Three is a Magic Number at the Morgan!

I recently had the privilege of teaching a workshop at the Morgan Conservatory. During the Three is a Magic Number Experience, students got to create nine leather books, each with one of Keith Smith‘s 3-signature bindings.

This is not an easy workshop. The pace is fast and furious. Both students and Japanese screw punches get a workout – exercise for all!

If you don’t know this about me already, then you should know that I totally geek out over making workshop kits. Here you can see the bags of supplies needed to make each of the nine books.

Kits with bookbinding materials

Let’s do some math: 9 books x 8 students = 72 books. Yes, I cut paper, leather, and thread for 72 books. Oh, and some more just in case folks made mistakes. So.much.cutting.

Below you can see the fully assembled kits. I Gocco‘ed the bags with the number 3 because, well, it’s a magic number. If you’re wondering why folks have CDs, it’s so they can trim around them with an X-Acto knife to make curved cuts.

Classroom tables in the Morgan Conservatory classroom

And then there’s my (initially) insanely organized (at least to me) table. I start off knowing where everything is, but during a workshop, I tend to not put things back in their place. Have I mentioned that I’m a well-organized slob?

Instructor table in the Morgan Conservatory classroom

Hey look! It’s my workshop resource booklet! I love making these too. I try to include all of the information one would need to repeat the bindings in the future – measurements, materials suppliers, etc.

Instructor manual for bookbinding workshop

My students were the best. They showed so much kindness and courtesy to each other, which as a teacher is the most you could ask for. And they worked hard. I was impressed with their enthusiasm and perseverance. Basically they rocked on all levels.

Students at tables working on handmade books

Check it out:Hands working on a handbound leather journal

Then the workshop is over and everyone goes home and the tables are bare and everything’s clean. Both relief and a bit of sadness kick in. So much leads up to a workshop like this and the energy really builds during that time. When the workshop ends, it’s such a quick and clean break. It’s a strange loss and I feel it.

Classroom tables in the Morgan Conservatory classroom

I’m hoping to teach at the Morgan again next summer. My students indicated that they were in favor of that, so yay!

Now I just need to think of what to teach. Any suggestions?

Block Printed Journal workshop

Earlier this week, I taught a two-day workshop at Studio Place ArtsThe Block Printed Journal. Students carved their own stamps, block printed papers, and then used those papers in creating handbound journals. I had a wonderful group of students who created equally wonderful work.

Bookbinding workshop at Studio Place Arts

I love love love carving stamps. I’ve been following @3dottedpenguins, @inkycatprints, and @flygurl_designs on Instagram (go follow them!) and have been very inspired by their work – it was their prints that sparked the idea for this workshop.

On the first day, folks carved simple geometric shapes and then layered and repeated prints to create rich and complex patterns.

Hand carving rubber stamp

The student work did not disappoint! It doesn’t take a lot to make a beautiful printed paper – the pattern and color combinations were lovely.

Block printed paper

Block printed paper

Block printed papers

Block printed paper

Block printed papers

Students bound journals on the next day, selecting one of their printed papers for the cover. The binding involved sewing over leather straps and the resulting book remains flat when opened.

Hand sewing journal

Hand sewing journal

I love how the journals turned out!

Block printed handbound journal

Block printed handbound journal

Block printed handbound journal

Block printed handbound journal

This was my first time teaching this workshop and I think it’s a keeper! I’m adding it to my roster and looking forward to teaching it again.

Yay! The Ephemera binding is done!

It’s done, it’s done, it’s done!

I completed my binding of a copy of Ephemera, a volume from Uppercase Magazine‘s Encyclopedia of Inspiration. It’s a miracle that I was able to get it done, considering that I’ve also been preparing to teach a workshop at the Focus on Book Arts conference in less than a week.

Just to refresh your memory, I was chosen (along with 15 other bookbinders) to bind an unbound copy of Ephemera and create a cover based on the contents. 

