Category : Education

The Amazing Dremel with Jill Timm – Day 1

I just finished my first day at the Focus on Book Arts conference. After having spent over 12 hours traveling yesterday, it was so nice to get to play all day long.

Today was day 1 of a 2-day workshop with Jill TimmThe Amazing Dremel. The amazing thing is that I finally own a Dremel after having wanted one for several years. I’m so happy.

My Dremel’s name is Stan. I don’t know why I picked that name other than the fact that he just looks like a Stan. See for yourself:

I arrived at my workstation to find a wooden box. I open it up and meet my new friends:

Best.materials.fee.ever. Jill spent some time giving us a basic overview of how to use the Dremel. I’ll be honest – the thing Stan scared me a little. At first I held it too tight, which gave me some unpleasant hand cramps. I was able to relax my grip more as the day went on.

Jill Timm teaching Dremel workshop

The class moved from brief demonstrations to Dremel play. We got to practice techniques on a small piece of material and then would work on a larger piece for us to refer to in the future.

We were able to choose the design we used for each material and I decided to stick with something basic for the whole series. I didn’t want to waste time trying to figure out what to do – I just wanted to dive in and play with the Dremel. Sometimes I just get too hung up on the details.

Welcome to the “E Series”:

So far, I think I like working with glass the best. Since the surface is hard, you can get nice smooth lines. I also found that the Dremel was easiest to control on glass. Plus you can work on both sides to get some depth. The thicker the glass, the more interesting effects you can achieve.

Jill explained that one drawback to using a Dremel on glass is that drilling holes in it usually causes the glass to shatter – the glass heats up quickly in one area while another stays cool – then kablooey. I’m guessing that a drill that uses water to keep the drilled surface cool would work better.

The mirror was also fun to work with – you could remove the back surface layer to reveal the glass beneath. You could then lay something over the exposed glass to add color to your front view.

After having worked on the glass, I felt that the linoleum was a bit submissive. I discovered that if you use a grinding bit for a length of time, you risk melting the linoleum onto your bit. Luckily, I had a brush attachment that I used to remove the offending linoleum.

I’m sure that I’m not the first person to find linoleum offensive.

You can use the Dremel to work the linoleum and then use the finished piece for printmaking. I’m guessing the same is true for wood, although the detail isn’t as crisp. You’d have a much rougher image or one without much detail.

Overall, a really fun day. I’m covered in a delightful dust blend, but totally worth it.

Packing for Focus on Book Arts…

I had hoped to write a blog post today about my trip to the American Bookbinding Museum, which I visited during my trip to San Francisco. Unfortunately, my to-do list has gotten the better of me.


Tomorrow morning, in the wee hours, I’ll be leaving for the Focus on Book Arts conference in Forest Grove, Oregon. [gasp!] I’m not done packing yet! [shocker]

Provided that there’s wireless internet available during the conference, I”ll be blogging after each day’s workshop. Here’s to anticipated technology!

The San Francisco Center for the Book

Another stop on my bookbinding-focused trip to San Francisco was The San Francisco Center for the Book. I loved the exterior of the building. It just didn’t want to blend in.

San Francisco Center for the Book - Exterior

When I got inside the building, I realized that I had imagined that the space would be much larger. I think that I’ve been impressed by their programs for so long that I literally built up the place.

Here are some images from the inside of the building:

San Francisco Center for the Book - interior

Book presses all in a row

Lying presses

Sewing frames

Challenge guillotine

During my visit, I was lucky enough to be able to view Once Upon a Book, SFCB’s current exhibit.

Once Upon a Book showcases six acclaimed children’s book illustrators in a new light – through doodles, sketches, mock-ups, all the way through finished art. This exhibition looks into the creative process of six masters of children’s books: Remy Charlip, Maira Kalman, Elisa Kleven, David Macaulay, Chris Raschka, and Brian Selznick.

