Tuesday, September 30, 2008

saff approaches

First, our finally-completed ad for saff. Sara and I worked hard at this all day yesterday, and I've finally decided it's ready to go. If you're going to the fair, check it out in the program guide!

I have less than one month to prepare for the southeast animal fiber fair. Am I nervous? Yes. I'm really, really nervous. It's been a challenge to balance my production schedules for book and fiber making, but I'm learning a lot about what sorts of things help me keep myself going.

For one thing, I've discovered that I'm so over the all-day-into-the-night schedule of insanity. If I get to take an early evening break to make dinner and spend a little time with Z before we both hit the books/fiber/paper, I'm a lot more inclined to complete my assigned evening tasks. In the spirit of ensuring our daily dinner breaks, we're starting to dilligently make a grocery list and meal plan every week and stick to it. Even though it's domestic labor, the planning pays off, because instead of eating out several nights in a row and getting stuck in the sandwich rut, we get to have collard greens and ginger-soy salmon fillets or pan-fried red cabbage and chicken sausage, turkey chilli with garbanzo and black beans or green been salad and balsamic chicken ... and I love the process involved in cooking.

When I was little, I would attempt to magic ramen noodles into something really delicious by adding an assortment of the McCormick spices from my Mom's pantry. My results weren't always delicious (okay, I don't think they ever were), but my experiments led, several years later, to my more serious study of spices and their appropriate uses. Now that I know what I'm doing, I feel like an alchemist in the kitchen, combining spices and herbs, tasting, considering, and adding more of something or the other. Cooking in this fashion makes me slow down and savor what I'm doing, to reflect on the day and what the evening might hold.

Something else I've discovered is that if I'm not out of bed by between 8:30 and 9:30, I will feel useless all day and lothargically drag myself from task to task. My proclivity towards working in the morning hours reminds me that yes, I am indeed grown up. Sleeping in is a weekend luxury, and something undergrads get to do with abandon. I think I'm alright with this fact; if I got to sleep in every day, I'd never actually savor the extra minutes in bed that special occassions allow.

Finally, I'm learning how to harness my frenetic energy and desire to bounce from one project to the next by building my weekly schedules around that tendency. This one is a work in progress, but by allowing myself to leave an overwhelming task for a while and do something (or a few things) else, I'm getting everything done. I try to keep the execution of each task methodical and well-planned, but that built-in allowance to stop and do parts of another task keep me from getting too bored.

Hopefully I'll be able to finish everything for the festival season, but even if I fall a little short of my goal, I'll know what is a realistic pace for me, and where I can improve my efficiency.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

boxes, batts, and paper

I've decided that when it comes to finishing my work, I should just never stop. I get more done that way. For example, since Sunday afternoon, I've been working tirelessly on preparing for SAFF and the Kentuck festival, and all my hard work really is yielding satisfying results. On Sunday, I finally got around to printing my fleece treats box lids. These cute little kraft boxes will be home to four ounces of yummy (and very different) fibers. I"m still looking forward to making paste paper dividers and a liner that identifies each fibers and provides space for note-taking before I begin packaging the fleece. Nevertheless, now that the labels are all printed, much of my work is done.

After my box-printing success, I decided to card some more arts and crafts batts. My pink BFL and silk from last week's dye session had finally dried, and so they became my next carding victims. My pile of finished batts is getting larger every day. Since last week I've done two "all the real girls" batts, with indigo dyed rambouillet, cochineal noily silk, strips of 1980s silk dress, and black alpaca, three of "first blush", with cochineal BFL and silk, a bit of purple-green BFL, and black alpaca, one "cosmos" with indigo BFL, black alpaca, noily silk dyed with wiltons, and other random scraps of wool, and a bright little batt I haven't yet named. I plan on doing one more "all the real girls" and "first blush", and I'm assembling supplies for "Paris Hilton sex tape." Hopefully that batch will be ready by next week! As always, I'm sorely tempted to just spin every single one of these batts myself, but I am strong! Now that I've gotten comfortable with my louet carder, every one of these girls are headed to SAFF, whether I like or not.

