Thoughts on a winter’s night

Hello again, dear and patient readers; and  welcome to new readers and followers. This is what it looked like outside my Ottawa living room earlier today:

532A95FD-BCF8-4B4A-A361-E37BEDB25C15And this is what things look like inside right now:

449F7B3B-78B5-4F33-9ED0-6C67A150D445.jpegYes, a fire and a stack of books…and me wearing my comfy silver  “shoon” (refurbished El Nats, thanks to a $2 bottle of acrylic paint). And yes, my feet are up because I have a foot infection (under treatment) so nothing for it but to read – and blog.

Time to share with you some of my recent book arts projects using my eco dyed papers and textiles – starting with the Chanuka books I made for the grandkids before Christmas:

To paint the papers, I used indigo powder mixed with acrylic medium on sturdy watercolour paper; the little books are housed in a Masu box I made for each book; the box is also indigo-printed and painted.

Next up are some of the Artist Books I have been working on this fall. The ones I chose to develop further were those made in Assisi in 2013 when Shlomo and I did our artists’ residency there. So working with those particular  books has been another way to achieve closure. Shlomo was an ace box maker and he made the clamshell boxes and slip cases for my other books. He had intended to make the enclosures for all of my “Subasio Scroll”  series. Since his death, of course, that task has become mine. I have learned a lot and I am grateful to have had the spiritual energy to do the work, not to mention Shlomo’s example as a craftsperson.

Here is a small collection of some of my Assisi books – the series title is “Subasio Scrolls” (Assisi is at Mount Subsio.) Sorry about the colours! Could not get them right this time.

4B55F20B-81A1-43CC-A032-A0BE324A2DA3D727B7DC-01E6-430B-AEEE-67AEDCA7A236And below is a look inside one of my blank journals that are bound with embroidered eco printed cloth and use eco printed papers as signature wrappers and as the first pages of each signature:


Notice, by the way, the colouration of the eco prints in this journal. These papers were printed in my early days of eco printing (2011 ) and have been kept away from light inside boxes. The greens and yellows have faded and some greens have turned to tans and browns. In a future post, I will share with you some ideas for handling fading…Folks, eco prints are subject to such changes, be aware – plants and processes will respond differently over time so one’s choices of plant, process and art purpose will affect longevity.

My current work is somewhat stalled because I am trying to get over a painful bursitis in my shoulder with muscle impingement – makes it impossible to stretch out my Sword and Pen arm very far…so I have to restrict movements that hurt…oy.

What to do? Using the scalpel and the exacto knife for cutting signature paper and bookboard is out for a while. How about creating paste paper? Slosh paint around on paper, mark it up with any handy tool or serviceable body part …Learn more about endpapers and other ways to use the papers decorated with paste and paint or dye. That could work for me! One can achieve respectable results without the precision needed for bookbinding. And one can finger paint with the non-dominant hand.

Paste paper came about in the bookbinder’s workshop. At the end of a job there might be leftover wheatpaste (used for glueing ). So the binder could add some colour to the paste and put that onto paper with brush, fingers, whatever…and then to scrape off the paste to make the design. Historical papers used a limited colour palette of mostly primaries and a relatively small repertoire of marks combined imaginatively – and quickly! The paste soon loses its capacity to accept a mark so one has no time to indulge one’s OCD…you just have to go for it!

I decided I would start with one colour only per sheet of paper, in order to concentrate on the markmaking and the tools – not to get bogged down in making colour choices for the Perfect Paste Paper. And that I would start with only one or two laters of paste colour. Plus I need to test  out how far I can actually stretch my arm.

Here are some examples, using ivory paint and black paint on 12″ x 12″ thin cardstock.

E4E9B9DF-FFD0-40F3-A379-320A1BB81742And some detail shots:

My last eco print with a future as Artist Book material is this one of Japanese maple (2015). It was printed on rice paper (with a tad of indigo ); it is rather fragile and quite creased after the steaming. I think I will apply some tea stains in the creases to make them a feature as opposed to a fault.

Later this year, I will have an exhibition of my FRESCO series, eco prints with rust and indigo. Here is a small collection from that series that was inspired by the frescos of Umbria; the funky candleabras were made by Shlomo.


And one work to add to the collection but not an eco print, rather, a painting with indigo:


I think this painting is finished …but I still have time to obsess about that…

My final image shows a corner of my studio, at last in a mess – which means I am working in it…at the back, to the left, you see some of my eco printed silk shawls and scarves. I still need to take pictures of them so maybe next post I will be ready. The spiffy new city art gallery in Ottawa will be accepting some of my stuff in their boutique when it opens later this year! Plus I have a couple more gigs to work on – reports coming in the coming months.

