The origin of accordion love?

They Might Be Giants in concert

Over the weekend I got to see my most favoritest band perform in Burlington, VT – They Might Be Giants. I have loved them forever (well, since 1988 anyway).

I started thinking about the connection between my affinity for accordion books and the fact that one of the TMBG band members plays an accordion.

Accordion Book

Perhaps the band had some magical influence on my journey into book arts?

Botanical Inklings – An awesome Kickstarter project

Sarah 1

Experienced letterpress printer and fellow book artist Sarah Mottaghinejad of Ink and Awl has launched a nifty Kickstarter project. Botanical Inklings will be a be a coloring book like no other – it’s going to be letterpress printed on watercolor paper.

This is just brilliant.

If you’re into coloring books, now you can use any media you want – watercolors, ink, über markers – oh yeah, this paper can take it.

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Sarah’s illustrations are inspired by her love for plant life and work in macro photography. Even without having colored them in, I think that the prints are totally frameable.

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Sarah 2

The rewards Sarah’s offering are pretty fantastic. I went for the unbound package, which includes 16 different illustrations. You can also choose a handbound copy of the prints. And if that weren’t enough, one of the rewards offers you the opportunity to participate in the design of one of the prints – you choose a word and a few plants and Sarah will create a custom illustration for you.

So very cool.

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You can follow Sarah’s creative process on Instagram, where she’s been posting images of her sketches (including those custom-designed for backers).

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The Kickstarter campaign is running now through December 1st (until 2:59 a.m. EST, to be precise), so head on over and check out the project. And support it!

Paper and Book Intensive 2016

Paper and Book Intensive made up logoThe Paper and Book Intensive just published their course descriptions for 2016. Whether or not I’ll be able to attend remains to be seen.

I’ve been to PBI three times so far. I skipped it this year and I could feel it in my bones – I was bummed. I think I’m addicted. Perhaps PBI really stands for Paper and Book Illness?

Next year’s classes are looking fabulous, as usual. As I look over the list, I keep changing my mind about which ones I’d attend. I seem to be drawn to those that are content-driven – that’s my Achilles heel as an artist.

Here are the ones that really caught my eye (at least for today):

Ideation in Action with Julie Chen:

Ideas for content can come from almost anywhere, but are often hard to capture in ways that lead to the focused and creative attention needed to bring an artist’s book to fruition. This workshop will introduce students to strategies for content development that will be useful for both the occasional bookmaker and the professional book art practitioner. Students will do daily content development exercises based on card draws from Artist’s Book Ideation Cards – a deck of cards designed by Julie Chen and Barbara Tetenbaum to help jumpstart the creative process – as well as exercises based on other creative tools and techniques. Together we will build a creative space that will be part art studio, part classroom, and part mad scientist’s laboratory. Participants will experiment with writing, image making, materials and structure/content integration, and will come away with fresh ideas for book projects as well as new approaches for creative practice.

The Unique Print with Georgia Deal:

Explore the many possibilities of the Unique Print! This workshop is designed for printmakers, painters, and book artists interested in the monoprint and its versatility. A wide range of monoprint and monotype techniques will be demonstrated – from painterly and expressive to graphic and specific approaches. Using oil-based printmaking inks, we will investigate direct painting methods, reductive or subtractive approaches, multi-plate registered color printing, monotypes, collage, and mixed-media techniques. Gum transfer printing will be demonstrated, allowing the artist to utilize appropriated images, photographs or personal drawings into this process. Ideal papers for use with monoprinting, including working with handmade papers, will be discussed and experimented with. Chine colle, pochoir, and pressure printing will further inform the artist as to how translate his/her ideas and images into this versatile printmaking medium.

Taking It Out of Context with Sarah Smith:

Sometimes you just need to get the ideas out there. Sometimes you just need to get the ideas at all. Rather than get bogged down with the big idea, the monumental book, or the magnum opus, we’ll focus on the smaller ideas and generating more ideas for more books in simple quick ways. In this class we’ll explore the ideas behind mini-comics, zines and other quick, low-tech productions. Using simple book structures such as one-sheet folds, accordions, pamphlets, super simple albums, and others, we’ll create books loaded with content you never thought you’d come up with. There will be a lot of taking things out of context, twisting people’s words and digging in the kitchen sink. We’ll use source materials such as old manuals, home study course booklets, cook books and whatever else we can get our hands on. Bring original material you might want to work with – or even better – photocopies and scans of that material. We will work on conceptual exercises and narratives with rubber stamps (pre-made and ones you carve yourself), stencil, collage, photocopy transfer, silly putty, pen and ink, rubbings, gel printing and other methods.

I highly recommend going to PBI if you’ve never been – start saving your pennies now. Or go for a scholarship – applications will be accepted from December 1 – 31, 2015.

The general application will be available online starting on January 1, 2016. Workshops fill up quickly, so get your application in early!

Worktable Wednesday

Today was an accordion book kind of day.

