Monday, September 29, 2008

Even fishermen have to mend their nets....

That's what my husband told me when i complained about the brutally boring task that i have been doing instead of fun creative pursuits. Not net mending exactly. But necessary maintenance of the craft room. Oh boy. Probably for the first time in two years i dragged almost everything out, meticulously sorted and labeled and filed, and put it all back in. It has been about a month of weekends and some evenings. And honestly it is not complely finished. Will it ever be? But at least all the totes and piles and stuff are out of the upstairs hallway and IN the craft room.
But ya know, some things just defy categorization. I already have a miscellaeous file of stickers, misc papers, misc embellishments, misc fibers, unsorted images and a tote full of stuff so random - you'd need some kind of advance degree in the library sciences or be the salesman of the year from California Closets to know what to do with it.

That being said - i did have a master plan and i can proudly say that 90% of all my precious treasures have a home. The room is the former guest room - about 10 feet square. The walls are lined with that cool metal pantry shelving that goes on sale from time to time at Target. We have 7 of them. A small desk sits under the window - with the shelves on either side. So i can pretty much reach just about everything just by spinning my desk chair in one direction or the other. One side of the room is "paper". Several shelves of books for altering, books with interesting fonts, images or languages and all the how to books and craft magazines. This side also holds several plastic filing totes with sorted paper. solids - with each colour family in a separate hanging file, one for 12x12 paper - in broad categories like florals, geometric, vintage. I had a craft store type rack in here for a while - and determined it took 4 square feet of space to hold 6 inches of paper. It is now hanging from the rafters in the garage.
Then we have all the clippings - people, animals, architecture. The all the ephemera - legal docs, ledgers, receipts. A whole tote of stickers - butterflies, letters, stamps, asian. Then another tote of maps and travel brochures. And then the aforementioned unfiled paper - one for backgrounds, one for images.

The other side of the room is all the embellishments and tools. Two of those nail/screw little drawer sorting cabinets for all the little bits like watch parts, charms and photo corners. I took a workshop with Tim Holtz and he made fun of all the ladies with their carefully sorted doodads. He instructed everyone to go home and throw them all in one box. He explained how serendipitous it is to just reach in and work with whatever comes out. Well that's great (in fact my friend Denise did just that) but since i have to prep for classes and need to locate 12 matching asian coin charms at any given moment - having a carefully labeled little drawer full of asian coins is a GOOD THING.
Then there are the images. Not a fully worked out system - but in broad categories - cabinet cards, vintage image copies, real vintage photos, fine art images, and art postcards - the kind you get a open studios or art festivals. Also on this side of the room are separate cigar boxes filled with stamps, old keys, adirondak ink, dominoes. Then a stack of plastic file boxes with my rubber stamps: flowers. leaves, phrases, holidays, travel, and MISC - always a MISC category. Then there are the ribbons and fibres. Just finishing up the sorting process. At times i am tempted to just sort by colour. You have to ask yourself, "what am I going to reach for? A blue ribbon? do you want blue organza, blue wool, blue rickrack and blue grosgrain all together in a zipclock? Or am i going to reach for some rickrack and I want all the colours to choose from?" It is really a hard decision. And many hours were spent just staring off into space trying to reach a concensus in my head. Anyway - I went with "type" not colour. All my precious vintage seam binding and other old sewing tapes in one drawer. Organza and satin in another, yarn in another, lace in another, novelties like printed ribbons, metallics and fringe together and finally twine and raffia.
Well, that it what i have been doing for a month. More pics to come once it is all vacuumed and shiny. I managed to squeeze out an altered book for my swap in the middle of it all - but not a single other art project has burst forth from my craft room in ages. Do you think all this organizing and sorting will create a zen calm that will cleanse my brain of stress and launch such a tsunami of creativity this house has never seen? One can only hope....!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Altered Book Round Robin Swap Fall 2008

Yes - we started up again - after a two month summer break. Carol, Shelley, Dorothy and I were excited to see each other again, share some cool art projects, swap books AND do a great shadow box project - all in TWO HOURS!

Note to my students: we are always on the lookout for new members of this group! If you can commit to a monthly book swap - we'd love to have you. Please contact the store to register.

