Tag Archives: art

When Creativity Feels Out of Reach


On December 24th my dear father-in-law, Art, was hospitalized. It was not the first time and wouldn’t be the last. It feels significant, however, because that’s the last time I can remember being able to focus completely on being creative.

After  December 24th caregiving and support became priorities over creativity and making art. In that time I’ve made artists’ books,  I’ve had some lovely successes, and I’ve had to use every ounce of energy – when I had it – to focus on art at all.

I remember in a college seminar class when a student (much younger than me!) stated with conviction that a “real” artist would give up everything before not creating. By his definition, I am not a real artist. At the time I said would give up art in an instant to take care of my husband and our families and, for the past 6 months, that’s pretty much what I’ve done.

Four weeks ago my father-in-law decided to end treatment and come home. We were scared and sad and supportive. Our world shrank ever smaller, from the last six months of caregiving with moments of creativity and normal life in between – to 24 hours of vigilant care, love, support and putting one foot in front of the other.

Greg recently asked me if the experience with his dad has inspired me to make art. I think eventually it might. The two weeks between when he came home and when he completed his earthly journey was an education for all of us. Greg’s dad taught us how to die. Whereas I used to think of death as sad and painful and lonely, I now hope I will have the opportunity to visit with friends, listen to music, tell stories and experience the undivided love of family.

Maybe someday that will be the title of an artists’ book, How to Die. Maybe not. Right now, today, even walking the hundred and fifty feet to the studio feels too difficult. We’ve made the decisions, had the services, hosted far-flung relatives who came to pay their respects. My quiet and private husband even had the courage to give his dad’s eulogy. I have never been prouder than that moment I watched that brave and well-spoken man honor his father. I wish he would let me use the text from the eulogy for an artists’ book, but I know better than to ask.

So this morning I got up and decided to go to the studio. I put on clothes I could make messy, I poured some iced tea to take with me, and I stopped to water the garden. Then I paid bills. Then I did laundry. Then I played with the cat. Now here it is 6 p.m. and I haven’t made it to the studio yet. I finally decided that writing a long overdue blog post was at least a small move in the right direction. So this is it, this is my writing/art/creativity for today. Tomorrow morning I will get up and try again.

Have you made art about death, dying or the loss of a loved one? I’d appreciate it if you would share your stories in the comments section.




Paper Storage: An Alternative to Flat Files

One of the many challenges of being an artist is storing supplies and, for book artists, that means paper. Do we roll it up? Lay it flat? And where in our studio do we store paper without exposure to dust, bugs and other troublesome elements?

Ideally I think we’d all love to have a nice set, or three, of flat files. Big, flat, thin drawers to cradle all of that beautiful paper that we just can’t resist. If you’ve ever been to the annual paper sale at Flax in San Francisco, you’ll know exactly what I mean. It’s such a deal, why not buy more? Because you have to store it somewhere.

I agonized over whether I could afford flat files (I tried Craigslist and Freecycle in addition to art and office supply stores, I even tried school suppliers hoping that they might have a bit more of a bargain for classroom storage) and, even if I could afford them, would they fit in my studio, a 10 x 10 bedroom? The only option was to remove my work table and use the top of the flat files as workspace.  I didn’t really like this idea and thought long and hard about what I truly needed.

I realized that because of the size limitations of my computer printer it was unlikely that I would ever make artists’ books that would need full sheets of paper. This changed the size of the paper that I needed to store from 22 x 30 to half sheets of 22 x 15. I knew I wanted drawers, not containers with lids, so that I could stack them and not have to move anything to get to the paper. I do enough of that shuffling around already in my studio. I scoured the local stores and the internet for a product that would work.

Enter the Wide Underbed Drawers from the Container Store. These stackable drawers are 23 x 27 x 6.5 high and easily hold half sheets of pretty much any paper I’ve bought. It turns out that 6 of them fit neatly between my upper and lower linen closets. Aha. Instant flat paper storage for a pittance compared to the price of flat files. $150 for six drawers (38 ” of stacked height) instead of the $500-$1500 I would have paid for flat files. Even better, by ordering online and picking up at my local Container store, shipping is free and they brought the items to my car. Now that is customer service.

I’ve had my stacking drawers for more than a year now. I’m very happy with the size, the ease of stacking and the amount of paper I can fit in the drawers. They are easy to open and close and do not jam. Because of their height, I am able to store boxes in the drawers to divide the paper. For example, if I’ve cut Rives to 8.5 x 11 grain short and Rives to 8.5 x 11 grain long I want to be able to store them separately but I don’t want to use up a whole drawer for just one stack. I use the Stockholm Office Boxes, also from the Container Store, to hold smaller sheets inside the larger drawers. (Just to be clear, I have no affiliation with The Container Store, I just love these products enough to recommend them.)

I have no idea yet where this flat paper storage will go in my new studio, but because of their stackability there is a lot of flexibility, certainly more than if I’d purchased flat files.

A friend of mine, Kitta, stores hers in rolls in a wine rack turned on it’s back, another friend under her bed. How do you store large pieces of paper for your art?



Happy Thanksgiving – My Gift to You – A Thanksgiving Book

Every year I think about giving a Thanksgiving message to the people in my life for whom I am grateful and every year I get too close to Thanksgiving and run out of time. So this year, I’ve made this foldable book, using one of my all time favorite fall foliage photographs, to give away. It’s a simple structure and, as my gift to you, you’re welcome to print and make as many of them as you’d like. Use it to say thank you to someone who is important to you. Or many someones. I’ve left the last page blank for you to write in a personal message.

Here is the PDF file, click on the link, not the photo. Be patient, it is a very large file: Thanksgiving Book by Ginger Burrell

For instructions on how to fold it, try Marc Snyder’s How to Make an Eight Page Book Out of a Single Sheet of Paper. (Except there are no edges to trim before beginning.)

For more free books, check out Free For All.

I’m thankful for my many friends in the art community. To all of you, thank you – And a very Happy Thanksgiving.