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.

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.