Adios 2016!

Confession time – I get really cranky this time of year. There’s just something about the time between Christmas and New Year’s – why doesn’t it go faster? I’m ready for next year!

This period of time is informally known as Elissa Reflects and Beats Herself up for All the Things She Didn’t Get Done This Year. It’s not as fun as it sounds.

For example, I have 81 half-written draft blog posts (including a bunch about my Japan trip). I’m not exaggerating – here’s the proof:

Draft blog posts screen shot

Just how in the fart does that happen?

And don’t get me started on the piles of unfinished books in my studio. And then there’s this and that, and blah, blah, blah. Crab, crab, crab. My mind can really be an endless source of ick.

Imagine my surprise when I had a magical happy moment earlier this week. I decided to stop moping and instead look at all of the cool stuff that happened this year.

I’ve never been good at this, so I decided to start by making myself a motivational poster:

Shut up brain - motivational poster

Well that did the trick! Here’s my top ten list:

  1. I went to Japan. And bought a whole mess of paper. And saw it being made. And got forced into karaoke.
  2. I attended the Movable Book Society conference in Boston (that was on my bucket list)
  3. I attended the Wells Book Arts Summer Institute (also on my bucket list – 2017 registration open now)
  4. I took a class with Karen Hanmer (this woman is a master of everything)
  5. I went to Chena River Marblers for their end-of-year sale
  6. I visited with Vamp and Tramp Booksellers at the University of Vermont
  7. I exhibited work at the Burlington Book Festival
  8. I presented at the T.W. Wood Art Camp
  9. I learned how to make the Chinese Sewing Box in a workshop with Erin Sweeney
  10. I WENT TO JAPAN (okay, maybe that’s cheating, but it was such a wonderful trip)

I have to admit that 2016 was a damn cool year. I guess I shouldn’t be in such a rush to end it. Perhaps this end-of-year reflection should become a yearly thing…

Do any of you do an annual self audit? If so, I’d love to hear what you’ve done this year! Show me your list in the comments below.

Dream job – G. F Smith’s Paper Consultants

As is my way, I was in the midst of an unfocused internet browse when I encountered the G.F. Smith website. Originating in London, the company has been supplying creative industries with paper for over 130 years. To say that they’re just a paper distributor is simply not okay.

Check out their Founding Legacy

G.F. Smith Founding Legacy

Damn, I like these guys.

And damn, I wish I could work for them – they’ve got Paper Consultants on staff. Check out the description of this dream job below:

G.F. Smith Paper Consultant job description


If you live in England and happen to be in the neighborhood of either London or Hull, you can make a Paper Appointment. Actually, you must make a Paper Appointment.

And report back.

With pictures.

Awesome resources – IU Libraries Book Repair Manual and the Studio Protector

Elise Calvi, the Head of General Collections Conservation and Conservation Services at Indiana University Libraries recently posted on the Book Arts Listserv that their online book repair manual had been updated.

Indiana University Libraries Book Repair Manual

From their website:

This manual documents many of the treatment procedures used in the General Collections Conservation (GCC) Lab of the Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington. It is a resource for staff who are responsible for the remedial care of the Libraries’ research book collections. We share it on the Web for others who are, or wish to become, responsible for the preservation of library or personal collections.

I really appreciate it when institutions generously share their knowledge with the world – the information shared in this manual is amazing.

The Indiana University Libraries Book Repair Manual has several chapters:

  • Repair treatments
  • Enclosure treatments
  • Equipment/hand tools and how they’re used (with images)
  • Supplies and materials and how they’re used (with images)
  • Glossary (ex. what exactly is a square?)

The repair and enclosure sections give you tools and materials lists for each treatment, along with step-by-step instructions with images. The directions for constructing a cloth-covered clamshell box are just fantastic. In general, I have box-making fear, but I could totally do it by using the manual. 

Studio Protector - CERF+Something else that caught my eye was the section on disaster supplies. As a former employee of CERF+, I know that most find the topic of disaster preparation and response to be both dry and stressful. The fact is that preventative measures can make a huge difference in how one can survive an unexpected event.

If you don’t know about CERF+, you really should get to know them – they’ve got an amazing collection of resources on their website, including the following:

And there’s so much more – you should really check it out.

One more thing – CERF+’s Studio Protector is a great tool for helping you navigate disaster planning in the studio. I know this not only because I own one, but also because I worked on its development during my years at CERF+.

And for you book folks out there, here’s a bit of trivia – book artist Carol Barton helped with the design.

Visit to Chena River Marblers

This weekend I was fortunate enough to be able to do something I’ve wanted to do for a while – attend Chena River Marblers‘ open studio.

In the past, I always had something else going on during the event, but it worked out well this time around. I had to be in MA to see my niece and nephew in a performance of The Nutcracker and Amherst was just a shortish drive from there.

