” Twas on the moon of wintertime…

…when all the birds had fled” , sings the Huron Christmas carol. Indeed, the birdies have fled:

 

Blogging today from my husband's room on the fifth floor of a local hospital where he has been since Christmas Eve as the medics sort some health issues. So I have plenty of time at my disposal to work on organising photos for one last post before the new year comes in.

December has been Artist Book month in my studio. A workshop on sewn board bindings with Archives Canada conservator, Lynn Curry; some “Use Up These Prints” books made from studio gleanings; and some little books made from the grandchildren's art papers. Outside in The Kaleyard, autumn said a long and languishing “Goodbye”, delivering temperatures as high as 15C last week! A crazy, green Christmas – but it will be a sober, white New Year's Eve.

So first, goodbye to fall and the statuesque kale: lovely textures and colour with grey Lamb's Ears and blue-grey sage.

 

First dusting of snow:

 

In the kitchen, thoughts turn to cranberry chutney, companion to the seasonal turkey: cranberries with half and half Marsala and blackcurrant syrup to cover; fresh rosemary and bay (from indoor plants); and a generous heap of fresh gràted ginger; boiled to the stage of setting. Good with anything.

 

In the workshop ( later, I made more such bindings at home in the studio) the sewn boards binding which produces an elegant raised spine and encourages the use of contrasting coverings of paper or cloth:

 

 

The spine is free of the boards at the head and tail and all along the edges. So the book can flex and lie flat nicely.

 

I made others at home with more of my handmade linen book cloth that I had printed earlier in the year with rust and indigo:

 

 

Note the separate spine pieces:

 

The text block is coptic sewn then glued and placed under weight ( wood boards with a covered brick on top)

 

Other little playthings made this month: an indigo printed single sheet of watercolour paper folded and cut into a book structure; and my monthly “Magnificat” mass book folded into a sculpture ( one of several made so far)

 

A delightful piece evolved from one of six-year old Dylan's paintings that has artwork on both back and front. We cut up the artwork into two strips, accordion folded the strips, taped them together to make a longer accordion, then found a figure in the brushstrokes and outlined it in black pen. We tore the top edges and “gilded” them with metallic paint.

The back of the piece is also evocative.

 

I have saved many works on paper done over the years by my children and grandchildren. And they do tend to accumulate ( art papers as well as kids…) Why leave them in a box? (Not the kids…) Hence the idea this Christmas season to use the kids's art as material and content for Artist Books.

A few sheets of humble newsprint, painted by the grandkids with kids' acrylics a few summers ago, were next coated with Liquitex matte medium (three layers). These were to provide the books' covers. Following that, all kinds of papers were assembled to make up the signatures: saved scraps of all sorts, small print sample off-cuts or proofs, handmade papers…whatever gave strong interest and variety in texture, colour, print design, technique etc. I made four books, one for each grandchild, with each book containing between 15 and 20 signatures consisting of at least four folios of various sizes held by guard strips which allow for attaching more pages later. A major goal was to include signatures with expandable pages – fold-outs or accordions, for example. The signatures were handsewn into the spine with long stitch binding; the covers were sewn along the cover edges with machine stitching: a cloth pocket with flap was sewn into the both back and front inside covers. The pics:

The art work to make the covers:

Signature samples with guard strips for eventual additions of pages:

Page and fold-out signature samples:

 

 

The collection:

 

Some printed samples:

 

The longstitch binding (Note the fragility of the newsprint for stitching…layer on lots of medium)

 

The finsihed books, ready to receive more art on any and every page:

 

Last little piece: a canvas cover for a book. acrylic painted:

 

The spine of the canvas cover book (long stitch over tapes) and another canvas book cover, soon to be sewn:

 

Happy new year in art and life to all. Thank you to all the new readers for joining us.

 

Wendy

 

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November Studio

It is the last day of November and the day of Saint Andrew, patron of Scotland ( Greece, too) and all Scots, even those like me from Orkney! Time to report on the month's art activities, though I will not be done writing before midnight Ottawa time; still, somewhere to the west of me it will still be Saint Andrew's Day.