We submitted an artist statement to accompany images of our work for a future online exhibition. Here’s what I had to say:

When thinking about the theme of ephemera, the concept of collections immediately came to mind and then strangely, baseball card holders. These plastic pages are useful for storing all kinds of flat things – for example, I use them to store samples of the papers I’ve used during my years as a bookbinder.


The design of my book is meant to evoke this storage solution used by so many youngsters (and some adults) wishing to protect their precious collections. To accomplish this, I decided to make the cover out of clear vinyl purchased at the hardware store. The cover pockets were sewn using fishing line due to its invisible nature and inherent strength.

Ephemera book pages by Uppercase Magazine, handbound by Elissa Campbell.

I bound the book using the Crossed Structure Binding, linked variation. You normally wouldn’t see the stitching on the spine of this binding because a traditional covering material would conceal it. By using the clear vinyl, the stitching became a feature.

Ephemera book pages by Uppercase Magazine, handbound by Elissa Campbell.

The pockets contain memorabilia from a 2016 trip to Japan. These treasures had been tucked away in a shoebox but now, they play a featured role. The straps of the binding made the perfect sized pockets for my ¥ 1 coins. Among the ephemera are a fortune I got from a vending machine, a map of Echizen (a papermaking village), and a paper doll that came with a purchase.

Ephemera book pages by Uppercase Magazine, handbound by Elissa Campbell.

Ephemera book pages by Uppercase Magazine, handbound by Elissa Campbell.

Ephemera book pages by Uppercase Magazine, handbound by Elissa Campbell.

Ephemera book pages by Uppercase Magazine, handbound by Elissa Campbell.

Each signature in the book was wrapped in a red sugarcane bagasse paper from Thailand. It has a wonderful texture and deep color.

Ephemera book pages by Uppercase Magazine, handbound by Elissa Campbell.

While I was a bit terrified of this project at first (I wanted to do the book justice), I really enjoyed the process. Experimenting with vinyl and fishing line was so much fun. I think both materials have a lot of potential and I can see using them again in the future.

Once the online exhibition is live, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, you can check out the other binders’ progress on Instagram – just search for the tag #bindephemera.

Ephemera binding, in process

Back in this post, I mentioned that I had been tapped to participate in the binding of a volume from Uppercase Magazine‘s Encyclopedia of InspirationEphemera. I decided to attempt my concept of incorporating ephemera from my 2016 trip to Japan. 

The book pages arrived untrimmed and I was so afraid of messing up during trimming. Finally, I found enough courage to just go for it. Check it out – all done!

Trimmed book pages

Below you can see the cover – clear vinyl that I got at the hardware store. The reason behind the vinyl? When thinking about the theme of ephemera, the concept of collections immediately came to mind and then strangely, baseball card holders. The design of my book is meant to evoke this storage solution used by those wishing to protect their collections.

Two pieces were woven together for the base of a Crossed Structure Binding, linked variation.

Clear vinyl book cover

It’s not easy to see, but you sew this binding on a sewing frame. It was hard to keep the vinyl straps taut – they were slippery and wiggly. With a lot of finessing, I managed to snug up my stitches.

Sewing handbound book

Here it is, all sewn up:

Handbound book with clear vinyl cover and red paper

To create the storage pockets, I used my Japanese screw punch to make holes in the vinyl and then completed the sewing using fishing line (it was strong and clear like the vinyl). Before punching the holes, I created a whole mess of templates so I wouldn’t mess up. Ignore the labeling on the template for the Yen pocket – it is a template, not a jig. Bad labeling.

Paper templates for punching holes in vinyl

You can see a couple of the sewn pockets below, along with their contents:

Closeup of handmade book front cover - clear vinyl pockets with coins and paper ephemera

And that’s all you get to see for now. Trust me, there’s a lot more to see.

Stay tuned for the big reveal!

Book Arts Guide to Vermont Open Studio Weekend

Artist book by Elissa Campbell of Blue Roof DesignsWelcome to your Book Arts guide for Spring Open Studio Weekend 2019!

