Elissa R. Campbell | Blue Roof Designs

Worktable Wednesday

Today I completed my unfinished projects from the Focus on Book Arts conference.

My proudest accomplishment is the roof on my little mat board house. I worked on this house in Randi Parkhurst’s workshop Doors, Drawers & Windows: Making Interactive Books and Boxes.

Randi recommended this awesome Fiskars border punch to create the shingles – the model is called the Leave it to Weaver Border Punch. Its common use is for creating slots for weaving ribbon in paper.Fiskars border punch

Randi showed us how to punch a sheet of paper and then simply trim off of the lower edge of the punch area. You end up with a strip of paper that has a toothy shape – this is how the shingles are made. I hand-painted two sheets of watercolor paper in varied shades of blue – one dark and one light. I think the pearly blue paint really made the papers interesting.

Here are a few images of the completed house from different angles:


Completed mat board house

Completed mat board house

Completed mat board house

And here’s a view of the roof from the top. Love it!

Roof of completed mat board house

The next item on the “finish me” list was the photo album I started in Jacqueline Sullivan’s workshop Calligraphic Paste Papers and Tacket Bound Album. I glued in double-sided, paste paper end pages and they came out great!

Inside of handmade paste paper photo album

Inside of handmade paste paper photo album

Inside of handmade paste paper photo album

Inside of handmade paste paper photo album

Once those were done, I sat and stared at the dangling threads on the spine. I’m not usually a bead person, but I felt compelled to add something more. The beads conquered me.

Spine of handmade paste paper photo album

Doors, Drawers & Windows: Making Interactive Books and Boxes with Randi Parkhurst – Day 2

The second day of Randi’s class was much easier. Apparently doors are less complicated than windows. Unless you make a revolving door. Just don’t ever do that.

I came into class early and was able to finish my swiveling window. Hurray!

Mat board window frame covered in colored paper

Mat board window frame covered in colored paper

We started the day by working on a hinged door.

Randi Parkhurst doing a demonstration

Randi Parkhurst doing a demonstration

We made teeny little hinges out of paper and Tyvek, then slid them onto a bamboo skewer (so clever!). The hinge flaps were glued in between 2 layers of mat board.

Completed hinged door on mat board house

Completed hinged door on mat board house

The sliding door used some of the same techniques as the first, in that we created a Tyvek hinge that was sandwiched between pieces of mat board. The loop slid onto a bamboo skewer, as you can see in the bottom right of the photo below.

Pieces of mat board house

We made a cornice that hid the bamboo rail with stops to help control how far the door would move. As this is a Vermont house, there are big gaps around the door. In fact, both of my windows aren’t airtight.

Definitely a Vermont house.

Completed sliding door on mat board house

Next, we added 3 interior walls. These helped to stabilize the structure and created little nooks where would could add drawers or little books.

Interior walls of mat board house

Hey – I raised a house!

Partially completed mat board house

Partially completed mat board house

Partially completed mat board house

At this point, we were free to experiment with adding drawers and shelves. I made a cool drawer, but I put the shelf in too high. :(

Partially completed mat board house

I’m going to put some feet on the drawer so it looks like I did it on purpose. Don’t tell. Oh, and I’ll also add a drawer pull of some kind and a little book to live on the shelf.

You may be thinking to yourself, “Wait a second, where’s the roof?” Well, I did make a roof, but forgot to take pictures. And it’s not finished.

We ran out of time in class to complete the roof, but I have the directions. Once it’s complete, I’ll write a follow-up post so you can see the completed house.

Doors, Drawers & Windows: Making Interactive Books and Boxes with Randi Parkhurst – Day 1

The first day of Randi Parkhurst‘s workshop, Doors, Drawers & Windows: Making Interactive Books and Boxes really made my brain stretch and took me out of my comfort zone multiple times. I never worked on this type of project before and that’s why I took the class – to push my creative self.