I’ve been working on these babies for the past week or so. I really love making them, mostly because I get to play with brighter and wackier papers than I usually use in my production work. I also use papers that were trimmed from larger projects.

Accordion book covers with ribbon

I spent time folding the long strips of paper that go on the inside of the books. I start by folding them in half, then I trim a little off the ends.

Folded cover weight paper strips

The accordion books have pages/panels that are 4″ x 4″ in size. To help me with the folding, I use my trusty scoring board (thank you Martha). I know I’ve said this before, but I love this thing.

Folding cover weight paper strips

I folded enough paper for 27 books. The next step is to glue them into the covers.

Folded cover weight paper strips

I don’t have accordion books in my shop or on Etsy yet. It’s partially due to the fact that I often only buy one sheet of a particular paper, which limits the number of books I can create in that design. I also haven’t devoted time to taking photos of them – poor, neglected little books.

I hope to have them for sale online soon – if you’re interested in purchasing one before they’re available, just let me know!

Happy American Cheese Month!

American Cheese Month logoOh, yes.

October is American Cheese Month. This is not to be confused with American cheese month (there is no such thing, thankfully).

I love cheese (as I’ve mentioned before). It’s lucky for me that I live in Vermont. Not only does the state produce some rocking cheeses, but it also has its own Cheese Council. And an official Cheese Trail. And an annual Cheesemakers Festival.

In honor of two of my great loves, here’s an ode to cheese and bookmaking.

Over the years, I’ve created a few books that were inspired by cheese:

Chaiku was created in 2010 as part of the Vermont Arts Council’s statewide art project, Art Fits Vermont. 9,500 wood puzzle pieces were distributed to encourage people to make art – 10% of the state’s population participated!

The book component of the piece contains 12 haiku that I wrote about cheese.

By the way, it seems I’m not the only one to write cheese poetry – check these out.

Cheese Your Own Adventure was also created in 2010. In April of that year, the Book Arts Guild of Vermont participated in the International Edible Book Festival – an annual celebration where artists use food as a medium to create works inspired by the book form or literary themes. As you can see below, I wrote the word “adventure” on slices of cheese using honey mustard. Yum!

If you’d like to explore the concept of Cheese Your Own Adventure a bit further, there’s a website for that! Zeus Jones out of Minneapolis created the website to educate people about the qualities of Cheddar, Manchego and Gouda. And you get to learn through stories about cowboys, vampires and yeti. I kid you not. It’s pretty cool.

Little Yellow came into being in 2011. I created the book so that I could document my cheese adventures – what I’ve tried, who made them, what they taste like, etc. I take it with me when I go to the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival.

I enjoy writing notes in it, like “mild and creamy” or “strong flavor and very stinky”. I like to sound cheese smart.

If the books above weren’t enough for you and you need more cheesiness, check out one of my Flickr galleries named For the Love of Books & Cheese. And if you’ve made a cheese-themed book, I’d love to see it! Send me an email with the details and I’ll happily feature your work on my blog.

Now go forth and eat cheese!

Bad news at Mills College

Yesterday I heard terrible, terrible news about the Mills College Book Arts program. Students and alumni were just notified that due to budget cuts, the program is at risk of being eliminated within 30 days. This is heartbreaking.

The book arts program has been in existence for over 35 years, educating undergraduate and graduate students in the disciplines of book arts, letterpress, and printmaking. Interestingly, there has been no difficulty in getting students to enroll in these classes – in fact, they often attract students from outside the department.

The MFA in Book Art and Creative Writing was the first such program in the country. It offers deep creative exploration and encourages artistic development in both written and visual formats.

And if the curriculum isn’t enough for you, the faculty includes Julie Chen and Kathleen Walkup – can you say rock stars? If I had the opportunity, I’d enroll in this program in a heartbeat – it’s fantastic.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m not one to push causes – I’m making an exception in this case. If the book arts mean anything to you, please show your support for the Mills College Book Arts program by signing the petition on

Want to do more? Write to Mills College administrators and let them know what you think!

While you’re at it, check out this Tumblr account that was created for people to share stories and express support for the program.

Let’s rally and help prevent the closure of the Mills College Book Arts program!

Light it up with Jill Dawson

I recently attended the monthly meeting of the Book Arts Guild of Vermont and we had an awesome presenter for the month of October – Jill Dawson. She introduced us to the world of paper circuitry, which I knew nothing about.

In a nutshell, you use conductive metal tape (instead of wires) to create an electronic circuit. You can use this to add lights to your work. I hope that I do a decent job of explaining what I learned.

Paper circuitry handout - Jill Dawson

We received a kit with the following supplies:

Paper circuitry supplies

Jill started off by introducing us to the basics of how the lights operate. The LED light has two wires (leads) coming out of it, one longer than the other. The longer wire is the positive lead and the shorter wire is negative. To get the light to turn on, you have to connect the long wire to the positive side of the battery and the short wire to the negative side.

