art, book arts, dyeing, Nature printing, North Carolina beaches

Leslie Marsh’s Nature Bound workshop

I do not have many photos from this workshop, a sign of excellence for me. It means that I was so much in the present moment that I forgot to take photos. It is generally hard to get into one of Leslie’s workshops because they fill quickly, but someone canceled and I took their place. Leslie Marsh has a beautiful home and studio on one of North Carolina’s barrier islands at Topsail Beach.

A trademark of Leslie’s book workshops is natural dyeing. She studied with India Flint and developed her own techniques of eco-printing. I particularly like Leslie’s method because she skips the mordanting step and puts everything in the dye pot. When we wrap our papers and fabrics with leaves around copper pipes, all we need to do is wet them and bind them tightly to the pipes. Then she pops them into her potion and they come out transformed. I have found that I do not like the mess of natural dyeing and so this is like heaven for me – the magic without the prep and clean-up. I am not fussy and precise. I enjoy the surprise.

This particular workshop was special because it definitely took me out of my comfort zone. We learned Leslie’s method for her metal book covers, which involves liquidified solder! Leslie is a wonderful, patient teacher and gave each of us individual help as we used these tools and methods for the first time.

We spent a cold Saturday preparing the dyed and leaf printed papers and wool felt, and metal covers for our books. Then we spent Sunday binding the books with coptic stitch, which I do so seldom anymore that I always need a refresher. The second photo of the finished book was taken by Leslie.

I took a little while during the lunch break on Sunday to visit the beach and collect some shells. I love the old worn out ones with holes in them. Sandy mostly stayed in our room at the Jolly Roger because he was sick on Saturday, but he revived on Sunday and drove around exploring while I finished my book. Our room was oceanfront, and I was really impressed with these surf fishers who were out there even late at night. Because he was sick we didn’t eat out Saturday night but we had appetizers and dessert at the Beach Shop Grill on Friday night. Their crab balls are exquisite. Expensive restaurant though. We couldn’t afford to eat there often if we lived nearby.

Anyway, I would take every workshop from Leslie Marsh that she offered if I could.

art retreats, book arts, dyeing, Mixed media art, North Carolina, North Carolina beaches

Ancient Wisdom


A couple of weekends ago, Susanne, Sandy, and I went to Topsail Beach for a long weekend. Sandy hung out by himself mostly while Susanne and I took a workshop with Leslie Marsh and Kim Beller called Ancient Wisdom. We stayed at the Jolly Roger Inn and Pier. The weather was a bit chilly and cloudy and it rained really hard one night but we got out on the beach a little. We had oceanfront rooms and that was nice.

We drove down on Thursday evening and ate dinner at the Beach Shop and Grill. With that name we expected hamburgers and hot dogs but it was a very expensive and wonderful restaurant. Sandy saved us by picking up the check. He had crab cakes that were divine. I am not sure that there was any bread in them at all. Susanne and I had shrimp and grits and I think that they might now be number one on my list of favorite shrimp and grits places.

In the morning, we indulged in doughnuts from the Fractured Prune. At this point I knew that there was no hope for my diet. When we went back to the hotel room, Susanne and I walked on the beach and picked up stuff, as you do, and after we went up to our rooms this guy showed up drawing fabulous runes on the beach in front of our hotel. Our own personal installation artist.

Friday afternoon was spent cutting our windows into bookboard and wrapping the covers with plaster gauze. They had to cure overnight.

When we got back to the hotel, the artist had finished.

Then we drove to Wilmington and ate dinner at one of our favorite places: Indochine. The rumors of its demise during Hurricane Florence are not true, thankfully.

The next day was dyeing day! Leslie had eight different natural dye pots going in her backyard and we spent most of the day dipping our book pages in them. What a great opportunity for overdyeing! I have never had access to so many colors at one time so I went nuts. I could not tell you the combinations on a lot of my pages, but I used indigo on most of them. Turmeric, avocado pits and skins, black walnut, and turmeric made good combinations too. Other dyepots held madder, yellow onion skins, red cabbage (which fades to light gray) and blueberries (also light-sensitive and fugitive). Honestly, I never guessed that you could get such beautiful natural dye results on paper.

