Meet The Cats


In pretty much every blog post I’ll mention three things. My art, my husband, Greg, and my cats. They’re a huge part of my everyday life. And often they’re my best, and worst, distractions.

Artists and our pets. It’s kind of a thing isn’t it? I’ll bet you’ve got one or more furry or feathered friends who keep you company while you work. In my case, its cats. Three of them.


In the last blog post Greg mentioned a bump on the head. That was compliments of Theo who is currently sitting on my computer desk trying to catch the pages of the artists book that I’m printing as they come out of the printer. Theo is still young and gets into everything. His curiosity is endless and he really can’t help himself. He can’t hold still. He can’t resist a noise. He can’t resist his own tail if it moves.


Two weeks ago Theo couldn’t resist a stack of paper, that shouldn’t have been where it was, and knocked it off in a sliding avalanche onto the floor of the office. (He is now standing on the file cabinet trying to reach an imaginary bug on the wall, nope, cleaning his foot, now chewing on the tape bit sticking out of the labeling machine and now on my desk in front of the screen so I’m having to look around him to type this.)


There. Now Theo is in the garage with his buddies. The garage is their big adventure. We have too many predators where we live to send them outdoors, but the garage is an ever changing cat jungle gym. It’s where they go when I need to concentrate.

Back to the pile of papers that swooshed down onto the floor. As I muttered Theo’s name under my breath I proceeded to hit my forehead with impressive force on a very sharp desk corner. It turns out you really can see tweety birds and stars…

I downplayed it for a day or two and after four days straight of headaches and the inability to be in bright light I had to admit I’d concussed myself. Of course the cats were thrilled I’d hit my head because then I was right where I “should” be, in bed, ready to pet them.

As you can guess, Theo is too young to go to the studio yet. He’d have a great time, but I’d have to throttle him. On a tangent, Theo is named after an artist. Well, an artist’s brother. He came with the name Chauncey which didn’t fit. We wanted to name him after an artist and his side markings look like a Van Gogh painting, but we didn’t like Vince or Vincent for him either. So we went with the brother, Theo.

Then there is Ellis. Ellis, who is also young, but at 4 years old, twice Theo’s age, is just old enough to come to the studio. As I’m getting ready for Codex my hours in the studio are getting longer and longer. Ellis is so desperate he’s been sleeping in his “going to the studio” carrier so he won’t miss me as I go by. We’ve been working up to spending the day with me. Yesterday he successfully did an hour in the studio without any damage to my artwork or the cat!

He really wants to be on my work table so I’m working on training him to go only in his box on the table. The floor is a free go zone. The table, not so much.

Chinle, who is 17, has my favorite provenance story. When Greg and I were first dating we took a driving trip to the Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, etc. In Chinle Arizona we were at an overlook at the Canyon de Chelly (pronounced Canyon du Shay) and up walks this beautiful, starving kitty. I picked her up and she wrapped around my neck. Greg asked me what I was doing and I told him she was starving and was going to die. He told me that cats die sometimes. I told him, “Not this one and if you want to break up when we get home I understand.” We went to the local Safeway, fed and watered the cat, and snuck her into the hotel for the next two nights while we drove home to California.

Well, clearly we didn’t break up and, ironically, Chinle is Greg’s cat. She loves him more than anything (And he loves her more, too. He greets the cat and then me. Yes, I know.) Theo loves Chinle, too.

Chinle is a bit too nervous for the studio. She doesn’t mind the occasional visit while tucked safely in Greg’s arms, but she’d much rather be in her heated bed than the house.

So there you have them. “The cats.” In our house that’s often said with affection, exasperation, and hysterics. Usually within the same few minutes.

Which reminds me of a project I did with my dear friend, Karen called “Cat-A-Log.” Next week I’ll tell you about it.

Do you have a studio pet? I’d love to hear about them and see photos. Feel free to post in the comments!







