Asian Journals and Sketch Books

The Memphis Brooks Museum currently has an exhibit entitled “A Taste for China”, an exhibition of traditional Chinese visual and decorative arts and their connection to the Western world. In honor of the exhibit, the museum’s gift shop invited me to create handbound books with Asian motifs to sell during the run of the show.

The books measure approximately 5″ X 6  1/2″ each.  All have fabric covers and their individual signatures, that is sections of several  pages, have spine protectors made from Thai mango paper. The spine of the book itself is exposed and the binding is handstitched, a modified version of a traditional bookbinding technique known as the Coptic stitch.

 

Handbound journal with satin brocade cover, coptic stitch binding

Handbound journal 2 with satin brocade cover, coptic stitch binding

Handbound journal 3 with satin brocade cover, coptic stitch binding

Book of Ninjas, handbound, cotton fabric cover, coptic stitch binding

 

Gate Keepers, handbound, cotton fabric covers, coptic stitching

Below are photos of additional handbound books with Asian themes that I have made, but are not currently at the Brooks Museum.

 

Wayang Kulit (Javanese shadow puppet), handbound, handprinted Indonesian batik fabric, Belgian secret binding, handstitched

Chrysanthemum, Kaffe Fassett cotton designer fabric, handbound, Belgian secret binding, handstitched

 

Japanese stab binding, handstitched, handprinted Indonesian cotton batik fabric, Dupioni silk, Thailand coins, hand dyed and hand twisted tencel (eucalyptus) yarn

 

Handbound blank journal, handprinted Indonesian cotton batik fabric, Belgian secret binding, handstitched

Planning Ahead

When I first met Mr. MemphisWeaver, one of the things I remember him saying was  “Man plans, God laughs”.  This from a well known Yiddish proverb,  Mann traoch, Gott Lauch. We’re all laughing now, because at that moment we weren’t planning on marrying and being together for at least 26 years.  But it’s true. Yes, it’s true.

And now I am planning ahead for some projects that will keep me busy for awhile.  Short term are two art and fine craft fairs where I will be selling my handwoven scarves, accessories and handbound books.  One is happening this weekend, February 20 at the Hutchison School in Memphis. The second show will be at Christian Brothers University in Memphis the last weekend in March (26-28).

Some of the items that I have been working on to include in these shows are handwoven scarves woven with bamboo, cotton and ribbon yarns, and also a series of handbound books made with hand made paper.  The book bindings are varied ranging from herringbone, coptic and long stitch.

Handwoven bamboo scarves

Handbound books with Thai mango paper covers

The long term projects I will be working on are the eight ceremonial prayer shawls that I will be weaving  by commission for a large synagogue.  The shipments of  yarns required for this project recently arrived, and I will be warping my looms as soon as my production for the art/craft fairs has calmed down.  The warp for this project will be 8/2 undyed natural tencel yarn from Webs.

16 pounds of undyed 8/2 tencel yarn

The background weft will be the 8/2 tencel, and the pattern weft will be Bambu 7 from Silk City Fibers and a luscious hand painted 5/2 tencel from Yarns Plus. The friendly folks at Yarns Plus were especially helpful in guiding me in the preparation of the hand painted tencel, particularly in light of the fact that I will be weaving it with undyed tencel.

Bambu 7 Yarns to be used for the prayer shawl project

Handpainted 5/2 tencel yarn

I’ve wrapped the yarn and color sequence around a foam board as a way of planning the pattern design.

Yarn and color sequence for 2 sets of prayer shawls

The first set of four prayer shawls needs to be completed in time for the High Holy Days in early September. My goal is for this to happen! These are my plans and I hope no one laughs…

Silk Degrees

Remember Boz Scaggs’ breakthrough album, “Silk Degrees”? It came out in 1976, and it was just about the sexiest thing I ever heard.  The recent sultry days in Memphis brought back the memory of his seductive voice from that album.  And believe it or not, that was what inspired me to do some work with silk which is something I rarely do.

