PBI 2016 lineup

Made-up logo for the Paper and Book IntensiveThe Paper and Book Intensive recently announced their instructors for 2016. Workshop descriptions won’t be available until later in the year, but that won’t stop me from drooling over what I know now.

Here’s the list of instructors:

Ses­sion 1:

Ses­sion II:

The Paper and Book Intensive will take place from May 15 – 26, 2016 at Ox-Bow in Saugatuck, Michi­gan.

I’ve been quiet…

As you’ve probably noticed, I haven’t written any blog posts over the last month. Things have been tough lately. I’m a private person and try not to make a habit of talking about my personal problems on my blog, but I’m going to make an exception in this case.

2 1/2 weeks ago, my dad passed away. It’s a big loss and I’m pretty heartbroken.

I’ve been lucky in that my dad was always supportive of my creative work. In fact, I’ve often joked that I was destined to become an artist because my dad’s name was Art.

I’m thankful that I had him in my life as long as I did. He was a good man.

Medieval on the Go: The Girdle Book with Karen Hanmer – Day 3

Today was the third day of Karen’s workshop and we were busy!

We started out by drilling holes in our boards – these would be used later for lacing on our text blocks.

Drilled holes in wood cover boards

Next, we frayed out the ends of the cords on our text blocks to remove lumps.

Frayed text block cords

We used a 1/4″ chisel to carve channels in the front and back of our cover boards – the cords on our text blocks will rest in these after lacing in. I find something very relaxing about chiseling.

Drilled holes and carved channels in wood cover boards

We rubbed paste into the cords and twisted the tips into points to help us lace them into the boards.

Lacing text block into wood cover

After the lacing was completed, we cut little leather triangles and crammed them into the holes with the ends of our cords. This helped to lock the cords into place. The ends of the cords and leather were trimmed flush with the surface of the board. Paste was added to the sunken cords and smushed into the channels with a bone folder. Smushing is fun.

Text block laced into wood cover

We then moved on to covering the book with leather. This bummed me out a bit because I loved the way the stitching looked and hated to cover it up.

We started off by brushing a layer of PVA on the spine. This was followed by a layer of paste on the tail end of the book. A strip of leather (suede side out) was pasted out and adhered to the tail end of the book. We made some cuts in the leather at the spine to allow us to work it around the endbands.

Handmade book with wood covers and partial leather covering

The next step was to cover the remainder of the book. I was really nervous at this point – I was worried about getting paste all over the outside of the book. And screwing up in general.

One cover, the spine, and the leather were pasted out. The book was then placed centered on the leather. After the leather was smoothed out with our hands, the second cover was pasted out. The leather was pulled over and adhered to the second board. There was finagling of leather for a while, making sure that it was wrinkle-free and formed around the cords.

I don’t use paste in my work, so it took a while to get used to the adhesive. It was wiggly, but I eventually found it very easy to work with – we used Yamoto Sticking Paste, a rice starch adhesive. I need to get my hands on some.

Once the book was covered, we wrapped our books tightly with an ace bandage to help ensure good adhesion. After 20 minutes, we unwrapped our books, placed blotters both inside and outside of our covers, and pressed the book under weight overnight.

Handmade girdle book under a brick

Done for the day! The book is looking good and I’m very happy with my progress.

Here are some more great quotes from Karen:

Is everybody good but me?

Pare, discard, repeat. Pare, discard, repeat.

You don’t wear a tuxedo to go to the gas station.

Medieval on the Go: The Girdle Book with Karen Hanmer – Day 2

I realized that I forgot to show you a picture of Karen’s awesome resource booklet for the girdle book workshop. It’s actually rather insane – check this out:

We started the day off by sewing primary endbands on our textblocks. We stiffened up the core cord with PVA to make it easier to work with. It took a few stitches for me to get the hang of the sewing process, but I really enjoyed it. I could do more of these!

Primary endband sewing

Primary endband sewing

Primary endband sewing

Don’t be fooled by the images – this was not a quick process. It took 2+ hours to complete.

The next step was to add a second spine lining. We used more of the suede that we used yesterday for the first spine lining. This time, we filled in the spaces that had not yet been covered. After the suede was glued down, we rubbed in a layer of paste over the top.

Glued down spine lining

Board shaping came next. We’re using poplar boards for our covers and there were a few areas that needed work:

  1. The inside spine edge of each board needed to be shaped to match the shoulder of the text block.
  2. The outside spine edge of each board needed to be shaped to create a continuous round moving from the spine onto the boards.
  3. On the inside of the boards, the head, tail, and fore-edge needed to be shaped at a 45 degree angle, through half the thickness of the boards.

