Happy Preservation Week!

2017 Preservation Week logo

Hey everyone – it’s Preservation Week! This annual event, presented by the American Library Association (ALA), is going on now through April 29th.

Here’s what the ALA has to say about the event:

Memories and treasures should last a lifetime and be passed on to future generations. Sponsored by the ALA’s Association of Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS), Preservation Week inspires actions to preserve personal, family, and community collections in addition to library, museum, and archive collections. It also raises awareness of the role libraries and other cultural institutions play in providing ongoing preservation education and information.

I think that we’re so focused on the digital world right now that it’s too easy to forget about the valuable, tangible items that document a life.

It’s so important for people to be able to tell their stories and share them with future generations. That’s why I love making blank books – they’re just waiting to be filled with stories.

So what can you do this week? Here are five suggestions to get you started:

  1. How about taking your photos out of those evil sticky photo albums and getting them into acid-free books? Preserve Your Treasures: How To Remove Photos from a Sticky Album (Smithsonian Institution Archives)
  2. Get tips on photo preservation from the Library of CongressCare, Handling, and Storage of Photographs (they don’t like sticky photo albums either)
  3. Once you’ve picked out an archival photo album, how about making your own photo corners? The National Park Service can teach you how to do that!
  4. Got curly photos? Learn how to flatten them.
  5. Do the terms acid-free, lignin-free, and photo-safe all sound like gibberish to you? Learn how they’re different in this article by Scrapbook Retailer.

Let me know what you’re up to!

Happy National Library Week!

2017 National Library Week logo

Everyone knows that libraries are awesome, so it’s no surprise that there’s a National Library Week designed to celebrate this awesomeness. This year the event takes place April 9-15, 2017 and the theme is Libraries Transform.

From the American Library Association‘s website:

First sponsored in 1958, National Library Week is a national observance sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries across the country each April. It is a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support. All types of libraries – school, public, academic and special – participate.

Here’s the sweet gem of my community, the Kellogg Hubbard Library:

Celebrations during National Library Week include:

  • Monday, April 10: The State of America’s Libraries Report will be released, including the Top Ten Frequently Challenged Books of 2016.
  • Tuesday, April 11: National Library Workers Day, a day for recognizing the value of all library workers.
  • Wednesday, April 12: National Bookmobile Day, a day for acknowledging the work of our nation’s bookmobiles and those supporting outreach in their communities.
  • Thursday, April 13: The newly-designated Take Action for Libraries Day highlights the need for continued support of the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The U.S. government’s proposed budget cuts include eliminating this critical source of funding for libraries and museums.

Personally, I will be contacting my local officials to let them know how important libraries are to me and the communities they serve. If you’d like to do the same, you can get more information here.

Looking for other ways to celebrate? Check out the suggestions on the I Love Libraries website.

You can also follow along on social media using the tags #NationalLibraryWeek and #LibrariesTransform.

International Edible Book Festival

International Edible Book Festival logo

The arrival of April Fool’s Day also means that it’s time for the International Edible Book Festival. Yes, this is a real thing. And it’s super cool.

This annual event takes place on/around April 1st and it’s celebrated worldwide. The premise is simple – create books out of edible materials (a.k.a. food) and then eat them. Pieces can be inspired by a specific story, include something punny, or simply be in the shape of a book.

Judith Hoffberg and Béatrice Coron created the festival in 2000 to commemorate the birthday of French foodie Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, author of Physiologie du goût (translation: The Physiology of Taste).

Many locations are celebrating by holding contests with categories such as:

You can see awesome examples of edible books on Flickr – here are a few of my favorites:

If you participate in or visit an edible book festival, I’d love to hear about it! If you’ve pictures, even better. Feel free to shoot me an email and give me the scoop.

* All photos by florador used with permission via a Creative Commons license.

The Book as Art exhibit

I’m so excited to have work on display as part of The Book as Art exhibit at Axel’s Gallery & Frame Shop in Waterbury, VT. The exhibit was co-curated by Axel’s owner Whitney Aldrich and visual artist Marilyn Gillis and is open now through April 8, 2017.

Window display of altered books

Here’s what the gallery has to say about the exhibit:

In the exhibit Book as Art, nine women artists explore the limitless artistic possibilities of the book. Each work challenges our ideas of what a book can be with innovative structures, content, materials and creativity. Artist books will delight and fascinate as they move you beyond the page.

I have several pieces in the show and I’m thrilled to be joined by the fine company of other Book Arts Guild of Vermont members – Marilyn Gillis, Dorsey Hogg, Penne Tompkins, Ann Joppe-Mercure, Rebecca Boardman, Vera Ryersbach, Judy Sgantas, and Marcia Vogler.

Note: I apologize in advance for the quality of my photos – boo to funky lighting.