First off the girls loved the new facilites at Scrapbook Territory. Needless to say - the shopping is great. I was just there a week ago to prep the supplies for my classes - and there were so many new things. We got settled in and Shelley showed us a canvas wall art piece she did at a workshop this summer. It featured using texture from cheesecloth and aluminum foil to create a background. Dorothy shared a blue themed altered book that came back to her from a lengthy mail swap she particpated in. Carol showed us a game board collage she made this summer at the ZNE event with Lisa Kaus. You can see a pic on her blog here.
We also got to see some pages left over from last spring's round robin - in the Calamity Family book and the America book. One of our artist friends moved away - and we'll send her America book back east. And she sent us the Calamity book with her pages done. Interestingly i did a spread in that book, taking creative license to invent a story about the Galveston hurricane on 1900. I wrote about it here.
Next we introduced our NEW books to the group. My Music themed book was described here. Carol's book is called My Party. You will create a couple of spreads that describe a party - real or imagined. What a cool concept. I get to work in this one this month - and i have LOTS of ideas.
Dorothy's new book does not have a niche or drawers. Dorothy is the QUEEN of the niche - so it was quite a shock. But her book is a cute look at the art of Kissing! Shelley's new book is called Circus. She told a sad tale about preparing the letters for the title and as every collage artist knows, she dropped the letters and could not find the "I". You know how that is, you just had it a minute ago and now it is gone. aarrgghhh.
I'll post pics of those books in the coming months when i get to take them home to work on.
Next we got started on our workshop, an ambitious project to create shadow boxes using a variety of techniques. First we sprayed the bare wood boxes with Color Mists from Outside the Margins. Two or three colours in combination gives a lovely effect on the blond wood. I'd probably apply a layer of gloss medium to give it a bit of sheen.
Next we used Adirondak Ink to create a background for the boxes. Using a felt pad on a rubber stamp handle, we stamped three or four colors on gloss paper. This is a Tim Holtz technique you can read about on his blog. After you stamp the ink you can "work" it a bit using the blending solution. But to be honest - the ink didn't blend as much as it should have - even when using Ranger Industries gloss paper i bought especially. Yo Tim, what's the dill-y-o?
Anyway - it still created a nice granity background. A few dabs of glue secure it in the back of the shadow box. Next the real fun stuff. Applying the same Adirondak Ink on the GLASS of the shadow box. Here you CAN play with the ink and keep working it until you get the mottled effect you want. Then to top it off, we used Archival Ink, swirly transparent stamps with acrylic stamp pads to remove some of the ink. It is another Tim Holtz technique. I learned about it a few years back when i took some workshops with Tim at, you guessed it, ScrapBook Territory. Yeah - where i am now teaching. Does that put me in his league?? nah...
Anyhoo, to complete the shadow box - we need to add something to the box. The girls all used feather butterflies i brought along from home. I did a paper butterfly sample and wanted to try a sea inspired version - so i used shells cut from another Cavallini paper to go along with the blues and greens. A few bits and bobs decorate the outside the of the box.
These all came out awesome - although with varying degrees of clarity. I think Shelley's version using a lot of yellow ink was the easiest to see through. I think i'll try one using those colours. I hope i still have some feather butterflies flying around.....!

Altered Book new recruits!

I held an intro to altered books class yesterday at Scrapbook Territory in Berkeley, CA. It was my first time teaching in this store and the facilites are wonderful. Lots of space, light, and even a couple of cute dogs running around! Only two students this time - hopefully we can build on that next month. I will be teaching my advanced beeswax collage - hinged canvas.

We did three spreads in the class - a brightly colored flower power page - using some 70's inspired papers. Accents of yellow and aqua. I love love love the flower cut out paper. It comes in 12" sheets - i cut a section to add some depth to the page. Our focal point image was curtesy of the Anthropologie catalog. I thought the model evoked the spirit of the carefree flower power paper! Don't those little birds remind you of the Partridge Family?
Our second spread was all about vintage botanicals and insects. We first created a sewn pocket using rayon seam binding. We used some great papers as the jumping off point. I created a mini booklet with the latin pages and tied it with a scrap of ribbon. Everyone said this was their favorite - the Cavallini paper butterflies were a big hit!

Our third spread was asian inspired -using soft toned papers, rather than the typical red and gold. We created this spread on a structure with triangle points - creating the need for three dimensional collage. Eyelets and mizuhiki cord add the final touch.
Thanks to Debbie and Janet for a fun class and for sharing your work here!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Altered Book ready to Swap!

Here are the images of my newest altered book: MUSIC. I colored the cover of the book which was a muddy green with some Pinata colours. I added the letters. I will be meeting with my round robin friends Sunday to swap.
Here is the Title Page:

Here is the Intro Page:

The book i used is a 1924 Music song book. The idea is to create collage that is influenced by your favorite songs.

This page is the song by Feist - 1-2-3-4. The one used on the iPod commercial. My page represents the innocence of the song - so i used paper dolls and toys to create the spread.

This one is the song New Soul by Yael Naim. It is the one used on the MacAir commercial - you know, the one with the laptop so thin it fits in a manila envelope. That song is just stuck in my head these days. The girl represents the "new soul", the innocence and optimism. She is on a journey of self discovery. Hence the sort of yellow brick road type path to the emerald city. Remember the poppies? Paper flowers sprayed with Color Mists from Outside the Margins.

And finally, The Tubes - What do you want from Life. With my favorite line, "...and a baby's arm holding an apple". Kept this one simple as you can see.