In a nutshell, there was a whole lotta bezeling going on. Most of the material removal was done with a rasp and finer work was completed with sandpaper.

Elbow grease + dust mask + back pain = completed boards.

Shaped cover boards and text block

The last bit of wood work involved preparing the back cover for the strap closure. We used a Dremel to drill a small series of holes in a row – this created a slot through which we’ll feed our leather straps. Next, we used a 1/4″ chisel to carve out a recess where the end of the strap will rest.

Wood book cover with carved recess

We finished off the day by sizing our cover boards – this is done to help minimize absorption of adhesive in future work. To accomplish this, we applied a layer of diluted paste to all surfaces.

It was a full and fun day – I look forward to tomorrow!

I leave you with today’s gem from Karen:

We are not slaves to the tyranny of the ruler.

Medieval on the Go: The Girdle Book with Karen Hanmer – Day 1

I just finished my first day of Karen Hanmer‘s workshop, Medieval on the Go: The Girdle Book. This is the third workshop I’ve taken with Karen at the Focus on Book Arts conference (not all this time around). I guess I like her!

The girdle book is a bit of an odd duck of a book that makes a lot of sense – the structure has a leather extension off the bottom of it (like a tail) that allows the owner to attach it to his or her belt. Karen told us that there are only 23 known examples of girdle books in existence and those date from 1400 to 1550.

Although the book we’re working on is a medieval structure, we’re also using some modern techniques in its construction. We started out by preparing 24 signatures for sewing.

We used something called Pergamenata for the single leaf hooked endsheets. It feels a lot like vellum – it was very thick and somewhat difficult to fold. And kinda hard to glue.

After that, we punched holes in our signatures and got ready to sew. Since I flew to OR for the conference, I couldn’t bring my own sewing frame with me. Thankfully, Karen had little baby sewing frames available for us travelers.

Sewing frame

The book is sewn on double cords with packed sewing. You wrap the thread around the cords as you work across the spine and ideally, you shouldn’t be able to see any of the cord between your stitches. That didn’t quite work out with my sewing – I had issues with my tension and the cords were loosey-goosey. But it’s my learning book, so I’m okay with that.

Some sewing happened…

Binding a book on double cords

…and more sewing…

Binding a book on double cords

…and then 3+ hours later, it was done! Well, at least the sewing was done.

Binding a book on double cords

The next step was to use a bone folder to flatten down the spine edge of the signatures. This was to eliminate some of the extra space between the folds where glue likes to sink in. We worked a PVA/paste mixture into the spine with our fingers.

We didn’t round the spine using a hammer. Instead, we started the process by pushing down on the edges of the spine with our hands. After that, we put the text blocks in between boards and into a finishing press. We added more paste to the spine to soften it – the PVA mixture was drying too fast. Then we worked the spine some more using a bone folder.

I freely admit that I am not good at rounding. My book is roundish and that’s good enough for me.

Text block in finishing press

The final step of the day was to add the first spine lining, a thin suede. We cut out slots in the suede so that the lining rested in between the stitching/cords – it did not extend over the kettle stitches at the head and tail. We applied the PVA/paste mixture to the spine and glued down the lining.

Text block and spine lining

The ends of the cords were pulled through the slots to the outside of the lining. We finished off the lining with a layer of paste on top.

Text block with glued-down spine lining

It was a full day! I’ll leave you with some awesome Karen quotes:

In general, don’t be like me.

Yakkity, yakkity, yakkity…spine lining, spine lining, spine lining.

GBW Standards of Excellence Seminar

GBW Seminar 2015 logoThe Guild of Book Workers recently opened up registration for their annual Seminar on Standards of Excellence in Hand Bookbinding. The conference is held in a different location every year and offers presentations by masters in the field of book and paper arts. In addition, the event includes tours of nearby binderies, libraries, and other book arts-related businesses.

This year the seminar is being held in Cleveland, Ohio (U.S.) on October 15 – 17.

This year’s presentations look great – here’s the lineup (from the GBW website):

The Devil is in the Details with Christina Amato:

Creating miniature books, which are generally defined as being under three inches in any dimension, presents a number of challenges as well as creative opportunities. For this presentation, Christina will be demonstrating and discussing making miniature books, with a focus on edition work and dealing with content. Choosing an appropriate binding structure, materials, and tools will be discussed, as well as general tips and tricks.