The Art of Art Feedback

Hi everybody, my name is Greg and I’ll be your guest-blogger this evening.  Yes, I’m the husband Greg that Ginger mentions from time to time.  And yes, despite a recent knock on the noggin Ginger is okay and doing well.  She’s busy in the studio and will return to blogging soon enough.  In the meantime, Ging has asked me to write a few words this week.   So I shall follow the advice of my sixth-grade English teacher (shout out to Ms. Fawcett!) and write what I know.  And what I know is how to be married to An Artist.  So buckle up, here we go…

The 2017 Codex is just around the corner and Ginger is hard at work on new books.  Some of them are just in the idea stage while others have advanced to prototypes.  So I frequently hear Ginger ask, “Hey, I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind giving me some feedback on this new book..?”   And here is my reaction:


“Deer In The Headlights” by James-The-Nose on

Ah yes, the art of giving art feedback. Those of us who know an artist or perhaps even live with one have been asked to critique new work.  It is a veritable minefield that I occasionally successfully navigate (the unsuccessful navigations could be their own column not to mention material for marital counseling).  Here are some guidelines that I have learned along the way.

  • If you’re the significant other of an artist then your first thought might be, “Why me?  I’m not an artist!  I’m not qualified to say nothing!”  Ah, but you do know how to have an opinion and that’s the first step.  The next step is to not be intimidated.  Treat the art piece as you would a movie, a ball game, or a business plan.   Objectively evaluate each aspect of the piece.  Say what you think works and what doesn’t.
  • Get yourself in the right frame of mind.  Turn off the TV and put down the phone.  Go to a room away from the kids or pets so they don’t distract.   Be aware of your own feelings, are you tired, hungry, stressed, or cranky?  Sometimes I simply have to tell Ginger “I’m really tired right now, let’s wait until I can give it my full attention.”
  • The artist values your opinion and thinks you have helpful insights.  Being asked to give a critique is an honor.  In fact, I like seeing new work because it’s like seeing a new side of Ginger.  I think it’s very cool that even though I’m not an artist Ginger still thinks I have useful things to say about her work.  In return, I have a responsibility to give an honest assessment.   Don’t just dismiss the work with a “hey, great!” or “yeah, its nice”.  Sure, everybody likes to hear praise but the artist probably wants something more helpful.   Which leads me to…
  • You aren’t doing the artist any favors by watering down your feedback.  My mother used to tell me “if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all”. (A phrase which Ginger often reminds me in social situations, to little avail.)  It’s a nice sentiment but I don’t believe it’s true.  Sure, honesty can be dangerous.  There are times when I have strong opinions and maybe Ginger isn’t in the right frame of mind to hear them.   I might make an observation or suggestion and Ginger might disagree and push back.  We’re not arguing, we’re having a dialogue.  And that dialogue can help Ginger clarify her thinking about the piece.  She might storm away in anger but, at the end of the day, Ginger realizes I was just being honest and she appreciates my candor.
  • BE SPECIFIC! Saying, “I don’t like it” is vague.  “This font is hard to read” is more specific.  “It’s confusing” is vague.  “I don’t understand the jump from this page to the next” is better.  Specific is helpful because the artist can then re-examine her choice and decide whether to keep or emend it.  (Though sometimes I think that Ginger’s silence means she’s re-examining her choice in a husband).   Specific feedback is actionable.  “I don’t get it” is vague, what’s Ginger supposed to do with that?  Be specific even in your positive feedback, what elements work and why?  What aspects (materials, colors, flow) work well and why?  What stands out to you?   Despite the fact that it might kill me I realize this is a case where more talking and more words are better.
  • Gently play the devil’s advocate and question each element of the work.  Why is this here?  Why did you choose this? Does this element add to a piece or is it just distracting?  Did you do this just because you can or because the work needs it?  Sometimes I sound like a two-year old asking “why?” over and over but I think it’s a question that needs to be asked.
  • Don’t let the artist give a long introduction or explanation before presenting the piece.  I feel the work should speak for itself.  Too much explanation can color my impressions of a new work.  If there’s a lot to be said then say it in the piece.   Don’t try to sell me on the idea.  Let me look and form my own first impressions.
  • Don’t just focus on technical details, how does the work make you feel?  Sure, comments on book structure, material choices, and other technical aspects are good.  But the point of any art work is to communicate with the viewer’s intellect, heart, and soul.  Does the work touch you?  What emotions does it evoke?  Again, be specific.  Some of the best feedback I can give is to tell Ginger how her pieces make me feel (sad, angry, bored, in awe, curious).
  • Don’t take it personally if the artist doesn’t agree with or act on your ideas.  They are just suggestions from one person.  It’s the artist’s work and the artist has the final say.   Don’t be a baby and get exasperated.  Don’t throw up your hands and exclaim, “They why did you ask for my opinion then?!”   Art feedback is no place for sarcasm, belittlement, or condescension.

