book arts, dyeing, Nature printing

Natural dyeing on paper

Posting these photos before I forget again! It’s been over a week since Susanne and I pulled these bundles out of a dyepot with black walnuts and a bunch of leaves we didn’t use inside the bundles. We didn’t put a lot of effort into this – it was just fun.

Susanne tried a long roll of handmade hemp paper wrapped around a copper pipe. I rolled commercial papers that I think were cotton based around copper pipes with various leaves, and a small stack of watercolor scrap pieces with sheet metal and grape leaves layered between them and bound with rubber bands between two small wood pieces.

We had some successes and some disappointments – I really expected prints from the fig leaves – but all of it was fun.

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, Focus on Book Arts, Nature printing, Oregon

Focus on Book Arts – Surface Design on Metal and Paper

I have so much fun with Leighanna Light’s techniques that I decided to take both of her classes at FOBA this year. I took a break on Friday because I have finally learned that I cannot go full charge for five days at an art retreat without falling apart before the end. Kathy went home. So that was the day I roamed around town by myself and took photos. Susanne and I sent three boxes full of stuff that we bought or no longer needed for classes back home by Priority Mail. I repacked everything and left the suitcase with one wheel in the garbage can.

On Saturday, Judy joined my class, so it was nice to reconnect with her. She gave me an accordion flag style book she made with her handmade paper and photos she took of the textures at Yellowstone National Park. Such a nice memento of our time together there. I’ll post a photo later. Also sitting at our table was Virginia Sumner, attending her first art retreat. She was kind enough to give us a ride back to the MAX line station so that we didn’t have to lug bags too far. You can check out Virginia’s artwork here. I love making new friends at art retreats, even though I didn’t try very hard at this one.

^^^On Saturday morning we concentrated on the techniques that would have to dry for a while. The first thing we did was make gesso photo transfers on metal. It’s a very simple technique but I always have problems with any kind of photo transfer. I think that I will try to rub a little more paper off.

^^^I had some extra tin so I played with gesso and stencils again.

^^^We went out and picked leaves to do leaf prints on copper and brass. This is a technique that Leighanna developed. The brass turned the copper a bluish color where they were stacked – or was it the copper turned the brass blue – aw heck, I’m mixed up, but it was cool. I think that the brass is the bigger piece.

^^^We spent the afternoon painting and stenciling and stamping watercolor paper with gesso, let them dry, then painted over them with dyes and chalk paint. I could do this for weeks and I don’t know why I don’t do it more when I am at home. I am resistant to getting paint on my hands and I hate gloves so I guess that is it, but if I am somewhere else in a workshop I am happy slapping wet stuff on paper and getting it all over me. I kept going back and adding more color here and there.

^^^The following day we tore our papers into signatures and bound them into a book with a canvas cover with a longstitch binding. I can make three more books with the extra signatures I made.

^^^Then came the tough decision – what metal plate to use on the cover? I would have been fine with several of these. It helped to cut down the leaf prints into smaller sections. Once I did that, one stood out and I went with it.

We attached the metal with a metal punch and little nuts and bolts. I originally bound the book with red thread to give it a pop, but after I attached the plate I rebound it with black thread. Part of the look was to hang ribbons and yarns and odd bits to the threads hanging off the spine. I like that kind of thing, but I didn’t go for it with either of my books. I preferred the simple look of the plain black thread on the spine, so I brought the ends of the threads to the inside as in a pamphlet binding.

I still need to glue the back and front papers to the cover, but I’m very happy with the results I had in both workshops. I don’t expect to come home with something that I am so satisfied with, because the idea is that I am learning and playing, so this was great.

Susanne and I flew back on the redeye from Portland to Greensboro late that night. PDX is a great airport, with good shops and restaurants at normal prices. I end this series with the amazing banh mi from Bambuza Vietnam Kitchen, which I washed down with a “Made Marion” marionberry cider from 2 Towns Ciderhouse. I will miss the food and drinks in Oregon.

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

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.

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.

More photos of the dyeing/bundling process:

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.