The Meeting Guard: Its Use Historically and Its Use in Fine Binding, Conservation and Artist Books with Bill Minter:

The binding of certain books can be a challenge: in some cases, the text paper might be too thick or stiff for the book to function properly; in diaries and record books, the writer wants the pages to lay perfectly flat; and in scrapbooks or albums, mounted materials might hinder the opening. These and other challenges can be addressed with a “meeting guard” binding structure.

In this presentation, we will be looking at historical bindings that use the meeting guard and explore its place in artist books and conservation binding. The demonstration will include making meeting guards and sewing them for use on a number of books. The emphasis will be to produce a fully functional book that meets our standards and provides the reader with a book that is user-friendly.

The Paper Has Been Shipped! with Andrea Peterson:

Andrea would like to take you behind the scenes as papermaker and designer by leading you through the process of creating speciality papers for bookbinders. We will be entertaining the possibilties of handmade papers and why a binder would be of any interest. You will see the process of stenciled and watermarked papers as well as more simple paper styles. Andrea will be presenting the components that are most important to handmade paper and binder as they move forward to create amazing works.

Registration is open now through September 29th and they only have space for 150 people. I attended the seminar in 2011 when they held it in Boston – it was fantastic and I highly recommend that you attend if you have the opportunity.

Can’t make it? Live vicariously through handouts from previous year’s presentations.

Book arts bucket list

I’ve been visiting a lot of travel blogs lately and I found that most of them have something in common – bucket lists. For those of you who don’t know, a bucket list is a list of things you want to do before you die.

I find the concept of a bucket list to be both hopeful and morbid at the same time. However, I realized that I’ve been keeping a list in my head for a while – a list of book arts-related things.

I decided that it was time to write it all down. It’s a bit overwhelming to see all of these items in one place and I wonder how much of it is actually possible to accomplish (some of it is crazy-dreaming). I guess I should be focusing on the hopeful aspect of it all – I have a lot of years left in me!

Here it is, in no particular order:

Take a workshop at:

Take a workshop with:



  • Secret Belgian Binding
  • Woodblock carving & printing
  • Reduction printmaking
  • Print an edition using my Gocco


I imagine that this list will change over time. I look forward to crossing things off of it!

What’s on your bucket list? I’d love to hear about it!

Elissa’s Picks for Vermont Open Studio Weekend

Vermont Open Studio Weekend logoWelcome the third in my series of blog posts about ways to plan your Open Studio Weekend tour.

In this post I listed the book arts studios I’d visit if I were touring this weekend. Of course, I would also visit studios by artists working in other media.

The batch of studios listed below belong to my fellow board members of the Vermont Crafts Council. These are some hardworking folks, volunteering their time for a great organization and creating fantastic work.

I’ll be referring to studios by both name and number – the number refers to a listing in the green Vermont Studio Tour Guide 2015. The colors of the studio numbers in this post match the colored markers in the Google map below.

There are several ways to get your hands on a map:

Starting from the south, my first stop would be #64, Jessica Putnam-Phillips of Battenkill River Pottery. She creates hand carved functional and decorative ceramics. Her history as a military intelligence specialist in the US Air Force has had a great influence on her work – she explores the experience of women in the military in the form and content of her work. It’s really fascinating.

The next stop on the tour would be studio #76, David Stone of The Potter Stone. He works in porcelain and stoneware and (in his words) “combines both traditional forms with a contemporary spirit”. His work is wheel-thrown and hand-built, functional and decorative.

#93, Judith Reilly would be next. Her work is seriously wonderful and Judy is a serious sweetheart (and a good hugger). To consider her a quilter just doesn’t do her justice – she really paints with fabric. In her own words, her pieces “express both realistic and fantastic interpretations in a catawampus and quirky style”.

Next comes studio #10, Becca Van Fleet Webb of Two Potters. Becca’s hubby Nathan is the other member of this potter pair. These two worked in ceramics independently before joining forces in both business and in life. While Becca’s work is soft and organic, Nathan’s work is more traditional in style. In addition to the studio tour, Becca and Nathan will be hosting a live band. Very cool.

#121, Jim Fecteau of Huntington River Smithy is a self-taught blacksmith. He creates functional and decorative hand-forged metalwork – from gates and screens to clocks and candlesticks. Not only is Jim the current Vice President of the Vermont Crafts Council, but he’s also President of the Green Mountain Blacksmith Association – what a busy guy!