We worked toward completing an adorable little house with doors that opened…

Handmade house by Randi Parkhurst

…windows that slid…

Handmade house by Randi Parkhurst

…doors that slid and windows that swiveled. Seeing all of these mechanisms was intimidating at first.

Handmade house by Randi Parkhurst

Thankfully, our very first task was easy. Take brown paper, crumple it up, open it up and then and paint it with watercolors. That I could do.

Watercolor painted papers

Once that was done, we started to work on our house parts. Randi uses mat board for her structures. A great tip she gave us – if you get mat board with fabric on it, it’s really just bookcloth. Peel it off and you can use it for another project. GENIUS.

Bookcloth peeled off of mat board

Each window was made of layers of foam core, mat board, and clear plastic to simulate glass. We covered our pieces with the painted papers to give them interest.

Mat board window frame covered in colored paper

Mat board window frame covered in colored paper

We even trimmed out our windows, just like real windows. Which of course, they were.

Completed sliding window frame

There’s no way I could describe the steps to you – there was meticulous work done here and thankfully, Randi had cut many of the pieces in advance. If you’re interested in making one of these fabulous houses, definitely take the class. You have to see it done in person.

I’ll admit that I turned into one of those people:

“Wait. What did you say?”

“What are we doing?”

“Where am I gluing this thingie?”

It was sad.

But I soldiered on. The swivel window was a bit easier. It was composed of an outer frame and in inner frame that spun on a dowel. The mechanism was pretty cool.

Mat board window frame covered in colored paper

Unfortunately, I made my hole too big and my window flopped around instead of turning smoothly. I did my best to fill in the hole to tighten up the dowel, which improved things a bit.

I didn’t get to finish my swivel window today, so I’ll have to go in early tomorrow and complete it.

Randi’s quote of the day:

“Triangles suck.”

Reverse Engineering Historical and Modern Binding Structures, Part Two with Karen Hanmer – Day 2

On the second day of Karen’s workshop, we completed three bindings, starting with the Simplified Binding.

Materials kit for simplified binding

This binding is sewn on tapes – we used ramieband. I never used this material before. It reminded me of Tyvek, but it frayed really easily.

Spine sewing of simplified binding

We converted our super cute sewing frames into mini presses for the work that followed. This thing is like a bookbinding MacGyver.

Handmade mini press

We used bookcloth for our spine wrapper and lined it with paper to stiffen it. I got the most vibrant orange bookcloth for my book. Love.

We sanded our boards so that they had a slight bevel. When we covered our boards, the turn-ins were glued on to the side with the bevel. The wrapped boards were attached to the spine wrapper, which was super easy.

Simplified binding covers

The spines were glued up and rounded. I rounded my spine using a bone folder and got inconsistent results. We added a number of spine linings to fill in the spaces between the stitches and tapes. After the linings dried, we sanded them down with 220 grit sandpaper to create an even surface.

Simplified binding - sewn spine

Lastly, the text block was added, with the end sheets acting as the board attachment. I loved this binding and can totally see doing it again.

Simplified binding

Simplified binding - cutaway model

It was a straightforward process and the resulting book is wonderful to hold. To learn more about this binding, Karen recommended that you check out Laura Wait’s article in The Bonefolder, The Simplified Binding Examined.

The next binding was the Scaleboard Binding.

Materials kit for Scaleboard binding

It’s a Colonial American binding style that was basically developed as a response to lack of resources – they made do with what they had and poof came the Scaleboard. Karen told us that the cover boards usually had a horizontal grain, but she didn’t know why.

Scaleboard binding in process

To me, this binding is a bit like a stab binding, but not really. You use a 1/4” chisel to cut 2 slits through the entire stack of signatures. You then take 2 thin alum tawed strips and lace them through the slits. The ends of the alum tawed strips are then glued to the front of your boards.

Scaleboard binding in process

Scaleboard binding

The last binding was the Non-Adhesive Paper Case, which is sewn with a butterfly stitch.

