Tag Archives: artist community

More Lessons from “Camp”

Back to reality today.

I am running loads of clothes through the washer and dryer and sifting through Outlook to find the important emails among the marketing messages. (When did anything at Pottery Barn become a “must have”? Don’t get me wrong, I love  Pottery Barn, but I don’t think they sell anything that I can’t get by without. Squirrel?)

I’m working on production of some books to meet upcoming deadlines, enjoying the peace and quiet, and yet missing the giggling and noise of the kids. I’m also thinking about other lessons from “camp.”

Lesson # 2 – Everything is better with a buddy (even if you disagree).

I tend to work quietly by myself. I’m sure working from home in my own studio reinforces this – but after spending the week with my niece, Amelia, and my nephew, Colin, I am reminded how much a buddy can add to the process. They bounced ideas, humor, even disagreements off of each other and came out better for it. And most importantly they had someone to pal around with.

I’m trying to build more community into my art making, through teaching,  meeting regularly with other book artists and having “play dates” with my friend, Wendy Sprague, who is a watercolor painter.  I don’t work in watercolors,  but setting aside time to work together adds to the richness of both of our work. I never know when a technique from her media will be useful in mine and vice versa.

I am also making more time to have lunch with my friend, Gloria Huet, a painter and printmaker. Our media is not the same but we have many of the same professional challenges – getting our work out into the world, interfacing with galleries and collectors, and marketing our work.

I’ve heard from many other book artists that there isn’t a community of book artists in their area. Consider that artists in all media have some commonalities and having artist-friends to share the trials and tribulations of art making with – even if you disagree – will enrich your process and support your development as an artist.

Lesson # 3 – Remember to sing (just like when you were a kid).

On the last day of “camp” when we were cleaning up and getting ready to leave, Amelia started singing Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah. (One of Amelia’s many charms is that she often sings while she is working on art, cooking or taking a shower.) My mom joined in and so did I and by the end of the song we were loud and smiling and had lighter hearts. If you work quietly in your studio – whether you have a “good” singing voice or not – try a bit of singing out loud. It may make that deadline, or your frustration with the glue that just won’t do what you want, seem a bit less overwhelming.

Out of curiosity I did some quick internet research on the health and emotional benefits of singing, and found an interesting article in a UC Berkeley Wellness Alert that says, among other things, that when people sing their antibodies go up because singing makes them feel good. Works for me!

Do you have a song that you sing while you work?

Zip-a-dee-dooh-dah, zip-a-dee-ay

My, oh my what a wonderful day!

Plenty of sunshine heading my way

Zip-a-dee-dooh-dah, zip-a-dee-ay….



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.