Vermont Open Studio Weekend is coming up this weekend (May 25 & 26)! I like supporting other book artists when I can, so I dedicate a blog post to them during every open studio event. There are four book artsy studios participating (besides mine) this spring.

I created the Google map at the bottom of this post which includes all of the studios to help you plan your travels. I wish I could say that the book arts studios are close to each other, but sadly, they’re not. Look at this way – you’ll get a really great tour of Vermont’s gorgeous landscape while on your travels.

I’ll be referring to studios by both name and number – the number refers to a listing in the yellow Spring Event and Resource Guide. The colors of the studio numbers in this post match the colored markers in the Google map. By the way, I’m studio #128.

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

I tried to find the most direct route between the studios so you could avoid backtracking. This route starts at the northernmost studio and travels clockwise. And away we go!

The first studio is #1, Meta Strick – she does it all. Oh my goodness, her calligraphy! She does wonderful mixed media work, including dolls that have a book component. She has a great philosophy that you can make anything into a book – it should come as no surprise to you that she’s a teacher.

Next is #140, Ken Leslie. Ken often creates books in a circular format – a practice that developed out of his dissatisfaction with rectangular painting shapes. His themes frequently focus on natural cycles, such as day/night and the seasons. The size of his work ranges from miniature to really ginormous – you can walk through some of his books when they’re open.

Stop number three is studio #127 – Kelly McMahon of May Day Studio. Kelly is both a letterpress printer and a bookbinder. She carves 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, so you know she’s got skills. Kelly’s studio is about 1.6 miles from mine.

Last stop on the tour is studio #48 is Carolyn Shattuck, a seasoned printmaker and bookmaker. She often 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.

Here’s the aforementioned Google Map for planning your route:

If you go to any of the studios, please share your experiences in the comments below. And if you have pictures, I’d love to see them…sadly, I don’t get to leave my studio to visit others during the event.

Vermont Open Studio Weekend – Montpelier/Worcester Artists

Vermont Open Studio Weekend logo

Vermont’s 27th Spring Open Studio Weekend is coming up this Memorial Day weekend, May 25 & 26! Artists across the state are busy creating work and cleaning their studios just for you.

Most Vermont craftspeople work in studios located in or close to their residences. These are places of production and inspiration located in downtowns as well as at the ends of dirt roads. They are exciting places to visit because they reflect the dynamic yet organized process that is used to produce the finished work of art.

The studio itself is enormously informative because you can see at a glance how the artist works. Buying or ordering work during an Open Studio sale is a unique experience because you have the opportunity to speak to the artist directly.

I send out a postcard every time I participate in Open Studio Weekend (yep, people still use mail). Check out the snazzy postcard that went out this time:

Artist book by Elissa Campbell of Blue Roof Designs

If you’d like to be added to my snail mail list, just let me know. I love stamping postcards!

My studio is an obvious first stop on your tour. Books are my thang and I will talk your ear off if you let me. In a good way, I promise.

Once you’ve had your fill of book talk and Cabot cheese, you can easily visit five other artists within a 15 minute drive of my studio. Montpelier and Worcester offer sweet little gems for your studio hopping pleasure. 

I’ve listed these local studios below, where I’m referring to them by both name and number – the number refers to a listing in the yellow 2019 Spring Event & Resource Guide. There are several ways to get your hands on a guide:

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

Note: If you’re wondering why the studio numbers are different colors, that’s because they correspond with the marker colors on the map I created to help you plan your travels. Behold – the Google Map!

If you do plan on coming to the Montpelier area, let me know and I’d be happy to recommend some local restaurants for your dining pleasure.

I hope to see you at the studio!

Encyclopedia of Inspiration – Ephemera binding

I was recently tapped to participate in a binding project using unbound copies of Uppercase Magazine‘s Encyclopedia of Inspiration. I was surprised that I was picked – some heavy hitters have been chosen for previous editions.

