Turning it 90 degrees: Why Having a Community of Artists Matters

You may remember how I got stuck on making the titles using embossing powder and how a visit to the Maker Faire helped me gain a new perspective: Turn it 90 Degrees.

Well after a visit with a friend and fellow artist, Don Drake of Dreaming Mind Bindery, I’ve had another 90 degree moment. This time provided by Don, “Use straight PVA.”

I do use straight PVA, but never for covering boards. I was taught to use some combination of PVA and methyl cellulose for workability and drying time and, quite honestly, I didn’t have a good understanding of what I was doing by adding the methyl cellulose – I was adding moisture/water.

So Don and I were chatting about my new quilt book (still in progress) and the covers that I’d done so far. I wasn’t happy with the way there was some glue bleed through (see original post and photo) and when Allison, via comments to the blog post, asked if I considered making the quilt pieces into book cloth I thought, “Doh! Why didn’t I do that?”

Fast forward to a conversation with some artist friends about the best way to make book cloth from the quilt pieces and Don asks me, “Why don’t you use straight PVA?” Well, because you don’t use straight PVA  on book covers, right? Don pointed out that the bleed through was because of the moisture in the methyl cellulose and maybe some from the PVA. He recommended that I try straight PVA wet and, if that didn’t work, roll the PVA on the board until it was tacky and almost dry and then use heat to reactivate it to glue on the cloth.

I haven’t actually tried to glue the quilt with the straight PVA yet, I’m still working on the content of the book, but I did try it on the covers for the most recent copies of The Heaven Project. What a dream! The paper I use for the covers is lovely but moody and when I switched from the PVA/methyl cellulose mixture to straight PVA (wet) – wow! The paper was happy, I was happy, and my covers are beautiful.

My conversation with Don reminded me that I need to get to know my materials better and not just do what I’ve been taught to do. Mix it up a bit. Try straight PVA. It also reminded me that having a community of artists to toss ideas around with and to ask questions of makes all the difference.

Do you have a community of artists to collaborate with? A great place to start is with the Book Arts Web. Join the list serv and you will instantly be part of a world-wide community of artists.

Do you have a local group? If so, make the time to go. I know, you’ll never have enough time in the studio and it’s tempting to hunker down on your own. But chatting with other artists who have the same challenges you do, who have knowledge that you don’t, who are enthusiastic about art – it is worth the time for your art and your soul.

My local group is the Bay Area Book Artists. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you are welcome there, too! Can’t find a group in your area? Email the Book Arts Web, ask if anyone knows of a group near you. Contact your local college and see if they can refer you. Take a local art class and make a friend. Find just one other artist near you and have lunch once a month. Invite artists as you go and pretty soon you’ll have your own group.

Feel free to post links to your local groups in the comments section – the more the merrier.



4 responses to “Turning it 90 degrees: Why Having a Community of Artists Matters

  1. If any of you check into the Book_Arts-L (the discussion list you can subscribe to on the above mentioned Book Arts Web) don’t neglect the archives. Years of accumulated wisdom, opinions and discussion are there and searchable. Often I find when I’m confronted with a huge new resource like the archives of the Book_Arts-L I don’t really know where to start. For my money you could do no better than search for posts by Bill Minter. I’ve never met him or talked to him but he has consistently posted the most useful information, is always gracious, thoughtful, informative and practical. His tips have been the ’90 degree’ point for me, many times!

  2. Living where I live there isn’t a local anything much, but a lot of my learning has come from making connections via the web/email/blogging with people who are a long way away. I love the Book_Arts_L too, and I learn a lot there. I also made my own ‘virtual’ community over at http://bookartobject.blogspot.com which is a book group for makers of artists’ books: we are 16 people from around the world who dip and dip out, making books in response to texts each year. Everyone in the group gets a copy of everyone else’s edition and we keep a separate copy for exhibition and give one boxed set of the edition to the author of the text! This year we split into two groups, one making books in response to Jeanette Winterson’s novel “Art&Lies” and the other in response to Claire Beynon’s poem “Paper Wrestling”. It’s fun, no pressure and you get great work to add to your collection! I’ve learned lots, loved everyone’s contributions and thoroughly enjoyed it… I put a call out on the Book_Arts_L and also http://www.artistbooks.ning.com when we are about to start a new edition. Sara

  3. I just signed on to the Bay Area Book Arts group a few weeks ago – which is where I found you – and it has a wealth of knowledge. For people a little farther down the coast, there is a Yahoo group called Book Arts Connection that has been going for years. It is a sleepy group so signing on won’t overload your inbox. But especially for those of us between L.A. and S. F. it is helpful to know what is going on in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ojai, Santa Maria and Ventura: the places that are an hour’s drive instead of a day trip.
    Jill Littlewood

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