We forced ourselves to stop and paint our plaster covers so that they would be dry by the time we bound our books the last day. I cut my mica too close to the edge because I was thinking that the plaster would be covering it. Stitching it that close to the edge ripped out through the sides so i improvised. Those sea oats were picked up off the road after the hurricane, by the way; no illegal picking of sea oats happened here. I scratched and stamped circles into the plaster to honor the art work I had seen on the beach – this is still a work in progress.

That night we ate at Sears Landing in Surf City near the bridge on the Intracoastal Waterway. This is a place where I will definitely return. All the weight I lost and more came back by the end of the night.

After dinner we went to Quarter Moon Books and Wine Bar  where the three of us and Pam, a friend we met at the workshops down here, had drinks and listened to some great acoustic music by The Doug McFarland One. (He is a hoot.)

On Sunday we bound our beautiful colorful signatures with longstitch (for using as warp for weaving later) and then put the whole shebang together with coptic stitch.

We didn’t have time to do the woven binding but I drilled holes in the back cover and I am working on embellishing this book further now.

Thanks, Leslie Marsh and Kim Beller for another exquisite workshop experience! Also to Bee Shay for spending her lunch teaching a few of us to wrap stones with macrame stitching for hanging. What a sweet weekend it was.

Back Forty, depression/anxiety, dyeing, fiber art, tapestry

Saturday morning coffee pot post

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A quick post before I go to the farmers market and buy some of that delicious corn from Rudd Farm.

I’m working on moving away from the hole. I’ve been circling it for a while and I don’t want to change meds. A higher dose worked but it also made my heart race, and that upped my anxiety considerably. Now I’m considering therapy to help me cope. The fact that I am writing this post shows that I am moving forward. I’m still feeling OC as hell, but I have been functional. The main thing I need to avoid is getting agoraphobic again. That’s a nasty downward spin.

I registered for this online tapestry class: Fringeless, co-taught by Sarah Swett, who I have worshiped as my favorite artist forever, and Rebecca Mezoff, who has become THE online teacher of tapestry. As much as I have shied away from online classes in the past, this seems to be the year for it.

Speaking of which, the photo at the top is of the progress of my stitched piece I’m doing for India Flint’s “Gardens of the Heart” collaborative project. We were assigned a number when we signed up – mine is the third line of a three line poem. I won’t know what the first two lines will be. There are several hundred people worldwide doing this and India will put the lines together in the exhibit. There will probably be a website and a book, which is good since the exhibit will be in Australia. The cloth is actually very blue because I dipped it in indigo after I printed it with leaves. The silk/cotton thread was tied around dye bundles too.

My friend Susanne wasn’t around to stop me, so I volunteered to help with Tapestry Weavers South’s social media accounts. This really shouldn’t be a problem for me, though. I’m not doing it on my own, so if I spiral out, I hope that I won’t feel any guilt. I got so burned out doing Slow Food and Sierra Club and Friends of the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market and trying to revive the weaver’s guild here about 10-15 years ago that it is taking me a long time to recover. The Friends of the Market was the worst experience ever. That group is now defunct because it got closed down by lies and crazy accusations in the local right wing press. So sad, and so typical of our times.

So, Tapestry Weavers South is basically the only group that I am involved in now, and I love the members of TWS so much that it will truly be a labor of love. I belong to the local chapter of the Sierra Club and Slow Food Asheville too, but I’m not an active participant in those groups.

Okay, it’s getting late and it’s getting hot. Time to go to the farmer’s market. Teaser: I am working on a few blog posts about my favorite books. It will be fun. And in conclusion, the groundhogs are leaving my basil and foxglove seedlings alone, so this bed will be beautiful next spring.