Materials kit for non-adhesive paper case binding

No supports are used. End sheets are made with two folios, which are wrapped in a cloth guard to add strength. Slits are cut into the head and tail of the end sheet signatures, which help them lock the text block into the case.

Sewn text block for non-adhesive paper case binding

We used elephant hide paper to create our paper case.

[insert lots of folds here]

Non-adhesive paper case binding

Then our case was done!

Non-adhesive paper case binding

We cut out some paper from the interior of the case spine to facilitate the locking of the text block and the case. I had to do a bit of finagling before I got it right. The case is a pretty impressive structure, but I’m not sure that it’s something I could do on my own. I’m just not a good folder.

Non-adhesive paper case binding

Don’t ever ask me to do origami. Really.

And the day’s quotes from Karen:

“Go, go, go!”

“We’re doing so many things in this class that I don’t like.”

I’m so happy that I now have 5 more cutaway models to add to the 6 that I made at the last FOBA. Karen is a great teacher and I highly recommend that you take a class with her if you can. She’s an extremely talented smarty pants.

Karen Hanmer doing a bookbinding demonstration

Reverse Engineering Historical and Modern Binding Structures, Part Two with Karen Hanmer – Day 1

I just finished my first day of Karen Hanmer‘s workshop, Reverse Engineering Historical and Modern Binding Structures, Part Two. This was a sequel to a workshop I took with her at the last FOBA conference and the focus was on board attachment.

Before I go any further, I have to mention that the person with the largest army of miniature sewing frames wins.

Miniature bookbinding sewing frames

Karen wins!

Karen started out the class by passing around around 2 dozen cutaway models of historical and modern bindings. Even though I’d seen them before, who gets tired of looking at a box of candy?

Box of historical and modern bindings

We completed two bindings today – the Ethiopian binding and the Medieval binding. Most of the work had already been done for us – drilled holes, beveled board edges – but we still had plenty to do.

Materials kit for Ethiopian binding

I love kits.

The Ethiopian binding is part of the Coptic family. It doesn’t use sewing supports and is sewn with double needle link stitch.

We used poplar for our covers. The boards have multiple holes, one of which enters at an angle from the edge of the board through the front.

Starting inside the first signature, exit both sewing stations with the thread distributed evenly, or as Karen put it, hanging out “like a very long odd pair of pants”. Boards are attached by sewing them on like an additional signature. We then worked our way through the signatures, adding the second board in the same manner as the first.


Here are some shots of the outside of the completed book:

Ethiopian binding

This is not a sandwich.

Ethiopian binding

For more information on this binding, Karen referred us to J. Szirmai’s book, The Archeology of Medieval Bookbinding.

Next came the Medieval binding. Wheee!!! Another kit!

Materials kit for Medieval bookbinding

This binding was more complex than the first one we did. It’s sewn on double cords which are then laced into the boards. The insides of the boards are beveled at the shoulder and the book rounds itself by the action of closing the boards.

Medieval binding - sewing on double cords

When sewing, you wrap the threads around the cords in the direction of your sewing. I had to remind myself of this every time I did it. I think I messed up a few of them, but this is my learning book so I’m letting it go.

Medieval binding - sewing on double cords

Next, we flattened the spine edge of our signatures by rubbing them with a bone folder. We glued up the spine and attached a vellum lining in between the double cords. We scraped up the shiny surface of the vellum prior to gluing – that’s some slippery stuff! We worked the PVA in with our fingers and let it dry.

Medieval bookbinding spine in progress

Our boards had pre-drilled holes, but we got to cut the channels for the cords. I got to play with a 1/4″ chisel that I absolutely have to have now.Carved out channels in wooden boards for Medieval bookbinding

We applied paste to the cords and worked them through the holes, resting them in the cut channels. To secure the cords even further, we created leather “pegs” that helped tighten up any of the looseness in our holes. The cords and pegs were cut flush to the cover. The last step was attaching the vellum spine lining to the inside of one of the covers.