You can find one of my favorite Improv books in the exhibit, DOs and DON’Ts for Not Being a Dumbass… 

Handmade artist book by Elissa Campbell - DOs and DON'Ts for Not Being a Dumbass

…as well as one of my most recent pieces, Peace Kannon.

Handmade artist book by Elissa Campbell - Peace Kannon

Rounding out my contributions to the show are Godzilla, Extreme Couponer and a batch of small leather journals with varied stitching.

Handmade books by Elissa Campbell

So enough about my work – I’d like to show you some pieces by my co-exhibitors. First off are two pieces by Marcia Vogler. I have long been envious of her illustrative style. She’s

By the way, check out how Whitney displayed Marcia’s panel book on the wall. She created a backing support and clipped the book to it. I have to admit that I was bad and peeked behind the magic curtain:

Next up is Rebecca Boardman. In America’s Transparent Dichotomy, she cleverly used slide mounts in a Jacob’s Ladder to create a piece in response to our current political climate.

Cochleate utilizes some amazing folding that makes my brain hurt (in a good way). Rebecca created the stand specifically for displaying this piece.

And lastly, here are two pieces by Dorsey Hogg, Vermont’s master of altered books. I can describe her skill as nothing other than insanity death folding.

There are so many wonderful pieces in this show – it’s totally worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Here’s the scoop on gallery hours:

  • Tuesday – Friday: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
  • Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Axel’s is located at 5 Stowe Street.

New FOBA session added!

As I announced back in November, I’m teaching a workshop at the Focus on Book Arts conference this June. I’m still pinching myself.

Well, imagine my surprise when I found out that my workshop had filled up two days after registration opened! More pinching.

Screen shot of 2017 Focus on Book Arts conference schedule

And then I was contacted about teaching another session of the workshop! Yet more pinching.

Screen shot of 2017 Focus on Book Arts conference schedule

So now I’m all black and blue from the pinching. But it’s all good for you, because if you missed out on the first session, you have another chance. The new session dates are Thursday and Friday, June 22 & 23.

Registration is open now.

Gocco Manhoru

I recently crossed something off my Book Arts Bucket List – I completed my first Gocco edition! We’re just going to ignore the fact that I’ve had my Gocco since 2008.

So what motivated the project? The Book Arts Guild of Vermont is in the midst of hosting a challenge where participants create an edition of prints, exchange them, and then create a book incorporating the full set of prints. The book has to be completed by May – I’m so thankful that I have two months to get that done.

Since I still seem to be in my post-Japan bliss, I decided to use my trip as inspiration for my print. During my trip, I discovered so many things that added to its unending charm. Among them – manhole covers (a.k.a. manhoru). Yes, this is totally a thing.

Each municipality in Japan has its own manhole cover design, with different colors, patterns, and themes. According to an article on deMilked, the practice started in an effort to promote the importance of funding sewage projects. Estimates have the number of different manhoru at about 6,000. According to an article on Colossal, the most popular design is trees, followed by landscapes, flowers, and birds.

I really wish I had noticed them sooner, although if I had, I probably would have spent all of my time looking at the ground instead of what was in front of me.

So, now that I’ve given you a lengthy introduction, here’s the Tokyo manhole cover that inspired my edition:

Manhole cover in Tokyo, Japan

I monkeyed with the image in Photoshop until I was able to reduce it to a black and white image. It took a really.long.time. Swearing happened.

Here’s the final image:

Rendering of Japanese manhole cover

As you can see, I took some creative license and eliminated the holes and the writing on the left side. I wanted a uniform image.

Screen burning time! I printed out the image using my laser printer and burned a Gocco screen. Next, I surrounded my image with ink block to help keep the ink from spreading.

Gocco screen with ink block

Ink mixing time! I wanted a dirty bronze color, which required five different inks to achieve.

Mixing Gocco ink

Inking time! Next, I applied the ink to the burned screen…

Inked Gocco screen with ink block

…and slid the screen into my Gocco.

Gocco printing in progress

Printing time! Next thing I know, there were these:

Gocco prints on drying racks

Something weird happened during printing, which caused a very minor smudgy thing. You probably can’t even see it, but I can. Don’t ask me to tell you what I’m talking about because my lips are sealed.

I am thrilled with the results! Due to my total lack of creativity in naming, I settled on naming the edition Manhole.

Gocco print of Japanese manhole cover by Elissa Campbell

Next mission – the swapped book of prints. I’ll be writing about that project when it gets going.

In the meantime, if you want to learn more about Japanese manhole covers, you’ve got a few options:

  • Check out the book Drainspotting by Remo Camerota
  • View the more than 1,500 photos by S. Morita, THE go-to dude for images of manhoru
  • Visit the website for the Japan Manhole Cover Society (Note: The website is in Japanese and looks sketchy, but it’s totally legit. If you click on the links, you’ll be taken to images of manhole covers, along with information about their locations.)

