Category : Vermont

A Book Arts Guide to Vermont Open Studio Weekend

Vermont Open Studio Weekend logoThis time of year, I’m usually busy freaking out over Vermont’s upcoming Open Studio Weekend. Unfortunately, I am unable to participate this year due to a family commitment. I am most definitely having withdrawal symptoms and am experiencing pangs of sadness as I hear this year’s plans for the Montpelier Watershed Artists. Meh.

Kristin Crane asked me if I had any suggestions on what studios to visit during the event and I became inspired to make a list of book artist studios. Thanks Kristin!

I’ll be referring to studios by both name and number – the number refers to a listing in the Vermont Studio Tour Guide 2009. There are several ways to get your hands on a map:

If I were to start a tour of book artists in Vermont, my first stop would be #190 Claire Van Vliet, owner of Janus Press. Taught by Hedi Kyle, Claire is well-known for her thoughtful integration of form and content in her work. Her structures are quite innovative. She is a co-author, along with Elizabeth Steiner,  of the book Woven and Interlocking Book Structures. If you’d like a preview of her work, she has a number of limited edition artist books available for purchase as well from Vamp and Tramp, Booksellers.

My next stop would be #187Ken Leslie. An article in the Bennington Banner described how Ken started his work in artist’s books:

After receiving his MFA in painting from the University of Pennsylvania, Leslie went on to show his work nationally and internationally. As he pushed the boundaries of traditional painting, he began experimenting with circular and other non-traditional shapes. Reaching far beyond the conventional painting form, he began folding the paintings to accentuate their narrative sequences which resulted in the artist’s books. Since that time, Leslie has specialized in making limited-edition and one-of-a-kind artist’s books, ranging in size from two inches to 10 feet, and including not only painting but writings on a variety of themes.

I saw one of his large pieces at the SPA Gallery and his use of the circular format is quite striking. If you can’t make it to his studio during Open Studio Weekend,  you can view his work at the Bennington Museum – Top of the World, Paintings and Artist’s Books of the Arctic and Vermont is on display from now until June 14th.

#142 Nancy Stone would be my next stop. Nancy is one of the founders of the Book Arts Guild of Vermont. Besides being a serious sweetie (and my friend), she’s also quite an amazing book artist. Nancy has also taught and inspired many students in the books arts throughout Vermont. She often incorporates painting techniques in her work. If you go to her studio, ask her to show you her journal from her travels to Italy – it’s fabulous.

Lastly, I would visit #99Carolyn Shattuck. A longtime printmaker, Carolyn cuts up old prints and reassembles them into book forms. Many of her books include three-dimensional and pop-up elements which create intriguing environments in which she can tell her story. If you can’t make it to her studio during Open Studio Weekend, come to the June 3rd meeting of the Book Arts Guild of Vermont where Carolyn will be the evening’s presenter: Personal Journey as Book Artist.

Unfortunately, the book arts studios aren’t very close to each other. If you do go to any of the studios, share your experiences here and I will live vicariously through you.

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

Vermont Crafts Council Spring Marketing Conference 2009

Today, for the second year in a row, I presented at the Vermont Crafts Council’s Spring Marketing Conference.

First things first – I am now laughing at myself. I looked at the post I wrote last year about the conference and here’s a direct quote:

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 am seriously a creature of habit. Last night I was up until 1:30 a.m. And I did it without coffee. And apparently I am still capable of blabbering for 1 1/2 hours. [end self-mocking]

The conference began with a keynote by Judy Dunn. When I first met Judy at an Artrider show in NYC a few years ago, I was instantly taken with her warm personality. She’s just one of those people who can’t help but be a sweetheart.

Judy creates, and likely invented, polymer clay origami. She once told someone that she was thinking of trying to make origami cranes out of polymer clay and they told her it wasn’t possible. So she did what any sane artist would do – she ignored them and tried it anyway. Her cranes are pretty fabulous. She started her Iraq War Memorial Project to commemorate the lives lost during the war in Iraq – each crane she creates represents a life. It’s powerful stuff.