I hope you found this useful.  If you’re an artist then maybe forward it to the people who get to see your works in progress.  And I hope this gives you some insight into how us non-artists feel, go easy on us.   -Greg

“How To” Books That Deserve Shelf Space #3


Still working on the studio clean out, but now working in the studio with some cleaning at both ends of the day. It’s exciting to see my new ideas for Codex taking shape.

In the meantime, here are the next five “how to” books that have earned their space on my  studio bookshelf.

As a reminder, my criteria for a book staying include one or more of the following:

  1. Unique binding ideas
  2. The best photos and instructions for a particular binding
  3. A gallery of book examples with outstanding artists books.

In case you’re wondering, here are List #1 and List #2.

This week’s five:

Sleight of Binding by Cherryl Moote


This book has all of those fun “how did they do that?” bindings. Flexagons, KaleidoCycles and more. The instructions include basic drawings and are a bit more challenging than some of the other books on my shelf. I think my friend, Janice, would love this book. She loves puzzles and math and has the patience to make bindings over and over until she’s got them down. This is one of those books. Worth having, but you’ll need the time to make the structures work for you.



The Essential Guide to Making Handmade Books by Gabrielle Fox


This book has terrific step-by-step directions with very good photographs. Gabrielle Fox makes each binding accessible to beginners and experienced artists alike. Each section also has a Gallery of Ideas, like the one featuring the Train Log by Hedi Kyle, below.



The Art and Craft of Handmade Books by Shereen La Plantz


This book has beautiful images and some great bindings. Among my favorites are her Recessed Skewer Bindings. You can see from the two sample pages below she begins with a binding concept and then extends it into other ways of using that binding. I just love that approach. She also includes many, many samples from terrific artists. In my opinion this is one of those “must have” books.




Hedi Kyle Festschrift 2009 by Multiple Authors


This is a fun book celebrating Hedi Kyle and her contribution to book arts. There are several stories from artists who have worked with and/or been influenced by her, several diagram drawings of her structures and articles about bookbinding and conservation. It is available on Lulu by Rutherford Witthus.



Cover to Cover by Shereen La Plantz


Another book by Shereen La Plantz and another must have. Terrific gallery images with samples from artists such as the Fish Messages by Judith Hoffman, below. Clear and conversational instructions with ways to extend each binding with new ideas.




Well, there it is, three blog posts, 15 “how to” books and we haven’t even finished one square out of 15 in the bookshelf. We’re going to take a break from “how to” books until November when the Pop-Up Now II exhibition will open at 23 Sandy Gallery. Then we have the Keith Smith books. The books about being a professional artist. The inspirational eye candy books…

Next week, studio lighting and a guest blog post by my husband, Greg, who patiently researched and swapped out bulbs until my studio became the beautifully lit, real colors, less eye strain environment that I needed.



You’ve Got to Check Out Anne & Mark’s Art Party This Weekend


So what about Anne & Mark’s Art Party? Well, you should go! And I’m interrupting my planned blog post to tell you about it because you still have time… Go during the day on Friday, September 30th or Saturday, October 1st and/or go to the Closing Bash on the night of October 1 featuring Pivot – The Art of Fashion. 

Greg and I went on Sunday and had a great time discovering new-to-us artists and enjoying artwork from familiar artists and friends. The Art Party is an enthusiastic explosion of art!

Some of our favorite new-to-us artists include Linda Steenkamp  who made the artwork at the top of this post and Malia Landis who made this ceramic piece, below, titled “California Coast.”


We were intrigued by the photos by Quinn Peck who used a layering technique where the photo was printed on multiple layers of media with different transparencies. The breeze catching the fabric top layer really caught our eyes and it created interesting changes in the image as you moved around it.


We particularly enjoyed the photography of Charlotta Maria Hauksdottir and the way her images really captured the many activities that happen in a room in the course of our daily lives.anne-and-marks-art-party-2016-12-of-19

Greg was particularly enamored with the work by Gale Antokal. I had Gale as a professor years ago and am familiar with her work. Her subjects are ambiguous and imbued with implied narrative. Be sure to click her name and wander around her website.


We were tickled to see the new work that Kent Manske has been doing since his retirement from Foothill.


And new work from Nanette Wylde, also of PreNeo Press. Each of them master printmakers.


We were very glad to get to see some of Robin Lasser’s Dress Tent series. We had hoped to go to Carmel for her show and now are even more sorry we couldn’t make it.