I made two pieces of silk fusion paper by layering some carded tussah silk noils between two layers of soy silk roving. I added embellishments to each piece to give it color and texture. Most of these were  items that I had in my stash:  cochineal  dyed Lincoln wool fiber, angelina fibers, gold metallic flakes, skeleton leaves, angel wings.

Handmade silk fusion paper with cochineal dyed Lincoln wool fiber

Handmade silk fusion paper with cochineal dyed Lincoln wool fiber

Handmade silk fusion paper with skeleton leaves and angelina fibers

Handmade silk fusion paper with skeleton leaves and angelina fibers

So, you’re asking, what is silk fusion?  Silk fusion is silk paper fused from silk roving or sliver  using a textile medium or adhesive.   Treenway Silks has a good description of the process as well as a little bit of history. A good source offering instructions for a variety of silk fusion projects is Kath Russon’s book, Handmade Silk Paper.

Handmade Silk Paper by Kath Russon

Handmade Silk Paper by Kath Russon

Here is a free tutorial on making your own silk fusion presented by Sue Bleiweiss. A project can be completed in a very short time.  The longest part is actually waiting for the silk fusion to dry as that takes 24 hours.

The two pieces I made will probably become covers for blank journals.  But I am hoping to experiment more with 3 dimensional silk fusion such as masks and small sculptures.

As far as journals, I have been working on those as well.  I made one with some left over Kaffe Fassett fabric.  For this I made two covers with Peltex sandwiched in between the fabric. I used a zig zag stitch all around the edge of each cover. To attach the covers to the signatures, I used a double needle coptic stitch.  That is, each binding station required two needles, and as there were 3 stations in this binding, I was sewing with 6 needles at the same time. That beautiful handmade Thai mango paper that I love so much makes its appearance again as an end paper here.

Journal with fabric covers and double needle coptic stitch

Journal with fabric covers and double needle coptic stitch

Inside cover of Journal

Inside cover of Journal with handmade Thai mango paper as end paper

Now I still had some covers left  that I had made a few months ago using the handmade Thai mango paper. I decided to try out one of the stitches I admired in Keith Smith’s book, Non-Adhesive Binding Books Without Paste or Glue. This one is “long stitch with chain” found on page 164 of volume I.  My book didn’t have a spine cover, so instead I used sewing supports that were cut from ultrasuede fabric, then the supports were glued to the inside covers of the book. I used a gold 5/2 pearl cotton that I rubbed on a block of beeswax for the stitching.

Book bound with long stitch with chain

Book bound with long stitch with chain

I like the effect of the long stitch alternating with the chain stitch.  It adds a decorative element to the spine. I can see after doing this, that long stitch can probably be used together with several different stitches to add some interest in the binding.

Still hot here in Memphis, 96 degrees is what I hear it is.  But I am still hearing that luscious voice whispering in my ear: Three a.m. its me again and wouldn’t you know things would have to end this way…..

Books-a-Go-Go

After my mica book workshop with Daniel Essig, I’ve been inspired to play a little with some new books. I had some handmade Thai mango paper from Dick Blick.  I made several covers with this paper awhile ago, and finally had the courage to do something with them.  I used the coptic stitch to bind these books:

Coptic bound book with handmade Thai mango paper

Coptic bound book with handmade Thai mango paper

Inside cover

Inside cover

The paper on the  inside cover of this first book came from wrapping paper from a gift purchased at West Side Judaica Gallery in Manhattan.

Coptic bound book #2 with handmade Thai mango paper

Coptic bound book #2 with handmade Thai mango paper

Inside cover of book #2

Inside cover of book #2

I really like the organic look of the second book.  The inside cover is a copy of a photo of a  fossilized shell. It was printed on an inkjet printer on card stock.

