Category : Bookbinding

Le Tour de Garage Annex School

Last month I wrote a post about the Garage Annex School. I mentioned how huge the studio was and how it was jam-packed with boxes of stuff and equipment that was bigger than me. Well, on the last day of my class with Julie Chen, I took a photographic tour of the studio to show you what I was talking about.

First are some shots of the studio/classroom. So very large. Look all of that storage space.


Next comes the equipment in all of its weighty goodness. Even though I don’t know what all of these things are and/or do, I would still invite them in for dinner if they showed up at my front door. If anyone can give me insight into the details on these machines, please let me know and I’ll update my post.

It was not easy coming back to my studio after my class last week. Then I thought about how little space I have to clean and I felt better. Not that I clean my studio much, but I did feel better.

Julie Chen workshop: Day 5

When I arrived home last night at 10 o’clock, I immediately walked into my studio and thought, “I wanna make something!” Once the moment passed, I went about the business of unpacking the car. Meh.

It was hard to ease back into “regular” life today. Instead of playing in Julie’s class with paper and other fun materials, I was outside mowing the lawn and weeding the garden beds. I decided that if I were going to start a band, I would name it either Tenacious Clover or The Girl Who Cried Snake.

Yes, there was a snake incident today. Please don’t make me talk about it.

On our last day of class, in the interest of time, we didn’t do a collaborative art book. I was bummed about it too. I enjoyed the opportunity to work with a new person every day on something spontaneous.

Instead we dove right into the sharing and critique of each other’s panel books.

It was really wonderful to see everyone’s completed books. I was amazed how different concepts can develop from the same set of directions. Julie commented that our work as a whole was very strong and that she could see the evolution of our work throughout the week.

After the critique, we moved on to a new project. We were given a set of 14 blank cards and were asked to some up with an exercise that we could use in 3-5 minutes which could act as a creative push when we became stuck. We also had to embellish the cards using a technique that we had used in our panel books. They didn’t all have to be exactly the same, but as similar as possible.

We only had to write our technique once and Julie photocopied them for us to collage on to our cards. I enjoyed this project because it allowed the group to receive something creative from everyone in the class. At the end of the day, Julie swapped out the cards so everyone got a complete set. I plan to make a box for mine.

My card: Scribble on a piece of paper for 15 seconds. Spend 3 minutes looking for an image in the scribble and flesh it out. (a classic art therapy technique)

Julie’s card: Choose an everyday object (a pencil, a toothbrush, etc.) and spend 3 minutes writing a list of any words that come to mind in relation to the object. After 3 minutes, go over your list to see if anything interesting stands out.

Overall, the class was a wonderful experience for me. I feel like I learned a new set of tools that I can use in my own creative practice. In the past, I’ve started new projects with the expectation that I will have all details worked out at once. This seldom works well.

Now I hope to use an approach of developing projects over a more realistic time period, thereby putting less pressure on myself. I think that this will make my work both more enjoyable and meaningful.

I highly recommend Julie’s class – if she comes to a school near you, sign up quickly! I would definitely take another class with her if time and finances allowed. Hopefully my blog posts have conveyed just how enjoyable her workshop was to attend.

Julie Chen workshop: Day 4

Once again, we started the morning with a collaborative art book. This time, our partner was chosen at random. You can see the results of our work below. The overall concept was a much simpler than yesterday’s (yes, the blue roof was intentional).

Collaborative Book Project from Julie Chen workshop

No other new projects were introduced today (phew!). We spent almost the entire day working on our timeline/panel books. We were told that our books should be completed today so that they could press overnight. I was able to finish my book around 4 p.m., which was surprising considering how many problems I ran into (Stupid glue! What are you doing there? I didn’t put you there!).

Here are some shots of my final book:

For the next hour or so, I worked on completing my text/image card book, which I talked about in yesterday’s post. These books are being bound with a comb binding, which I’ve never done myself. I’m both frightened and intrigued by the comb binding machine thingie. I think that I would very much like to not comb bind myself.

My plan is to write blog post about tomorrow, the last day of Julie’s class (meh). However, I’ll be driving back home to Vermont tomorrow evening and unless I want to take a detour to Crazy Town, I’ll wait until Saturday to do it.

And in case you’re wondering, Crazy Town is not accessible via GPS.

Julie Chen workshop: Day 3

We started this morning with another a collaborative art exercise. Just like yesterday, we were given 10 minutes to work on a piece that would eventually turn into a book.

