Category : Way Cool Stuff

Gocco Manhoru

I recently crossed something off my Book Arts Bucket List – I completed my first Gocco edition! We’re just going to ignore the fact that I’ve had my Gocco since 2008.

So what motivated the project? The Book Arts Guild of Vermont is in the midst of hosting a challenge where participants create an edition of prints, exchange them, and then create a book incorporating the full set of prints. The book has to be completed by May – I’m so thankful that I have two months to get that done.

Since I still seem to be in my post-Japan bliss, I decided to use my trip as inspiration for my print. During my trip, I discovered so many things that added to its unending charm. Among them – manhole covers (a.k.a. manhoru). Yes, this is totally a thing.

Each municipality in Japan has its own manhole cover design, with different colors, patterns, and themes. According to an article on deMilked, the practice started in an effort to promote the importance of funding sewage projects. Estimates have the number of different manhoru at about 6,000. According to an article on Colossal, the most popular design is trees, followed by landscapes, flowers, and birds.

I really wish I had noticed them sooner, although if I had, I probably would have spent all of my time looking at the ground instead of what was in front of me.

So, now that I’ve given you a lengthy introduction, here’s the Tokyo manhole cover that inspired my edition:

Manhole cover in Tokyo, Japan

I monkeyed with the image in Photoshop until I was able to reduce it to a black and white image. It took a really.long.time. Swearing happened.

Here’s the final image:

Rendering of Japanese manhole cover

As you can see, I took some creative license and eliminated the holes and the writing on the left side. I wanted a uniform image.

Screen burning time! I printed out the image using my laser printer and burned a Gocco screen. Next, I surrounded my image with ink block to help keep the ink from spreading.

Gocco screen with ink block

Ink mixing time! I wanted a dirty bronze color, which required five different inks to achieve.

Mixing Gocco ink

Inking time! Next, I applied the ink to the burned screen…

Inked Gocco screen with ink block

…and slid the screen into my Gocco.

Gocco printing in progress

Printing time! Next thing I know, there were these:

Gocco prints on drying racks

Something weird happened during printing, which caused a very minor smudgy thing. You probably can’t even see it, but I can. Don’t ask me to tell you what I’m talking about because my lips are sealed.

I am thrilled with the results! Due to my total lack of creativity in naming, I settled on naming the edition Manhole.

Gocco print of Japanese manhole cover by Elissa Campbell

Next mission – the swapped book of prints. I’ll be writing about that project when it gets going.

In the meantime, if you want to learn more about Japanese manhole covers, you’ve got a few options:

  • Check out the book Drainspotting by Remo Camerota
  • View the more than 1,500 photos by S. Morita, THE go-to dude for images of manhoru
  • Visit the website for the Japan Manhole Cover Society (Note: The website is in Japanese and looks sketchy, but it’s totally legit. If you click on the links, you’ll be taken to images of manhole covers, along with information about their locations.)

And lastly, be sure to read book artist Louise Levergneux blog posts about her fascination with manhole covers (she calls them city shields). Her work isn’t just limited to Japan, but has a worldwide focus.

Awesome resources – IU Libraries Book Repair Manual and the Studio Protector

Elise Calvi, the Head of General Collections Conservation and Conservation Services at Indiana University Libraries recently posted on the Book Arts Listserv that their online book repair manual had been updated.

Indiana University Libraries Book Repair Manual

From their website:

This manual documents many of the treatment procedures used in the General Collections Conservation (GCC) Lab of the Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington. It is a resource for staff who are responsible for the remedial care of the Libraries’ research book collections. We share it on the Web for others who are, or wish to become, responsible for the preservation of library or personal collections.

I really appreciate it when institutions generously share their knowledge with the world – the information shared in this manual is amazing.

The Indiana University Libraries Book Repair Manual has several chapters:

  • Repair treatments
  • Enclosure treatments
  • Equipment/hand tools and how they’re used (with images)
  • Supplies and materials and how they’re used (with images)
  • Glossary (ex. what exactly is a square?)

The repair and enclosure sections give you tools and materials lists for each treatment, along with step-by-step instructions with images. The directions for constructing a cloth-covered clamshell box are just fantastic. In general, I have box-making fear, but I could totally do it by using the manual. 

Studio Protector - CERF+Something else that caught my eye was the section on disaster supplies. As a former employee of CERF+, I know that most find the topic of disaster preparation and response to be both dry and stressful. The fact is that preventative measures can make a huge difference in how one can survive an unexpected event.