Judy also has a blog that I follow regularly, Artrepreneur: The Collision of Art & Business. I think the title is pretty self-explanatory.

Judy’s keynote was entitled Untangling the Web. She gave folks an overview of the internet landscape as it relates to the use of social media. My presentation dovetailed off hers and I focused more specifically on using blogging, Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter as promotional tools. Luckily, the computer gods were on my side and I encountered no technical problems any worse than the internet being slow.

I feel comfortable quoting what I said after last year’s conference as it still seems appropriate:

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.

I hope that folks got the message that using social media can be of great benefit to artists. However, it doesn’t mean that every single tool out there has to work for you.

Take it slowly.

Twitter scares the crap out of me sometimes, but I’m hanging in there. I may ultimately decide that it isn’t my ball of cheese and that’s okay.

I took all of the resource handouts from the workshop and converted them into pdf format – now you can just click on links in the document and get to the websites without having to type them manually (hooray!).

Just click on the following link and you’re good to go: Social Media Resources for Artists

P.S. This post was spell-checked four times.

Trying to feel like a “real” artist

So I’ve officially been a full-time artist for three months. Technically, I’m full-time but I don’t feel full-time yet. In the past few months, I’ve accessed a number of resources that will hopefully guide me on my journey.

This morning I was lucky enough to have a one-hour coaching session with creativity coach Quinn McDonald. So many ideas were generated in that hour. I’ve always been stuck on the idea that as an artist, you had to show that your product met a customer’s need. It was the word “need” that got me.

Quinn framed it differently – she asked me what opportunities or possibilities my work could provide for people. That made a lot more sense to me, as it was an approach that seemed more creative and less sales-ish. It’s those little nuggets that can really get things moving for me.

Tomorrow I will attend my second meeting of the Artist’s Learning Circle, hosted by the Vermont Women’s Business Center. From the VWBC website:

Artists’ Learning Circles are an informal, fluid gathering of artists who meet to help and support each other through the challenges unique to artists as business people. All are welcome. FREE; facilitated by VWBC staff; no pre-registration required – just show up.

I think that the fact the group exists is just fabulous. I’m not someone who can just sit in her studio all day, happily making books ’til the cows come home.

I need to talk to people.

I have a mouth on me, let me tell you. It was this mouth of mine that got me roped into doing a presentation tomorrow on how blogging can benefit artists. At the last meeting I attended, I talked about using social media as a cost-effective way to reach out to and gain customers. The group facilitator sent me a follow-up Email asking if I could talk more about blogging.

The timing of this couldn’t be better as I’m just 2 days away from my one-year blogiversary. I think it’s good to look back and see what this blog has given to me.

After I finish my presentation for tomorrow.

Vermont Arts Achievement Day

Vermont Arts Achievement Day logoTomorrow I’ll be heading over to the Vermont State House to celebrate Arts Achievement Day. I’ve never attended the event before, but it always seemed like a nice event. In a way, I’ll be celebrating my own arts achievement by currently working as a full-time artist.

From the Vermont Arts Council website:

The day-long event is your chance to meet with legislators and other arts advocates as we celebrate our accomplishments and lobby for continued state funding for the arts.

I’m meeting some folks from Vermont Hand Crafters to attend the Arts & Economic Stimulus Funding: Advocacy Training Session. I’m interested in hearing what Vermont artists and arts organizations can expect (and hope for) from the NEA stimulus funding.

More from the Arts Council website:

The Vermont Arts Council has submitted its application to the National Endowment for the Arts for $250,000 in federal stimulus funding to support a competitive, one-time Art Jobs Grant Program. The Council will offer grants to non-profit arts organizations to support staff salaries, as well as artist or consultant fees for pre-existing positions. These can be full or part-time positions that are critical to each organization’s artistic mission and that are in jeopardy or have been eliminated as a result of the current economic climate. Grants will also be available to support fees for previously engaged artists and/or contractual personnel in order to maintain or expand the period during which artists would be engaged. These are one-year grants and do not require a match. Organizations with annual operating budgets under $150,000 can apply for up to $5,000 and those with operating budgets of $150,000 or more can apply for up to $10,000. The Arts Council anticipates being able to support 25-30 arts organizations through the Art Jobs program. The Arts Council expects to have approval of our NEA application by April 1, 2009.

