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.]

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.

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.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Nature's Weavings: California Nests

Some of us are so fascinated by nests that we want to build them, weave them, or spend time in one. In the article from 2013, "Twigitecture: Building Human Nests," by Penelope Green, the writer writes about her overnight in a humanmade nest on the California coast at Treebones Resort. She writes that this camping or "glamping" has yielded "nest marriages" and "nest babies." The bulk of the article is about artists whose work has been inspired by nests. 

I, too, admit to being inspired by the weavings and am delighted with natural nests, always scanning my backyard trees in the hopes that birds have built (me) one. One winter, I found a nest on the ground under the huge live oak tree that overhangs our backyard. I looked to the right of me: no birds. I looked to the left of me: no birds. It was, of course, too late in the season and the nest was rightly abandoned. It is four inches and has lichen and moss on the outside. I don't know whose this was. It has bits of shell: speckled and white. About four inches.

Now, I've only just noticed this feather!

A soft gray-brown. I have a suspicion.
My guess is an oak titmouse.

Birds, nests. Texts and weavings of stories and sticks.

It just fits in this footed bowl.

Recently, I was surprised to find a nest just out my window. My smoke bush needed a trim, the branches were growing up and out at odd angles, so I went out in the morning of July 11 with my loppers to attend to them. Lop. Lop. 

Two California Towhees watched from a wire. One alighted on the peak of our roof and looked down at me. They flew back to the Hawthorn street tree. Oh, dumb human. "Do you have a nest here?" I asked. I still didn't see it. But after trimming one more branch I saw the little basket in the crook. About six to seven inches wide.

Apologies, apologies. I bowed out. They stood guard periodically on my front walkway and porch, but alas, I have not seen anyone in the nest, ever. Perhaps it is too late in the season, or they felt it wasn't safe. It appears unfinished, to me. The smoke bush will lose its leaves in winter, but although it is not typical of most birds, the towhees may reuse the nest. It's in excellent condition! Swirly weaving. Just needs a little nestorating; something soft, perhaps?

The smoke bush, Cotinus coggygria, itself is nesty and attractive.
The seeds are dispersed through the "smoke."
You can reach in and pull some out, like cotton candy.

In other nest-watching, we visited the Lindsay Wildlife Experience in Walnut Creek last Sunday and saw their crow's nest made with a base of twigs.

In June I spotted this rather dangerous-looking one in my neighborhood, possibly crows or hawks.

And a friend and I went out to the Osprey nest in Richmond to check in with our favorite nest on the whirley crane.

This year, Richmond and Rosie hatched three chicks who were banded and named.
VW is Roemer, Romy or Remy, the first born.
VU is Victory, also known as Vic.
VV is Brisa, the largest and possibly only female.

Someone posted a video of VV recently visiting a different nest at the Richmond Yacht Club here. The Whirley Crane chicks fledged around the first week of July. But they hang around the nest shrieking for fish at certain times of day. You can see them for a couple more weeks before they migrate:

My linoleum carving of Richmond on a nest of books is nearly complete for the Roadworks event at SF Center for the Book on September 23, 2018.

A found humanmade nest at Salt Point, CA, 2006

And one I built in San Simeon/Cambria, CA, 2005.

As a birthday present, I received two nest books! A Field Guide to Western Birds' Nests by Hal H. Harrison, and Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds by Paul J. Baicich and Colin J. Harrison.

Nest of books, books of nests!

Addendum 8.12.18: a reader alerted me to a spirit nest building and experiencing event in San Rafael, CA at this link. Once installed the nest will be up through April 2019.