And lastly, be sure to read book artist Louise Levergneux blog posts about her fascination with manhole covers (she calls them city shields). Her work isn’t just limited to Japan, but has a worldwide focus.

Peace Kannon

I recently completed a book as part of the monthly bookbinding challenge on Instagram called Are You Book Enough? Each month, a theme is chosen and participants create a book incorporating that theme. Bookbinders are encouraged to share their process and final books on Instagram using the tag #areyoubookenough. February’s theme was peace.

It didn’t take long for me to find inspiration. Shocker – it was my trip to Japan.

While staying in Yudanaka, my husband and I wanted to buy cherries before leaving our ryokan. The owner generously offered us a ride. After visiting a farmers market, he surprised us by dropping us off at the Heiwa Kannon Statue of World Peace in DaihiDen Temple.

It is said that the statue has the power to grant one a peaceful life. Inside the inner base of the statue are 33 small golden statues – if you pray at all of the statues, it is as if you have visited and prayed at 33 Japanese temples.

Outside of the temple is a large bell that you ring for world peace and the sound can be heard throughout the town. I rang the bell. It was loud.

Something else I found at the temple were strings of knotted fortunes written on strips of paper called O-mikuji. You can get these fortunes at shrines and temples throughout Japan.

If you get a good fortune, the tradition is to take it home with you and carry it in your wallet – this is to keep the good luck close to you. If your fortune is bad, the custom is to fold it up and tie it to a pine tree, or to designated wires or strings. The belief is that by doing so, you can tie your fortune to that location and delay your bad luck.

O-mikuji near the Heiwa Kannon Statue of World Peace in Yudanaka, Japan

Now that you’ve seen what inspired me, I’ll show you my process. Thankfully, making the book was not nearly as complicated as my last book.

For the cover, I monkeyed with a photo of the bell in Photoshop to simplify it. I printed out the edited image on paper and then glued it to a piece of bookboard.

Gluing flag book covers

The reason why I put the image down first was due to an interesting discovery I made – the bookcloth I purchased at Masumi (Tokyo) was sheerer than I had anticipated. When I glued the bookcloth over a printed image, the image would show through. I loved the effect – very subtle.

Flag book covers

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that this was a flag book. The plan was to use O-mikuji for my flags.

Flag book covers and spine

When I was in Kyoto at Kinkaku-ji Temple, I had the opportunity to get my own O-mikuji from a vending machine. I half-expected it to come out in one of those clear plastic ball thingies. It didn’t. Thankfully, I received an “excellent” fortune.

O-mikuji vending machine in Kyoto, Japan

Here’s what it looked like:



I searched online for images of bad fortunes so the text in my O-mikuji would be as authentic as possible. I also thought about what personal fortunes I’d like to leave behind to gain inner peace and added in those messages. After gathering twelve different fortunes, I got to work. 

I taped a thin sheet of Unryu to an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper so I could feed it through my laser printer. It worked like a charm.

Printing O-mikuji

Printed and trimmed O-mikuji

After trimming the fortunes, I folded them up and tied them into knots, as if I were tying them to a tree or string at a shrine. 


After that, I glued them into the book and I was done!

Here’s the finished book – Peace Kannon:

Flag book cover

Back of flag book covers

Flag book with O-mikuji

Flag book with O-mikuji

Flag book with O-mikuji

As this copy of Peace Kannon has deep personal significance for me, it’s not available for purchase. However, I’d love to create a copy of this book just for you!

You can give me up to 12 bad fortunes that you’d like to give away and I’ll create custom O-mikuji for your book’s flags, making your piece one-of-a-kind. Or for a more personalized experience, you can come to my studio in Montpelier to participate in the creation of your book. You’ll fold your own custom O-mikuji and then attach them to the spine of the book – this is intended to replicate the Japanese tradition of attaching O-mikuji to a tree or string.

For more information and/or pricing, please feel free to contact me.

Many thanks to Whitney Aldrich at Axel’s Gallery & Frame Shop for suggesting this idea.

Book Arts at Penland – Summer 2017

Trees with Penland School of Crafts text

I need to find a job where I get paid to take classes. That’s all I want to do – learn stuff. Seriously.

And Penland is killing me with its summer lineup of workshops.

Here are a few highlights (there are many more):

During Session 2 (June 11 – 23), Jessica Spring is teaching Daredevil Ephemera:

For printers and book artists, ephemera offers a sweet spot between mass-produced greeting cards and limited-edition books where form and content work together to elevate both. Inspired by vintage ephemera, we’ll master several folded bindings while also looking at structures designed in response to content. Folded structures offer an ideal surface for daredevil letterpress typesetting: exploring the use of traditional circular and angle quads, adapting existing tools, and experimenting with Daredevil Furniture (lasercut typesetting furniture designed at Springtide Press). Each student will complete a small edition of an artist’s book.

