art retreats, book arts, National Wildlife Refuges, North Carolina, Pocosin Arts School of Fine Craft

Pocosin Arts School of Fine Craft

20220612_194148This week I attended Pocosin Arts School of Fine Craft to study again with Daniel Essig. This class was a second repeat of a class that I’ve taken with him before about wooden covers and mica pages. Every class has been a bit different though, with different tools available. I always learn new information. Too much information!

I’m going to post photos of my works in progress here, but later when the weather is not calling me to go outside (it is a rare cool breezy morning here) I will post photos of the finished books and some of the pages inside. Maybe a video if I can get it set up correctly.

Columbia is a tiny, beautiful little riverside town on the banks of the Scuppornong River, which empties into the nearby Albemarle Sound. If you keep going a little farther east on Highway 64 it will take you to Manteo and then the Outer Banks. It is home to the headquarters of the Pocosin Lakes Wildlife Refuge and a red wolf reintroduction and education center. There were at least two bear sightings while I was there and one was on the boardwalk that I walked on my first evening there on Sunday.


Monday morning we began class and we were able to use several power tools and hand tools in Pocosin’s wood shop. I pushed myself to get past the fear of the power tools, although I am pretty comfortable with a drill. I was more nervous about getting the diagonal angle on the spine edge of the wooden covers right. Turned out that I was pretty good at it after a little bit of practice. We also had access to some great woodburning tips that Dan brought with him. Dan provided milk paint in ten different colors, and we painted over our distressed and burned covers with layers of milk paint, then sanded and polished them.

Much of the class was spent on preparing the mica covered pages, but I concentrated more on getting some other wood covers that I had bought from Dan in the past beveled on the sander and drilled. My mica covered pages were pretty simple affairs, and I will photograph them best I can later for the blog. They are shiny.

My work area did not stay this neat:


Pretty papers to choose from:


Covers before binding, and spine bound before the endbands were added.


The original idea was that I would nail the mica windows down with tiny nails. It makes a really elegant finish and I was excited about it. However, when I tapped in the last nail at the top of the window, the board cracked. Dan repaired it for me with wood glue, but it meant no more hammering on the cover. So I changed the mica window to a thicker piece at his advice, and anchored it down with double-sided tape and blue Lofta paper. I will probably rework this cover because I have some other ideas now. I did get the end bands on it, although I need more practice.


The first book we made was paperback with a small concertina fold to sew and glue the pages onto. Later we attached light wooden covers. 20220619_092540

When I had spare moments, I worked on the covers for the next book, which I am pretty excited about. I didn’t really have a plan for it except that I knew that I wanted to sew this piece of dried greenbriar vine to it. On the back in a mica window is half of either a hickory nut or a butternut that I found washed up on the shore of Lake Waccamaw. My plan is to leaf print handmade paper pages for this one, but I’m also tempted to make some mica encased page blocks that are thick enough to hold some of the tiny treasures that I collect at the lake. I could do both.


Grand Teton National Park, Idaho, Idaho-Wyoming trip, Montana, National Parks and Monuments, National Wildlife Refuges, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park

Saturday: Yellowstone to Soda Springs, Idaho

^^^The inlaid wooden map that gives the Map Room in Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel its name. The Carolinas were very much on my mind.

Saturday was another day of perfect weather. We left Mammoth Hot Springs Terrace behind and drove north to Gardiner, Montana, for coffee and breakfast at the Two Bit Saloon and to fill the gas tank, since Montana gas was cheaper. Then we drove south on the same road we had been on the day before, except we kept going at Yellowstone Falls through the Hayden Valley. Trumpeter swans swam in the river below us.

We stopped at the general store at Yellowstone Lake for coffee, ice cream, and a hot dog. This is a HUGE lake. A lot of this area is still coming back from the big fires several years ago. We decided we didn’t have time to see Grand Prismatic Spring and the West Thumb Geyser Basin. Too bad, but that’s a reason to come back. 🙂

A quick stop at Lewis Falls and down John D. Rockefeller Memorial Highway through Grand Teton National Park again. This time I saw the beginning of a wildfire in a canyon that turned major after we left. I think it is called the Roosevelt Fire. We listened to KHOL community radio from Jackson Hole and a New Wave program that was great for the drive.

We stopped at the National Wildlife Art Museum to see the sculptures and I bought a beautiful coffee mug with an aspen design in the gift shop there.

We drove through Jackson and south on Hwy 89, along the Snake River Canyon where we had rafted on Tuesday. Near Etna, we decided to take Hwy 34, a back road through the Caribou-Targhee National Forest and past Gray’s Lake National Wildlife Refuge. I’m so glad that we did because it was absolutely lovely. It also was a part of the Oregon Trail, as many of these older roads seem to be.