Also, some months ago, I had taken an online workshop with Sue Bleiweiss, and never quite finished all the projects. I was intrigued by the piano hinge binding that was her last lesson, and wanted to try it.  So I did, a little belatedly.  Here is a photo of a book with piano hinge binding, using bamboo skewers to hold it together.  The cover is the same handmade Thai mango paper and the pages are sheets of a colorful  paper from a scrapbooking paper pad I found at Michael’s.

Piano Hinge Book

Piano Hinge Book

Opened page of piano hinge book

Opened page of piano hinge book

I think this would make a nice mini photo album.  However, I found that the hinge itself didn’t seem very stable, and the book had to be handled carefully. I wrapped some fine cotton around the ends of the skewers at both the head and tail of the binding, then applied  some PVA glue over the cotton to hold it in place, but because there were no true sewing stitches to hold the binding together, it turned out to be a bit delicate.

Then I wanted to incorporate some weaving into an ultra-leather blank journal.  I picked out some images I thought represented my secret muses:  Calliope, muse of eloquence and epic poetry. She is always seen carrying a writing tablet.  Then there’s the the cute and fun loving Betty Boop. My faithful companion of 25 years has always professed a secret love for her!  And lastly, Peter Max‘s interpretation of the ever mysterious Mona Lisa. An eclectic trio, no?

Cover, Book of Muses

Cover, Book of Muses

Inside cover, Book of Muses

Inside cover, Book of Muses

Using fine cotton (10/2 pearl cotton), I warped three small windows on the book’s cover. Then with narrow strips cut from a copy of each image I wove a weft through the cotton warp. The binding was a long stitch that I modified with a “cinch” around the center of  each section:

Modified long stitch binding

Modified long stitch binding

Enough of the playing! Now I have some weaving projects to attend to as I am preparing my handwoven items for fall shows and fairs.  This is the bamboo scarf with warp floats that is awaiting her turn on the loom.

Bamboo scarf to be finished soon!

Bamboo scarf to be finished soon!

Happiness is a Warm Dremel

My new best friend is my Dremel stylus.  At the Art and Soul Retreat in Hampton, VA, I learned how to use it and that it’s more than “just a drill”. I took two book arts workshops with Daniel Essig who uses the Dremel to drill holes in mica which we used to create our books. I was skeptical at first about getting my own Dremel, but my potter friend Gail assured me that I will find more uses for it than I can imagine.  And I’m sure that’s true. So  at the end of my trip, when I picked up my checked luggage in Memphis, I was quite relieved that my Dremel was still there and my bag was tagged with this lovely red sticker from TSA.

TSA sticker labeled CLEARED!

TSA sticker labeled CLEARED!

One can only imagine what TSA officials were thinking when they saw this going through security:

A Warm Dremel

A Warm Dremel

Now, about the workshops.  The two day workshop was “Book of Mica” where we learned of the properties of mica, both in its natural state and as a composite.  Mica is a naturally ocurring mineral also known as bookstone.  In our class, each student  created  a book with at least 5 pages of mica and a front and back cover.  Many of us inserted a collage or pictures between two pieces of mica to give the imagery a “haunted” or ghost like effect.  Here is Daniel’s mica book which he showed as an example:

Mica book by Daniel Essig

Mica book by Daniel Essig

Inside pages of mica book by Daniel Essig

Inside pages of mica book by Daniel Essig

Daniel was a very generous and patient teacher with all of us.  Anyone interested in book arts and wanting to explore the properties of mica would greatly benefit from a workshop with him. He is also a talented woodworker and sculptor.

Books and Hand Carved Tools by Daniel Essig

Books and Hand Carved Tools by Daniel Essig

In my own mica book, I cut out a window in one of the pages, then drilled holes at the top and bottom of the window to anchor down my warp of black perle cotton.  I then used the warp to weave a weft of  paper strips cut from a picture which I covered with a small piece of natural mica.