Battery and LED light

In addition to the traditional bulby looking lights, there are these cool things called circuit stickers. They kind of look like metallic candy corn. The stickers have positive and negative parts, just like the bulbs (it’s marked right on them). They are much less bulky than the other lights and are probably more appropriate for use in books.

Circuit stickers

Jill taught us how to make a parallel circuit. In the example below, the circles indicate where the battery will be placed. The copper tape creates two paths that will lead to both the positive and negative sides of the battery. The two lines of tape have to be in close proximity (parallel) in order to connect to both leads on the light. You can place more than one LED on a parallel circuit.

Sample parallel circuit

It was recommended that we bend the ends of the LEDs in different ways so that we can more easily determine which lead is positive and which is negative. Jill bends the negative wire in a zig-zag shape and the positive wire in a curly shape.

I placed the copper tape on my card so that the two lines were in a close, parallel configuration. The battery is located in the bottom right-hand corner of the card – the binder clip holds it in place underneath the folded corner. I touched the positive and negative leads of the LED to the corresponding strips of tape and voila! We have light!

Parallel paper circuit

We then had time to design the card so that it incorporated the light(s). My drawing skills are somewhat lacking, but I managed to crank out a creepy eye – it looks pretty cool with the red light behind it.

Handmade card with LED light

I think that there’s a lot of potential for using lights in bookmaking. I loved Carol Barton‘s Five Luminous Towers, A Book to be Read in the Dark from the first moment I saw it. I’m starting to understand how something like that can be done.

The thing that has my brain churning is how you choose a location for the battery – I wouldn’t want it to stick out and it would have to be accessible so that it could be replaced as needed. I’m thinking that a book cover could be made from two thicknesses of bookboard, with one layer having a recess cut out for the battery.

I’ll have to play with the technology and see what develops!

Weston Craft Show recap

This past weekend marked my third year at the Weston Craft Show and for the third year, I was in a new location. My booth was in a room on the third floor and I shared it with Julia Emilo, a fabulous gourd painter.

Here’s a shot of the raw space:

Empty room at Weston Playhouse

I arrived at the playhouse around 7:00 p.m. on Thursday night, so my brain power wasn’t at maximum capacity. It took me a while to figure out how to set things up. It’s like craft show Tetris.

Piles of tubs and craft show booth supplies

Welcome to booth #35!

Sign and entrance to Blue Roof Designs craft show booth

Blue Roof Designs craft show booth

I put one of my bookshelves in the hallway because it wouldn’t fit in the room. I think the exit sign is a nice touch.

Bookshelf with handmade books by Elissa Campbell of Blue Roof Designs

Blue Roof Designs craft show booth

And then after three days, it all gets packed up. My blue crates (see below) – I’ve had them for 27 years! You can fold them up when they’re empty. I love them.

Piles of tubs and craft show booth supplies

I’d like to give a shout out to the folks who put on the show – woot! They are so good to artists…seriously. There’s a 2:00 p.m. Cookie Time every day.

I’m looking forward to my fourth year at Weston in 2016!


Vermont Open Studio Weekend – Central Vermont Artists

Vermont Open Studio Weekend logo

Vermont’s 5th Fall Open Studio Weekend is just a week away (October 3 & 4)! If you’re planning on visiting my studio (and why wouldn’t you?), you can visit other great artists within a 20-ish minute drive of here.

Hopefully the foliage will cooperate and be tour-worthy!

There are 7 studios/galleries participating in the Central Vermont area. Artists are offering exhibits and demonstrations of pottery, ironwork, painting, etching, and more.

I’ll be referring to studios by both name and number – the number refers to a listing in the red 2015 Vermont Studio Tour Guide. There are several ways to get your hands on a map:

Here’s the rundown of who’s who (click on the links to learn more about specific artists):

I created the map below to help you plan your travels. Because the studios are so close to each other, you can visit quite a few of them within a short period of time.

Have fun!

My work is in the Vermont Open Studio Weekend guide!

Next month is the 5th annual Fall Vermont Open Studio Weekend.

Open Studio Weekend takes place on the first weekend in October – Saturday October 3rd and Sunday October 4th, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. I’ll be talking more about the event and my preparations in the coming weeks.

This year’s Open Studio Tour Guide is available for request on the Vermont Crafts Council‘s website or you can download a PDF version. I’m site #89 on the map.

If you look at the back cover of the guide (bottom right-hand corner), you’ll see an image of my leather journals, all pretty in a pile. I love piles.

Vermont Open Studio Weekend Fall 2015 guide

I am so thrilled and honored to have my work pictured in the guide! I hope that this will bring more visitors to my studio during Open Studio Weekend.

If you’d like to be added to my snail mailing list, please contact me and let me know. I send out coupons in my OSW mailing, so this is a good time to join. Please indicate if you’d like to be added to my Email list as well – they include special offers and discounts.

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