The studio is located in a residential area, so I got to experience what some folks must go through when they visit my studio – even though there was a sign outside the door, I felt a bit strange going into someone’s home.

Chena River Marblers studio

I peeked in the window to confirm that I was in the right place, which of course I was. I opened the doors and was immediately met by so.much.paper…

Hand-marbled papers by Chena River Marblers

…and silk scarves and neckties…Hand-marbled scarves by Chena River Marblers

…and handmade books.

Handmade books by Chena River Marblers

Handmade books by Chena River Marblers

As I walked through the hall with what I can only assume was a gaping-wide mouth, I finally made it to the main part of the studio. I was greeted by the very sweet Regina St. John, one half of the marbling dynamic duo.

Inside of Chena River Marblers studio

She and her husband Dan have been marbling for over 30 years and they’ve got the stash to prove it. Holy crap, those flat files. Regina told me that they built those themselves.

Custom built paper flat files

Custom built paper flat files

I love being able to see the equipment that artists use to create their work. Tools = cool.

Paper marbling combs

Paper marbling whisks

I vowed after returning from my vacation to Japan that I would not buy any more paper this year. After all, I came back with over 50 sheets.

Yeah, that didn’t stick.

I started a pile, which changed rapidly as I made my way around the studio. Ooohhh…this paper is the best one! No, this one is! I can’t leave this one here!

Hand-marbled papers by Chena River Marblers

I finally settled on 8 sheets, which exceeded my budget by just a smidge (a miracle). It was totally worth it.

Here’s what I bought:

Marbled paper by Chena River Marblers

Marbled paper by Chena River Marblers

Marbled paper by Chena River Marblers

Marbled paper by Chena River Marblers

Marbled paper by Chena River Marblers

Marbled paper by Chena River Marblers

Marbled paper by Chena River Marblers

Marbled paper by Chena River Marblers

Right? Right? This paper is so flipping gorgeous! I want to put it on the floor and roll around on it. I want to write it love letters. I want to hug it and squeeze it and call it George.

Obviously, the visit was amazing.

FYI – They hold their open studio every December, so you’ve got a year to make arrangements to attend the next one. 🙂

Snow Farm 2017

Snow Farm logo

Many moons ago, when I worked at the Craft Emergency Relief Fund (now CERF+), I attended a board meeting that was held at Snow Farm. Located in Williamsburg, MA, Snow Farm offers craft and fine art workshops.

I don’t know why, but they’ve never stayed on my radar – and this is unfortunate. I recently visited their website and discovered that they have an amazing selection of workshops coming up this year – and the instructors are seriously fantastic. I can only imagine how many awesome workshops I’ve missed over the years.

From June 9 – 11, Béatrice Coron is teaching A Cut Above: An Exploration in Papercutting:

Both beginners and advanced students alike will delight in learning about the long multi-cultural history of papercutting as well as the world of paper-cutters today. Explore the unique possibilities of papercutting techniques while making black and white, and color artwork. Demonstrations will include stenciling and working in 3D. Tips, tricks, and resources will be provided. To take a workshop with Béatrice Coron – she’s on my Book Arts Bucket List. She’s just beyond amazing. I would love to learn from her.

From October 1 – 7, Natalie Stopka is teaching Fiber Techniques for Book Artists:

Add fiber arts techniques to bookmaking and bring a world of color, pattern, and texture to your work! Learn to prepare and fix natural dyes to fabric and paper for accessible, sustainable color. Use these fibers to create a bound book exploring the synergy of fiber arts, book arts, embroidery, and needle weaving. Bring materials to test in the dye pot or incorporate into your binding.

Natalie is also on my Book Arts Bucket List. She’s a master at marbling and manipulating textiles. Just look at her books. Drooool…

And lastly, from October 7 – 9, Colette Fu is teaching Demystifying the Pop-up Book:

Pop-up book structures can be used to make engaging works of art for any age, from greeting cards to animations to kinetic sculptures. Learn some of the many basic structures of pop-up paper engineering including angle folds, parallel and angle lifting platforms, and 3 dimensional shapes, and how to incorporate them into unique pop-up books, cards, and works of art.

Ever since I attended the Movable Book Society conference in September, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about pop-ups. I could just go on and on about Colette’s work. The way she gets the layers of imagery to work together – damn.

I’m glad that I’ve been reacquainted with Snow Farm. In addition to offering wonderful classes, they’re located just a 2.5 hour drive away from my house. I can take classes there without flying. Bonus!

If you’re interested in learning more about the classes at Snow Farm, you can view the full 2017 schedule on their website.

Many thanks to Snow Farm for giving me permission to use their logo.