We went back and forth with a partner who was behind us at the next table. In addition to working on the piece for an hour in 10 minute increments, today we were given the opportunity to put finishing touches on our work for the last 10 minutes (this was not an option yesterday). After today’s exercise, I found that I became much more attached to my final piece. I was able to work on an overall theme that made my book much more cohesive.

We didn’t work on our timeline/panel books today. The majority of today was spent on a text and image project, which we started yesterday. I forgot to mention it in yesterday’s post (oops!). We’re working on so many projects throughout the day that I’m starting to lose track of all of them.

Here’s the catch-up: We were given a template that outlined 6 cards, each about the size of a playing card. We had to create three image and three text cards. Text cards needed to be created with a 3/8″ margin. The image cards had to include the following:

  1. One card included one image of an object.
  2. One card included one image of a place.
  3. One card included one image of a figure (statue or person).

One text card had to be paired with one image card. The group of text cards had to include the following:

  1. One card included text that described an image without naming the image.
  2. One card included text that added information relating to the image but didn’t directly describe the image.
  3. Once card included text that was unrelated to the image, but created a sense of tension when the text and image are presented together.

Today we were given a complete set of color copies of cards made by the entire class. From these cards we would be creating a small artist book. The book had to use the following criteria:

  1. Use a combination of both text and image cards, with at least one of each used more than once over the course of the book.
  2. Create a minimum of 9 leaves (18 pages, front and back), not including the covers.
  3. Do not leave a page blank unless it is considered intentional content for the book.
  4. Do not alter any image or text cards. The exception is addition of background color.

You could also choose one of the following options:

  1. Make a minor alteration to a text or image card.
  2. Create a “wild card”, which is a text or image card of your own. The wild card could not be the first or last page of the book.

I was able to select my cards and develop a concept fairly quickly. I used only two of the cards I created myself. We worked on our books until around four o’clock, at which point my brain was fried. Luckily, our books don’t need to be completed until tomorrow. I was happy when Julie suggested that we work on something else for the rest of the day. We had 45 minutes to complete a book project.

Here’s the breakdown:

  1. Research phase: 15 minutes to collect materials and text.
  2. Design phase: 15 minutes to determine structure and start minor assembly.
  3. Production phase: 15 minutes to complete assembly.

I was so stressed out during this exercise and came nowhere close to finishing. I thought too big and almost everyone in the class had the same problem. Our collection of work was very simple and sparse. Julie told us that when we get stuck, it can often help to do a time-limited creative exercise. With the pressure of deadlines, you think less and do more.

She didn’t expect any of us to finish our books – our brains aren’t trained to complete work in 45 minutes. She said that over time it would become a more doable exercise. She told us to leave our unfinished books as they were. I am so struggling with that direction.

Unfinished projects make me

Julie Chen workshop: Day 2

You have to understand something about me: I get very spazzy when I am near a celebrity. For example, this past Saturday, I saw Boeing Boeing while in NYC. A friend of mine worked on the production so we got a backstage tour. Both Bradley Whitford (he was in the show) and David Hyde Pierce (saw the show, skinny guy) were just inches away from me. I played it all cool while inside I was yelling “Famousperson famousperson!”

I experienced a similar feeling yesterday when I first met Julie. I played it all cool while inside I was yelling “Famousbindingperson famousbindingperson!”

I was much more relaxed today during the second day of Julie’s workshop. Thankfully, I have returned to my normal level of spaz.

We started the day off with a collaborative art exercise. We were given 10 minutes to work on a piece that would eventually (maybe) turn into a book. After the 10 minutes, we had to exchange pieces with our table mate and work on her piece for 10 minutes. We repeated this for a total of one hour. We ended up with the piece we had started at the beginning of the exercise.

My piece evolved into a map-folded form with a travel theme. We shared our pieces as a group, which was interesting. We were able to gain insight into how each pair of artists worked on their piece (it stirred the art therapist in me, all those interpersonal dynamics).

Collaborative Book from Julie Chen workshop

After completing the warm-up, we moved on to our timelines from day 1. We cut up our timelines into six 3.5″ panels. Somehow, I managed to cut one of my panels 1/8″ too narrow (meh).

Artwork by Elissa Campbell
We focused on one event represented on each of the six panels and spent three minutes on free association writing. Afterwards, we reviewed the written text for each of the panels and looked for common themes. We were then asked to summarize concepts for each of the six panels, using specific details from the related events, if desired.

