was going to look like. I pulled a proof, knowing it probably wouldn't print well. Not enough ink, not good paper, but it would give me a good idea. (Photos from the second time around, after the words were added.)

It took another hour to clean. I went back to carving. Time to add the words. I took a walk and the voice came to me: it's Richmond the male Osprey, talking to his offspring. I could include information I had learned from the Live Chat on the Golden Gate Audubon Society Osprey web camera as well as from what I'd read in several books. I included the book titles in the carving.

I inked and printed it up again. This would be the last time for hand printing. I did a little finish work, touching up the marks. And decided it would be best to stop now. There would be no Undo.

In Photoshop I could reverse it, so this is pretty much how it will look when printed, but without the glare!

"How to Build a Nest"

I really enjoyed working on this, probably because I have been so engaged watching the Osprey nest now for the second season. Richmond is like a character in a story, and I feel like I know him and Rosie, his mate.

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area on Sunday, September 23, I hope you'll stop by. I'll have a booth at the fair: a book art and printing block party in front of the Center. I'll be at the event all day, from 11am to 4pm. I hope to meet you there!

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Art of the Fold by Hedi Kyle and Ulla Warchol

Like the ballet notation of a master choreographer or the film of a principal dancer, the new book, The Art of the Fold: How to Make Innovative Books and Paper Structures by Hedi Kyle and her daughter Ulla Warchol is the much-awaited document of a master. Hedi Kyle is an internationally known artist-inventor, teacher, and considered the mother, grandmother, or godmother of creative book structures taught around the world, such as the Flag Book, Piano Hinge, Fishbone Fold, Blizzard, Crown, and more. She has inspired countless book artists and makers to push our own practice. So when I got an email from the publisher, Laurence King Publishing (distributed by Chronicle Books), asking if I would like an advance review copy, I was thrilled. Was I a fan? Yes!

The Art of the Fold is both a teaching tool and a choreographer's notebook. Here, the dance (if we can run with this metaphor) is for the fingers. The press release quotes Hedi: "The accordion fold as an independent component is our focus point in this book." The five chapters, which stretch to encompass a wide range of accordion-folded projects are: The Accordion, Blizzards, One-sheet Books, Albums, and Enclosures. In the 36 projects, all levels can satisfy their fingers, from the Simple Accordion to the more complex Piano Hinge and the more complicated Blizzard variations. Paper is the primary material, with a little archival double-sided tape here, just two sewn structures there: one sewn album is called the Spider and allows for photos or low-relief objects. The Sling Book is an intriguing sculptural book that can also fold flat. Movable parts like the pivoting panels in the Panorama book, and pop-ups, interlocking cubes, pockets and flags are all included as well.

Paging through the book, one roll-up box caught my attention (maybe because the photo showed it holding feathers). I prepared my materials and worked through the instructions, substituting PVA for the archival double-stick tape. As with all instructions and recipes, I recommend reading through a couple of times to get both the overview and anything you might need to know in advance. I found there was a call for two more small pieces that hadn't been listed up front, but it was easy to cut them on the spot. 

Another tip for the reader is to stay present. Don't try to anticipate or remember a step. It's all there for you! But sometimes previous experience helps. Since I used a thicker paper, I needed to cut the slits in a different way to yield the right results. Improvisation is also part of Hedi's process, and she encourages other people to do the same; study well, and use what you need, changing it if you like. Precision in folding is also helpful.

Here is my model for the Star Box. I used Stonehenge printmaking paper that I had painted with watch parts for a previous project. It didn't take long to make. And it is such an elegant structure.

The four triangles meet to form the squares at the ends.

All warmed up, I took on the collapsible Blizzard Box. For this I used Velin Arches (Arches Text Wove) that I had painted previously (a paste paper frottage using pearlescent colors). If you use one-sided paper, you might want to test it out so you see which side the patterns ends up on.

It has a nice snap as the boxes pop open into place.

I found that the box, when fully extended, can be stabilized once objects are placed within it. You could also glue the center flat sides together. A picture for Project 14: Blizzard Box shows the box with accordions inside, each of the valley folds holding colorful "soap ends" or slivers. You could also make several of these and use them as instant dividers to line a box, either another folded one or a box  made of book board (not featured in this book).

On a technical note, this instructional book has clear, spare, and elegant instructions and comments. The lovely drawings show every stage of the processes and have plenty of space around them to make them easy to follow. I particularly appreciate that they give the dimensions of the models and papers in both metric and inches; the two dimensions are not meant to be exact replicas of one another, but rounded up or down and proportionally similar. Clean and simple. 

Each chapter tends to be grouped as a structure family; the most basic one is first, progressing to the more complex. Many times the cover is integrated seamlessly as part of the book block. Also interesting is how much of the folding is based on what you are working on, not on measuring with a ruler. There are very nice charts throughout that show families of related books and what happens with different sizes of paper and the function of proportions, particularly notable in Chapter 2: Blizzards. 

More details: full bleed photos across page openings delineate the numbered chapters, a full bleed photo on either recto or verso delineates a numbered project. Photographs by Paul Warchol. The tone overall is encouraging and calm.

