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…

Liam’s Red Dragon

Warning: This is a long post about a book that took me a long time to finish. I really wanted to punch it in the face. But it was a book and didn’t have a face, which sucked.

The making of the book was put in motion by a 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. January’s theme was light, which gave me the momentum I needed to get moving on a much-delayed project.

It all started with an awesome sheet of Chiyogami I bought in New Mexico back in 2006 (just pretend that I’ve offered you a rationale for my long-term paper non-use). The paper is bright red with turquoise dragons and at the time I bought it, I just knew that it would have a fabulous future. It was absolutely destined for the project I’m about to blabber on about – a journal for my nephew with a cover that has light-up dragon eyes.

I’m not going to show you the paper just yet, so stay with me here. My initial plan was to use paper circuitry to light up the book. I bought a Chibi Lights LED circuit stickers kit at the Movable Book Society conference last year and was itching to use them.

I made a mock-up of the circuit so I would know how to place the lights on the front cover with the battery on the inside. I carved an inset for the battery and designed a “door” that could be closed and secured with metal turn mounts. The turn mounts are secured to the cover by drilling holes and attaching small metal brads.

Mock paper circuitry

Unfortunately, after I made my model, I only had one brad left. So off to Jo-Ann’s I went, thinking that brads were a common scrapbooking item and that I’d be back to work in no time.

Except that didn’t happen. Apparently scrapbooking isn’t a big deal at Jo-Ann’s anymore and they had no brads. Boo.

So I did what any me would do and pouted my way up and down the aisles, looking at random crafty goodies. And then I found something interesting in the floral aisle – a mini LED light set.

Mini LED light set

I decided that it could be a workable alternative because the battery pack was fairly thin. And even better – it had an on/off switch, which was ideal for a book for a 10 year-old. I bought it and returned to the studio.

After some experimentation, I discovered that the thickness of the battery pack was equivalent to 2 layers of bookboard and 1 layer of mat board. Now I was getting somewhere!

Book cover and LED lights testing

After gluing the many layers and putting the covers into the press, I cut out the battery pack nook in the front cover. I decided to add two layers of handmade paper to the front cover so I could carve deep enough channels for laying the wire and lights.

My chosen book structure was the buttonhole binding, so I assembled the cover first using a turquoise satin bookcloth (also purchased in 2006) for the spine. This process was really difficult, as the covers were a massive 1/4 inch thick. I had to cover the spine pieces first so that no board would show in the corners. There was much finagling. And swearing.

Assembled covers for buttonhole binding

And then more swearing happened when I noticed that the cut bookcloth edges revealed its white paper backing. I mixed some paint and had moderate success in matching the color.

Mixing paint to match bookcloth

I only needed four lights so I cut off the extra eight – yep, you can do that and these things will still work. The light strand was 1.5 yards long and there was a fair amount of distance between lights, so I bunched up the wires and bunched them together with electrical tape.

By the way, in case you haven’t figured it out by now, I was totally making this up as I went along.

And now I’ll finally let you see the cover paper – check out this beauty:

Red and turquoise Chiyogami with dragons and red Unryu

Because I wanted the dragon eyes to be red, I lined the Chiyogami with red unryu. It worked like a charm. I placed the paper on the cover and using the tip of a bone folder, I made impressions where the lights had to be located.

Next, I mapped out the layout for carving the wiring channels. It kinda looked like ovaries.

Mapping out front book cover wiring

And then the carving happened. I taped the lights in place and finessed the final positioning to make sure that the lights lined up with the dragon eyeballs.

Book cover with dry fit of LED lights


Red and turquoise Chiyogami with dragons and LED lights

The wires and lights were secured using PVA and wadded-up unryu – basically an improvised spackle. I also glued on small pieces of unryu over wires that wouldn’t lay flat. The final result was not attractive.

Book cover with LED lights

After the wiring was complete, I glued on the Chiyogami. I didn’t want to use a wet glue on the wires and lights, so I chose CODA cold-mount double release adhesive for the task.

Handmade book covers for buttonhole binding

For the inside covers, I used a red embossed paper – oh man, do I love this paper. I glued card stock to the back of one piece to stiffen it up – I figured it would help to minimize the bump from the battery pack and smooth out the inside front cover.

Inside of handmade book covers for buttonhole binding

Then I noticed that the battery pack wasn’t reliably powering the lights. I swear, I just couldn’t catch a break with this book. It seemed to be a pressure issue – if I pushed down on the pack, the lights stayed on. There was still a thin space between the battery pack and the front cover paper, so I gently slid in small paper shims until the pack behaved.

The next day, I prepared my pages for sewing. I decided to wrap the signatures with one of the papers I bought during my trip to Japan last year, a bizarro red nylon webbed dealie – see for yourself:

Book signature with red webbed nylon wrap

I figured that the sewing would go smoothly as I’d done the buttonhole binding before. Nope.

Don’t ever, ever, ever do a buttonhole binding on a book with 1/4″+ covers. It’s really hard. I had to redo the first half of the binding because my stitches were so crappy.

And then magically, the book was done. After so many hours. I swear, if this book hadn’t been for my nephew, I’m not sure I ever would have finished it – the thought of him kept me motivated.

Now I look at my book without wanting to punch it in the face. Yay!

Journal with buttonhole binding and LED lights

Journal with buttonhole binding and LED lights

Journal with buttonhole binding and LED lights

I am so in love with the nylon signature wraps.

Journal spine with buttonhole binding

And those dragons are really hypnotizing.

Even though I’m thrilled that I finished my book, I do have one regret – I missed the Instagram challenge deadline. 🙁

I hope my nephew likes the book!