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art, book arts, dyeing, Nature printing, North Carolina, North Carolina beaches

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

This past weekend, Susanne and I went to a wonderful Zhen Xian Bao book class at Topsail Beach, NC, taught by Leslie Marsh and Kim Beller. The first day we spent natural dyeing with plant materials and indigo on paper and fabric. The next day was spent constructing the book, which is made with glue, scissors, and folding. The book structure is a traditional Chinese thread book made for the purpose of holding embroidery threads, needles, and the odd bits that might be kept for different projects. Ruth Smith researched this extensively and published books about it, and it is being taught by artists in the United States now. I took a class on this structure at Focus on Book Arts last summer, which I absolutely loved. Kim and Leslie put their own spin on it by adding more layers and the natural dye/shibori element. Of course, Leslie acknowledged the instruction of India Flint in her teaching of eco-printing techniques.

The big dilemma in making this book is that you have to sacrifice some images that you might love to be on the side that is glued down. The biggest one for me was the big box that makes the base and the cover. Both sides had their charms, but I had to pick one. The other can be seen on the bottom of the lowest box when the book is opened. I thought about embellishing the cover further, but I think that I will leave it alone other than brushing some Dorland’s wax medium on it to make it a little stronger and more weatherproof.

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

above: unbundling, trying out cover sides and the finished cover

I added the 70% silk/30% cotton thread to every bundle. I now have some dark and bright indigo threads to add to my tapestry, once I get them untangled. One groups of the threads I laid inside a bundle made a portrait of two humans. Fortunately I was able to preserve this image in the bottom of one of the boxes near the top.

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

More photos of the dyeing/bundling process:

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Update: I don’t do Pinterest too much – too overwhelming and I don’t need another rabbit hole. If you are into it, here’s a great board on the Zhen Xian Bao book structure.

Alchemist's Apron, Back Forty, critters, dyeing, Nature printing

Sunday brunch post

Coffee’s gone, eggs, cheese grits, and leftover chili devoured.

Listening to Michelle Wolf’s Netflix show in the background. She is really funny, but there’s a little too much screeching going on, so switching to Radio Heartland. Ah! Mountain Stage. That is perfect.

Today is muggy and damp but so far no rain. Sandy finally gave up and bought a new lawn mower yesterday.

I was amazed by two things this morning. One, the US Postal Service delivered my order from Pinetree Seeds that I ordered on Friday. On Sunday morning. On Memorial Day weekend. Two, I saw the groundhog on TOP of the fence munching on vines. Now I know that it can climb.

The Pinetree package contained small animal repellent spray, holographic flash tape, and indigo seeds. I sprayed the rocks and planters and landscape timbers and pots, since the rain is supposed to hold off until tonight. The motion sensor is working on human sized animals, but I’m not so sure about smaller ones. This repellent contains “Putrescent whole egg solids, mint oil, rosemary oil, and cinnamon oil.” Maybe it will helpful with the skeeters too.

Now I’m going to play in the studio today and tomorrow. Yesterday I only wove a little on my tapestry diary. Still wrapping my head around that and how to proceed, if at all. I dyed some iron/vinegar mordanted pockets in tap water with onion skins and the rest of the pitcher of red zinger tea. I wrapped up one with a sprig of deep purple plum leaves and another with the tea bags. The tea bags didn’t do much but the plum leaves worked blue magic. I soaked these in a really strong mordant for days so my colors are very dark. Love the olive color, though.

Pockets for my apron!

Oh yeah, I busted the back of my new smart phone a week ago, so it is now held together with packing tape. It shattered across the lens of the camera. Fortunately, the only thing wrong with my old one is that it doesn’t hold a charge very long, so I kept it. I can still use it for a camera and it hooks up to wi-fi.

I really can’t do much in this studio without cleaning up this mess, so I’m done here. I’ll post any progress on my little tapestry or the tapestry diary later. Tomorrow is another day off.