And as if I hadn't managed to get enough work done, between yesterday and today, I've made 40 sheets of lovely cover weight paper from cotton, linen, and silk. Here they are, drying in spurs. I'm planning on printing a couple of designs with wood type and linocuts on these pretty sheets. And then they'll become journals for Kentuck and SAFF. Tomorrow I'll be playing with paper some more and mordanting fiber. Go Heidi, go!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

workshop success

Yesterday I gave my first bookbinding workshop in Tuscaloosa since last May. In just under four hours, I taught my students how to create their own limp leather journals using only the most essential bookbinding tools. We tore down sheets of paper into folios with deckle edges, relied on bonfolders and our strength to reduce swell in our freshly folded sections, and used scissors and x-acto knives to complete the rest of our cutting. The only larger piece of equipment we used was a punching jig.

The structure I taught was based on historic models with long and link stitches, These structures originate from Northern Europe (especially Germany), and to a lesser extent, Italy and Spain. These stitches were commonly used for books that contained choir scores and academic texts. I taught a basic version of the long and link stitch but many more elaborate historic models exist, including those that feature leather and bone buttons, wandering link stitches, and wrapped long stitches along the spine. Nearly all of these limp bindings have reinforced spines, which ensure that the bookbinder can sew with enough tension and that the structure will be durable.

The long and link stitch is an excellent example of a structure that you can make without a full bookbinding studio. The stitch pattern looks just as beautiful when paired with hand-torn deckle pages as it does with more conventional board-shear-trimmed sheets. I can't wait to offer this class to a new set of future bookbinders, and show them how easily one can make beautiful books with modest tools.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

more fiber!

I spent most of today engaged in fibery activity, which, by default, means today's been excellent. I worked with a somewhat uncooperative cochineal dyebath; I tried mordanting and dyeing my wool simultaneously, and instead of the rich rasberry color I expected, I got at best, a darkish pink, and at worst, a washed-out baby pink. I almost despaired when an entire pound of rambouillet refused to hold much dye, but I am not one to despair. Instead, I called upon the trusty indigo vat to save from dissapointment. And oh, did she ever! Ten minutes submerged in the vat turned my lackluster roving into a lovely length of variegated cobalt blue and soft pink. It's shades are actually very similar to the skirt I decided to wear today. Perhaps there is a correlation between my chosen wardrobe and the colors my dyebaths will yeild. I think tomorrow I'll be wearing dark brown (for good luck with walnut dyeing) and red while I have another go at the cochineal.

Some of my other attempts with cochineal turned out acceptable. I now have about 8 ounces of deep pink BFL and some flicked targhee locks that look eerily like cotton candy.

While my dyebaths were busily simmering, I worked on flicking locks from the most beautiful Shetland fleece in the world. This fleece belongs to a sheep name Sybil Trelawney, who lives with the Ludlams at Windswept Farms. Her fleece is destined for many a great thing, including center stage in the artists book I'm planning to begin after I finish my current book project.

she's lovely, yes? I've never seen such a clean uncoated fleece. Never, never. Of course, I'm sure it doesn't help that most of my fleece buying has been carried out over ebay. I hope I've learned why not to buy over ebay, but I won't lie; I'm sure there will be fleeces in the future that are too tempting to not bid on, and then I will curse myself when I open a box of manure covered fleece filled with more VM than is worth my time.

Tomorrow I'm taking a break from flicking locks in order to bind a few more copies of Lace Stories. There are lots of great exhibition opportunities whose deadlines are coming in October, and I'd like to be ready sooner rather than later!