It was also fun to see how Jamila Rufaro and Dotti Cichon are influencing one another on their collaborative work.


And last, but not least, we couldn’t resist taking a shadow picture with this sculpture outside. I didn’t get the name of the artist, if you know, please tell me.


To get an idea of how much art there is to see, just check out this list of visual artists. During your visit, be sure to see work by Stan Welsh, Sieglinde van Damme, Jody Alexander, Barbara Boissevain, Rose Sellery, Beverly Rayner, Brian Taylor, Jay Ruland, Nancy Sevier, and many more.



“How To” Books That Deserve Shelf Space #2


The studio is getting cleaner, but I’m still far from done. I’m afraid I’m having to undo years of bad stashing habits. Creating new strategies and new systems is taking longer than I’d like. I am, however, determined not to stash anything this time around.

In the meantime, here are the second five books that have earned shelf space on my new, cleaned out, bookshelf.

As a reminder, my criteria for a book staying include one or more of the following:

  1. Unique binding ideas
  2. The best photos and instructions for a particular binding
  3. A gallery of book examples with outstanding artists books.

In case you’re wondering about the first five, here are the “How To” Books That Deserve Shelf Space #1 from last week’s blog post.

This week’s five:

Making Books by Hand by Mary McCarthy and Philip Manna


This book has outstanding diagrams and clearly labels everything. Excellent for a beginner and a good reminder for experienced artist. There are also several box structures that I find useful such as this portfolio, below. Apologies for the bad photo, the glossy black page and my studio lighting were not making friends, you get the idea.



Books Unbound by Michael Jacobs


This book is probably in my top 5. It does not have the clearest instructions and he does not use the best materials, but Michael Jacobs approaches bookmaking from a sculptural standpoint and the books and boxes he creates are truly unique.


The Matchbox Marvel, above, is typical of his enthusiasm to combine book structures and boxes into interesting shapes and variations. His Specimen Book, below,  is one of my favorites. I’ve made this as a gift a few times. It is always a hit. A wonderful way to highlight a treasured (small) item.



Also in my top 5, Making Handmade Books: 100+ Bindings, Structures & Forms by Alisa Golden


This book is the most comprehensive on my shelf. If you’re only going to own one “How To” book on making handmade books – this is it. From basic accordion books to basic pop-up and move-able books, you can find something here to fit your ideas. If if you use scrap materials and patience, you can teach yourself any of these bindings or boxes.


235 pages of instructions, diagrams and ideas!


You’ll notice the next two books are also by Alisa Golden. There is a lot of overlap with the Making Handmade Books, above. Virtually all of the instructions and diagrams from the next two books are in the 100+ book. So… I wouldn’t recommend buying them, too. Unless you find them for a great price. What makes them worth having are the gallery/example photos that are not in the Making Handmade Books. I’m still debating whether they have enough value to stay on the shelves. But for right now they’ve earned a spot. When that shelf begins to overflow again, these are the first two I’d reconsider.


Unique Handmade Books by Alisa Golden

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Creating Handmade Books by Alisa Golden



One more set of five to finish out that shelf and then we’ll move on to some other topics. In fact, I’m looking forward to my husband, Greg, writing some guest posts. One on lighting, which we’ve just redone in my studio and one on what it’s like to be in his role as a support system and collaborator for an artist.

You may have noticed that I haven’t talked about the Pop-Up “How To” books in that shelf cubby. I’m saving that discussion for November when the Pop-Up Now Exhibition opens  at 23 Sandy Gallery.

Do you have a “How To” Book  in your studio that I should have in mine? Give me some of your recommendations in the comments!



“How To” Books That Deserve Shelf Space #1


I’m in the middle of my studio clean out. It definitely got worse before it got better, but today I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Or at least the floor in some places.

I’m being rather harsh in my clean out, I don’t want to do this again soon. Everything has to earn its space. Especially books. So far I’ve donated 4 bags of books to the library and I’ve got two more boxes of books to donate to the Bay Area Book Artists Sale on Sunday, October 16th.

In my studio I have one of those Ikea bookshelves with the squares to divide books. Above is a photo of one of two squares labelled, “Book Arts How To.” I thought I’d share with you the books that I think are worth keeping in my studio and why.

Most books about Book Arts include the standard bindings, Accordion, Coptic, Pamphlet, etc. In order for me to keep a book in this category, it has to have one or more of the following:

  1. Unique binding ideas
  2. The best photos and instructions for a particular binding
  3. A gallery of book examples with outstanding artists books

Today, the first 5. Note, these are in no particular order of preference. Rather the order they are on my shelf.