Here’s the completed cutaway model:

Medieval binding - completed cutaway model

I’m pretty damn happy with today’s work and I’m looking forward to my second day! I’ll leave you with some awesome Karen quotes:

“You can’t use my finger.”

“Everybody look at me, look at me!”

Calligraphic Paste Papers and Tacket Bound Album with Jacqueline Sullivan

Today’s paste paper workshop with Jacqueline Sullivan was full of lots of sloppy fun. When I arrived at my table, I found an awesome handout that included paste paper recipes, suggestions for paste paper tools, and directions for the tacket bound album that we made later in the day.

Paste Paper/Tacket Bound Album workshop handout

Jacqueline started the workshop by giving us some basic tips on making paste papers:

  • Don’t buy premixed methyl cellulose because it’s too thick.
  • Methyl cellulose is clear, which creates brighter colors.
  • Flour paste adds depth and fuzziness that you don’t get from methyl cellulose.
  • You can keep paste in the refrigerator to stave off mold. It also helps to use distilled water when creating your paste.
  • Arches text wove paper has great wet strength which makes it great for paste paper. You don’t want your paper to buckle while you’re working.
  • Methyl cellulose creates a good writing surface that you don’t always get with flour paste.

Next, she talked about colorants:

  • You can use anything to color paste, including watercolors, gouache, acrylics, powdered pigments, or cake colors.
  • She prefers Golden heavy body acrylics because they’re the highest pigmented acrylics on the market.
  • Be careful to not let your colorant take over the paste.
  • Watercolors are transparent and aren’t waterproof when dry. You need to add acrylic medium to the paste to make the colors permanent.
  • Use 3 tablespoons of color in each 8 ounce container of paste.
  • She prefers matte to gloss medium.
  • You need to use water soluble pigments, not oils.
  • Interference colors don’t mix well with paste because you lose the luminescent quality.
  • Iridescent pigments work well with paste.
  • Mica and metal powders help to create a brilliant metallic paste. You can also use Pearlex powders as colorants.
  • Use 1 tablespoon of mica or metal powder for each 8 ounces of paste. Be careful not to inhale the powder!

Then came the demos – yay!

Paste paper demonstration by Jacqueline Sullivan

Jacqueline talked about using polymer medium gloss as a resist – it’s like a blank paint. You can make marks with the medium and then let it dry.

She recommended that when we started off making our papers, we should stay within one quadrant of the color wheel. I decided to go with reds, oranges, yellows, and golds.

Paste paper

Paste paper

Making paste paper is pretty straightforward. Dampen your paper with a sponge, smear paste on the paper, use tools to make marks. If you’re a slob, clean your work area. Repeat.

Jacqueline told us that to make a good mark you had to stand up and move your body. The lazy person in me objected to this, but I told that me to shut up and do it because that’s why I came here. We even did some stretches before working to loosen up our bodies. Lazy me complained, even though the stretches felt good.

We used water soluble pastels as a way to add marks to our papers. We were advised to stay in an analogous color scheme because the powdered pastels would smear and not be resistant to the paste. More expensive pastels have more pigment in them. After smearing the marks with water, we added the paste on top of them. The result was subtle.

Next, we used oil pastels to make marks. These acted as a resist to the paste and did not smear. Jacqueline told us that using oil pastels was a way to add colors on the opposite end of the color wheel without them getting muddy. She also said that they were great for adding words to your paper. I loved loved loved using the white pastel on my paste papers.

Then it was lunch time and I was sad because all I wanted to do was make more paper. Sad.

After lunch, we used our papers to make a tacket bound album. We used 21 lengths of thread to bind it.

Raw materials for tacket bound book

Sewing tacket bound book

Tacket bound book

I love how my book turned out. There are infinite possibilities for what you can do with the loose threads. I’ll have to figure that out when I get home.