I’ve met Jessica on several occasions and she is wicked cool. And skilled. Taking a workshop with her would definitely be a fun experience.

During Session 4 (July 9 – 21), Matthew Shlian is teaching Paper Sculpture:

Students will explore the medium of paper as they create sculpture using paper engineering, kirigami, and paper craft as starting points. Using a combination of Tyvek and 100-lb text and 10-pt cover-weight stocks, students will learn the elements of paper mechanics and then apply them to books, collapsible structures, interactive kinetic design, and foldable sculpture. Techniques will include curve folding, pleating systems, and modular design. Students are encouraged to bring in their own imagery, photographs, technology, and other materials to work from.

I was lucky enough to handle some of Matthew’s work when he presented the keynote address at the Movable Book Society conference last year. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Any knowledge he’d impart during a workshop would be well worth the price of admission.

During Summer Session 6 (August 13 – 25), Andrea Dezsö is teaching Pop-Up Artists’ Books:

Learn to make artists’ books that pop up, unfold, expand, and reveal; books that become theaters, platforms, movable structures, or interactive experiences. You’ll learn paper engineering to create movable books—first with simple structures and then with more complex ones. Then you’ll experiment with combining them in innovative ways and enhancing them with collage, drawing, or coloring. You’ll be encouraged to treat form and content as an interdependent whole as you create one-of-a-kind pop-up books. 

At the same time I was in Boston for the Movable Book Society conference, I visited the Pucker Gallery to view their show Of Light and Shadow: New Work by Andrea Dezsö (exhibition catalog). Her tunnel books are insane. The way she cuts paper. Damn.

I’m not surprised that I seem to be drawn to the workshops focusing on pop-ups and movable books. That MBS conference did a number on me.

Penland’s summer registration is open now. Applications are processed on a first-come/first-served basis.

2017 Focus on Book Arts catalog available

I got this in the mail yesterday:

2017 Focus on Book Arts conference catalog It’s really, really happening now.

I’m teaching at the Focus on Book Arts (FOBA) conference in June!

2017 Focus on Book Arts conference catalog

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve announced this before. I’m just so thrilled and excited to be teaching at a conference I’ve attended and loved for years – it just continues to feel unreal.

In case you’ve never heard of FOBA, they put on a 5-day book arts conference every other year in Forest Grove, OR. In addition to workshops, they have a keynote speaker, evening activities, a trade show, an on-site store (Colophon Book Arts), and a faculty/staff exhibit. It really is the whole book arts package.

Check out some of the other instructors – Roberta Lavadour, Shawn Sheehy, Sam Ellenport, Helen Hiebert. I’m in disbelief that I’m teaching alongside these amazing people. And this year’s keynote speaker is Laura Russell, book artist and owner of 23 Sandy Gallery.

Seriously, go to the conference. I’ve been going since 2007 – and I’d go even if I weren’t teaching.

Oh, and take my workshop! Here’s a closer look at what we’ll be making:

Handmade three signature leather journals by Elissa Campbell

Now I just need to figure out what workshops to take on the days I’m not teaching. So many choices…

Conference registration opens on Monday, March 6th, 8:00 a.m. PST. While you’re waiting, you can peruse the conference catalog online.

Activist letterpress

In my 8+ years of blogging, I have made a point of not expressing my political views in my posts. I believe that everyone is entitled to their opinions and I’d rather not get into debates here – I want this to be a happy place.

That said, I have been in a major funk ever since Obama left office. I’m not happy with our current president for so many reasons. So.many.reasons.

I was really inspired by Montpelier letterpress printer and book artist Kelly McMahon of May Day Studio who recently hosted an event at her studio. Here’s the announcement:

Latest news got you down? Want to send a bit of thanks or good cheer (or a stern reminder) to your representatives?


Stop in to May Day Studio and print a postcard (or 10) from handset metal and wood type on one of our antique printing presses.

In general, I’m a reluctant activist but I thought, this I can do.

At the entrance to the studio, Kelly collected donations for organizations representing causes that are threatened by the current administration. Paper was donated by The Drawing Board (a local art shop) for the project.

Stacks of paper and donation jars

Type was ready to print in your choice of design – all awesome.

Letterpress type

Here’s the one I picked:

Letterpress type

Letterpress postcard ready for printing

I love silver ink and it looks so good on light blue paper.

Letterpress printed postcards

Kelly is currently selling a limited number of postcard sets on Etsy – Love and Protest. For a $5.00 donation to one of the specified organizations (ACLUPlanned Parenthood Northern New England Action Fund, Black Lives Matter VermontSierra Club, or Standing Rock), you can get your own set of 8 letterpress printed postcards.

I’ll be sending one of my postcards to the White House on March 15th as part of #TheIdesOfTrump protest. Now I just have to figure out what to write on it…

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