I learned a new thing – teabag folding

“What the heck is teabag folding? Why would you fold a tea bag? Aren’t they too full of tea to fold?” Those were my questions earlier today.

I just got back from the monthly meeting of the Book Arts Guild of Vermont. We meet up in Burlington on the first Wednesday of every month. The group is around 3 years old and there are over 200 people on the Email list for our group. Quite a large group of book arts lovers for such a small state as Vermont!

I love going to the monthly meetings. Members lead the evening programs and we learn something different every month. Tonight’s experiment was teabag folding. After spending all day on my computer, I was game for anything.

I learned that teabag folding originated in Holland and that you don’t actually fold teabags (duh). It seems that folks used small papers to wrap their loose tea. A woman named Tiny van der Plas decided to fold these papers for decorating greeting cards. A new art form was born. You can read more about teabag folding on Wikipedia.

Anyhoo, we started folding squares of paper into origami-esque shapes.

Teabag folding - square pieces

After completing 8 folded squares, we assembled them into a star-like paper thing.

Completed teabag folding - star

After feeling happy at having completed my starry creation, we then moved on to circles. More happy folding.

Teabag folding - circle pieces

Then we assembled the pieces into a super cool flower.

Teabag folding - completed flower

Overall, the folding was really relaxing…that is, after I knew what I was doing. I had many moments of “Whadshe just do?” I could see myself zoning out for hours, folding paper squares. What most appealed to me about the process was the symmetry and the precision involved.

I’m very much a structure girl. When I have clear and concrete directions to follow, I’m super happy. I’m not sure if it’s something I’d ever do again or incorporate into my bookbinding. It’s still cool to learn a new skill.

The weird thing happened on the drive home. A 40 minute drive home (alone) will get your brain going in weird directions. I thought to myself, “If someone put a gun to my head and told me that I’d have to be either a square or a circle, which would I choose?” I came to the conclusion that I’d have to be a square.

The thought of having no sides and no corners just sorta freaks me out.

Oh, wood I!

At last year’s Focus on Book Arts Conference, I took a workshop on how to sew over cords using wood covers. I really enjoyed the workshop and planned on incorporating wood into my future work.

Well, for the last week, I’ve been obsessed with wood. I don’t know what triggered it. I have spent hours on the internet looking for local distributors of exotic woods. I was determined to spend my Saturday driving 2.5 hours (one-way) to Highland Hardwoods in Brentwood, NH.

Then I got sick. Meh.

After deciding that I could handle a shorter trip, my husband and I drove to Baker Lumber in White River Junction, VT. We pulled into the parking lot and I was immediately drawn to the warehouse full of wood, organized in piles by species and size.

Wood at Baker Lumber in White River Junction, VT

Me? Drawn to piles?

It smelled so good in there.

I walked around for a bit, oohing and ahhing until I decided that I was ready to buy.

I entered the showroom and asked a gentleman for help. I told him that I wanted to use the wood for book covers – how thin could I get the wood? He looked at me like I was an alien. I know that the book concept was likely foreign to him, but for someone who specializes in wood, you think he’d know how you can work with it.

I decided that I was just going to buy me some wood and ask questions later. I chose three varieties (from the top down): Walnut, purple heart, and cambera (a type of mahogany).

3 wood planks

I camped out at Barnes & Noble later in the day and skimmed through some woodworking books. My wish list just got longer.

The plan is to make nice with a woodworker who can teach me the ropes or to just pay a pro to cut it for me. I hope to use the wood for further development of the caterpillar binding. It seems that caterpillars and wood are a natural fit.

If you have any experience working with wood, I am all ears for any suggestions and/or tips you can offer. I’m also open for book recommendations. Oh, and while you’re at it, I’d love recommendations for wood vendors in Vermont who understand the needs of bookbinders.

A girl can dream, can’t she?

You know you're a bookbinder when…

I have a sinus infection. Meh.

I won’t bore you with the details, other than to say that I’m in a fairly significant relationship with my couch right now.

During this time of Burning Nose, I was inspired with a vision of a book.

Please be warned, if you have a weak stomach, this concept may be too gross for you. Proceed with caution.