If you don’t know about CERF+, you really should get to know them – they’ve got an amazing collection of resources on their website, including the following:

And there’s so much more – you should really check it out.

One more thing – CERF+’s Studio Protector is a great tool for helping you navigate disaster planning in the studio. I know this not only because I own one, but also because I worked on its development during my years at CERF+.

And for you book folks out there, here’s a bit of trivia – book artist Carol Barton helped with the design.

The oh-so-awesome Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday 2016 logo

Oh baby, today is the sixth annual Small Business Saturday! Started in 2011 by American Express, the celebration encourages people to shop local and support their communities.

I’m going to take a moment to focus on the word small. A business doesn’t get any smaller than a one person operation – and that describes the majority of working artists.

The connection is easy enough to make – if you want to shop in a way that will have a significant impact on a small business, then buy art for the holidays. Even if you shop on Etsy, you’re still supporting a community – the creative community.

There are lots of Small Business Saturday craft shows being held around the country – visit one and not only will you find wonderful handmade gifts, but you’ll also get to make a personal connection with the artist. It’s an experience you just can’t get from a big box store.

And if you’d like to visit me at a craft show (there had to be a plug in here somewhere), it just so happens that today and tomorrow I’ll be selling my work at the super-awesome Women’s Festival of Crafts. At the show, you’ll find over 80 booths (all small businesses) filled with handmade jewelry, pottery, recycled art, greeting cards, clothing, and more. Oh yeah, and handmade books. 🙂

I’m in booth #37, located in the former Gap space (Google map).

Women's Festival of Craft 2016 poster

Can’t make it to the show? You can also buy my work on my website or on Etsy.

And if you’re interested in buying something closer to where you live, check out Etsy Local – it can help you find Etsy sellers participating in events in your neck of the woods.

Happy American Cheese Month!

American Cheese Month logoHappy American Cheese Month!

Perhaps you’re new to my blog and aren’t aware of my oh-so-deep love for cheese. Well, I love cheese.

By the way, do not for one moment believe that this is a celebration of American cheese.

NO. This is a month-long party for cheese made in the United States.

The event, presented by the American Cheese Society (yes, that’s a thing), is in its sixth year.

So why cheese? Well, here’s the word direct from the event website:

Everyone who loves cheese! American Cheese Month is your chance to spread the word, experience great American cheeses, and help support and promote great cheese, local communities, and passionate producers.

Want to participate? Here are some ideas, besides chowing down:

  • Play the always-fun Cheese or Font.
  • Generate dummy text for your next project by using Cheese Ipsum (Mascarpone red leicester fromage…).
  • If you’re in Vermont, hit the Cheese Trail.
  • Get your state to adopt a resolution declaring October as American Cheese Month. Colorado did it.

You can also do what I did, which is join the Cheese Party. In considering the upcoming presidential election, I decided to support the cheesy candidate. Together we can build a cheddar future and make American grate again!

Cheese Party poster

Happy National Read A Book Day!

Happy National Read A Book Day!

Yep, it’s a thing. Every year on September 6th, we celebrate the collection of written words on paper, fastened together on one side.

Open book in lap

If you’re looking for something to read in honor of this day, why not check out your local library? In case you don’t know what that is, it’s where books live.

Or for something even more interesting, how about checking out your nearest Little Free Library? These libraries usually contain a dozen or so books, available for anyone to read. Here’s the organization’s mission:

To promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide and to build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.

What’s not to love about that?

You can find your local Little Library by checking out their map – as of June 2016, there were over 40,000 registered libraries worldwide.

Go forth and read!

Book and Bed Tokyo

One of the many things I love about Japan is how it skillfully blends the traditional, the modern, and the whimsical. When I researched lodging options in Japan, I decided that I’d do my best to find a range of places to stay that touched on all of these qualities.

When I discovered Book and Bed Tokyo, I knew that it just had to happen.

From their website:

Book And Bed is “an accommodation bookshop”. The perfect setting for a good nights sleep is something you will not find here. There are no comfortable mattresses, fluffy pillows nor lightweight and warm down duvets. What we do offer is an experience while reading a book (or comic book).

Screw a restful night’s sleep – I’m going to Book and Bed Tokyo!

The hostel is tucked away on the 7th floor of the building. After exiting the elevator, we were deposited into a wicked small check-in room. Even though we saw the door shown below, we somehow weren’t convinced that we were in the right place. 