Book Art Studio by Stacie Dolin and Amy Lapidow.


The primary reason this book gets to stay? The Limp Paper Binding. A variation on the traditional Limp Vellum Binding. I haven’t tried it yet so the book goes back on my shelf.



re-bound: creating handmade books from recycled and repurposed materials by Jeannine Stein


This book deserves shelf space for the gallery. Here two of my favorites by Elaine Nishizu and Judi Delgado.



Next, Book Arts: Beautiful Bindings for Handmade Books by Mary Kaye Seckler


I keep this book for The Raven’s Foot Binding. It is a fun and unusual binding and well described here.



More Making Books By Hand by Peter and Donna Thomas


While there are instructions about how to make books, this one gets to stay as a catalog of Peter and Donna Thomas’ artwork. Here one of my favorites, The Trout.



Book + Art: Handcrafting Artists’ Books by Dorothy Simpson Krause


This book is unique in that it has Thermal Bindings (bindings created with the use of heat)


And Drumleaf Bindings, bindings created by applying glue to the spine. Neither of which I’ve done, but both of which look interesting and useful.


Next week, the next five.

On a personal note, the wedding in Virginia Beach was wonderful, beautiful, sentimental. We’re still smiling from the joy we shared with Samantha and Jeff.

We also experienced Tropical Storm Hermine which turned out to be stormy enough to create some challenges for the bride and groom but also disappointing after watching all of the weather channel doom and gloom.  For fun, Greg and I went to the coast at took some Hermine selfies. Here is my favorite.




Cleaning the Studio Between Trips

Arizona for Blog 8-30-16-5

As I mentioned last week, we were off to Tucson for funeral. We went to show our respect and mark the passing of a man important to Greg and our family. Mike Enis was somehow related to Greg and his dad, although we couldn’t really tell you how. More importantly, Mike Enis was kind and welcoming and had terrific stories. He was also a wonderful father, grandfather and great-grandfather, a political activist, and a cultural historian and language teacher for the Tohono O’odham people. Mike also helped create a contemporary type of music particular to the southern Arizona desert, Chicken Scratch. It was an honor to have known Mike Enis.


While in Tucson, we visited family, including our niece, Diana, who just started college at the University of Arizona. We were glad to get to see her sooner than expected, even if it did involve getting up at 4 a.m.!

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We also enjoyed some Indian Fry Bread (some of the best we’ve ever had), at “Indian Fry Bread Manna From Heaven” on St. Mary’s Road in Tucson.

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A trip to the Desert Museum in Tucson was inspiring both in terms of its beauty

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and also for this tree, which gave me some new artist book structure ideas. Can’t you just see this as a central binding structure with leaves/pages/books?

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And two more pieces of inspiration, the first, a statement by a young artist on the Tohono O’odham reservation about why he uses graffiti art. “Graffiti Art is not bad it is art. Graffiti Art is not tagging. Tagging is not art. Graffiti Art is a way for the next generation of our kids to carry on what makes us a tribe, what makes us “us.””

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And the second, a mosaic, in the Tucson airport. Dora, this made me think of you!

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And we’re off to the airport again for a trip to Virginia, this time for a wedding.

In the meantime, I decided that habits are useless without a usable work space. I’m terribly embarrassed to admit it, but this is what my studio looked like as of last Sunday.

Studio Before with MessStudio Before with Mess-2Studio Before with Mess-3Studio Before with Mess-4

It is an archaeological dig/representation of the projects, classes, and ideas of the last year. In between caring for Marisol and keeping our day-to-day lives running, I met deadlines and got projects done, got organized for classes, and more on a just-in-time basis.

I am a packrat, I love keeping things “just in case,” and I have never met a scrap of paper I don’t love and need to keep. But enough is enough. I’ve filled bags full of things to donate and I’m being rather harsh about what has to go. I can’t create good working habits if I don’t have room to work. So this week is step 1. Clean out.

I’m still reading the organizing/habits book. It will go with me on the next airplane ride. And next week, I’ll show you the “after” photos of the studio and share about our trip to Virginia.

Hey look. Three blog posts in a row. This is starting to look a bit like a habit!

Are you a packrat? What determines whether or not something is valuable enough to take up space in your studio? Comments are welcome!