It has now come to this…3D bone folder printing

As I was going about my daily routine of non-focused internet searching, I discovered a company that will make you a bone folder using a 3D printer. Shapeways allows you to print objects using a variety of materials, including plastic, gold, sterling silver, steel, and castable wax.

Welcome to the future.

The designer of this bone folder is a mysterious individual named Designsoul. If his bone folders don’t float your boat, you can always order one of his Mexican Wrestlers (El Gladiator). 

Price varies depending on size (small, medium, and large) and your choice of material. Here are the options:

  • Blue Strong & Flexible Polished: Dark blue, richly colored nylon plastic with a smooth finish.
  • White Strong & Flexible: White nylon plastic with a matte finish and slight grainy feel.
  • Black Strong & Flexible: Black nylon plastic with a matte finish and slight grainy feel.
  • White Strong & Flexible Polished: White nylon plastic polished to reveal a smooth matte finish.
  • Polished Metallic Plastic: Grey nylon plastic with a subtle metallic sparkle and polished sheen.

Being the curious me that I am, I decided to give one of these a try. Who am I to turn down the chance to own a blue bone folder?

I chose the medium size, which measures 5.906″ x 0.124″ x 0.913″. Not only can you choose your color, but you can also add custom text to one of these babies. Unfortunately, my business name is too long (boo), so I decided to go with the ever-so-inspiring Fold it baby!

It will be interesting to try this thing out. Is nylon similar to teflon? Does it rub off on paper and/or other materials? Does it wear down? How does it feel in your hand?

My order has an estimated ship date of February 2nd – when the bone folder arrives, I’ll put it through its paces and report back my findings.

Are You Book Enough?

Are You Book Enough logo - 500 px

I’ve got these two projects I’ve been putting off for a while now. One is because I’m worried that I’ll screw it up and the other because, well, I’m lazy. Definitely not a good excuse.

I’m happy to say that I got the incentive I needed to get moving on one of them. Sarah Mottaghinejad (Ink and Awl), along with some other bookbinders, started a monthly challenge on Instagram called Are You Book Enough?

Each month, a theme will be chosen and participants will create a book incorporating that theme. Bookbinders are encouraged to share their process and final books on Instagram using the tag #areyoubookenough.

January’s theme is light, which is perfect for the project I have delayed for no good reason. I’ll be writing a post about the completed book – in the meantime, you can check out my progress on Instagram.

I’m looking forward to finally getting started on it! 

Bookin’ in Brooklyn

When my hubby pitched the idea of going to New York for New Year’s, I was psyched. However, I didn’t have any interest in going to Times Square – that’s for people much more tolerant (and younger) than me.

My plans were much more specific – Brooklyn, baby. I wanted to get bookcloth at Talas and cross something off my Book Arts Bucket List – visit the Brooklyn Art Library, home of The Sketchbook Project.

With my hubby off at a business meeting, I headed out to Brooklyn on a rainy Tuesday.

It was really icky outside and I was so happy when I arrived and saw the sign outside their door – part of me was worried that I wasn’t going in the right direction.

Talas sign

I headed up the stairs to the shop and I’m telling you, I am so in love with their entry door:

The last time I was in Talas was a few years ago. I took a bunch of pictures back then, but all of them got lost in a computer crash. Well, I definitely made up for the lost images – I took pictures of everything and felt like such a dork doing it. But a happy dork.

So you walk in the front door and bam! Awesome yellow wall.

Sign inside Talas

FYI – The dude in that newspaper article is the one that helped me out.

Back to the tour. After entering, you can check out a cool collection of bookbinding tools and materials:

Bookbinding tools and ephemera

And then you’re totally in a huge, expansive space full of, well, everything. It’s hard to know what to look at first.

Extra Hand Clamps at Talas

At this point, all I’m thinking is, “I’ll have one of that…and that…and that…”

And then I remembered that whole How much money do I have? thing. Boo.

After drooling over all of the merchandise, I spent some time checking out Talas’ impressive collection of cabinets.

Wood storage cabinet at Talas

Metal storage cabinet at Talas

Flat files at Talas

Flat files at Talas

And then I came across this, which made me happy because I have the same exact wire roll holder in my studio. It’s awesome.

Wire roll holder with bookcloth at Talas

The time finally came for me to make some decisions. I started with bookcloth. I bought a yard each of two Iris bookcloths (total workhorses).

Iris bookcloth

I also got a yard of an Asahi bookcloth I have wanted forever – this gold crackle is so lovely.

Asahi bookcloth

And the last bookcloth was a textured grey linen. I have no idea what I’m going to do with this one.

Asahi bookcloth

Then I got a book off my wish list – A Hand Bookbinder’s Guide to Making Photo Albums by Richard Horton.

A Hand Bookbinder's Guide to Making Photo Albums by Richard Horton

My last purchase was an impulse buy, but totally worth it. I got a Casselli spatula.

Casselli spatula

The goal was to replace a lost microspatula with a pointy end. I loved that thing and had been mourning its loss for a while.

When I got home, I discovered that the spatula was super-bendy. I had no idea. This makes it so much better.

Casselli spatula

And check out how thin it is:

Casselli spatula

This thing is so getting used.

I left Talas feeling super-happy and worked my way towards the Brooklyn Art Library. I was heartbroken when I arrived to find this:

Sign at the Brooklyn Art Library

Their website had no mention of it being closed on this day – I checked it several times before my trip. There would be no crossing off things on my Book Arts Bucket List today. Poop.

Oh well. The trip was still totally worth it. I can’t wait to play with my new goodies!

Pin It on Pinterest