More tips from Jacqueline:

  • In between uses, X-Acto blades oxidize and they get dull. Always start each work session with a new blade.
  • Use the flat side of your bone folder to minimize shiny marks on your paper. It will also interfere less with the fibers this way.
  • Wet your brush before dipping it into PVA.

And the quote of the day:

Don’t measure unless you have to.

LOVE that one.

Focus on Book Arts Conference 2013

Focus on Book Arts logoIn a week I’ll be leaving for the biennial Focus on Book Arts conference, held at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. This will be my fourth time attending the conference. This conference gets amazing instructors and this year’s batch is no exception – Jeff Peachey, Carol Barton, Sam Ellenport, and Emily Marks. Not surprisingly, the majority of workshops are already full. The keynote lecture is by Phillip PiragesLooking Sensational in Leather: A Superficial but Diverting Look at the Beautiful, Curious, and Amazing History of Bookbinding, with Illustrative Examples.

The first owners of early decorative codex bindings were churches and monasteries, followed by the wealthy elite. While bindings have always been utilitarian, providing protection for written content, adorned books from the medieval period onwards have also been considered as pleasing and often precious physical objects, sometimes even viewed as symbols of status.

Phillip will be presenting a consideration of the general evolution of bookbinding styles in the West, featuring examples of historically interesting and esthetically pleasing bindings from the 15th century until today. In addition, there’s a lecture on Wednesday night too – Critique, Collaboration and Commerce for the Book Artist with gallery owners and studio artists Alicia Bailey and Laura Russell. They’ll be talking about the value and methods of criticism and an introduction to the business of being an artist.

Ever wonder if your work as a book artist is ready to exhibit? Is it good enough to sell? And if so, just how do you go about it? Constructive criticism is an important and often extraordinary growth experience for any artist. Once an artist feels confident in their constructs, it may be time to focus on reaching a wider audience and/or selling work.

I’m psyched about this double bill – there’s a lot to learn! On top of that, I’m attending the following workshops: Calligraphic Paste Papers and Tackett Bound Album with Jacqueline Sullivan:

This class will help you learn the proper techniques for making paste papers with a beautiful, smooth velvety finish that is perfect for calligraphic markings and creating a personal album. Students will create paste papers with an emphasis on beautiful calligraphic mark making and use of bright colors. Papers will be made with a methyl cellulose based paste that is easy to use and recreate in your home studio. We will work large in order to have plenty of paper for the album. Then the papers we have designed will be used to create a Tackett Bound Album. Paper assemblage, gluing, and book binding will be covered. There will be a variety of tools on hand for making various patterns and marks in the paste and handouts will be provided. Extra papers made during the workshop will be wonderful for your in-studio projects such as binding books, collages, making boxes, and backgrounds.

I’ve envied those folks who take workshops and walk away with piles of beautiful papers to play with when they get home. I decided to take the plunge and be one of them. Paste papers will be mine! Reverse Engineering Historical and Modern Binding Structures Part Two with Karen Hanmer:

This workshop begins with a brief review of numerous historical and modern binding structures, with a focus on methods of board attachment. Similarities between historical and modern structures will be stressed. Students will create five binding models. These models will remain unfinished so the sewing and board attachment are visible for future reference. Models include Ethiopian, Medieval, Colonial American, Simplified and Non-adhesive Paper Case. This is a fast-paced workshop for students who already have some experience with traditional binding.

I took a workshop with Karen at the last FOBA (Day 1 & Day 2) and really enjoyed it. This workshop is the sequel (as if the part two in the title didn’t make that clear – duh). Doors, Drawers & Windows: Making Interactive Books and Boxes with Randi Parkhurst:

This fun and unique workshop will focus on the mechanics of doors, drawers and windows as an integral part of the interactive book or box structure. Working from excellent models and clear instructions we will explore several techniques for making hinged doors, drawers that slide easily, and windows made from unusual materials. These elements can hide and house words, objects, drawings and more. We will also explore the possibilities when using materials like watercolor paper, linen thread, and other common materials to fashion drawer handles, door pulls, beads, and button closures. Each student will construct and complete several working models that can be used as references for future projects. Students may wish to bring a project or ideas that are in need of a door, drawer, or window.