The free association part of the project was such a struggle for me. I should mention that one of the main reasons I am taking Julie’s workshop is because I struggle with expressing myself through content in my books. I focus on blank books partially because it’s safer – I don’t have to take any risks by exposing what’s on my mind. In some ways, I think I started blogging to help me with this issue.

Once the writing exercise was finished, we started working on the structure of the book. We learned that we would be attaching our six pieces to a Panel Book, a structure created by Hedi Kyle. To be honest with you, I had never heard of nor seen the form before. It is wicked cool. And I don’t use the word “wicked” lightly. I am so making more of these.

If you’re aware of any books/references that have more information on this structure, I’d love to hear about it. You can see the basic form below, before I attached my timeline panels. We will be working on these more tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Blank panel book

Julie Chen workshop: Day 1

Today was the first day of Julie Chen‘s workshop – Artists’ Books: Ideas, Actions, & Transformations – at the Garage Annex School. I am such a geek. I got a seat right up front. The class of 12 was made up entirely of women, which I find curious.

Julie didn’t look as I had imagined, although I couldn’t really tell you what my vision was. Once the class started though, I was satisfied that she did, in fact, look like she should.

Our first exercise involved the expression of an emotion. We selected a piece of paper with three emotions on it and had to choose one. We then carved a rubber block to represent that emotion using shape and pattern. When finished, we were given 14 cards and had to print our image in the color of our choice, using orientation and position on the card as a way to further convey our chosen emotion.

I had anxiety.

I mean I chose anxiety for my emotion.

In fact, I had anxiety about representing anxiety in a visual manner.

Handmade stamped cards by Elissa Campbell

We then swapped prints with everyone else in the class. We were given a list of all the emotions and had to decide which emotion they were trying to express. Surprisingly, most people seemed to think that I was expressing surprise. It made me anxious.

Then we got back all of the images we had made guesses on. After seeing what the correct emotions were, we were asked to alter the images so that they better reflected how we saw that emotion. I immediately felt my art therapy background come blazing through my brain – how could I tell someone how to better express an emotion? Nonetheless, it was interesting to get everyone’s feedback at the end, when we received our original prints back.

I received a comment that my representation of anxiety was too controlled. It’s my classic response to anxiety – I clamp down and structure structure structure.

The next exercise involved creating a personal timeline. We used a stencil technique called pochoir, which I have already forgotten how to pronounce, so don’t ask me to do it.

Artwork by Elissa Campbell

We didn’t need to share the details of the timeline with anyone else – it only had to have personal significance. The timeline had to include the following elements:

  1. At least one line to represent the passage of time.
  2. Events should be in chronological order.
  3. At least one image of a traumatic event.
  4. At least one image of a joyful occasion.
  5. Use as much of the paper as possible, with little white space in the margins.
  6. No representational imagery, but use an inner logic.

The kicker – we would be using this timeline later in the workshop, but weren’t told how it would be used.

Here comes that anxiety again.

Interview in Seven Days is out!

Last week I mentioned that I was interviewed by a reporter from Seven Days, a Vermont independent newspaper. This past Monday, I met with a photographer at my studio to take some inventory and action shots.

Waiting for the newspaper to come out today was unbearable. I went to a local distribution spot several times before I finally snagged myself a pile. The article is also available on the Seven Days website.

If you scroll down to the end of article, you’ll see a picture of me. I didn’t have any work in progress at the time of the photo shoot and the photographer wanted a picture of me working – I had to unbind a book so I had something to work on during the shoot. Let me admit up front that I do NOT like having my picture taken. That said, I really like the picture that accompanies the article. My hair is sufficiently non-wacky. I have a decent smile. I’m not dressed like a shlub.

However, the best thing about this picture is that it looks like my studio is located in a spaceship – and yet somehow, I look normal. I have no idea where that weird glow in the background came from. The photographer did not set up any strange lights or attach bizarro lenses to his camera. I do not work in a microwave. It’s just weird. I want my studio to look like that all the time.

On another note, I’m leaving in 38 minutes for my summer vacation. I should be wrapping up my packing, but I couldn’t resist squeezing in one more post. July 7th will be the first day of my 5-day workshop with Julie Chen at the Garage Annex School, which I talked about in this post. I hope to take lots of pictures during the workshop and will try to write a post every day about the experience. Unless I spend all waking hours making stuff.