Come on down to the State House and let everyone know that you support the arts in Vermont. See you there!

Art Therapy Association of Vermont: Round Robin Healing Doll Project

One of the goals of the Art Therapy Association of Vermont (ATAV) is that we encourage each other to do our own artwork. Unfortunately, it’s too easy to let the messes of life get in the way of exploring your own creativity.

At our last ATAV annual meeting, we decided to do a round-robin project, using healing dolls as a theme. We were to start our own doll, thinking about an issue that we could use help with. You also had to create a story for your doll, which could be in book form. A mailing order was set for project members – you would send your doll to the next person on the list and you would in turn, receive a doll from someone else. You would have 2 weeks to work on each doll, after which you would send the doll on.

The idea is that as your doll is passed from person to person, they add to your doll to metaphorically give you what you need. Metaphors have long been used in healing and art therapy is ideal for use with this process.

I signed up, thinking that this would be easy peasy. I just finished my doll.

The doll was supposed to be done 2 months ago.


I love that smack in the face that reminds me that the creative process will do what it wants.


A few months ago, I sat down and started on my doll. It seemed to be going well. Then I saw a television program where someone used this cool wire wrapping technique to make a bendable doll. I chucked doll #1 and started cranking on doll #2.

It was not going well. It reminds me of this Simpsons episode where Lisa is trying to figure out who’s smarter – Bart or her hamster. She hooks up a cupcake to an electric shock dealie and leaves it out for Bart. He goes over to grab it and he gets shocked. “Ow!” He pauses. He grabs it again. “Ow!” And so on. This is what making a doll was like for me.

“I’m going to make a doll now.”

“I hate this doll! I’m not a doll person.”

Two days later.

“Time to work on the doll.”

“This doll sucks! I can’t make dolls.”

And so on.

In the meantime, dolls from 3 other people have come and gone. I worked on them, but never sent on a doll of my own.

Then a week ago, it hit me. I am not a doll person and that’s okay. I am a book person. As soon as I realized that my doll had to be a book, I was cruising – I didn’t stop until it was finished.

Here’s a shot of my doll:

Handmade book doll

My thoughts about what I needed to have healed involved how I build walls around myself. Perfectionism walls that tell me that everything I do has to be perfect right off the bat. Self-preservation walls that keep me from revealing too much about myself so that I won’t get hurt. I am the Queen of the Poker Face (note the lack of face) and use humor as a defense (you lift the skirt to get to the book pages).

I’m interested in how others will interact with her. Allowing others to alter my work involves an amount of trust, which I believe will be healing.

Art Therapy Association of Vermont workshop: Panel Books

This past week has been crazy busy. I somehow ended up volunteering to teach 2 bookbinding workshops within 5 days of each other. My first workshop was held this past Saturday for the Art Therapy Association of Vermont (ATAV). As I’ve mentioned before, I have a Master’s Degree in Art Therapy. I believe strongly in the value of book arts as a medium for therapeutic work. My background in art therapy clearly influenced me in my choice of creative work. Since I’m currently a non-practicing art therapist, my main tie to the field has been attending ATAV meetings.

The structure I decided to teach to the members was the Panel Book, which I had already taught once to the Book Arts Guild of Vermont back in October. There were only 4 people there, which helped relax me a bit. I was able to give folks more individual attention than I usually do.

I tried to think of reasons why the panel book in particular had possibilities for art therapists:

  1. It would be a good structure to use in a group. Each panel in the book was the size of an artist trading card (ATC). You could have group members process a particular theme in their artwork in ATC format and then swap cards with other group members. The ATC’s would then be added to the panels.
  2. You can follow progress on particular issue. The book could hold as many panels as a certain number of sessions. Have the client process a theme or issue in each session and then use the panel format as a time line to review progress.
  3. There are different ways to view content. When opened, you can read a panel book from the front or the back. When closed, you can turn the pages like a traditional book, which changes the sequence to include both front and back panels. It could help a client to literally look at something from a different point of view.