I saw a rather large nose made of a non-specific material, perhaps clay or papier mache. The nostrils are open. Something peeks out of the right nostril. You take a hold of it and realize that it’s an accordion book, with one end of it attached to the inside of the nose. It essentially stretches out like a long snot.

There’s text on the pages, but I’m not sure what it says. You then look at the other nostril. You don’t see anything sticking out of it, but you wonder if anything’s in there.

The hole is big enough to reach into, so you decide to go for it. There’s something in there and you pull it out.

It’s another book with crusty covers (perhaps built up with modeling paste?) – yes, it’s a booger.

The cover has a title on it – Nosey Parker. You open up the book and the first page says “Nobody knows what the nose knows.” My dad used to say this to me all the time when I was a kid.

The book has a pen attached to it. Viewers are prompted to write messages in the book- maybe nose-related, maybe not. When done, they shove the book back up the nostril.

There is a box of tissues next to the nose for those who feel a need to clean up afterwards.

I doubt that I’ll ever produce such a piece. I’m just glad that something good can come from feeling yucky.

Gotta go. I have another date with my couch.

Spring Marketing Conference – done deal

I learned something new about myself today – I can talk for an hour and a half without stopping. And it was something I hadn’t spoken about in public before. And I was up at 1 a.m. last night preparing for the discussion. And I did it without severe coffee abuse.

I did a presentation at the Vermont Crafts Council’s Spring Marketing Conference (as I described in my last post). I found it ironic that the title of my workshop was Time to Make Nice with Your Computer and then my laptop decided to not make nice with the projector. Meh.

Luckily, they had another computer for me to use on-site. Despite this techno-barf, I was really happy with how it went [read: I did not vomit or pass out]. I hope that I was able to pass along some useful information to those who attended.

Note: If you came to my presentation and you’re reading this now, hiya! Now that you’re here, sign up for your own blog.

At the end of the conference, I picked up a batch of maps for Vermont Open Studio Weekend. As I mentioned in this post, I like piles of things. As you can see in the image below, I couldn’t resist the pile of maps on my work table.

Vermont Open Studio Weekend maps

This year I am site #242 – apparently I moved up from #243.

Don’t be impressed, it doesn’t really mean anything.

I will likely be talking a lot about Open Studio Weekend over the next few weeks – it’s held during Memorial Day Weekend from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. all over the state. If you’d like a copy of the map (it helps you plan your tour), the Vermont Crafts Council website has a list of sites where you can get one.

I leave you with yet another pile image – this time a shot of my newly-arrived postcards for Open Studio Weekend. These will be sent out as invitations to my mailing list (hopefully next week). The images on the postcards are from the photo shoot discussed in this blog post. My hubby takes some nice shots!

Vermont Open Studio Weekend postcards

Vermont Crafts Council’s Spring Marketing Conference

VT Crafts Council - Spring Marketing Conference

This Wednesday, I’ll be presenting at a seminar at the Vermont Crafts Council’s Spring Marketing Conference. My seminar is entitled Time to Make Nice with Your Computer. I came up with the theme based on the reactions I witnessed at last fall’s marketing conference.

A number of people showed up for a seminar on how to use a blog to promote your business. I heard grumblings from people about how they now had “another thing to do” – and on their computer no less. I can relate to that. The last thing I need is to add something to my never-ending list of things to do.

But the fact is that artists need to market themselves. You can’t just assume that you will create work and the buyers will show up.

You can count on one of three resources to get it done:

  1. Time
  2. Money
  3. Luck

Since I had the time, I spent last week engrossed in online research. I investigated, Facebook (I was already a member), Indiepublic, TalentDatabase, and Flickr. I could have spent even more time looking at other tools, but I would get no sleep and starve to death (and I need my cheese) – there are lots of options out there!

The main reason why social networking tools are ideal for artists is this: as artists, the one thing we have over any mass-produced item is our story. When you meet someone at a craft show or during an open studio, you have the opportunity to tell your story in person. However, what do you do during the rest of the year? How can you get people to connect with you and your work?

The answer lies in the use of online social networking tools.

Create your own buzz.