Entry at Book and Bed Tokyo

Obviously, we were in the right place. After ringing the bell, someone opened the door to assist us.

Please note that if you arrive before the established check-in time (4:00 p.m.) as we did, they won’t let you inside. They will, however, let you leave your bags while you’re out and about (this was much appreciated). After dinner, we returned to the hostel to retire for the evening. We were in!

Check out this awesomeness:

Book and Bed Tokyo

One side of the room is lined with a massive bookcase. Those ladders you see are for accessing the top bunks, which are behind the bookshelves. Oh yes, we slept in the bookcase.

If you’re a couple, you have to split up – one person to a bed, please. They were kind enough to situate us in the same area – I had the top bunk and Chris slept below.

Book and Bed Tokyo

Here’s what the bed looks like:

Bed at Book and Bed Tokyo

As they admitted, there was no lush bedding here. But that’s not the point. The point is that you’re sleeping in a bookcase.

They had a really cool light fixture made of books (sorry for the quality of the photo – the room was on the dark side).

Light fixture at Book and Bed Tokyo

The hostel is less than one year old, having opened in November of 2015. It was designed by Makoto Tanijiri and Ai Yoshida of Suppose Design Office. As of their opening date, the bookcases contained approximately 1,700 books (in both Japanese and English) that had been supplied by Shibuya Publishing & Booksellers. I imagine that the book count is higher now.

Before going to sleep, we made a point of spending time on the couches, reading whatever caught our fancy. I found a book that was a guide to doing everything (I can’t remember the title) and funny enough, it had a section on bookbinding. I just can’t escape this stuff.

I can’t say I had a restful night’s sleep – it was a Princess and the Pea thing, but with a futon. But I don’t care. And why? Because I got to sleep in a bookcase.

When you leave, the exit offers you a sweet send-off:

The current nightly rate for a bookshelf bed at Book and Bed Tokyo varies depending on when you stay – we paid about $44.50 per night, per bunk (including taxes). If you’d like to save some money, you can stay in the “bunk room”, which offers basic capsule accommodations without a bookcase. But seriously, the whole point is to sleep in a bookcase.

This video offers a quick tour of the place:

If you’d like to check out Book and Bed Tokyo for yourself, here’s how to get there:

  • Address: 1-17-7, Lumiere building 7th floor, Nishi Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo (Google Map)
  • Phone: 03-6914-2914
  • Public Transportation: 5 minute walk from Ikebukuro Station (West Exit)

Total sheets of paper purchased to date: 29

Tsukiji, Tokyo and Nigiri Basami

For our first few days in Japan, the hubby and I stayed in a business hotel near the Tsukiji fish market. The near century-old Tokyo market is one of the world’s largest fish markets and is likely best known for its tuna auctions.

What? There are tuna auctions?

Why yes, there are. During the wee hours of the morning, big ass bluefin tuna are sold for obscene amounts of money. How obscene? Well, in 2013, someone paid $1.76 million USD for a bluefin weighing in at 489 pounds.

People are permitted to observe the action, but the market only admits 60 people to each of two daily auctions each morning. Needless to say, it’s a tough ticket to get your hands on. Everything I read before our trip indicated that as long as you got to the market by 4:00 a.m., you had a good shot at getting in. And I wanted to see some big ass fish.

Thankfully, we had the jetlag advantage – a 3:00 a.m. wake-up time would be like 2:00 p.m. back in Vermont. If we went to the auction the day after our arrival, we’d have no problem getting up.

And it was easy. Not only were we up on time, but we were frighteningly awake. We got to the market and encountered a guard who gave us the unfortunate news – the auction was already over. It had ended at 2:20 a.m. What? Argh.

The fact was that we weren’t going to attempt it again, as we didn’t want to mess up our sleep schedule for the entire trip. No big ass fish for me. Oh well.

Tsukiji still had its charms, though. The market has two distinct areas – an inner market (wholesale business) and an outer market (restaurants and small shops). Our hotel offered breakfast at the outer market for each night we stayed there. It was so yummy. I would happily eat miso soup every morning.

We didn’t spend much time exploring the outer market until our third day in Tokyo. While trying to find something to eat for lunch, we came across a knife shop. I forgot to take a picture, but Flickr to the rescue! It looked very similar to the one below.

On one of the display tables, I found pairs of Nigiri Basami, traditional Japanese sewing scissors. I was so excited! I had hoped to bring home a souvenir from my trip that I could use in my studio on a daily basis – these scissors were just the ticket.