Hooray for a deadline or two.

Thank you for all your visits and for your comments. I have been trying to respond but I am afraid I might have misused the new and improved Word Press editor and disappeared you off into the ether. Please forgive me!

A happy new year to all and a good and messy studio!


33 thoughts on “Thoughts on a winter’s night

  1. A wonder-full post … I especially enjoyed your description of paste papers as I worked long ago and faraway in the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation library. Images of cochineal pink and indigo blue with wavy lines was what came to mind, and sure enough I was able to find those two books in the online library catalog at … unthinkable to be able to hunt down such information back in the day when I created catalog cards on a Selectric typewriter.

    As for shoulder lock, I hope yours is resolved fully and sooner rather than later, having been there, done that. It’s hard to put into words how limiting it can be, but you have done so.

  2. Happy new year to you Wendy! Love your ecoprint books and paste paper – I remember doing this in the first ever textiles class I went to, as an introduction to mark making. Good luck with your exhibition and I hope your shoulder gets better soon!

  3. Lovely to see what you’ve been up to recently and hope you’re feeling much better very soon. Though you seem to have managed to stay busy anyhow! Beautiful work. Happy New Year to you too!

  4. Always so good to see your inspiring posts, Wendy… and the way you are working with and around potential obstacles with the same creativity and good cheer… Was Mt. Subasio/Assisi already almost 5 years ago? Wow.

    1. Yes, it was Ginny. And I am now even more grateful for that time than I could have dreamed when Shlomo and I spent that precious month in Assisi for our 40th anniversary. God had a good plan for us

  5. beautiful work! i love little books and in the boxes is so special. i was intrigued by using powdered indigo with a gel medium. i have some indigo powder but it would never have occurred to me to use it that way and i’m going to try it out.

    1. Yes, Carolyne – after all, the bookbinders of old would have used natural dyes Or watercolours, i suppose, to colour their paste. My first efforts at paste paper used all natural dyes – but one has to be careful about the pH of the mix! It can change the colour – eg cochineal pink turned grey. Most of the dyes when mixed with pste were not as vibrant as the same colours mixed with, say, Golden acrylics. So in updating the mix of binder and dye pigment, we can use acrylic medium. Why not? We have maybe been trained to think things will explode if we DIY…Good luck! We are the artists and we make the rules for our materials…no Paste Paper or Eco Print Police need interfere!

      1. yes….as artists we can make our own rules and we can create such unexpected surprises by experimenting.

    2. More than one reader has commented on my mixing indigo powder with acrylic medium. I am about to try it with corn starch paste for paste papers. We know that indigo is not water soluble, so let’s see what happens….I have used natural dyes with paste paper in the past, but not indigo.

  6. I love your posts. Thank you for sharing your winter evening. Beautiful pictures! Do hope your foot clears up and your shoulder improves post haste. Best wishes, Maidi in Oz.

  7. Thank you, Wendy, for another bit of information that will be used in my studio and classroom. Although I teach indigo dyeing, acrylic painting, eco printing and paste paper to my middle school students, indigo powder in acrylic medium had not occurred to me. Since this will be my last semester teaching full time before I retire and head to warmer temps to be near my daughter’s family, my 8th grade students and I will explore another technique for cover papers for their small handmade books.

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth! The indigo works well with the acrylic medium and/or starches. It is not a water soluble dye, unlike most of the other natural dyes which can behave in ways you might not like when used in paste paper, as I found in my first attempt at paste papers some years ago- the pH sensitive dyes for example. I see powdered pigments for sale at my local art supply shop but most of them are modern synthetics, I am guessing. Likely powders were used by the earliest creators of paste paper but would have been dye or ochre based. I suppose. Discussions of historical (19th century, for example) paste papers (which interests me) rarely mention (confirm)the actual source of the pigment (“colourant”). i think you can obtain the historical pigment powders from Kramer in NYC. And I suppose you could use powdered dyes with acrylic medium, also – but working with most powders with kids in schools might not be sanity-soothing! One needs to use masks, gloves, mixing boxes – a nightmare!!!

    1. Thank you Susan. Re the body challenges: I guess we will always be looking at things from the “problem-solution” perspective, hoping to find a work-around…arthritis is a challenge for me also

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