I really enjoyed seeing the rough sketches and mock-ups of each artist’s work. It brought the work down to a more accessible level – I think that it’s easier for me to relate to artwork when it’s less polished. Here are some images from the exhibit:

I’d like to give a special shout out to David Macaulay – as it turns out, he lives in Vermont (woohoo!). His sketchbooks were just breathtaking – such attention to detail, even in a mode of exploration. Very inspirational. The exhibit runs until August 7, 2009. You can download the Once Upon a Book catalog for $6.00 or purchase a print copy for $12.90 from

And if that isn’t enough for you, exhibit curator Thacher Hurd produced two videos in which participating artists talk about their creative process. You can watch the videos below.

Focus on Book Arts Conference

Focus on Book Arts conference logoI mentioned in this post that I’m going to the Focus on Book Arts conference at the end of June. I wanted to put in a plug for the conference – it’s really fabulous.

I attended in 2007 and had such a great time. I learned so much and the workshops I took had a direct impact on my current work. Hopefully, the fact that I live in Vermont and I’m traveling to Oregon to attend the conference a second time should show how sincere I am.

While several of the workshops are already full, there are still quite a few with openings. You can view their workshop selections on their website.

If I could magically clone myself, I would attend Jim Croft‘s Bone Tool & Object Making workshop. Just read this workshop description:

Ever want to make a bone folder that really fits your hand and needs? In this class, students will shape roughed out elk and deer bone into tools or whatever they want. The materials fee covers the cost of bones for this class but additional bones will be available for sale for people who want more. Most students will be able to finish a couple tools.

I want to play with bones. Meh.

Another really cool workshop is Joycelyn Merchant‘s Metal Bookclasp Design & Construction. Here’s the workshop description:

Using simple metal working techniques and readily available tools and materials, we will learn to fabricate metal book closures. In this two-day workshop students will make at least two styles of metal book clasps, one simple and another more complex hinged clasp from brass or copper. We will learn some easy metal embellishment techniques, and some traditional methods for riveting. There will be no soldering. Use of patinas for coloring metal will be demonstrated. Some construction and attachment methods for other types of book decorations will be discussed or demonstrated. If time permits, participants may also make and attach a decorative element to their books. The basic information and techniques learned in this workshop will provide some very practical and useful skills for making fasteners and decorations suitable for use on books or boxes.

Drool…… Joycelyn also has a really awesome blog if you’d like to learn more about her work.

For more information on registering for the conference, please visit the conference website. If you have any questions, you can contact the conference organizers via Email: nice conference people.

I received a Vermont Arts Council grant – yippee!

Just yesterday, I found out that I was awarded a grant from the Vermont Arts Council to attend the Focus on Book Arts conference – the grant will cover about half my trip. I am so very very happy. Since it’s official, I can now make the following statement:

This project is supported in part by the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.

You can read more about my plans at the conference in this post. I took the application process really seriously. I made up this whole packet, using a postcard with images of my work on the front. I was so proud of it, I took pictures.

No, I’m not kidding – it was my first real grant application and I was proud.

If there’s anything I learned from this process is that if you really want something, go for it. You may not get it this time, but the more you ask, the more likely it is that you’ll eventually get something you want. I figured that if I didn’t get the grant, at least I went through the process of applying for a grant. I could no longer use fear as an excuse for not trying because I had already completed the process once.

Something I mentioned in my application was that I hoped to gain knowledge at the conference that I could pass along to the Vermont book arts community. I am scheduled to present a hands-on workshop for the Book Arts Guild of Vermont on August 5th. I don’t know what exactly I’ll teach, but it will be based on something learned at the conference, so stay tuned.

My heartfelt thanks go to the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts for helping to make my dream possible. Y’all rock!

National Endowment for the Arts logo

VT Arts Council Logo

2009 Focus on Book Arts conference

Focus on Book Arts conference logoI am so very happy!