Penland 2017 spring session

Trees with Penland School of Crafts text

If you’re itching to do some learning next year, check out Penland – they’ve got an amazing lineup of book arts workshops and instructors for their 2017 spring session. Look and drool:

During Session 2 (April 9 – 15), Erin Keane is teaching Encaustic Books: Wax, Paper, Thread:

Wax nostalgic, wax poetic, wax philosophical, and wax creative. We’ll explore the use of encaustic painting in the creation of books and journals. Thin wood panels will be transformed into richly-layered and textured book covers. Papers infused with beeswax, imagery, and words will become journal pages, and these pages will be bound into tactile, tantalizing books. Daily demonstrations in encaustic, journaling, and bookbinding (Coptic/longstitch) will guide experimentation. Your books can be thematic, conceptual, or simply full of creative meanderings.

Dang, encaustic is cool – the depth you can create on a 2-dimensional surface is insane. This workshop would be a creative departure for me.

During Session 3 (April 23 – 29), Bhavna Mehta is teaching Cut, Fold, Sculpt:

The flatness of paper will serve as an inviting platform for the transformation of ideas. Students will explore cutting, folding, sewing, and manipulating paper. We will begin with simple exercises that will start to expand the medium of paper into objects and stories. Paying attention to color, shape, pattern, and texture, students will learn to take an idea, drawing, or story and translate it into paper using various cutting techniques, with an emphasis on the personal and the collaborative. We’ll discuss contemporary works and paper as a hot design medium.

I am totally in love with papercutting and this workshop would be a dream. Just look at Bhavna’s work – holy crap.

For the Spring Concentration (March 12 – May 5), Anne Covell is teaching Image as Narrative: Letterpress & the Artist’s Book:

This workshop will examine the material connection between image and narrative. Through experimenting with alternative print techniques on the Vandercook, we’ll investigate how mood and tone can be expressed through image and the sequencing of images. We’ll cover printing from found objects, collographs, carved surfaces, pressure print templates, and plates made from handmade negatives, just to name a few. Our experiments will be editioned and traded. Then we’ll move from two dimensions to three as we explore the interplay between image and structure through the creation of handprinted artists’ books. Binding options will include traditional book structures as well as movable and sculptural books.

Anne’s got skills. I wouldn’t mind hanging with her for eight weeks. Check out her beautiful artist book, Raking Light – it makes me nostalgic for Japan.

Registration is open now. Applications are processed on a first-come/first-served basis.

Women’s Festival of Crafts recap

I had such a good time at this year’s Women’s Festival of Crafts. The show is now in its 27th year. It has consistently been one of the most friendly, stress-free shows that I do. The stars are really show organizers Megan Humphrey and Moe O’Hara.

Name tag from the Women's Festival of Crafts 2016

Getting into this show is tough – they don’t jury the show, but rather accept people by the postmark on their application. When they publish the application on their website, you’ve gotta get your tush to the post office that same day.

I was a day late with my application this year because it came out on the day I was flying home from my vacation to Japan. I was put on the wait list and luckily, someone gave up their spot and I was in!

This year, the show was located in a former Gap store at the Burlington Town Center Mall on Church Street. I helped the organizers with setup so I got to bring in my stuff a few days early. It doesn’t look like much in that huge space.

Load in of Blue Roof Designs booth at Women's Festival of Crafts 2016

Then the walls, shelves, and signs go up. Now I’ve got a booth floating in a room full of nothing. It looked kinda sad.

Blue Roof Designs booth in progress at Women's Festival of Crafts 2016

I felt a lot less alone once Saturday came around and the other vendors started setting up.

Blue Roof Designs booth in progress at Women's Festival of Crafts 2016

I usually struggle to get my booth fully set up on time – I always seem to have a bazillion little things to fuss over. This time I actually did it. That extra time earlier in the week made it possible.

Blue Roof Designs booth at Women's Festival of Crafts 2016

You know what’s the best part of doing a craft show in a former Gap store? You get your own dressing room for stashing your stuff.

Blue Roof Designs back stock in a former Gap dressing room

Overall, the show really looked amazing. The neutral backdrop (Gapdrop?) seemed to elevate the atmosphere.

Women's Festival of Crafts 2016

My booth neighbors were so much fun to chat with – I’m talking about you Zoë and Marie!

And then, as quickly as it begins, it ends. Time to break down and go home. You can always count on me to be one of the last people to finish.

Break down of Blue Roof Designs booth at Women's Festival of Crafts 2016

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I get into next year’s show!

The oh-so-awesome Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday 2016 logo

Oh baby, today is the sixth annual Small Business Saturday! Started in 2011 by American Express, the celebration encourages people to shop local and support their communities.

I’m going to take a moment to focus on the word small. A business doesn’t get any smaller than a one person operation – and that describes the majority of working artists.

The connection is easy enough to make – if you want to shop in a way that will have a significant impact on a small business, then buy art for the holidays. Even if you shop on Etsy, you’re still supporting a community – the creative community.