I’m sure there are other applications that I haven’t considered yet. In general, I just dig the fact that the panel book has movement. Movement is good in therapy. I went into the workshop with my usual performance anxiety. Presenting workshops does seem to be getting easier over time. I’m still waiting for the day when I can go into a workshop and not be nervous at all.

I’ll leave you with the following photo. I don’t even remember someone taking this shot and when I found it on my camera I laughed. Somehow I got glued.

Elissa Campbell getting glue on her hand

Book Arts Guild of Vermont workshop: Valentines

Last Wednesday I attended the monthly meeting of the Book Arts Guild of Vermont. We spent the evening making valentines, which brought me right back to first grade. We were taught how to make woven hearts, using the following patterns from the Origami Resource Center:

It’s so strange – as soon as I try to make something special for my hubby, my inner critic comes out in full force. It’s like nothing I can make will be good enough. I hate all of the materials I have to work with and I hate everything that everyone else brought to share. It’s just all wrong. I experience the same thing when I write in birthday or anniversary cards for Chris – my words are always completely wrong.

So here’s what I came up with:

I wove together some handmade paper and pieces of a map. The circle in the middle is a button made of polymer clay. After this image was taken, I drew in an arrow pointing to the star and added “You are here.”

Geez, I so didn’t like it – absolutely not inspiring by any stretch of the imagination. But I gave it to him anyway (not on Valentine’s Day). He said he liked it.

I think he was just being nice.

I was completely prepared to throw the whole woven heart concept out the window based on this experience. Then my hubby came to me and asked if we could make an anniversary card for his parents. All of a sudden, the woven heart seemed to be the perfect solution.

Woven anniversary card

This I liked. I really did. Now I just need to figure out what to do for the “real” Valentine’s Day card.


My sweet little orb

Last Friday I went to the Artisans Hand Craft Gallery annual winter sale, as I mentioned in this post. I got there in the afternoon and had already missed the early day rush.

As I sifted through the handmade treasures, I found a basket full of orbs made by Alan Paschell, a ceramicist from Calais, Vermont. I’m not one who is easily won over by quotes, but I couldn’t resist the one I discovered.

Alan Paschell ceramic orb

Everywhere I have sought rest and not found it, except sitting in a corner by myself with a little book. — Thomas A. Kempis

Well, as a bookbinder, I just can’t say it any better than that. The orb is now mine.

Artisans Hand annual winter sale

Artisans Hand logoAs I’ve mentioned before, Artisans Hand Craft Gallery, located in Montpelier, VT, holds a special place in my heart – it was the very first gallery to sell my handmade books. The gallery exclusively features work created by Vermont artisans, which is great. All of the folks there are so sweet and it’s clear that they value the work and the artists they represent.

Starting on Friday, January 30th and lasting through February 8th is Artisans Hand’s annual winter sale (just in time for Valentine’s Day shopping). The sale offers items from 10% – 20% off, with each artist setting their own discount.

All of my work in the gallery will be offered at 20% off during the sale. As an added attraction, artists have brought in their seconds, experiments, and discontinued pieces and are offering them at discount prices during the sale. I brought 8 photo albums to the gallery today, mostly orphans from discontinued styles.

Being an exhibitor at the gallery has its perks – I got a sneak preview of the work that has been submitted by other artisans. I already have 2 pieces of work by Jean Meinhardt and was drooling at some large vases she had brought in…I already have a small vase and methinks he wants an older brother. Her glazes are really lovely.

I plan to be at the sale on opening day – hope to see you there!

Keep your hands off my vase.

Artisans Hand Craft Gallery
89 Main Street, City Center
Montpelier, VT 05602
(802) 229-9492

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