This workshop really appeals to the more creative side of my bookbinding brain. Randi’s work is insane (in a good way). If you haven’t seen the video of her book Patience, you have to watch it now. It’s insane. If I can get internet access (and I’m not totally exhausted), I’ll be blogging about the conference after each day’s events, just as I did the last time I attended.

Worktable Wednesday

I’m so excited that I now have my very own sewing frame! This awesome piece of equipment allows you to sew on cords or tapes. You can also use it for sewing several books at a time.

Just look at my little lovely:

Wood sewing frame for bookbinding

Wood sewing frame for bookbinding

I’ve wanted a sewing frame for a while. Several years ago, I took a sewing over cords workshop at the Focus on Book Arts conference and I loved it. For whatever reason, I couldn’t (didn’t) figure out a way to justify buying one. It seems that I had no trouble justifying it now!

The funny thing is that I bought tape keys back in October of 2007.

For a non-existent sewing frame.

Tape keys for bookbinding sewing frame

4.5 years later and I can finally use them!

Many thanks go to Barbara Parker for deciding to give her sewing frame a new home. The best part is that she’s from Vermont – I believe that makes my sewing frame a native!

Worktable Wednesday

This morning was spent much like last Wednesday – I glued coptic journal covers using two more sheets of the paper I got from Chena River Marblers.

Paper by Chena River Marblers

11:08 a.m.

I was bummed to find that the purple marbled paper was grain short, so I could only get one journal out of it. Poo.

Mitered corners on handmade journal covers

11:31 a.m.

Prepping journal cover paper for gluing

12:34 p.m.

Things got more exciting once I went on a field trip.

Sheets of bookboard in the back of my van

2:36 p.m. - Off to Shelburne!

I’ve mentioned that my new bookboard is too large to fit in my Kutrimmer (argh). In order to get my board cut, I had to travel to a friend’s studio to use her Kutrimmer. She has a 1080.

Me? Jealous? Yes. Very.

Kutrimmer 1080

The thing is beauteous. In addition to having a larger cutting length (31.25″), it has a rocking foot-operated clamp. My foot never gets to help when I cut board at home. :(

17 boards later…

Piles of cut bookboard

6:26 p.m.

I didn’t cut the boards all the way down to finished sizes – I didn’t want to kill the blade and I can finish the rest at home on my inferior 1071.

I think I’ve become a bad Kutrimmer mommy.

There was a fun and gross discovery while cutting the bookboard – a smushed, bloody bug.

Smushed bug on sheet of bookboard

I performed several Google searches to determine whether smushed bugs are either archival or acid-free, but had no luck.

If you have any knowledge on the subject, please share! ;)

The Awesomeness of Peter and Donna Thomas

Peter and Donna Thomas are awesome.

There, I said it.

I first met them when I attended the Focus on Book Arts conference in 2009. I was fortunate enough to attend one of their miniature book workshops.

Loved it.

Then they came to Vermont to lecture at UVM Special Collections and to teach a workshop for the Book Arts Guild of Vermont. It was then that I fell in love with one of their editioned books, but stupidly didn’t buy it.

I thought about that book for a year. It conveyed a message that was so perfect for the time in my life when I saw it. I missed it.

So I did something about it. Now mine.

Miniature book by Peter & Donna Thomas

Miniature book by Peter & Donna Thomas

Miniature book by Peter & Donna Thomas

Miniature book by Peter & Donna Thomas

The book measures 1 5/16″ x 1″ x 1/4″. It’s bound in leather and all of the pages are letterpressed. The copyright date makes me laugh – the book’s sentiment was probably appropriate back then too.

I love it.

There was a post on the Book Arts listserv today that mentioned that Peter and Donna had taped an interview with Park City Television. You can watch it below.

Did I mention how awesome they are?

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