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

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.

North Carolina beaches, Wonderfulness

JoJo and Lauren’s Wedding

On Saturday Sandy and I attended a sweet wedding in a little coffeehouse on the riverfront in Wilmington, NC. My friend JoJo and I have been friends for longer than either of us can remember – probably since we were babies in the nursery at our church. Because same-sex marriage finally became legal in North Carolina a couple of months ago and we’re looking at an unfortunate political situation in DC come January, they hurried up their plans to get legally hitched. I’ve been an advocate for equal rights for a long time, so this wedding was extra special. This is one of the most loving couples I’ve ever known, and I got all sentimental and cried tears of happiness throughout the ceremony.

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Then Sandy and I stayed overnight at Shell Island Resort at the end of Wrightsville Beach. It’s showing its age a bit but it was nice to have an oceanfront room for about the same price as staying in town. I got 6000 miles for staying there too – paying for 1/4 of my next flight to Portland, so woo-hoo for that! I walked on the beach the next morning. Chilly, but pretty.

I thought about the difference in the West Coast beaches I’ve fallen in love with and these Carolina beaches I’ve grown up with. On the west coast, there are big boulders and mountains and cliffs and sea creatures on those rocks that make me look up and around and draw me in to explore the nooks and crannies. On our sandy beaches, my eyes are always looking down because there are so many cool shells and stones to gather. I’m not one of those people looking for perfect shells. I look for interesting textures and shapes, so the old worn-out pieces of conch shells with holes from starfish and barnacles and other sealife are my favorites. My friend Missy taught me some tricks for finding shark’s teeth. I did find one – can you spot it?

Wrightsville Beach

Wrightsville Beach

Wrightsville Beach

Can you see the shark's tooth?

Sandpiper at Wrightsville Beach

We joined the newlyweds and a few of their friends at the Oceanic for lunch (I highly recommend it!) and then came back to Greensboro, where the work on our house renovations should be wrapping up today.

North Carolina beaches, Wilmington

Jojo Hammond and a beach weekend, June 2013

The special word of the week was water. Lots of it. From the sky and all around us.

My vacation began with a drive through heavy rain and traffic to Wilmington, NC, where friends of Jojo Hammond turned out to support her gig at Ted’s Fun at the River that night. Jojo is one of my earliest friends. We took singing lessons together from Miss Alimae Temple and sang in church throughout our childhood. Our good friend Cristy joined us, along with Jojo’s fiancé and many friends. Jojo is a talented songwriter and writes most of what she sings. She was nervous on this occasion because she was singing some cover songs for the first time. I think that she did a great job with “Daniel” by Elton John. Her accompanist, Donna, who also did several solos, was in terrible pain and had spent the previous night in the emergency room, yet she insisted on going on with the show.

This video is of Jojo singing one of her original songs. Please excuse the poor quality. It is the fault of the novice photographer.

The folks at Elijah’s restaurant on the riverfront were wonderful to take a table of 18 just before their kitchen closed at 10 p.m., where we enjoyed each other’s company and good seafood for a couple of hours.

The next day we finally got a break in the rain and five of us went to Wrightsville Beach just down the road. I managed to get severely sunburned on my lower back because it was the only place I forgot about sunblock.

Where I shoulda stayed:

Wrightsville Beach, pier at the Oceana

Where I baked myself (that’s Cristy):

Wrightsville Beach

A winged rat:

Gull at Wrightsville Beach

Then I drove southwest through rain to Lake Waccamaw where my sister and brother-in-law have rented a small house on the lakeshore for their summer break, just four houses down the street from my cousin Fred’s place. (See next post.)