art, art retreats, book arts, Focus on Book Arts

Focus on Book Arts 2017

Susanne Baker and I attended our third Focus on Book Arts at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon last week. It was recommended to us by my friend Judy Strom, who I met at Journalfest in Port Townsend, Washington in 2009 and we have met up at FOBA ever since. We love this retreat/conference for many reasons:

  • The selection of workshops is perfect. There are 1-4 day workshops over the course of five days. You can take all five days or just one day. There are always classes for advanced, serious bookbinders, and classes for beginners, and lots of levels in between. There are structural classes, historical conservation classes, and playful, creative classes.
  • They keep the class sizes small.
  • The instructors are excellent and often known nationwide for their work.
  • It is completely run by volunteers, who are passionate about this event.
  • Forest Grove, Oregon, is a lovely town and Pacific University, the first university founded west of the Mississippi, is a historic campus of great beauty, with manicured lawns, towering redwoods, and flower gardens. Honestly, I have checked out the real estate ads and the job listings for this place quite a few times.
  • It’s about 30 minutes west from Portland and another hour going west will get you to Cannon Beach.
  • I ALWAYS meet the friendliest, most interesting people there!

This year, Susanne, Judy, and I took a class in beginning embossing from Janice Fisher on the first day. I couldn’t get any good photos – embossing is hard to photograph, and when I’m into what I’m doing, I don’t remember my camera. I did better later. My main takeaway from the class was that embossing paper is so much simpler and easier than I ever guessed, and you can do it on almost any kind of paper with as little as a stencil cut out of an old manila file folder and a popsicle stick. Janice was very into recycling and repurposing ordinary objects for embossing.

On the second day, we all separated to go to different classes. Judy went to a different class every day. Susanne chose a four-day long class in twined binding taught by Roberta Lavadour, and she was in heaven the whole time. I chose a two-day class by Jennie Hinchcliff called “Collecting & Keeping: Chinese Thread Books.” I was hesitant about choosing this one since it involved some origami, but I LOVED IT. LOVED IT. LOVED IT. It’s too hard to show you how much fun this book is without taking a video, and I’ll put one up in a few days when I have some help.

We built two small learning books on the first day, and on the second day the third book encompassed what we learned. It was turning very hot and we were in an older building with no air conditioning, so the glue dried very quickly. I ended up hurrying a bit too much at the end and glued down my insides facing the wrong way, but it still works just fine. (I was very lucky to go to a room the next day with AC when the temps rose to 97 and 99. Judy ended up in the room I was in and she’s pretty tough, but even she had to leave the room to finish her class project.) I would like to take another class from Jennie.

The third class was the one I was most excited about – Leighanna Light’s “Lily’s Book.” I had taken a class from Leighanna in 2010 called the Vintage Metal Deck that fascinated me, and I’ve wanted to take another class with her since. I love her textures and her palette and her expertise with attaching things to each other.

For this one we brought a large piece of heavy gessoed canvas, then used gesso to stencil and stamp all over it for texture. After brushing on a base layer of paint or ink wash, we tore the canvas into pages for the book and played with Leighanna’s assortment of acrylic mediums and Venetian plaster. We glued down cloth and paper and other stuff, laid the pages out in the hot sun to dry, and kept on layering and painting the pages until we ran out of time (see top photo). Then we did a simple longstitch binding (thank God for my Japanese screw punch – those pages were thick). The next step for me will be attaching more stuff to the cover and spine. I brought some of my metal deck cards from the 2010 class and one of them just happened to be perfect for the cover. I’m eager to work in this book some more but have had some challenges getting back to it yet.

If you’d like to read about my previous trips to FOBA, you can find those posts here:
FOBA 2011
FOBA 2015

Next post: Photos from Forest Grove

art, Art Makers Denver, art retreats, collage, Colorado, Denver

Art Makers Denver


^^^McNicols Building

I’ve just returned from a new-to-me art retreat, Art Makers Denver, where I took a paper painting collage class from Elizabeth St. Hilaire. I’ve been following her work online for a while and since I like to visit my family near Denver in September I jumped at the chance to combine that trip with this retreat this year.

The retreat was smaller than most of the ones that I’ve attended elsewhere, which made for smaller classes and more attention (if you like more attention). I had a big table all to myself, which was great since I tend to push into other people’s spaces. The venue was the recently renovated McNicols Building in Civic Center Park, a spacious and light-filled place. Delicious lunches were provided on two days and on the third day we were each given a $10 voucher to use at the food truck festival in the park outside. We got lots of extra goodies such as locally made sodas and juice drinks, healthy snacks, a copy of Uppercase magazine, and various arty thingies.

I was really looking forward to taking one of Leighanna Light‘s book classes because she is, well, AWESOME, and because I learned so much about connecting found objects and working with metal in the class I took from her a few years ago, but her classes were canceled. I looked for Helen Hiebert, who is huge in the papermaking world and I simply wanted to meet her, but her classes didn’t make either. So hopefully this retreat will become more popular as it matures and more people learn about it.

One other note before I get on to the other photos…this was the first time that I took the bus round trip from Westminster, a suburb of Denver, to downtown. It was an easy, clean, flawless experience. I heard good things about Denver’s new light rail system too. Although the train trip to the airport is a bit pricey, it still beats the price of a taxi or renting a car, and costs less than paying for parking downtown.

^^^Since Leighanna’s class was canceled on Sunday, I spent an extra day painting and printing papers in Elizabeth’s class. I didn’t mind, because I love doing this. I went as fast as I could without overthinking. The only things I kept in mind were the colors I might need for the collage and layers. Lots of layers. I used old book pages, dictionary pages, sheet music, map pages from a book about Colorado mining towns, washed and dried coffee filters, handmade papers, and the backs of some of the papers I painted and printed in Albie Smith’s class at An Artful Journey in 2011.

^^^Some of Elizabeth’s demonstration papers using alcohol droppers and spritzing with liquid dish soap on top of wet paint.


^^^Beautiful art installation to which the attendees were asked to decorate a tag and hang.

^^^Because the nearly full moon was huge over the weekend and I could still see it hanging over the mountains each morning, I hoped to do this painting as a collage after my apple. But time ran out. I’ll do it here in North Carolina.

^^^Everyone in class painted an apple before class in acrylic on a firm surface such as a canvas covered mat board or wooden panel. Elizabeth wanted us to work with a simple shape where we would learn about light and shadow. I’ll work a little more on my background, but my apple is done. Even though two people told me they thought it was a pumpkin. o_O

^^^More Denver scenes.