I know that only having a website isn’t going to cut it anymore. I enjoy talking about my work. I love getting feedback. I only attend 2 craft shows a year and participate in Vermont Open Studio Weekend – how else am I going to connect with people?

I hope to see some of my fellow Vermont artists at the conference. While I can spend an hour talking to myself, it’s not as much fun as having a conversation with others. There are also interesting seminars other than mine, so check out the schedule and I’ll see you on Wednesday!

Studio Tour (again) – the library

A lot of the bookbinding skills I’ve developed over the years have come from reading books about bookbinding. Many of them feature the same bindings, but I can’t resist them. I need to have a big fat buffet at my disposal.

So I have an ever-growing library of bookbinding and book/paper-related books.

You can see my collection in the image below. One of the things that alternately irritates me and cracks me up is the saggy nature of my bookshelves. They are simply not strong enough. Part of me really wants to fix them, but the other part of me likes the character they have. Sometimes as an artist, I feel saggy. My bookcase understands me in this way. I feel validated.

Bookbinding library

I need to admit, as you will likely hear this again in future posts – I love love love cheese. I mean I really love cheese.

The banner in the upper left-hand corner of the picture says “Cheese” on it. I had it custom-made for me by Mary Hill. She creates these colorful banners with inspirational words on them. I admired them for a while, but never bought one because I thought that I wasn’t the inspirational type. Apparently I didn’t have the right inspiration – cheese. So I got a cheese banner for my studio.

There’s also a strip of stickers hanging off the second shelf from the top of my bookshelf. It says “I [heart] cheese”. At some point, I will likely make a cheese book, perhaps one that’s edible.

Glad that’s out of the way.

The set of books in the middle of the image below are all by Keith Smith. He writes incredibly detailed tutorials on many different bindings. I consider the guy a scientist. I have to admit that I wrote the guy a fan letter a number of years ago and he actually wrote back to me. I was pretty impressed. And I don’t write fan letters all the time.

Bookbinding books

I can honestly say the only other fan letter I wrote was to the cast of “Diff’rent Strokes” and I got a signed photo from Todd Bridges out of it.

It’s not as cool as the letter from Keith.

One of the neatest things about his books is that you can purchase them from him unbound – he sells batches of loose pages that you can bind yourself.

In the image below, you can see some of my other non-bookbinding books. They are mostly about paper or design techniques like collage or altered art. They are great to look at for inspiration. I suppose it makes sense for a bookbinder to also be a collector [read: hoarder] of books.

Design books and books about paper

If you’re interested in specific recommendations or want to know more about the books I have in my library, just ask. I am more than willing to share my goodies.

Studio tour, continued

I decided to share a bit more about my bookbinding studio. Below, you can see a picture of one of my studio closets (I have two). This closet is the primary storage area for my studio (not including paper – I use my flat files for that).

Bookbinding studio closet

As you can see, I am a very big fan of plastic storage boxes. The wooden shelf unit, named Ivar, was purchased from Ikea. Actually, it was from 2 Ikea stores in Montreal. I knew exactly what I wanted, but they didn’t have the components available at my first stop. Luckily, they had another Ikea only 20 minutes away. Go Canada!

I based the height of my shelves on the height of three stacked plastic shoeboxes. The left side of the unit is used for supplies. The right side of the unit is mostly used for inventory.

The part I love the most is the middle section. You see, I found myself in a bit of a bookcloth storage crisis. I originally kept them on shelves, but they kept rolling off (stupid gravity).

Then I found this fabulous wire roll storage file made by Safco (doesn’t that sound made up?). It has room to store all of my rolls of bookcloth and assorted tube-y and roll-y things. And it’s on wheels, so I can roll it out of my closet when I want to reach stuff in the back of it.

Rolling bookcloth cart

The height of the middle section of the shelf unit was based on the height of the roll file, including my tallest roll of bookcloth. It tucks in so nicely. I was surprised at how expensive the roll file was, but it was the perfect solution, which was priceless.

I’d love to hear how other bookbinders out there have addressed the dilemma of storing bookcloth (when is storage not an issue?).