But first, a goodbye to the colours of autumn in The Kaleyard, last seen in the early weeks of a milder-than-expected eleventh month:

Sumac and amelanchier:

Potted amaranth and kale:

A late assortment of fall colours, some from October:

The last one is the perennial geranium, a sturdy plant, green under the snow and trusty provider of colour in the eco print pot.

Here are some papers printed this month with geranium ( and cotinus)

A smaller geranium, greened by iron/rust in the dye pot:

…and cotinus: the little flecks of pink are lovely and most likely to show up at this time of the seasons.

Cotinus: Charcoaled by iron/rust neighbours in the bundle:

Geranium, two varieties, blackened and greened with iron/rust but still holding on to yellows:

As you might notice in the work of eco printers, yellow is a frequent colour. Some despair is possible.

But take heart, Dear Dyer. A solution is available from colour theory. ( As well as from some post- print tinkering- though not discussed here today – like touching up the colour with other dyes, paints or modifiers like iron liquor or copper liquor or ammonia. And no, post-print touching-up is not a ticketable offence according to me. You are the artist, and you get to do what you like with your art, especially in the establishing of your own purposes and the safe and rationale means of achieving them. )

Thus: To get the most of my yellows from season to season ( when they change value and even hue) I like to pair them with some strongly contrasting colours that can act as foils. In these prints, the contrasts come via rusty prints and cotinus; both leaves are tannin- rich that give deep charcoal or black in the environment of iron, and also some greens. Yellow and black are pretty powerful together.

And next, some more rust prints on paper, this time with indigo and tannins from tea: also powerful contrasts.

 

Winter wools are on my list of textiles for dyeing, and this year I am trying for that famous and popular ( but non-native hereabouts) eye-popping eucalyptus red introduced to us by our DownUnder Diva of Dyes, India Flint. I have a lot of dried euca around the studio saved from supermarket bouquets and welcome those Green Immigrants to the dye plant stash. Bundled with Prunus virginiana and immersed in a walnut dye bath ( Juglans nigra) prepared in a crockpot with the heat set to “low” and left overnight, some of my wool fragements look like this:

Don't the colours look familiar?

The prunus gave the teal greens and even purple, while the euca gave ranges of reds and orange with a tad of yellow. Of course, the walnuts give rich brown on wool ( though much paler on linen) So here, we get the power of analagous colours in teams beside colour complements in the red and green.

 

My most recent project this month was with Dylan, my wee grandson, aged six. We have done lots of painting and stamping and so forth on big sheets of paper, using a very basic palette of cadmium yellow medium, cobalt blue and some kind of red (we lost control of the inventory – most likely the red was cad. red) plus a nice metallic gold. Those paintings mount up – kids are decisive and prolific painters and do not hang about obsessing over the next brushstroke as we adults might tend to do. i heartily recommend a session with a six year old to get you out of your Art Rut. Just try keep up with that kid! But what to do with all our paintings as they piled up?

I hit on a plan to keep the works but to make them easier to store and fun, too. We will make books and boxes, said I!

So we have been making books and boxes from each single sheet painting, working with origami-type folds and no glue. This is an ongoing project, so today I am sharing just a few. The first is a wee box made in the style of the compartments in the Chinese Thread And Needle Case that I completed earlier this year.

For this one, Dylan and I stamped the paper with wooden Oshiwa blocks ( also reported on my blog in the past) and carved Indian textile blocks:

Others we made from painted papers:

 

And a larger box from some of my above-described geranium-cotinus prints:

 

 

If you want to try these boxes yourself, keep the ratio of the paper three times the size of the finished box; thus, the 'Geranium' box started with an 18″ square piece of paper and folded down to six inches and a tad as a box.

Here are some pics of a box under construction, to refresh your memory for the folding sequences: as you can see, you need to fold the large square of paper into a nice grid. The centred square (fold) is the bottom of the box when all the folds are in place. Two boxes fit on top of each other to make one box with a lid.

 

 

Next time, some more art from the studio with my young apprentice, who, bye the bye, was able to anticipate the next fold in his box as we went along…so you can do it, too! And it's a good time of the year to make gift boxes!

i shall likely post again about the art- from-grandkids' paintings sooner than I might otherwise do – I am grounded this week after a wee bit of surgery to my foot! But the mind keeps travelling, Dear Reader…and the hands can still move.

The blessings of Saint Andrew's Day on ya'all!

 

Wendy