art, Art & Soul, art retreats, fiber art

Art & Soul Virginia – Melanie Testa

When I left Melanie Testa’s class Soy Wax Batik on Monday, the last day of Art and Soul, I felt like I had made a friend. This class was so much fun and stress-free. I rolled my pieces of wet painted fabric in a roll of freezer paper and brought them home to finish off. But, honestly, if I had not HAD to leave, I could have gone on doing this for hours more.

And I will, because I bought soy wax, a fry-daddy to melt the wax in, and I’ve already trotted out my potato mashers and have been seriously trolling eBay for rosette irons. Anything that you can dip in hot wax is game for this activity. Pieces of foam, wire, cookie cutters…one of the class’s favorite tools was a ravioli cutter.

Unfortunately, once I got home and ironed the wax out and washed my pieces, the colors were not nearly as vibrant. I am still happy with them, but I understand Melanie’s complaint about not being satisfied with her results with acrylic paint now. I threw out my Procion dyes a few years ago in some kind of insane fit – don’t ask why, I was in a very bad place – so now I need to reorder some to use for batik. I used to dye ikat for weaving and I’m kind of looking forward to having purple hands again. I found a very inexpensive web site for Dye-na-flow and Procion dyes at TN Art Supply so I think that I’ll use them.

I just love Melanie’s blog, Every Single Day, and her book “Inspired to Quilt” will inspire you to quilt! I just need to make friends with my sewing machine again and get over this tendinitis. Until then, I can batik and dye fabric though. Wheeeeeee!

Here are some of my samples. Each of the first three pairs have a before and after photo. The last two are just the finished products. I learned a lot from this class, even though I have worked with batik before. It was a long time ago and it turns out that I needed the refresher.

art, Art & Soul, art retreats, book arts

Art & Soul Virginia – Albie Smith

Saturday night was vendor’s night at Art and Soul. I don’t handle a crowd well, so I got in and out of there pretty quickly. Dan Essig was vending (not teaching) and he said that the company near Asheville where he bought his mica had gone out of business. I bought some very translucent sheets from him, and I hope that he bought enough from that company to sell mica sheets for a long time! I just started using my hoard of mica to make books for sale.

I also bought some colorful yarns spun from recycled saris and banana fiber. Don’t know what I’ll do with them but I’m tired of resisting the urge to own them. If I just hold them in my hands it will be worth it.

And I bought a small book made by Albie Smith, whose class I would take on Sunday. I spent an hour and a half cutting bookboard and tearing Stonehenge paper in preparation for the class that night, since I waited until the very last minute and almost forgot about it altogether!

Albie is a bookbinding instructor who is much in demand, as I found to my dismay when all her classes were filled early. I had heard so many people rave about her that I was thrilled when she opened up more seats in her classes, and I managed to nab one in her Episodic Journal class. Her use of fearless rich color is breathtaking.

Again, I spent the morning painting paste papers, but with the different tools and items available to us my results were quite varied from Diana’s class. Albie and Christine, her daughter, circled the classroom and offered advice and help when needed. We designed papers for the covers, inside and out, and four signature covers to go inside the text block. The text papers were painted with a quick acrylic wash. I swear that the papers I spent the least time and effort on were the most beautiful! I guess that there might be a lesson in that, but maybe it was just luck.

We made spine covers with bookcloth, which I had not done before, and it made me very enthusiastic to make my own bookcloth when I got home. Doing so at home this past weekend, I recalled a very important lesson. Be very careful to keep the glue off your hands and your work surface so that you don’t get spots on the bookcloth. It is much easier said than done. In the class, Albie called this mistake “a collage opportunity.” I spent Sunday trying to salvage what I screwed up on Saturday. Next time I will have a cleaner workspace and be more mindful of my process when I do this.

Anyhow, here are photos from the class. Albie is an awesome teacher and I will try to get into other classes of hers one day! Her blog is Adventures in Albie Land.

A classmate binds her book.

The books above: all from the class!

The book above was Terri’s first book. Ever. I loved her patterns and textures.

Another beautiful creation from a classmate.

I think the book above was my absolute favorite of all my classmates’ work, although I was blown away by nearly everything done in this class.

This classmate’s binding is still in progress, but aren’t the covers gorgeous!

MY book from the outside above, and from the inside below.

Albie and me!

art, Art & Soul, art retreats, book arts

Art & Soul Virginia – Leighanna Light

Traci Bunkers’ class was Friday night after the flag book class. I was pretty sick on Friday, and although I thoroughly enjoyed the class, it took all my stamina to get there and make the printing rollers. I didn’t take photos, but I will when I start playing with the groovy printing tools I made and I’ll blog it then. That night I seriously doubted that I would be able to do the Saturday class, “Vintage Metal Deck,” and my suspicion seemed to be confirmed when I awoke at 5 a.m. with a migraine.