Next I’d visit #151, Greg Drew of Personalwoodsmythe. Greg both a woodturner and a wood sculptor. He has deep respect and love for trees. In his words – “I enjoy helping them express their silent stories and the history they’ve witnessed, forever etched in the patterns, textures, and hues of their timber.” In addition to being a fantastic artist, Greg is the President of the Vermont Crafts Council.

Judy Dales, #160, is another master quilter – she has been quilting for over 40 years. Her pieces fully embrace the curved shape, which adds (in her words) a “lyrical, feminine quality to her work”. Judy currently has work on display at the Shelburne Museum – clearly she’s good at what she does.

Lastly, I’d visit #174, Sandy Ducharme of Vermont Floorcloths and Fiber Arts. When you visit her, you get two art forms for the price of one – not only does she create hand-painted floor cloths, but she also hand-hooks wool rugs. She has won numerous awards for her work and you can see the care and love that goes into every piece.

Overall, these studios aren’t very close to each other. If you split your tour up between two days, it might be doable (some hustle may be involved).

Book Arts Guide to Vermont Open Studio Weekend

Leather coptic journalsWelcome to the 2015 Book Arts Guide to Vermont Open Studio Weekend

It’s time for my annual nod to the many book artists participating in Open Studio Weekend. Many of these talented folks are also members of the Book Arts Guild of Vermont, an organization I hold near and dear to my heart.

I created the Google map below, which includes all of the studios to help you plan your travels. Unfortunately, the book arts studios aren’t very close to each other. By the way, I’m studio #185.

I’ll be referring to studios by both name and number – the number refers to a listing in the green Vermont Studio Tour Guide. The colors of the studio numbers in this post match the colored markers in the Google map below.

There are several ways to get your hands on a map:

First stop on the book arts tour is #82 Carolyn Shattuck. A seasoned printmaker, Carolyn cuts up scrap monotypes and uses the pieces in her handmade books. For her, the book arts have been the focus of a body of work combining drawing and print assemblage techniques in three dimensional form. Many of her books include pop-up elements to set the scene for her deeply personal storytelling.

Next stop is #124, Marianna Holzer. In the Holzer family, binding and preserving books is a family tradition. Marianna is a third generation bookbinder following in her father and grandfather’s footsteps. Before founding a bindery of her own in 2008, Marianna helped to preserve and restore the permanent records of hundreds of municipalities across the United States for thirty years. The history behind her work is reason alone to go see her studio.

When you visit Shelburne Pond Studios, you’ll be able to see two artists. At studio #128, Jill Abilock of Six Loons Studio creates one-of-a-kind work that is really inspirational. Her compelling storytelling and creative voice are enhanced by her innovative combinations of materials and structure. And the woman is a fantastic folder.

#129, Lyna Lou Nordstrom, is the other artist with a studio at Shelburne Pond Studios. She is a wonderful printmaker, focusing her work on the painterly aspects of monoprinting. Her techniques include the silkscreen process, collagraph and solar plate etching.

Next stop is #132, Nancy Stone. Nancy is one of the founders of the Book Arts Guild of Vermont [insert Elissa’s sweet gaze of admiration here]. Not only is Nancy an amazing book artist, she is also a well-known teacher in the books arts throughout Vermont and has inspired many students.

#154 Meta Strick. Meta really is a Jackie of all trades. She does wonderful mixed media work, including dolls that have a book component. It’s quite wonderful to read the “history” of each doll. She has a great philosophy that you can make anything into a book. Meta has lots of fans, so don’t be surprised if you get to her studio and it’s mobbed. Perhaps pick up some coffee and a snack before you head on over?

Next on the tour is #170 Ken Leslie. Ken primarily creates books in a circular format – a practice that developed out of his dissatisfaction with rectangular painting shapes. His themes often focus on natural cycles, such as day and night. The size of his work ranges from miniature to really ginormous – you can walk through some of his books when they’re open.

The last stop is #186 Kelly McMahon of May Day Studio. Kelly is a letterpress master, carving many of her designs in linoleum for her beautiful gift wraps (which are totally frame-able). She was lucky enough to intern at the San Francisco Center for the Book and packs a one-two punch, also being a bookbinder. Kelly’s studio is about 1.6 miles from mine.

If you do go to any of the studios, share your experiences here and I will live vicariously through you. If you have any pictures, I’d love to see them…you can even do a guest post on my blog!