Category : Bookbinding

Garage Annex School – not a place for cars to learn stuff

I realized that I mentioned the Garage Annex School in my post about Julie Chen and didn’t elaborate.

At all. My bad.

Just what exactly is the Garage Annex School? Well, it’s a bookbinding school located in Easthampton, MA. I’m not sure how they came up with the name because they’re not located in a garage, but in a converted mill (which is way cool and kinda creepy).

I am so thankful to have a bookbinding school located within driving distance of my home. The co-directors of the school, Daniel Kelm and Greta Sibley, get the most amazing roster of instructors.

Take a look at their class listing for this year: Julie Chen, Hedi Kyle, and Shanna Leino, to name a few. How fun would it be to make your own bone folders with Shanna?

I took a weekend workshop there about 1 1/2 years ago with Hedi Kyle – was that a dream and a half! We learned how to make a bunch of binding structures using materials that one could easily find in a stationery store. I would have taken a class in pickle binding if Hedi was teaching it – to have the opportunity to learn from her was priceless.

Yes, I get star struck. I believe I’ve mentioned that before.

And the studio where the classes are held…oh boy. It is HUGE. And it has really tall ceilings.

And there are all kinds of boxes crammed in places and you just wanna go in every one and see what’s in there because whatever it is you know it’s really cool.

And he has these big pieces of equipment and I have no idea what they do, but I want one of each.

So here I am, only 21 days away from my class with Julie Chen.

Best. Vacation. Ever.

If the classes look interesting to you, sign up for their Email list. They give you a teaser of the upcoming classes before registration begins, just so you can torture yourself over which one you’re going to take.

And these classes fill up fast. The Julie Chen class filled up in 6 hours and I only got in because some people dropped out (I was #2 on the wait list). In anticipation of next year’s schedule, I will continue my practice of searching the Sunday want ads for a job where you get paid to take bookbinding classes.

Newspaper interview with Seven Days

Yesterday I was interviewed by reporter Amy Lilly from Seven Days. Seven Days is a weekly independent newspaper, sort of like Vermont’s answer to the Boston Phoenix.

Amy had seen my work in a gallery a couple of years ago and was recently reintroduced to my work via the Vermont Crafts Council website. She asked me if she could come to my studio and use me as a subject for her column Handmade Tales. Handmade Tales features a different Vermont artist each week. Amy does a great job of painting a portrait of the artist with her words. It was a pleasant surprise when she contacted me (although I had to clean my studio).

She arrived at my studio yesterday afternoon. I have been interviewed a couple of times before and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I’m probably more enthusiastic during conversation than one might expect. I talk fast and say embarrassing things. But these things are just classic me. I can hear my voice when I read the words that I can’t believe I’ve said.

I told Amy that if I started talking too fast, that she should feel free to tell me to slow down. Start me talking about bookbinding and I’m off at the races.

We talked about how I started in bookbinding, how I ended up in Vermont, where I look for supplies (and inspiration). I talked a lot. And fast. She took a lot of notes.

I suspect that she will write something that makes me sound a bit less wackadoodle, but if not, that’s okay. That’s just who I am.

A photographer will be contacting me next week to arrange an appointment to take my picture. This was a bummer because yesterday was a really good hair day. I’m praying for low humidity next week.

The article is scheduled for publication on June 25th. Luckily, this is the day before I leave for vacation so I can grab a bunch of copies. The column is also published on the Seven Days website, so I’ll publish a link to it when it becomes available.

My Favorite Book Artists, Chapter 1: Julie Chen

A couple of years ago, the Book Arts Guild of Vermont took a field trip to the Special Collections department at the Bailey/Howe Library at the University of Vermont. Connell Gallagher, then director of Special Collections, organized an amazing array of artist books for us to view. They were laid out on tables and we were given white cotton gloves to wear as we explored the work.

If you don’t know who Julie Chen is, you should. Julie is the amazing artist behind Flying Fish Press in Berkeley CA. I lost my breath when I saw Julie’s work. Her craftsmanship is just beyond description. Visit her website and check out her portfolio pages if you want to see it for yourself.

And if you think the images are amazing, you really should see them in person. I consider myself very fortunate for having had the opportunity to actually hold several of her pieces in my hands. If you have a university library near you with a special collections department, find out if they have any of Julie’s work. If they do, get yourself over there!