I approached one of the men in the stall and pointed to the scissors. He picked up the smallest pair, said “sewing scissors”, and told me how much they were. I nodded, then pointed at the next size up. He showed them to me, along with another pair. He recommended one of the two because it had a steel edge (at least that’s what I think he said).

I nodded again and held up three fingers. He looked shocked – I don’t think he was taking me seriously. I handed him my payment and while he went to get change, I started walking into the booth so I could check out the super shiny knives. I was quickly told that I wasn’t allowed in there. Sadness.

No worries – I now had some very cool scissors. They’re made from one continuous piece of steel and there’s no hinge or screw. They work like tweezers in that they have spring action handles. When using them, you hold them in your palm with your fingers positioned near the blades. It’s going to take a while for me to get used to handling them. And not cutting myself.

The clerked wrapped up my scissors in paper and I was psyched to unwrap this gift to myself when I got back home.

Box containing Japanese sewing scissors

This is the box they came in – I guess I’m unboxing now!

Box containing Japanese sewing scissors


Japanese sewing scissors

Japanese sewing scissors

The characters imprinted on the scissors are most likely the name of the maker (sorry I can’t read it).

Japanese sewing scissors

If you’re interested, you can get similar scissors from Talas, except their scissors are called Itokiri. I’m not sure how they’re different from Nigiri Basami.

Please note that once you have a pair, you just want more. And you’ll stupidly search online until you find these and these.

If you’d like to learn more about Nigiri Basami, check out these websites:

And if you’d like to go to the Tsukiji fish market, here’s the scoop:

  • Address: 5 Chome-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo (Google Map)
  • Phone: 03-3542-1111
  • Public Transportation: Right above Tsukiji Shijo Station on the Oedo Line; 5 minute walk from Tsukiji Station on the Hibiya Line; 15 minute walk from the JR Shimbashi line.

FYI: Tsukiji market is moving to the Toyosu district of Tokyo’s Koto Ward in November 2016. If you want to see the market in its current glory, you best be getting over there soon.

Total sheets of paper purchased to date: 20

Tyvek Craig

Many moons ago, I worked at CERF+ (it was called CERF back then). During my time there, Craig Nutt came on board as the director of programs. After nearly ten years with the organization, Craig recently retired from his position to return to work in his furniture studio. By the way, you must click on his name and check out his furniture – it’s fabulous.

I was contacted by Cornelia Carey, CERF+’s executive director, to create a commemorative book for Craig. As I mentioned in this post, individual pages were sent to 100 people to create a piece for inclusion in the book. Participants had two months to complete their work, after which the pages were collected and given to me for binding.

Now that the book has been presented to Craig, I can show you what I’ve been up to! Today’s post focuses my page – yep, I got to make one too!

For my design, I posterized a photo of Craig in Photoshop Elements to reduce it to three shades. I created a rectangular border around his head, adding text to it in white.

As I mentioned in this post, I painted three sheets of Tyvek for the project. I started with the medium shade of grey, which was the base of my piece. I attached a sheet of CODA cold-mount double release adhesive to the Tyvek and scored the back liner with an X-Acto knife. I then taped the Tyvek to the back of my template.

White Tyvek with double-sided adhesive sheet mounted on the back, taped to a sheet of paper

My first task was to cut out all of the light grey areas.

Cutting portrait out of Tyvek

Once that was done, I peeled off the adhesive liner on the back.

Cut Tyvek with adhesive on the back

I took the light grey sheet of Tyvek and stuck it to the back of the medium grey sheet.

Layers of colored Tyvek stuck together

I then cut out the areas around Craig’s head, leaving tabs at the top and bottom. When assembled, the text border would overlap the tabs.

Cutting portrait out of Tyvek

On to the next layer!

I attached a sheet of adhesive to the black piece of Tyvek and scored the back liner with an X-Acto knife. I taped the Tyvek to the back of another copy of my template. I started work on the letters.

Cutting letters out of Tyvek

Cutting through the layers of paper, Tyvek, and adhesive was tough when it came to the letters. I really, really hate the letter S now. It’s EVIL. Thankfully, the Tyvek didn’t come out all chewed up like the paper template.

Cutting letters out of Tyvek

Once all of the letters were cut (it took a lloonnngggg time), I trimmed the edges of the border.

Cutting letters out of Tyvek

At this point, all I had left were the details – the dark areas on Craig’s face. I slapped adhesive on more black Tyvek and got to work.