I just received notification that I was awarded a scholarship to attend this year’s Focus on Book Arts conference at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. In return for the scholarship, I will be donating work to their scholarship auction and be presenting on an as-yet-undecided topic at their Hospitality Night.

The conference, which is in its ninth year, is held on a biennial basis. I attended the conference in 2007 and had so much fun. The workshops I attended had a direct impact on my work – one in particular led to the development of a line of journals which have sold well for me (many thanks to Dolores Guffey).

Before I found out about the scholarship, I registered for Jill Timm‘s 2-day workshop The Amazing Dremel – I wanted to make sure there was still space in the workshop. They quickly filled one Dremel workshop and then added a repeat class so that others could sign up.

I have wanted to start playing with a Dremel forever – I desperately want to work on more one-of-a-kind pieces and I think that this workshop will really help me to expand my creative vocabulary. Now I get to go shopping for a Dremel of my very own…droooollll…..

Now that I know that I can definitely afford to go to the conference, I’ll be signing up for 2 more workshops, each 1-day long:

  • The Doweled Flap Book & the Dowel Spine Portfolio with Peter Thomas. Peter and his wife, Donna, are known for their miniature books.
  • Suminagashi on Paper & Silk with Diane Maurer. Diane is an all-around Paper Queen, specializing in paper surface design.

I will fulfill my true geek nature and bring my copies of Peter’s More Making Books by Hand and Diane’s The Art of Making Paste Papers for them to sign. I love getting my books signed!

I’m hoping that the dorm at Pacific University has wireless internet…if so, I plan to blog about the conference after each day’s events – similar to last year’s blogfest involving my 5-day Julie Chen class at the Garage Annex School.

I’ll keep you posted.

The American Bookbinders Museum

I have an insatiable curiosity. I often follow a random trail of websites on the internet until I find myself bleary-eyed at one or two in the morning. Last night it was worth it (and I can’t even remember how I got there).

I discovered the existence of The American Bookbinders Museum. How was I not aware of this sooner? The museum is located in San Francisco, California and is open by appointment only. They do not charge any admission (generous souls!).

From their website:

The American Bookbinders Museum began as the private collection of equipment and publications held by Taurus Bookbinding of San Francisco. In 2006, the collection outgrew the modest bindery and so the museum was created and was moved to a new location that allows the public to view the collection.

Unfortunately, the museum’s website is a bit lacking in details about specific exhibits. It looks like they do have an interesting selection of equipment, documents, and artifacts – you can view some of these on their website.

After a bit of research, I was able to find the following information on the website of The Society of American Archivists:

The American Bookbinders Museum focuses on trade bookbinding of the nineteenth century by preserving the equipment and the practical information about the craft as it transitioned from hand bookbinding to industrial bookmaking. This was an especially rich period in the development of United States, and the museum hopes to provide exhibits that delineate not only the craft of bookbinding during the Industrial Revolution, but also its impact on the publishing industry and its consequent social effects on literacy and education in the United States.

There are no other museums in the United States focused on this period of bookbinding and publishing in American history. In the past few decades, scholarly interest in the nineteenth-century book and the history of reading has risen sharply. Eventually the museum will also encompass a research library that will include documents on the trade that will be available to the public and scholars of reading and publishing. Originally a private collection, this small but attractive museum is newly established and in the process of widening its holdings.

Basically, this sounds like the coolest place ever. And I’m going on vacation to San Francisco this summer.

I am so there.

Deep in the heart of Texas

Texas welcome signHowdy y’all!

I’m in San Antonio, Texas right now for a board meeting of the Craft Emergency Relief Fund. I’ll be back in Vermont on Tuesday. Our meeting has been hosted by the Southwest School of Art & Craft, which has been great.

We got a very brief (can I just say not fair) tour of their Paper & Book Arts department. I took as many pictures as I could as we breezed through and I plan to write a longer post when I get home.