In Soda Springs, Idaho, we were hungry and tired. We ate at a restaurant that I won’t name, because I don’t recommend it, and settled down in our room at the Caribou Lodge, an older hotel/lodge that was very inexpensive and comfortable and clean and had friendly staff. I recommend it if you don’t need air conditioning. I find these old hotels charming and I wish that more of them had survived here on the East Coast.

Georgia, National Parks and Monuments, National Wildlife Refuges, Savannah

Savannah, Georgia

We went to Savannah, Georgia for the first time on Sandy’s birthday, and here are some photos. We found a good deal on a little AirBNB apartment that was not in an expensive neighborhood, but had a lot of charm. The weather was perfect, and we left just as it turned cold for the first time this fall. Savannah was still cleaning up from the damage from Hurricane Matthew.

Here’s the most photographed fountain in America, I believe I was told…

A ghostly Sandy

We spent some time at Savannah River National Wildlife Refuge. The nature drive was through a former rice plantation. I guess that alligators and Spanish moss just isn’t exotic to me – having grown up in the southern swamplands, it seems like home. This gator seems awfully bony. Maybe someone had been feeding it because it started swimming toward me once it noticed me.

One day we drove to Fort Pulaski National Monument The Union forces were using cannons with rifled barrels for the first time and were bombarding from so far away they didn’t even know that they were hitting it. So it was a surprise for both the Confederates and the Union when the North won that battle.

Me and the Dude. Wish I could have afforded one.

The place I liked best was Bonaventure Cemetery. I’ll do a separate post for it.

art, art retreats, book arts, National Wildlife Refuges, North Carolina, Pocosin Arts Center

Pocosin Arts Cabin Fever Reliever

I spent a few days last week at Pocosin Arts Center in Columbia, North Carolina. My friend Susanne, who was involved with them when she lived in the area, scooped me up and took me to a four day class with Daniel Essig, “The Altered Mica Book.”

Dan Essig is one of my favorite artists and I’ve taken three other classes from him. If I lived a little closer to him I’d probably bug the crap out of him all the time. It’s good to catch him in North Carolina, and his classes fill quickly. He and I connect on the “cabinet of curiosities” type work. I love searching for quirky or even ordinary objects and squirreling them away for my own little museum. Maybe I should have been a Victorian. My house is full of pebbles and shells and feathers and sticks.

We stayed with some artist friends of Susanne’s whose house was on the Albemarle Sound. It was filled with art and antiques and musical instruments and books. Piles of patchwork blankets for the beds, of which Carol said that she made one per year. We didn’t get to spend much time there, but this was a special place and Carol and I would be good hangout all the time buddies if we had a chance, I could tell.

Susanne and I took a lunchtime walk on the riverwalk at the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge center in Columbia on the Scuppernong River on the first day, where we saw a pileated woodpecker. That gave me a focus for my book in the workshop. My work almost always has a theme around place, and so I gathered stuff from the boardwalks and the bushes and the grounds and the refuge center to compose a book about the refuge, with Woody as the main character.

In the evenings, we gathered for a happy hour in the center’s gallery and then joined the other attendees at the Old Salt Oyster Bar down the street. We didn’t buy the meal plan for the retreat in an effort to save money, but their buffet looked delicious. We ordered off the menu and ate at the bar. I have to say that their gumbo was incredibly rich, some of the best I’ve ever eaten. The fried oysters were cooked perfectly, crispy, plump, and juicy. If you are planning to vacation near the Outer Banks and go down Hwy 64 to Manteo through Columbia, you should definitely give this restaurant a visit.

Here are some shots of the workshop and the books we made. We worked on them right up to the last minute and took home supplies to keep going. Dan’s workshops always leave me inspired and more skilled – if you are seriously into book art, I highly recommend that you study under him.

Each of us made a small book bound on an accordion fold to teach coptic stitch and to experiment in.

Some of my mica pages, pre binding. It is difficult to photograph mica! I still haven’t gotten a successful photo of my favorite page with the bee, cicada, and snail shell encased in windows.

Covers: We played with power drills and woodburning and nails and hammers and chisels and glue and paint and shoe wax and wire and ink. Fun stuff.

I want to call this guy Senor Seagull for some reason. Maybe Don Seagull?


Old thesaurus pages were in the background of several pages. I tried to pick the words carefully.

Anyway, I would like to go back to this retreat next year if possible. It’s at a bad time of year for me, though. I managed to get things done to take a couple of days off, work overtime ahead of time, all that, then I came back sick as a dawg and was home from work for another three days. Thankfully I’m recovering now and will get back into my studio this weekend, because I’m full of sweet inspiration.

Oh, and by the way, this blog will celebrate its eleventh birthday tomorrow. How about that!!!