A print catalog of Julie’s work is also available – the book Objects/Encounters: Bookworks at Flying Fish Press 1987-2001 was written by Connell Gallagher & Cynthia Imperatore and was published by the University of Vermont. The book retails for $35.00.

As if seeing her work in person wasn’t enough of an experience for me, I have an even bigger opportunity over the horizon. In about a month, I’ll be taking a class with Julie at the Garage Annex School in Easthampton, MA. She’s teaching a course called Artists’ Books: Ideas, Actions, & Transformations.

I almost didn’t get into the class. The Garage Annex School announced their 2008 class lineup a couple of months before opening registration. When registration opened up, I wasn’t fast enough – the class sold out in 6 hours. I was so upset. I sent in an Email and asked to be put on the waiting list – I was #2 (like 2 people would be crazy enough to give up their spots). Well, apparently there are 2 people that crazy – thank you crazy people!

I plan to take lots of pictures during the workshop so I can share my experience with you. So think of me on July 7th – I’ll be the curly-haired bookbinder in Easthampton, MA trying hard not to look like a star struck doof.

Still on the Printmaking Bus

As I discussed over the weekend, I rather impulsively (and smartly) decided to purchase a Gocco printer. At the time I didn’t quite realize that this was just the start of a longer journey back to printmaking.

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, I was a Fine Arts major – one of 5 in a class of 2,000 (yes, you read that right). Although my concentration was painting, my love was always with printmaking. I really took to etching – something about the whole burning acid thing. Ever since I left Philadelphia, I haven’t thought seriously about picking it up again. Then I got hooked on the whole Gocco concept.

This brings me to this past Saturday when I attended a workshop hosted by the Art Therapy Association of Vermont (I’m both a member of ATAV and a non-practicing art therapist). The workshop was entitled Printmaking as Therapy: Frameworks for Freedom and was presented by Lucy Mueller Young, MA, ATR-BC. If you’re interested in learning more about the use of printmaking as therapy, Lucy has written a book on the subject with the same title as her workshop (read more on Amazon).

I really enjoyed the workshop. We spent almost the entire day playing around with different techniques, some of which I hadn’t used before.

The first thing we did was make collagraphs. We took contact paper, cut shapes out of it, and then stuck them onto mat board.

Collagraphs by Elissa Campbell

When we finished our collages, we rolled ink over it, laid paper on top of it, and rubbed – instant print! In the image at right you can see my “plate” at the top.

Next we moved on to monoprints. I really got into the process – you roll ink out on plexiglass and draw right into the ink with various tools. You lay the paper on top of the inked plexi and rub to make the print.

Our room at the Comfort Inn was covered with our work. I’m not sure they would have rented the room to us if had they known what we were doing in there.

After our work dried, we dove into bookmaking. Lucy taught us about maze books – I had never heard the term used before.

Handmade Book made from monotype by Elissa Campbell

You fold your paper into eighths and then cut on selected folds in a T shape. I’m hoping you can see where the cuts are in my photos.

Handmade Book made from monotype by Elissa Campbell

We then folded the paper so that it formed the pages of a book. No sewing was needed. We had the option of leaving our covers as is or we could add mat board to them for strength. I chose the mat board option.

At lunchtime, I had a discussion with Lucy about the value of graffiti – it had a direct impact on my book because I added some line work to my print with color pencils and it had the appearance of graffiti. To finish it off, I added some text in black ink and fuzzy fibers to the top. It was so nice to spend the day making work without the goal of selling it.

Art for art’s sake. I don’t do that often enough.

Handmade Book made from monotype by Elissa Campbell

Supplier Rave – May Arts Ribbon

I love ribbon. I really do. I would drape my walls in ribbon if I could afford it. No, I would drape it on myself.

To clarify, I love most ribbons. I hate hate hate wired ribbons. When they get smushed they look really sad. One of my favorite manufacturers and my primary supplier is May Arts. There are many reasons to like these folks:

  1. They make fabulous ribbon in tons of colors, patterns, and textures.
  2. Their prices are affordable.
  3. They have a low minimum order.
  4. They have great customer service.
  5. Their shipping is speedy.
  6. They’re always willing to send you samples.