Extreme Production Adventure with Carol Barton

So today I finally get to talk about my weekend workshop with Carol Barton. As I mentioned in this post and this post, Carol came to Vermont as part of a collaboration with the Craft Emergency Relief Fund, where I work. Even though a lot of work was accomplished, I still had a really fun time.

Members of the Book Arts Guild of Vermont volunteered their labor in exchange for time with Carol. I have to tell you, these women are worker bees! There’s no way we would have finished as much as we did without their help. I love you guys! Carol taught us a very basic truth:

Repeating a single production step…is more efficient than moving through several actions at once.

I have learned this over the years in my work. I usually work on three books at a time, completing the same step on all three before moving on to the next. The time it takes to produce each book is reduced when I work this way.

We also learned about using jigs and templates to help speed up production – that alone was worth the price of admission (yeah, the workshop was free, but still). I plan to devote a post to the jigs and templates to show you exactly what she showed us.

The simple tips she taught us were invaluable. For example, if you want to test the archival quality of an adhesive, you can simulate extreme conditions (time/aging, heat, & moisture) at home:

  • Glue your item.
  • Put your oven on a low setting.
  • Put a pan of water in the oven.
  • Place your glued item on a tray and leave it in the oven for 2 days.

Carol advised us that commercial pop-up books are priced by the number of glue spots included. You can reduce your production costs by eliminating as many glue spots as possible – adapt your design/engineering to accomplish this. This is applicable to the production of handmade editions too – reduce the number of glue spots and you reduce the amount of time it takes to finish a piece.

Somehow we managed to finish 100 prototypes of the Studio Protector – the exact number we needed. Yeehaw!

If you’re interested in reading Carol’s view of her experience in Vermont, you can read about it in her blog. That’s me in the second picture on the right – gray t-shirt, curly hair.

Carol Barton is almost here…

As I mentioned in this post, Carol Barton is coming to Vermont as part of a collaborative effort with the Craft Emergency Relief Fund.

Carol has been consulting with CERF on a project called the Studio Protector, an emergency readiness and response toolkit for artists. This coming weekend, she’ll be leading a workshop that will involve the production of prototypes for testing by artists across the country. I’m really looking forward to the workshop.

Carol will be arriving at the airport tomorrow afternoon and I’ll be picking her up. I met her very briefly over a year ago at the Focus on Book Arts Conference in Forest Grove, Oregon, but I’m pretty sure that she won’t recognize me. I decided that I’d have to make a sign with her name on it (a must for important people!).

Here’s what I have so far:

Carol Barton pop-up airport sign

The letters are made of misprints of the Studio Protector. I plan to embellish it more tomorrow at work. If you’re in the Burlington, Vermont area on Friday evening, don’t miss Carol’s free lecture at the University of Vermont. Details follow.

The Craft Emergency Relief Fund and the Special Collections Department of the Bailey/Howe Library at the University of Vermont are pleased to announce a co-sponsored lecture with renowned paper engineer and book artist, Carol Barton: The History of Pop-Up and Movable Books.

This 50-minute slide show begins with the development of movable page formats within early Renaissance science texts that employ volvelles and lift-up flap mechanisms. Movable illustrations from astronomical, navigational, mathematical and medical books will be shown. The presentation will also include a discussion of childrens’ pop-up books from the 19th and 20th centuries, along with examples of current commercial and artist-made dimensional books. The lecture includes discussions of die-cutting and hand-assembly processes used in the modern manufacture of pop-up books.

Event Details:
Friday, September 12, 2008 at 7:00 p.m.
Special Collections Department, located on the lower level of the Bailey/Howe Library University of Vermont Burlington, VT
Event is free and open to the public.

Parking info:
Parking is available at the visitor parking lot on College Street near the intersection of South Prospect Street. The lot is free in the evening.  Handicap parking is available outside Bailey/Howe Library. The UVM campus map shows campus buildings and visitor parking.

Special Collections at the University of Vermont:
Phone: (802) 656-2138

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