Paper woven image in my mica book

Paper woven image in my mica book

Paper woven page in my mica book - opposite side

Paper woven page in my mica book - opposite side

Daniel also showed us the steps for sewing a decorative centipede stitch, which he calls  a caterpillar stitch.

Book with Caterpillar stitch by Daniel Essig

Book with Caterpillar stitch by Daniel Essig

The evening workshop addressed the herringbone stitch bound on a book with paper signatures and mica covers.  We had the opportunity again to insert images between two thin sheets of mica for both  front and back covers.

My book with mica covers and herringbone binding on tyvek tapes

My book with mica covers and herringbone binding on tyvek tapes

The mica book that we constructed during the two day workshop had a different binding. We used four needles to create a coptic stitch.

Covers and binding of my mica book

Covers and binding of my mica book

Being a handweaver, I found that I really enjoy the stitching and binding process of  creating a handmade book.  I purchased some books by Keith Smith to inspire me to be more adventurous with my bookbinding stitches. And it will give me a reason to use my beauty of a Dremel stylus.

A Snowy Night in Memphis

When it comes to snow, I’m not a babe in the woods.  I grew up in Boston and as an adult lived in upstate NY, PA and NJ.  So I have to chuckle when a few inches of snow is predicted for Memphis.  For one, snow here never amounts to the blizzard conditions I have experienced, and it always disappears within a day of falling.  Nonetheless, panic sets in, and there is a run on milk, bread, beer and diapers at the grocery stores.  Streets become gridlocked even before the first flake appears.  Kids are glued to the tv in the hopes of missing a day of school.  In Boston, we rarely had a day off from school.  I remember walking through 2 feet of snow (really!)  to get to my 7th grade class at Western Jr. High!  Of course, the snow plows were plentiful and out in full force, so the gridlock that we experience in Memphis, rarely happened in New England!  But no matter, I’m much older now, and my bones seem to complain with the first mention of snow here.  It wouldn’t matter whether I’m in Memphis or Boston, they still manage to complain.

camellias in the snow

camellias in the snow

It was a pretty snowfall though, while it lasted!  And the best part is that the snow gave me a chance to “hunker down” as they say here and concentrate on being creative.  So I decided to work on some handmade books that I plan to sell at an upcoming Fine Craft Fair sponsored by MACA, Memphis Association of Craft Artists.  I usually sell my handwoven purses and scarves when I sell at shows and fairs, but having done so for thirty years, I decided to expand my horizons a bit and venture into the world of book arts.  Eventually, I would like to incorporate  my handwoven fabrics into my handmade books.

I had taken workshops from book artists in the past, and the process really whetted my appetite.  Currently I am taking an online class from Sue Bleiweiss of  Two Creative Studios.  It is called “More Journal Making for Fiber Artists”.  Here are examples of two books that I have completed in this class:

coptic stitch book with handmade cover

coptic stitch book with handmade cover

fabric covered gatefold journal

fabric covered gatefold journal

With my supply of handmade Thai mango papers and several pieces of matte board, I retreated to my weaving/bookmaking studio (which is a finished room in our attic).  During the snowfall, I produced enough handmade covers to make 11 bound books.  Here are the results.

book covers made with handmade Thai mango paper

book covers made with handmade Thai mango paper

inside of handmade book covers

inside of handmade book covers

The handmade paper is really lovely,  there are actual pieces of mango leaves and stems embedded in the paper, and the paper itself feels soft and velvet like.  I glued various papers to the insides of the book covers.  These include designer wrapping paper, colored card stock scraps from previous book arts workshops and inkjet copies of scenes from nature copied on cover stock. Now I will have to cut paper for my text blocks and add my signature covers.  With so many books to work on, I will have a chance to try out different binding stitches.  I need to work on my coptic stitch, kettle stitch and long stitch.  New stitches I would like to try include chain stitch, French twist and herring bone stitch.  I can see this will take quite awhile.  So, here I am in Memphis with these old bones wishing for snow…….

snow covered lamp

snow covered lamp