Monday, February 25, 2008

Alternative Media Expo

I just finished unloading the car after my whirlwind visit to New Orleans this weekend for Antigravity's Alternative Media Expo. The event was great; my Alabama-based collective talked to lots of talented, engaging, and unapathetic people. The interest that our table generated only reaffirmed my belief that New Orleans is the city for me, and that it really is the perfect place to establish a center for book arts in the southeast.


Some of the people we talked to were Sarah, a staff writer for Gambit Weekly, one of the city's alternative publications, Alison of Circular Accessories, whose screenprinted goods are gorgeous, and Lillian of Go Green Nola, who had lots of great information about the community and its potential for change. We were also interviewed for local radio station 91.5 WTUL. You will eventually be able to listen to a streaming version of it here.

Overall, the weekend was a success, and I'm really excited about returning soon to teach workshops on sustainable papermaking at home, bookbinding, and maybe even some letterpress. But that's all to come. In the meantime, I'm working hard on the new book; the paper (a linen and wool blend) is made, and I'm in the final stretch of designing. I should be at the Vandercook printing within the next two weeks. I'm excited about how easily I've been able to accommodate my changing vision throughout this process, and I'm sure this will show in the finished piece.

Finally, now that I have enough of a blog to show people, I'm going to begin weekly book arts tutorials. This Friday, I'll post instructions for making paste paper. I plan for these tutorials to be cumulative, so the skills demonstrated in earlier installments will turn up in later projects.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I left my camera with the mules

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to Gordo, Alabama to make paper from mule dung. It was fun, it was dung-y, and it was exhausting. So of course amidst the hasty clean-up process, I forgot to put away my camera. Now I'm in Tuscaloosa with lots of newly completed books and quilt squares in progress that are just waiting to be captured on a memory stick, and my trusty camera is 35 miles away.

If I weren't such a busy girl, I would have already gone back to retrieve it. I like Gordo; it's the home of people I love and respect, and the countryside is really beautiful. But the duties of school and home accost me daily, and by the time I have a spare moment, I'm too tired to make the drive just for a camera.

My inability to take pictures has me shamelessly culling pictures from my flickr account to place here. I guess I could write some posts that don't require illustration, but the blogs I like the most are the ones with lots of pretty pictures.

I'm also regretting events I should have blogged about, like my birthday, and the delicious red velvet cupcakes I made myself to celebrate the event. I concocted a cream cheese-white chocolate ganache icing to top them with. They were awesome.

red velvet cupcakes 1

I also made a baked alaska that refused to ignite and wow the throngs of people at the party, so I will never speak of it again. (Or at least until I make a sucessful version). I keep meaning to bake more cupcakes, but that lack of time thing keeps interfering.

Monday, February 18, 2008


I've got a small paper quilt on view at the Brooklyn gallery/boutique, Greenjeans. The show is called "Under-Cover," and features clay beds made by artist Jane Kaufmann, as well as a number of small quilts by various artists. I'm sharing gallery space with some amazing fiber artists, which means the work is amazing.

My contribution to the show is "How to Mend," a book/quilt/collage made entirely of paper I've made over the past year. Some of the fibers represented are raw flax, linen, bananna, cotton, ginger lily, and alabama kozo. The papers are embroidered and letterpress printed. Here's the finished result; it's my first paper quilt, but it was so much fun, I might do a series of related pieces. It's a great way to use smaller offcuts of my precious handmade.

If you're in the Brooklyn area, the show will be up until March 20th. Or you can check it out here.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

knitting + book arts = love

lace line art
Originally uploaded by mightcould
I have a problem with knitting. I can't leave my house without stuffing at least on work in progress into my bag, and I have been know to avoid other, more pressing, responsibilities in order to finish a few more rows of a sweater or master traveling cables.
Even last fall, when I forced myself to declare a moratorium on knitting, I still managed to finish a sweater, a pair of cabled knee socks, and a scarf. I knit and I knit, and I never reached the point where I could knit no more.
I'm no longer interested in denying myself yarn and needles, so the book I'm currently working on requires hours of knitting. I'm beginning with lace, since that is the subject of my book. Since the beginning of this month, I've been making lace swatches, blocking them, and turning them into line art with the help of my friends the scanner and the computer. This is a rough sample of what a finished piece will look like. Of course, when I divine it into a photopolymer plate and letterpress print it, the result will be very different. I promise.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Kozo will break your heart

cleaning kozo
Originally uploaded by mightcould
One of my recent papermaking ventures was making Alabama Kozo Paper. It's a process I've never attempted alone, and certainly not something I should have accelerated into an exhausting three-day venture, but I did manage to get 80 okay sheets out of the endeavor.
Stripping the fiber is itself a challenging process; I spent about eight hours with soggy hands trying to get as much chiri from my kozo fiber as possible. I ended up with some "dirty" kozo, so obviously I wasn't as meticulous as I could have been, but by the time I decided to stop, I had cuts and blisters on both hands. I think my wounds are testament enough to my valiant efforts.
Every other step of the papermaking process is just as time-intensive as stripping the fiber. After a 45 minute cook, I spent about three hours hand beating my fiber, and one that was finished, the actual papermaking took two days.
I'll be attempting to make shifu, a paper yarn, from my finished sheets and create some sculptural knits. It will require a lot of starch, my trusty drop spindle, and a willingness to make some mistakes. It'll be okay as long as I can get just enough yarn for the project I'm planning.

Papermaking Spree

These next few months are all about making paper by hand; since the end of January I've been pulling sheets like a madwoman, and it's only just beginning. I've got books to print, and before that can happen, I've got to have the paper on which I will be printing.
Of course, it would be easier to buy the paper for my books (imagine, no endless hours of cutting linen and cotton thrift store finds into 1" squares, no more soggy galoshes and dripping felts) but making paper by hand allows me that much more control over the outcome of my book. I begin with raw(ish) materials: linen sundresses amassed from multiple trips to local thrift stores, plants gathered from local sources, and sometimes even hand-pigmented wool roving. What happens in the papermill, the cooking, pulping, and recombining materials until they form sheets, is an almost alchemical process. The finished sheets tell the story of how I prepared my pulp, how I practiced my shake, and how I monitored the drying process. It's a story that a machine-made sheet of bugra or biblio cannot tell. However perfect those sheets are, their story is climate-controlled, digitally monitored, and lacks the pulpy hands and sloshing that come with doing it yourself.