At 8:30 a.m., I dragged my ass out of bed, swallowed a bunch of pills, slogged my way to the coffee, then stopped in Leighanna’s class to tell her that I wanted to get any materials and handouts, and I’d try to stay a little while and watch, but I highly doubted that I’d be able to stick around.

Then I saw her samples for the class.

“Let me go upstairs and get my supplies,” I said.

My headache dissipated after a couple of hours, and it was totally worth sticking it out. At the end of the day, I was feeling great and had more energy than I have had in weeks. To think that I almost skipped this class. Wow. I can hardly wait for a chance to take another class with Leighanna Light, Thingmaker.

The best thing that I learned from this class was that working with metal is not hard and I wouldn’t need to buy a lot of extra stuff for it. Although I did order a Crop-a-dile when I got home. That thing is da bomb. I lurved it and I can’t wait for it to get here. I will be making some very cool little metal-covered books with the inspiration that I got from this class.

Leighanna’s demo

Above: One of Leighanna’s sample decks. Next two photos, my classmates’ workstations.

Below: My work area. Another reason I am thrilled about this class – suddenly I feel comfortable with working with found objects in this manner. I haven’t felt that way, except in Dan Essig’s classes, and it is definitely a direction that I’ve been wanting to take for some time.

The bottom photo is of some of my cards. I have to tell you about the one on the right. I have been haunted by the children in Lewis Hines’ photographs of child textile mill laborers from the early 20th century. I felt good about this little girl because I removed her from her spinning machine, gave her a teddy bear (albeit a crude clay one hanging in a wire hoop) and on the back, a cute boyfriend.

Later I’ll make an effort to photograph these cards front and back and post them again. There are a lot more photos of my classmates’ work at my Flickr site.

art, Art & Soul, art retreats, book arts

Art & Soul Virginia – Diana Trout

Oh, how I love this lady with the wry wit and down-to-earth vibe and cozy friendly demeanor. Every person I meet who has met Diana Trout raves about her. I feel so fortunate to have taken her class and had drinks and dinner with her and Melanie Testa. Oh, it was not a surprise – I have her book Journal Spilling and I listened to a podcast interview that she did with Ricë at the Voodoo Cafe.

On Friday, I took her Flag Book class. We spent the morning painting and stamping and scraping and stenciling paste papers for the book, and then the afternoon was spent making the covers and spine and attaching our pages. The book is not only a feast of color but makes a satisfying fluttery noise as it expands to its full glory. I will definitely be using this structure to make some photo albums.

Diana’s blog is Hub Bub. Here are some photos from the class.

Oh yeah, I like that book verra much indeed.

art, Art & Soul, art retreats, book arts

Art & Soul Virginia – Carla Sonheim

Hmmm, how do I blog this art retreat? Because I can’t find words to fit the experience. It was a particularly successful and inspirational trip for me. All of my classes were amazing and I would take classes again from any of these teachers in a heartbeat! One day at a time, I suppose.

Thursday, my first class, “Junk Mail Artist’s Book,” was with Carla Sonheim. The concept was simple – take pieces of junk mail, roll them with thick gesso, paint a watercolor wash over the gesso, make pages of irregular sizes, and bind them. Then doodle over them in “Exquisite Corpse” style. In the Dada game “Exquisite Corpse,” one person would start a sentence, the next would add a word or phrase building on it, repeating until you have a complete, nonsensical sentence. When playing with drawing, the drawing would cross two or more pages, and then the page with the partial drawing would be completed. Oh well, it is simpler done than said. We did drawing exercises to loosen up our whimsy and our penstrokes.

This was some serious, inner child channeling fun. Here are some photos from the class. I didn’t finish mine, so most of the artwork here is by my fabulous classmates. But I have almost finished mine, I promise!

Check out Carla Sonheim’s blog. What a lovely woman.

Update: here is my book, perhaps infinitely in progress. It is just too much fun to play with abandon in this book.

art, Art & Soul, art retreats

Art & Soul Virginia – Day One

I’m here in Hampton, Virginia, getting ready to go to my first class at Art & Soul. This year the theme is Alice in Wonderland.

Roomie Stephanie got in late last night, and our suite is filled with art supplies. I gave up trying to carefully organize and pack and chose to throw most of my studio in my car. So I spent a couple of hours last night sorting through and getting my supplies ready for class today.

Finally got to meet Ricë and the EGE of Notes from the Voodoo Cafe fame. The first thing she commented on was my Southern accent. And she’s from TEXAS! Then Stephanie commented on not being used to hearing it. It’s weird because I spent a long time obsessing over my accent, and then, thankfully, embraced it. I don’t really notice other regional accents – I guess because of almost fifty years of watching TV and working at a university that enrolls a lot of out-of-state students. Apparently mine stands out, and I’m going to take that as a compliment.