The small bits really made the portrait come to life. This piece…

Cut Tyvek hair

…was hair.

Cutting portrait out of Tyvek

Then more hair…

Cutting portrait out of Tyvek

…and a mustache.

Cutting portrait out of Tyvek

Don’t forget the eyebrows…

Cutting portrait out of Tyvek

…and eyeballs.

Cutting portrait out of Tyvek

Finally, it was time to assemble the pieces. I trimmed the tabs on Craig’s head and peeled off the adhesive liner. I used another copy of the template to help me place his head in the right spot.

Cut Tyvek portrait adhered to a piece of paper

Once the head was in place, I slowly attached the border, making sure that it was straight and overlapped the tabs in the right places.

Adding cut text border to cut Tyvek portrait

And then BAM! It was done.

Cut Tyvek portrait of Craig Nutt

Then I stared at it for a long time. I couldn’t believe it was finished!

A couple of days later, I wrote a message to Craig on the bottom of the piece and signed it.

Cut Tyvek portrait of Craig Nutt

I feel like this post is making it sound like this project was easy peasy. It wasn’t. Unfortunately, I didn’t do a good job of tracking my time on this project but trust me – it took hours.

Would I do it again? Absolutely! Cutting Tyvek is really fun and it’s easier to work with than paper – it doesn’t tear as easily.

Some tips for cutting Tyvek:

  • Change that X-Acto blade. Often. It makes a huge difference.
  • Weights can be your best friend. They help keep the paper from slipping while you work.
  • If you find yourself getting frustrated – walk away from it and take a break. You will make more mistakes if you’re agitated when you work.
  • Don’t rush it – slow and steady is the way to go.

My next post will focus on the construction of Craig’s book – stay tuned!

Paper cutting with Tyvek

As I mentioned in this post, I’m working on creating a portrait of someone using painted sheets of Tyvek. 

Have I done a paper cut using Tyvek before? Nope. Do I have a deadline that is forcing me to get really good at it ASAP? Yep.

I decided to do a test run before I started working on the actual piece. My biggest concern was how I was going to mount the piece once it was finished. I did some research by consulting my copy of Cut Up This Book! by Emily Hogarth.

She offers several suggestions for selecting the right adhesive for your project, including glue sticks, double-sided tape, and spray adhesive. I knew that my piece was going to have many teeny cuts so glue stick and tape wouldn’t fit the bill. And spray adhesive is just too darn icky.

I settled on using something that I already had in the studio – CODA cold-mount double release adhesive. It’s basically like a big sheet of pH neutral, double-sided tape. I was first introduced to the product by book artist Randi Parkhurst at the Focus on Book Arts conference.

I started by removing the paper release liner on one side of the CODA sheet. I placed a piece of Tyvek on the adhesive and rubbed it down with a bone folder. Lastly, I trimmed off the excess.

Because the release liners on the adhesive sheets are full-size, I decided to lightly score the back of my piece with an X-Acto knife (not cutting the Tyvek) – I wanted to be able to remove the liner in smaller pieces when dealing with the more delicately-cut pieces of Tyvek.

White Tyvek with double-sided adhesive sheet mounted on the back

I decided to test my ability on the text part of my design. I printed it out and taped it to the Tyvek. Then I cut through all of the layers – paper template, Tyvek, and adhesive sheet. As long as the blade was sharp (changed often), I had little difficulty getting through the layers.

One of the benefits of using the CODA adhesive sheets was that they stiffened and stabilized the Tyvek, making it much easier to cut. 

Cutting letters into Tyvek through paper template

When I finished my first word, I removed the template. I was more or less satisfied with the results (cleaner corners, please).

White Tyvek with the word price cut into it

I removed the liner from the back of the Tyvek and adhered it to a dark piece of paper. It looked pretty good!

White Tyvek with the word price cut into it, mounted on grey paper

So this is the way I’m going to work on my portrait. Hopefully, the smaller details will render well.

Stay tuned for a post about the final piece!

8th Blogiversary prize winner

Many thanks to everyone for offering up your best bookish quotes in response to my 8th blogiversary giveaway! For those of you who missed the quotes, you can check them out in the comments of this post.

As a quick refresher, here’s the list of goodies included in the prize:

Someone’s got some goodies coming her way and that person is…


Congrats! I’ll be contacting you for your mailing info, so keep your eyes peeled for an email from me.

A world of thank you to everyone for hanging out with me as I’ve babbled about my work and other bookish things over the past eight years.

I’ve enjoyed your company!

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