There are lots of Small Business Saturday craft shows being held around the country – visit one and not only will you find wonderful handmade gifts, but you’ll also get to make a personal connection with the artist. It’s an experience you just can’t get from a big box store.

And if you’d like to visit me at a craft show (there had to be a plug in here somewhere), it just so happens that today and tomorrow I’ll be selling my work at the super-awesome Women’s Festival of Crafts. At the show, you’ll find over 80 booths (all small businesses) filled with handmade jewelry, pottery, recycled art, greeting cards, clothing, and more. Oh yeah, and handmade books. 🙂

I’m in booth #37, located in the former Gap space (Google map).

Women's Festival of Craft 2016 poster

Can’t make it to the show? You can also buy my work on my website or on Etsy.

And if you’re interested in buying something closer to where you live, check out Etsy Local – it can help you find Etsy sellers participating in events in your neck of the woods.

A Bookbinder’s Black Friday

Ah, the splendor of Black Friday.

This year I have decided to keep a low profile shopping-wise. After I bought all of that paper in Japan, I have no good reason to buy anything else for the rest of the year.

Instead, I will be spending my day completing a bunch of unfinished books that have been sitting in my studio for the past week. Then I’ll engage in the oh-so-fun tradition of Let’s Pack up the Van for a Craft Show.

For those of you inclined to shop today, there are a bunch of bookbinding-related online sales going on today (and through the weekend).

Rolls of bookcloth

Check ’em out:

Hiromi Paper has moved their famous Annual Sale so that it starts on Black Friday. From 11/25 through 12/31 (yep, the end of the year), you can get paper with discounts between 25% – 80%.

Through 11/29, Paper-Papers is offering 50% off the already discounted price of products in their Clearance section. Use coupon code clearweek at checkout to get the discount.

As part of their holiday sale, Oak Knoll Books is offering free shipping on all domestic orders of $50.00 or more. No special code is needed – shipping will automatically be removed from the total.

From now until midnight on 11/28, Paper Mojo is offering 20% off storewide. Use code BF2016X at checkout to get the discount. Time to stock up on handmade and decorative papers!

John Neal Bookseller is offering free standard shipping within the U.S. on all orders of $100 or more, now through 11:59 p.m. on 11/26. Use code BF16FS at checkout for the discount. In addition, from now through 6:00 p.m. on 12/2, they’re offering 20% to 30% off a selection of items, including spools and sets of Londonderry thread.

From 11/25 through 11/27, Paper Connection International is offering 10% off all internet orders. Use coupon code CYBER10 to get the discount.

Pergamena, producer of stunning fine leathers and parchment, is offering 20% off everything in their online store and free shipping. From 11/25 through 11/28, use code 20%OFF at checkout to get the discount.

From now through 11/28, Arnold Grummer is offering a 10% discount on all regular and sale priced items. Use code CW10 at checkout to get the discount.

On 11/25, Paper Source is offering 50% off seasonal colors (Spruce and Poinsettia) of items in their Paper Bar (including large sheets of text and cover weight papers). All other paper colors are discounted as follows: Buy 5 packs get 10% off; buy 10 packs, get 20% off; buy 25 packs get 30% off.

If you’ve got a bookbinding book on your wish list, you’re in luck! Amazon (yep, that Amazon) is offering $10.00 off book purchases of $25.00 or more. From now until 11/28 at 2:59 a.m. EST, use code HOLIDAYBOOK at checkout to get the discount. Note: Offer only applies to products sold and shipped by

And if you’re more into Cyber Monday:

On 11/28 Mechling Bookbindery is offering 50% off and free standard shipping on all bookbinder’s instructional DVDs. You can also get 50% off both premium goatskin and premium heavy grain black goatskin

The Paper Place is offering all Chiyogami at 20% off. No coupon code is needed – the discount will be applied automatically at checkout.

Happy shopping!

Northampton Book and Book Arts Fair

On December 2-3, the second annual Northampton Book and Book Arts Fair will take place at the Smith College Campus Center in Northampton, MA.

Northampton Book and Book Arts Fair 2015

The event includes exhibits, sales, book signings, demonstrations, lectures and features not only antiquarian booksellers from the region, but also book artists, letterpress printers, papermakers, engravers, and book designers.

It’s a like a book arts smorgasbord. Except you don’t get to eat anything.

The keynote speaker is Ruth R. Rogers, curator of Special Collections in the Wellesley College Library where she develops the collection and lectures on the evolution of the book as material culture, visual communication, and artistic form. Her talk, Layers of Perception: The Unwritten Language of Artists’ Books, will focus on how we “read” artists’ books by deconstructing them to understand how they affect our perception.

I’m super-bummed because I can’t attend the fair this year. Sadness. If you happen to be in the area during that time, you should totally go. And then make me jealous by telling me all about it.

For more information, please visit the event website.

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