See you in July!

Keith Smith books on sale at Oak Knoll Books

Oak Knoll Books logoI am a pathological bargain hunter. When I find a deal, I get all happy inside.

Today I found out that Oak Knoll Books that is having a sale. Saweet! On their homepage, you can see the following sale announcement: “New books on sale in June, free shipping!”

When you click on the link, the next web page says this:

20% Off & Free Shipping on orders of 2 or more! We have chosen over 65 new books (not Oak Knoll Press titles) to offer on sale in June. This is a different selection than the books that were on sale in May. We hope you find something of interest!

Now I have a lot of bookbinding books and I’m pretty picky. I did not expect to find anything that would rock my socks. I was wrong.

The sale list includes the following 3 Keith Smith books:

  • Bookbinding for Book Artists
  • Structure of the Visual Book
  • 200 Books, an Annotated Bibliography

Yes, this is a small selection, but if you’ve ever shopped for Keith Smith books, then you know what a steal this is. It is really hard to find his books used (who would give up one of his books?), much less on sale. 20% off and free shipping is a great deal. Find yourself a bookbinding friend and split the order to get the free shipping. I bought a copy of 200 Books, an Annotated Bibliography, the one book missing from my collection.

I am a happy duck.

Custom order guest book – done deal

Today there was no throwing of things (not even soft things), as I threatened in yesterday’s post. I pulled my guest book out of the press and it was just perfect.

Handmade guest book by Elissa Campbell

I ran upstairs from my studio to my husband like an eight year-old. “Ohhhh…..look at what I made! I like it soooo much! Lookie lookie lookie!”

Handmade guest book by Elissa Campbell

I was especially thankful for the lack of complications because my customer was going to be picking it up in 1 1/2 hours. Then I became sad because I knew that I couldn’t keep the book for myself. Meh. So began the process of letting go of the book that I thought wouldn’t look good but it did and I was wrong.

Handmade guest book by Elissa Campbell

When my customer picked up the book, she really liked it. She gave me a hug. I like hugs more than I like throwing things.

Handmade guest book by Elissa Campbell

Off the guest book goes into the world of party attendees and pen users.

Guest books and gluing drama…

For the past week I have been working on a custom order for a guest book. I have to admit that when my customer picked out her choice of materials, I did not think that the combination was going to work. However, I have been proven wrong throughout the process of making the book – her choices were spot-on.

I really appreciate it when someone can rock my creative world. I get so stuck in doing the things I do. It can be hard for me to accept and try out others’ ideas. That’s why I really appreciate custom orders – the extra work involved can be hard, but it’s so worth it to get a brain stretch along the way.

Another benefit of this process is that it helped me figure out how to approach another custom order that I’ve been avoiding. One solution leads to another.

Handmade guest book by Elissa Campbell

As you can see, the guest book has a copy of a matted wedding invitation on the cover. For some reason, I could not figure out how to get the invitation centered and mark it off for gluing. Part of the difficulty was likely due to the fact that the mat for the invitation was a piece of bookboard wrapped in bookcloth. The extra thickness made it harder to manipulate.

I tried to outline the invitation with post-it notes, hoping that I could glue the back and then position it. The post-its did not want to stick to my very lumpy handmade paper. Then I tried laying out straight edges, hoping that they’d stay still while I glued. Those suckers were so flipping wiggly!

I even asked my husband for suggestions. His response – “I dunno.”

After some grumbling, my brain decided to join in. I created a template out of cardstock that was the same size as the cover paper. I cut out a hole that was slightly larger than the size of the matted invitation. I then clipped the template to the cover so it wouldn’t wiggle (take that!).

Handmade guest book by Elissa Campbell

Victory was mine!

I was successfully able to get the invitation glued into the perfect position. I unclipped the template and the cover went into the press.

I’m really hoping that my happiness isn’t short-lived. If I take the cover out of the press tomorrow and find that some stray glue made it on to my cover, I’m going to throw things.

Soft things.

Another part of the guest book involved mounting envelopes containing the save-the-date and response cards. I added them to the inside of the back cover. This was a much easier process because I used an acid-free roller adhesive (the envelopes were lightweight and didn’t require PVA). They are stuck on good.

Inside guest book back cover

After pressing the front cover overnight, I’ll complete the binding – I’m using a stab binding with 1 1/2″ green ribbon to match the invitation.

I’ll try to get some shots in before my customer comes by to pick it up.

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