Journal tip #1

I do a couple of craft shows during the holiday season and I often get people in my booth who tell me that my journals are too pretty to write in – they feel like they need the “right” thing to put on the pages. They don’t want to ruin them by messing up.

Cherry Blossom Hottie chopstick journal

I offer this piece of advice to anyone who’s ever struggled with starting a new journal. That first blank page can be very intimidating. The best thing you can do is to start writing on the second page. That way, you aren’t always confronted with whatever you put down at the start of your writing – you don’t have to worry about having compromised the appearance of your journal.

You can always go back and use the first page later, maybe as a title page.

Don’t let something like a piece of paper keep you from telling your story.

Super Happy Paper Fix, Part II

I got more paper today. Not a lot, but enough to tide me over for a while (apparently the 28 sheets I bought a week ago weren’t enough).

On the way back from a visit with my sister in MA, I stopped at Paper Source in Cambridge. I worked there when I was in graduate school and that’s where I learned how to make books. The main objective of the visit was to buy some laser vellum for wedding invitations. Laser vellum is a translucent paper that you can print on and lay over a decorative paper for a see-through effect.

After I got what I came for, then I could shop for fun. I found the decorative paper you see below. 

New Paper Source papers

The first one from the left is an original print by Paper Source – Flora & Fauna Pool Pinwheels Moss.

The second one from the left is an Italian paper, but it doesn’t have the maker printed on it. I’ll have to do some research to figure it out.

The third one from the left is an Italian paper by Cavallini & Co. They have lots of traditional paper prints, like maps and old travel labels.

My favorite acquisition, however, is the fourth paper from the left. I have never seen anything quite so goofy before. I almost didn’t buy it.

Yearbook paper from Paper Source

It’s another Paper Source print called Graduation Photos Sheet. It’s one of the selections from their new Paper Source Green Selections line. This pattern has been printed on 100% recycled paper with 30% post-consumer waste (go Paper Source!).

I love love love this paper! Who are these people? Why are they on this paper? Do they know that they’re on it? Do they care? So many questions.

I think I find this paper particularly intriguing because I have my high school reunion coming up and I’ve been very nostalgic as of late. I plan to use this paper on the cover of (what else?) some photo albums.

Maybe someone will recognize themselves on the cover of one of my books at a craft show and buy all of them out of humiliation…

Jason Bug Book – done deal

Today I was able to finish what I now refer to as the “Jason Bug Book” (I’ve never been great with titles). The sewing took a little over three hours to complete. I used burgundy and black linen thread to do the coptic binding – at the two ends and in the middle you can see how the coptic stitch creates a two-tone braid across the spine.

Coptic stitch binding

I love using waxed linen thread. It leaves a pleasant residue on my hands and it reminds me of having a paraffin wax treatment.

After stabilizing the structure with the coptic stitch, I was then able to get to the fun part – the caterpillar stitch. I learned the caterpillar binding from Keith Smith’s book Non-Adhesive Binding Volume III: Exposed Spine Sewings. Keith Smith has a series of amazing books about bookbinding that are somewhat like scientific manuals. At first, the directions can seem intimidating.

I had his book on my coffee table for weeks before I tried the caterpillar. I would look at the pictures in his book every day until I worked up the nerve to try it. I’ve done three books with this binding, but all had just one caterpillar crawling across the covers.

Caterpillar binding in progress

Jason’s book has two caterpillars on it, one in black and one in burgundy. The binding is done with a long piece of linen thread with one needle on each end. I like to use curved needles. You alternate between the two needles as you make your way across the cover.

The stitches go through holes drilled into the cover. You can see straight stitches on the inside of the cover. They’re neat – they remind me of a zipper.

I started with the burgundy caterpillar, which had its head on the front and its tail on the back of the book.

Caterpillar binding

After that was done, I stitched the black caterpillar, directed the opposite way. I decided that the two caterpillars were passing each other in the night. They weren’t friends, but just said “hi” and went along their way.

Double caterpillar binding

In addition to this being my first caterpillar duet, it’s also the largest journal I’ve ever done. I really like the weight and feel of it. Jason wanted a book he could carry in his laptop bag, so I chose the measurements based on his bag size.

I think I might try to make more journals in this larger size in the future.

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