Today’s class will be with Carla Sonheim, making “Junk Mail Artist Books.” Doesn’t she look like fun? Hopefully I will have good photos and will blog it later.

art, Art & Soul, art retreats, book arts

Art & Soul 2009 part deux

Made in Traci Bunkers’ “Revival: Restoration to a Visual Life; An Awakening” class at Art & Soul, Hampton, Virginia, May 3, 2009. This recycled book cover is filled with all kinds of groovy papers and stuff, including a pamphlet from the 1956 Pennsylvania Dutch Festival in Pottstown, PA, music from a 1923 gospel book, and a kid’s atlas. I love this book. I want to cuddle up and sleep with it.

I love Traci Bunkers’ style, and I admire how she puts herself out there. I can’t share that much of my personal life, but I like it when others show their humanity because it makes me feel better that others share my emotions.

She does some really interesting things with photography too…



I’ve also put the link to her blog in my ever-increasing “Idea Farm” on the sidebar.

art, Art & Soul, art retreats, book arts

Art & Soul 2009

This is the book that I made in Chrissie Hines’ “Longstitch Variations” class at Art & Soul in Hampton, Virginia on Monday. The cover is made from Scrabble boards that were joined with Tyvek and then painted, stamped, and stenciled. The inside is bound with nice cardstock, which I proceeded to muck up with my paint and ink-covered hands, but I hope that I’ll paint in it anyway. Chrissie was a real sweetheart and made me feel loved, even though I was a pain-in-the-ass because I worked through my lunch and ahead of the others because I wanted to leave before rush hour and get home early enough to get my woodcut portfolio finished. (Turned out it was due today, duh.)

Anyway, as much as I think that this book is beautiful, I have a problem with using stamps and stencils made commercially or by other people and calling the art mine. I mean, I realize that I’m making the choices to put this together in my own particular way, but it violates my obsessive compulsive rules. My very “one”-ness tut-tuts this away as “very nice, but it ain’t art.” This bugs me a bit, because I’ve really tried to loosen up. All my rules had me very tightly wound. If I let myself, I could really go to extremes – where could it end? Would I have to make the paper, the bookboard, spin the linen thread, make the glass beads? Grow the flax for the linen? Gather dyes and pigments for the paint?

Despite all the neurotic OC thoughts, I had fun with it and Chrissie’s method of binding will be extremely useful to me in recycling and binding old books in a new life as journals and sketchbooks.

The other class I took was from Traci Bunkers, whose style is closer to my own. But I want to save that for its own post, with photos of the cover of that book. First I want to pimp up the spine with some beads and stuff.

I am so excited over this new technique. It has helped me get over the funk that another instructor left me in. He was there. Do you remember that scene in Animal House when Boon and Otter go into the roadhouse and yell “Hey, Otis! My man!” at the band, and the singer gives him a look like WTF are you? Yeah. Whatever. There are other teachers, and he’ll get old one day like everybody else.

I went to Ed McKay’s both nights since I’ve been back and raided the free shelf, this time looking more for the condition and size of the covers as well as content inside. Tonight I scored a bunch of National Geographics for collage. I didn’t find as many maps as I’d hoped, but it’s enough to keep me really happy and busy for a long time.

Art & Soul

Art and Soul

Tomorrow is the big day. I am nervous, as I always am before going on an art adventure. Or leaving home in general! I was letting the trade thing get to me a bit, which was silly because trades are optional at this retreat. It sounds cool and I’m taking a bag of goodies with me, but if I don’t feel comfortable with it, I don’t have to do it, so there. Part of it is that I don’t want to be tempted to bring home a lot of stuff. I wouldn’t mind just giving it away nearly as much. Isn’t that strange? The other part is that when I show my tapestries to some people, they aren’t all that impressed. I don’t want to give my little art children to a home where they wouldn’t be wanted. So we’ll see – I might bring them back and trade them over Flickr, where the person would know what he/she is getting.

I doubt that I’ll have time, but if we take a laptop I might blog once or twice from Hampton. I’ll be in classes Friday night, all day Saturday and Sunday, so probably not! I’m thinking that when I get out of class, it will be hot tub time in Virginia! I’m not used to staying in such a nice hotel (Embassy Suites). We usually camp on vacation or stay in places that are not expensive. We stayed at a motel one time where the clerk asked us if we wanted to rent by the hour. I’ll tell you, I checked that room out very carefully before I agreed to stay there, but I was exhausted and it was surprisingly clean.

I think that the most stressful thing about preparing for this trip was buying supplies. I didn’t have hardly any of them, and it cost me more than I thought that it would. Each class is very different so had a different set of supplies to bring. I found most of them, but not all. For example, I never could find a “Japanese paper drill.”

Sandy seems to be looking forward to going, so I feel better about that. He’ll be on his own most of the time. It will be nice to have a companion in the car and we always travel well together once I get over the jitters of leaving the house.

My hope is that I will come back with lots of new techniques and ideas under my belt, ready for an artful summer.