And here is the sign in page. I used CD's covered with CD label stickers inside CD envelopes. Each artist can decorate the CD as if it were an album cover!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Birth of an Altered Book

Most of the altered books i create are for round robin swaps. I have lots of books that i buy with great plans to alter them, but unless i have the incentive (and the deadlines) associated with a group round robin - they just don't come to fruition. I have a new swap starting on Sunday - so i had better get started creating a new book.
At minimum you need a book, a theme, an intro, a sign in page for your artistic friends to leave their mark, and a few pages to set the tone. I also like to do the covers and inside covers - just because it makes it more exciting. I went to my local library book store to get inspiration (yeah, even though i have a hundred books at home). Well, i didn't find any.

So onto plan B. I went to an estate sale and did find a few cute books - but as often happens - i like them too much to alter. One is a luscious book filled with engravings of classical and biblical stories by Gustave Dore. Way too precious to alter - but i will make copies of the illustrations to use in another project. I have an idea that taking an etching and blowing it up could have some cool effects. Then maybe colorizing...? Who knows.
The other book is a sweet book of poetry. Well - that could make a great altered book - each spread could illustrate the words on the previous page. But nah, too small and sweet for my liking.
So on to plan C. (did i mention i have three days to put this book together? Well, not even - really only tonight, tomorrow night and Saturday) I have been keeping my eye on a music book from 1924. When i say keep an eye on it, i mean, like whenever i move it around - i have been keeping it on top of the piles of stuff in my studio. So i see it often and it has been getting some attention. I just love the art deco cover and the shape is nice. It is filled with sheet music of which maybe two songs i have heard of.
So here's my plan. I will take this beautiful music book from the 20's and it will become my new altered book. The theme? The title has not quite gelled - but the idea is that you will create altered collage to illustrate your favorite songs.
One of the songs that often comes into my mind when creating altered art, is from The Tubes - What do you Want from Life. Well, just the last line from the song, actually. "...and a baby's arm holding an apple." I think that song kind of sums up the goal with my artistic pursuits. To create something with a certain amount of "wha'?". All the great paper artists do it. Adding something that comes completely out of left field - yet somehow just works in the piece.
So that's it - the title of my new altered book is What do you Want from Life? Each of my artistic friends can depict the answer by using music as inspiration.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Altered Book Classes

Sunday at the Nova Studio in Point Richmond,I taught a lovely group of ladies all about getting started creating altered books. We began by learning how to prep pages and then created some basic structures - how to create torn flaps, sewn pockets and triangles with hidden pockets. We discussed the tricks to finding the best books and what to watch out for.
Generally you want to avoid "book of the month club" type books. Even though they are so easy to find, they just won't hold up to the stress of altering. You should avoid anything that does not have a sewn binding. And cheaper books, like anything by Danielle Steele, will typically have a glued binding. I prefer vintage books that are pre 1950. I just like the way they feel in my hands. The soft yellowed pages and a worn linen cover just inspire me to create. But you will develop your own preferences!
After our basic structures were done we experimented with background techniques - keeping with dryer mediums - for that instant gratification! No time to let glue or paint dry in a 4 hour workshop! We did direct to paper inking, stippling and applied metallic glazes which create a nice transparent glimmer on the page.
Then we were ready to create our spreads. I selected materials for three themes: Autumn Leaves, Vintage Travel and Asian Origami.
For the autumn spread, i chose to emphasize colour blocking using bright hued mulberry paper. It is the easiest method to create, most similar to a scrapbooking technique, where you create frames for your focal point images. A few well chosen embellishments -like buttons, leaves and copper tape add some nice texture to the piece.
For the travel theme we used a sewn pocket spread and aged foreign text to create the effect of a collected journal while traveling through Europe back in time. We also created faux postcards using decorative edge scissors and cardboard along with the travel images. An old key tied to the ribbon adds a vintage touch.
Next we created a bold asian themed page - using triangle points to create three dimensions on the spread. I used red and black mulberry paper intersected with asian text for a background. For focal points i cut a kimono shape from printed origami paper, and a fish from wrapping paper. Paper and sticker butterflies complete the page. Inside my hidden pocket i added a chinese watercolour mini scroll.

If you are getting excited about learning all about the magical world of altered books, i am teaching another workshop THIS SUNDAY, at Scrapbook Territory on 4th street in Berkeley, CA. Conveniently located near some great shops and cafe's, Scrapbook Terrritory is THE place for all your crafting needs! I am looking forward to teaching there, I have taken several workshops myself - including three with Tim Holtz. The space is very condusive to creativity and I am hoping to meet many new students, to share my love of paper arts!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Altered Books anyone?

Here are two great ways to learn about altered books and enjoy 4 hours of creative fun. Sign up for one of my altered book classes!
This Sunday, September 7th is an almost full class at the nova studio in Point Richmond, CA. Please contact the studio using the link at the left to register.
Next Sunday, Sept 14th, i will teaching my first class at Scrapbook Territory in Berkeley, CA. Check out the link at left. They just updated their website with the Sept and Oct classes - but you still have to call or visit the store to register.

Hope to see you there!