The beauty of The Art of the Fold lies in its possibilities. This is a book to be savored: the more time you spend with it, the more inspired you will be. Hedi is generous and writes graciously: "To everyone who has ever engaged with one of our structures…This book is dedicated to you." And so it is. For you, and you, and you.

[I see that the book may be pre-ordered now. Publication date is October 2018. More information will be available at, which Ulla is working on as of this writing. Addendum 8.20.18: website is now live and features their bios and images of their works. Ulla writes, "Hopefully this fall we will be posting short tutorials on techniques and starting a blog ourselves." Stay Tuned!]

As a wonderful supplement, the 2004 The Penland Book of Handmade Books: Master Classes in Bookmaking Techniques shows more of Hedi's art and personal process, which is important to her. It also tells of her inspiration from packaging, working intuitively and spontaneously with models and how she is a collector of ephemera, particularly "debris and scraps" (119).

More of her art may be seen in the 2016 catalogue for her exhibition at San Francisco Center for the Book, The World of Hedi Kyle: Codex Curios and Bibli'objets. It is filled with images, with an introduction by Denise Carbone. Addendum: 8.28.18: I forgot I had written about her and her show in this post.

And a tribute exhibition was held in her honor at 23 Sandy Gallery in  2015 called, Hello Hedi. It featured artists working in response to her structures. Lots of info at the link and an online exhibition catalogue there as well.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Cherry Adventures

One of my favorite activities during cherry season is to make clafouti: a slightly sweet popover in a pan. Since cherries are bountiful currently, I bought about a pound, or two or three cups. The cherry juice, as usual, started staining my gloved hands while I pitted them. It was a lovely color. The pits and stems piled up, waiting for the compost, but it seemed a good opportunity for a dyeing experiment.

I cut a strip of silk, dampened it with white vinegar, rolled them up, and left the bundle to integrate while I cooked.

The clafouti takes about forty minutes to bake, about the limit of my impatience. I unrolled the cherry scroll.

Rinsed it, and ironed it dry.

The scroll probably would have been darker if I had left it, at least overnight. But it looks like a good base for some little patches or stitching or part of a bojagi-style curtain like this one. Or perhaps some book cloth!

The clafouti recipe is in Still Life with Menu Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. The ingredients are simple: flour, milk, eggs, vanilla, a little butter and salt, and fruit.

My cherry quilt at this post.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Making Painted & Crinkled Silk Book Cloth

Making metallic-looking fabric. I saw the technique in a quilting magazine and wondered if it would work as book cloth. Here's a sample of a copper version (copper, gold, black) with a muslin backing for fabric art, which was my first test. How about mulberry paper backing?

Materials: mulberry paper; silk (I used Habotai silk, 10mm from Dharma Trading Co.); metallic fabric paints such as Jacquard or Lumiere; fusible webbing like Heat 'N' Bond

Note: Paint that is particularly labeled "fabric paint" or "for textiles" is water-based and many brands make it to be soft and non-tacky when it dries (the two I list here are good examples).

Tools: iron; ironing board; brushes; palette or paper plate

This is easiest to handle in small pieces like 16" x 20" or smaller. Start with the paper size you want.

1. Cut a piece of silk a little larger than your mulberry paper (the crinkling makes it shrink).

2. Cut a piece of fusible webbing a little smaller than your mulberry paper (so you won't get the heated glue on your iron).

3. According to the instructions, which on mine was low heat and about 3 seconds, iron the webbing onto the paper. Set aside.

4. Crumple the silk and mist it so it is slightly damp but not overly wet. On the silk setting, bounce the iron up and down while turning the ball of silk so you iron in the wrinkles. Keep crumpling and turning and ironing until the ball is dry. Or let it dry before you proceed.

5. Peel off the backing paper from the webbing.

6. Open out the silk and arrange it on the webbing side of the paper you ironed. Try to keep the wrinkles in place. (For just a little crinkly, iron the wrinkles in flat first, before you attach it to the backing.)

7. Again, according to instructions, mine said low heat and about 8-10 seconds and I did about 4-6, gently press the wrinkles down vertically. It's okay if the silk doesn't stick all the way at this point, you will iron it all again later.

8. Layer two to four fabric paint colors on the silk. Use a dry brush and black for shadows. For this one, I used silver, turquoise, gold and black.

9. Let dry in between colors. Keep layering. Let dry completely.

10. Place the backing paper on top of the silk and iron down firmly, pressing down again, just vertically, don't try to move back and forth.

I added more turquoise after taking this photo.

You can now use PVA on the back for book cloth. Because the finished cloth is a little thicker than usual, give yourself four board thicknesses of space between boards for the hinges.

For this hinged lid box, I first made a four-sided tray with compartments (a divided tray is in this blog post), then the case, which had the cloth wrapped around it. In this case, I attached the tray; before attaching the tray, glue down an inner lining to the case, one that overlaps the first hinge inside.

This box holds 3x5 index cards and pens. A gift for a writer-friend's birthday.

Yes! This works for book cloth! The textile paint is terrific. The metallics, in particular, have a shiny but matte finish and none of the textile paint colors stick to anything (unlike regular acrylic paints, which stay tacky) when dry.