Monday, September 15, 2008

And the madness begins

It's September, which means I've got less than two months until the Southeast Animal Fiber Fair and the Kentuck Folk Arts Festival to prepare my wares, and finally, I feel like I'm making some progress. I celebrated my reunion with my drum carder last night by braving insomnia and carding the first arts and crafts batts I'll be offering for sale at SAFF. It was cathartic, and left me with these three lovelies.
I used generous portions of silk with natural neps, merino, bfl, alpaca, and pretty much anything else I could find lying around my studio. The batt in the center is my absolute favorite; it's base is indigo-dyed BFL. Everything I carder into this fiber just added to the batt's depth and texture. I am so tempted to spin it into some yarn for myself, but I am determined to save it for the fiber fair.
I've been working hard at scouring fleeces and planning for massive dye days, one of which will be happening tomorrow. I'm going to attempt to dye a few pounds of fiber with cochineal and walnut. I'm excited about having the new colors I'll have to play with once it's all dry.

Aside from SAFF prep, I've also started the Olympian task of making paper for my next book. Last week, I spent five days preparing pulp and pulling 200 sheets of paper. I chose to work with cotton and flax, and the resulting paper was well worth the effort.
I dried in spurs, so it's got a lovely watercolor texture, and it's a creamy golden shade. It will be perfect for the linoleum block illustrations I plan to print on it. Now that I've finished this edition of paper, I'm ready to begin preparing for the endsheets, which will be made from blue linens and cottons.

As if papermaking and fiber prep aren't enough to keep me busy, I'm also teaching some bookbinding workshops at One Night Only Artique this weekend and the following weekend. This week's installment will be on Saturday the 21st at 9:00 in the morning. We'll be making a limp leather journal with only the most basic of bookbinding tools. Next week I'll be teaching a two-day workshop on the secret Belgian import. In order to make myself seem all official, I've made a flyer for the latter event. I'm distributing as many of these as possible; I'd love to teach a full class!

I'm excited to see who enrolls in the classes, and if these are successful, Tuscaloosa can look forward to many more like it. This is especially true since the formation of the Why Knot Fiber and Book Collective, a group myself, fiber artist Beth of Whorlingtides, and Librarian Sara of PetuniaLu, recently founded. My bookbinding classes are some of the first we will offer under the umbrella of Why Knot Fiber and Book. I'm excited about what we'll be able to accomplish as a collective!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Alabama Llama and other news

I'm back! After three months working for tips and bringing book arts to the lovely people of the Connecticut shoreline, I've returned to Alabama. Which means, of course, that I'm preparing myself for even more book and fiber art activity than ever. It's time to begin work on a new book and gather my stength in preparation for the late fall fairs and festivals that I'll be attending. But enough about the good things that are about to happen; I want to write about my recent visit to a Llama farm in northwest Alabama and the bags upon bags of wool I returned with.

One of my friends discovered Cozy Cove Farm when she was gifted with a bit of wool from one of the farm's animals. She certainly made an incredible find, as Cozy Cove is a gorgeous expanse of pastures and barns populated by over 60 Llama!

We decided to visit Cozette and her Llamas on Labor Day. I can't think of a better way to celebrate a day of no work. We arrived at the farm a little after 11:00 in the morning and just in time the "help" Cozette put up her geldling Llamas in their barn. We caused more than a little chaos as we bumbled about, but eventually everyone made it safely to their appropriate barn.

The next place on our tour was the female Llama barn. I've never seen more Llama in one place before. They milled about, taking turns standing in front of a giant fan. They loved the cool air. They did not, however, love us. Nobody spit or kicked, but very few of them were inclined to approach us, let alone allow us to pet them. Cozette made the rounds, reaching her arm behind the back of a Llama's neck, and encouraging it to be a bit more social. After that demo, we were a little more successful in our attempt to actually pet a Llama.

Cozette pointed out the different types of Llama she has, some bolivian and chilean, and super-soft suri Llama, and shiny silky Llama. They were all gorgeous.

After our visit with the animals, we chatted with Cozette, who's a lovely person. She had bags and bags of Llama wool she couldn't figure out how to get rid of. Now that we've gotten hold of her, I think she'll be getting a lot more active on the fiber arts front!

Speaking of the fiber arts front, I'll be attending the southeast animal fiber fair as part of a collective in Asheville this October. Check back soon for previews of my wares.