That said, I accepted the challenge and now an unbound copy of Ephemera sits before me in all it’s naked glory. What have I gotten myself into?

Unbound pages of Ephemera book

Unbound pages of Ephemera book

So, this project I mentioned – what’s that all about? Well, Janine Vangool, publisher, editor and designer for Uppercase Magazine gives sixteen unbound copies of each book to bookbinders who then create covers based on the contents. The resulting bindings are unique in approach, with different covering materials, bookbinding structures and ornamentation techniques. When a new volume of the encyclopedia is published, the most recent binders select sixteen new binders to participate. 

Thankfully, I have an idea of how I might create my binding – if all goes well, it will incorporate things I collected during my 2016 trip to Japan. 

If you’d like to learn more about the different volumes included in the Encyclopedia of Inspiration series, check out these links:

And if you’d like to see the handbound volumes that have been completed to date, check out these links:

You can follow along on my binding journey here on my blog, or you can check out my Instagram feed. While you’re there, follow hashtag #bindephemera to see what all of the project participants are doing. – more books arts patches!

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, then you know how much I love book arts-related badges/patches. It all started with a set of bookbinding merit badges I purchased nine (!) years ago. Since then, I’ve grown my collection to include scout badges from Ireland and New Zealand, along with other non-scout patches.

I recently discovered, an online community where kids (16 years and younger) can learn new skills and earn patches for their efforts. If you consider yourself un-scouty, then this program might be right up your family’s alley. And it’s free!

Annnddddd…they’ve got a Bookbinder patch!Bookbinder patch

Here are a few of the 15 challenges one can complete to earn the patch:

  • Fold a book from a single sheet
  • Pamphlet stitch a booklet
  • Bind a flag book
  • Make a pop-up book
  • Make an accordion book

And there’s a Printmaker patch too!Printmaker patch

Here are some of the 12 challenges for that patch:

  • Make a relief print
  • Make a stamp
  • Create a monoprint
  • Use a letterpress
  • Make an etching

Needless to say, these two patches are already on their way to me. I figure I’ve definitely earned them and, well, I just want them. Mine!

Many thanks to for granting me permission to use the images of their patches.

Happy Preservation Week!

Guess what – it’s Preservation Week! This annual event, presented by the American Library Association (ALA), is going on now through April 27th and is hot on the heels of National Library Week.

Preservation Week 2019 logo

Here’s what the ALA has to say about the event:

Memories and treasures should last a lifetime and be passed on to future generations. Sponsored by the ALA’s Association of Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS), Preservation Week inspires actions to preserve personal, family, and community collections in addition to library, museum, and archive collections. It also raises awareness of the role libraries and other cultural institutions play in providing ongoing preservation education and information.

Preserving the artifacts of your own history is an important effort. Photographs, documents, heirlooms – they’re not just things, they’re a collection of precious, personal stories and they shouldn’t be lost to future generations.

Here are some things you can do this week to join in the movement:

Let me know what you’re doing this week!

Happy 11th Blogiversary!

11 Blogiversary image

It’s that time of year – this little blog of mine is 11 years old!

In keeping with my custom of following the schedule of traditional and modern anniversary gifts, I will be giving myself fashion jewelry or something made of steel. Okay, so that jewelry thing isn’t going to happen – I’m really not a fashion gal.

There are so many options for steel when it comes to bookbinding tools. I already have several in my collection, including spatulas, awls, and dividers. Among my favorites are a stainless steel Kelm folder and awl made by Shanna Leino

Shanna Leino stainless steel Kelm folder with leather sheath

Shanna Leino stainless steel awl

…and a pair of Nigiri Basami, traditional Japanese sewing scissors that I acquired on a trip to Japan.

Japanese sewing scissors

I think what I’ve settled on is investing in more screw punches – the bits are made of steel. I want to get the punches so students can use them in my classes.

Japanese screw punch

If you have any other steely suggestions, I’m all ears!

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