Saturday, 28 June 2008

Looking back, moving forward

My First Book

The last week or so has been swamped here: I was rushing around, getting things finished before I head for Olds College tomorrow, and somehow managed to sprain my right thumb.

Normally, that wouldn't be insurmountable, but when I tried to transfer over my lovely, edited and ready-to-print handouts for my classes from my ancient PC laptop to my new(er) Mac desktop, the floppy drive on the laptop died. Totally.

sigh So rather than just take me a morning to transfer everything over and format it, I spent too many days having to retype everything in, taking frequent pauses to rest my hand.

And then I discovered I needed to reknit one of my samples: more stress on that hand wasn't what I really wanted or needed.

But it's all done: the handouts have been printed and stapled, ready for my students, and the washed sample is drying.

While searching for something to take with me for show-and-tell, I came across the first book I ever made myself: the archival album pictured above. Although I brought it home with a paper "bead" I had made from the scraps of my cover paper, there was something about it that didn't really get me excited.

So I dug through my stash for some roving I knew I had in matching colours, and felted up my own "bead." Wasn't thrilled to have to take apart the binding and resew it -- sewing anything isn't my strength, although I get less frustrated with books than I do with anything else -- but it worked nevertheless.

It's got some "issues": there are some glue spots on the cloth, and if you look inside, my linings could have been better, but all of that is in hindsight now....

Portfolio finished, with contents

The other major project I did finish was the portfolio I had started at the end of my two weeks with Don Rash, and I'm rather pleased with how both the book and the portfolio turned out. The best part was when I took the portfolio out of my makeshift press after drying, placed the book inside, and then folded it up.

Mirabile dictu, it fit! And here's an overhead shot of it open: it's pretty fiddly work (nine pieces of meticulously trimmed bookboard and huge pieces of bookcloth), but it sure looks nice when it's finished.

Portfolio finished, and open wide

I get back from Olds late on Wednesday, after taking my Level 2 Fleece Judging course and teaching two knitting classes. Stampede starts Friday, and I'm doing my usual shifts in Ag-tivity in the City, spinning on my drop spindle or knitting away.

And next Saturday is the start of the Tour de France: despite the drug scandals, it's still a grand spectacle. This year, I have extra incentive to watch: I've joined the Tour de Fleece on Ravelry (sort of Facebook for fibreheads). As the guidelines say: they spin, we spin.

By the time the boys roll down the Champs-Élysées, I hope to have all the yarn ready for My Past Life and Family Ties, and enough linen bookbinding thread (my big challenge for July 23, when the Tour finishes at the summit of L'Alpe d'Huez) to last me until the end of the year.




Thursday, 19 June 2008

Floating in the void

The Currach Between Light and Dark - Front
I really haven't done much book work since I returned from my two weeks in Pennsylvania: between readjusting from the brain overload of being there, dealing with a part-time job that had grown tedious (and that I've since walked away from), coping with the horror of a fellow alumnus going postal and killing his family, and receiving a visit from my in-laws, there just hasn't been the mental space to focus.

But last week, I finished The Currach Between Light and Dark (pictured above) as my second entry to CyberFyber, Susan Lenz's show at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios, 808 Lady Street, Columbia, SC, USA from January 8 through 20, 2009. She's as pleased with the pieces I've produced for the show as I am: they've given me a chance to play around with fibre, try things I'd never done before, and look at what I do as an artist in a different light.

Both pieces I submitted combine knitting -- something I've done for more years than I like to remember -- and felting, which is a relatively new craft I'm starting to mess around with more, and it's been an enjoyable process that I find I'm carrying over into my bigger, and more complex, works.

Working on Currach has also given me the impetus to finish off a project I brought back with me from Pennsylvania: a folding portfolio for one of my case-bound books. I had cut all the bookboard I needed there on Don's board shear, and brought back enough matching bookcloth, but hadn't managed to create enough time in one block to do all the gluing-up.

And there was a certain trepidation as well: I had been using hide glue to attach my bookcloth when I was in class, and really enjoyed using it. To finish the portfolio, I decided I wanted to use the nearest equivalent that I could manage working in a small space here at home, where I try to use only ingredients that are non-toxic (it's a challenge, believe me!).

That meant learning how to make glue from gelatine, a food-safe and refined version of hide, which is how I ended up spending my afternoon yesterday. While a little nerve-wracking and pretty time-consuming, it turned out rather well, I think: of the twelve corners I had to cut and turn-in, only three were not up to my standards, and I repaired them with tiny patches (and a wee bit of PVA) this morning.

Next step: glue in the last two lining paper pieces (the rest of it is lined with bookcloth), using the miraculous cornstarch paste recipe I learned from Don: once they dry, I'll take pictures.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

If you go out in the woods today....

you might run into this guy heading off to his picnic.

A Sunday drive down Smith-Dorrien Road south of Canmore was remarkably not rainy (we've been trying to decide between various sizes of arks here lately) and silly me forgot to grab my camera.

Thankfully, I was able to borrow one, and snapped this picture of a very healthy male grizzly bear not far from the junction with Highway 40 (I've tagged this picture on Flickr, if you're curious as to where he's hanging out: just click on the picture and look at my map).

He looks to be seven or eight years old, as he's full-grown, but not excessively grizzled: a very handsome fellow having his Sunday perambulation.

While the weather has been mostly cold, dull, dreary, and wet, I've been much less so in disposition, even with having to clean up our home for visitors. What I Felt (pictures below) has been accepted at fibreEssence Gallery for their show in conjunction with the Vancouver Memory Festival.

What I Felt, The Enclosure
What I Felt, The Book

I've also need to decide what I want to submit to an upcoming Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild show in Montreal, and figure out if I want to apply to another show in Denver and/or a residency opportunity near Calgary soon (the latter two have a June 20 deadline). Not surprising, I've quite pleased that my work is starting to get out there more than just to local shows.

My handouts are almost finished for my two classes for Olds College Fibre Week 2008 and I'm well on my way to creating at least one new course to propose for next year's event (hint: it will be sock-related!). It would be an understatement to say that I'm looking forward to going at the end of the month.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Gymnosperms on my mind


Plants that reproduce by cones, for you non-biological types

Two years ago, I took a wonderful course in making my own paste papers from Susan Kristoferson, and she encouraged us to bring found items to use in decorating our papers -- one of the things I took was a collection of cones collected from some fir trees in my neighbourhood.

While I liked the resulting paper, there really wasn't much of it, so it has sat in my paper stash (as opposed to the spinnable fibre stash, or the hand-knitting yarn stash, or the machine-knitting yarn stash) waiting for the right project to come along.

I've found inspiration in the recent rebroadcast episode of Landscape as Muse that featured the work of Jeane Fabb, who worked with performance artist Tedi Tafel to create Seedkeepers, a scuptural work in snow that Jeane eventually filled with pine cones.

One thing she said in particular fired up my idea lightbulb: Cones are the past, the present, and the future, and I've been exploring that thought while collecting cones, taking pictures, and hiking among conifers. It's rapidly rising up my list of projects to work on soon.

Looks like I found a home for that nice piece of paste paper.

And I found a vital element today for another book I've titled spirit level: it's important to work on it now, before the immediacy of a recent murder/suicide here in Calgary (committed by a student who was about to graduate from the faculty where I am an alumna) dissipates.

My spirit needs levelling....

Books for Sale

The shop is currently empty.