So there you go. Six reasons to pick up the phone, give them a call, and get yourself a catalog. I have been ordering from them for years and have never been disappointed.

The KA line is described as “Woven/Iridescent” by May Arts.

May Arts Ribbon - KA line

I use these ribbons on the majority of my photo albums and the texture and color really adds a touch of luxury. It has 30 yards on a roll and is made of 60% nylon and 40% polyester. It also comes in several widths. This stuff is the silkiest ribbon I have ever felt – a step up from your typical satin ribbon. I love love love it and it’s definitely my favorite ribbon of all time.

Many of the colors have multiple tones woven in, so depending on your angle, the predominant color can change. The last time I bought this ribbon, I paid $12.00 for a 1.5″ width. At $.40 a yard, you can’t pass it up.

May Arts describes the KN line as “Solid/Two Tone”.

May Arts Ribbon - KN line

I use these ribbons primarily on accordion books and on occasion, I’ll use them for photo albums. The edge of these ribbons tends to contrast more than those in the KA line and the colors used are bolder. This ribbon has 50 yards on a roll and only comes in one width – 3/8″.

The texture isn’t as silky as the KA line, but it’s still smooth to the touch. I’d describe it as having slightly more texture than a satin ribbon. The last time I purchased this ribbon, I paid $10.00 per roll – only $.20 a yard.

The prices I’ve quoted are wholesale, so if you want to order from them, you’ll have to provide them with your business ID. Please note that the prices I’ve quoted may not still be accurate as of now and they don’t include shipping.

In general, their prices have not increased drastically over the past several years. Their shipping prices are quite reasonable and if you’re buying multiple rolls, it doesn’t add much to the overall cost. I hereby give these guys the Blue Roof Designs “Blue Ribbon of Fabulousness”.

Of course, the ribbon is made with May Arts ribbon.

Completed accordion books…music to my eyes

I decided that I would get two dozen accordion books done in time for Open Studio Weekend. You can see the start of my work in this post. I already had quite a few in stock, but sometimes I get an urge to set a deadline just so I can experience the feeling of having met it. Now I have a whole bunch of accordion books.

Pile of handmade accordion books by Blue Roof Designs

I love this picture of them all stacked up, ready for the bows to be tied. Obviously, this satisfies my love of piles (haven’t I mentioned that before?). Sometimes, I like to see how high I can stack them before they fall over, kind of like Book Arts Jenga. Except that I really don’t want to knock them over.

Below you can see some of the finished books. I acquired my bow mastery while working at Paper Source in Cambridge, MA. One of the best things about the job was that people would buy gorgeous papers and ribbons and then have you wrap their gifts for them. I could wrap presents all day long.

Piles of handmade accordion books by Blue Roof Designs

If I ever get kidnapped and they won’t let me go unless I tie a perfect bow, I’ll be home by dinnertime. And I’ll definitely be eating farfalle.

Accordion books

This weekend I worked on accordion books that are 4.5″ x 4.5″ in size. An accordion book is often made with one long piece of card stock. It is folded repeatedly, like a fan, to form the pages in the book.

The colored slips of paper sticking out from the stack of covers in the image below are used to connect two pieces of card stock together. I use this technique so that the accordion book can have more pages.

Accordion book covers by Elissa Campbell

I often refer to my accordion books as “candy” because when I make them, I often play with more colorful and fun papers than I usually do. With my larger scale work, I tend to use more “serious” materials. I couldn’t really tell you how I qualify a paper as “serious”. I just know it when I see it.

In the image below, you can see that I glued ribbons on to the covers – these will be used to tie the books closed. (Without the pages glued in, those covers remind me of bodies on an operating table, but less gross.) Tying the bows on completed accordion books is really satisfying for me. It’s like wrapping presents for people. Plus it’s literally my act of wrapping up the process.

Accordion book covers by Elissa Campbell

In the last image, you can see one of my completed accordion books. The pictures in the book are of my niece, the biggest peanut ever. Well, she’s more of a co-peanut, along with my nephew. The green stripe in the middle of the book is the hinge that I talked about earlier. I think it adds a nice burst of color.

Accordion book by Elissa Campbell

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.

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?).

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