Saturday, December 10, 2011

And the Winner of Jill Berry's Book Is:

Monkey Mind, from Cave Junction, Oregon!  (Please send me your name and address, Monkey Mind, so that the publisher can send your book to you.)
And thanks to all 85 of you who posted comments to enter into the drawing.  Your comments were wonderful and mind-expanding!  If you haven't read each other's comments yet, I urge you to do so.  You'll get so many great ideas.  I wish I could have answered them all individually.  If you want to order the book, it's available on line as well as in bookstores now.  Thanks, Everyone, for being a part of this.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Booster Shot for Your Journal!

My friend Jill Berry has recently published a really
intriguing book called Personal Geographies.  (The cover is to the right.)  I meet regularly with a group of journal keepers, and if you're like our group, from time to time you find yourself bored with the whole process, feeling guilty for ignoring your practice for days on end.  Jill's book will give you a vitamin shot, a booster shot, a lively tonic of ideas and approaches to use in your journal practice.  Jill's own art as well as her journal keeping is full of cartographic imagery, and she defines a map in a slightly different way than the traditional one.  I am quoting from Jill in the next paragraph because she explains so well what her book is about:

You don't have to be a world traveler or a professional cartographer to embark on a grand journey of self-discovery through mapmaking. Personal Geographies gives you the tools and techniques you'll need to create artful maps of your self, your experiences and your personal journey. Chart the innermost workings of your mind, document your artistic path and create an unfolding maze of your future dreams and goals.
Inside Personal Geographies you'll discover:
21 mixed-media map projects featuring artistic techniques like working with alcohol inks and pochoir, painting on a black surface and carving custom stamps
Insight into the world of traditional and contemporary maps and how they relate to and inspire personal mapmaking
A gallery of maps by contributors from around the world to spark your own creativity
From mapping your head, hands and heart to recording powerful memories or experiences, the maps in Personal Geographies are a gateway into the fascinating and meaningful world of you.”
 Above is a page from Jill's book, to give you an idea of some of the examples she has included.  I was one of the happy people she invited to try out her prompts for map-making and to submit cartographic image-based artwork to the book.  The book nicely reflects its collaborative nature, and the many different approaches taken by the artists in the book are a good example of how the reader can use Jill's prompts to produce their own work.

Between now (December 1) and December 10 Jill is holding a giveaway.  If you would like to be included in the raffle of a free copy of Personal Geographies, write a comment below in which you mention some way that you might use mapmaking of any kind in your journal.  On December 10 I'll put all of the names of the comment-writers in a hat and select a winner.  I'll send the name and street address (having first notified the winner via this blog so that you can email me your street address) to Jill's publisher, and they will ship the book to the winner.

One other thing-- Jill has set up a blog for the book, so check it out at

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bonus Post: A Secret Shrine

Last weekend my husband and I drove to New Orleans to visit some of my family and for my high school class reunion.  We stayed in a bed and breakfast in my old neighborhood.  On Sunday morning I got to go on my own private sketch crawl.  I was searching for secret places that gave evidence of the inner life of the place.  This small handmade altarpiece was leaning against the base of a grotto in the front garden of a high school on Esplanade Avenue that used to be the terrifying Orphan Asylum.  The grotto itself is interesting with its small collection of stuffed animals on shelves under the statue of the Virgin Mary.  But this altarpiece was wonderful.  It was made of a piece of what looked like old birch plywood with two turned chair legs for sides.  The roof was a curved piece of wood thoroughly encrusted with old jewelry and Mardi Gras beads.  There were also flattened bottle caps and pieces of silvery stuff.   Behind the small plastic statue (St. Anthony?) there was a rusty escutcheon with two key holes. 

Bonus Post: A Secret Shrine in New Orleans


Tannequins! (for my old friend Joan G.)

One more mannequin piece and I promise I will move on to something else!  But I saw a high school friend the other night at our reunion and she told me she actually loves my mannequins!  I was so excited I promised to post my latest drawing of them and here they are:  the Tannequins!!  These are real mannequins, I am not making this up.  I am having a hard time imagining them in a department store somewhere, but they are great looking at the Tobacco Barn in all their gleaming tanness and musculature, even though headless.  (If you turn your head sideways you can read a little bit about them.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Decorated Page to be Back in Print SOON!

Those of you who have been trying without success over the past year or so to find copies of The Decorated Page will be happy to learn that Lark has brought out a new edition of this book in combination with a new edition of The Decorated Journal plus what they call "bonus content."  The new edition, which should be out in April 2012, is going to print this week!  It's a hefty volume, over 250 pages, and it contains all images from the two original books as well as all of the original material (minus a few sections that were more or less repeated in Dec. Journal-- materials and writing prompts-- and were combined for the new book).  It also has thirteen profiles written by journal keepers in which they show images and tell about their own processes.  There are also a few pages of completely new material, including binding instructions for a journal made out of a butter box.
Above is a view of both the back cover and front cover as well as the spine of the new book.  I believe it's a paperback and reasonably priced.  But if you already own Dec. Page AND Dec. Journal, be aware that this book is basically a new edition and reflow of those two books and not something radically different.  The new material is good, but you have to decide if it's worth the price of the whole book!  Oh, and the title is The Complete Decorated Journal.  I can't seem to shake the word "decorated," even though it's not at all what these three books are about!  Marketing does seem to rule when it comes to titles. 

                                                                 A Decorated Journal

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I'm on a Roll Now: More NH Adventures, Including a Quest

My son Mike found a book at the American Precision Museum published locally that was a collection of quests around the area of NH and VT where he lives.  Each quest included directions to get to the starting point and then clues to find as you hiked along a trail.  We decided to follow the quest that was based in Enfield, his village.  We had seven-year -old Luca and three-year-old Barnaby with us.  This journal page shows the map we made as we walked the trail, which was actually an old railroad bed.  There was a poem in the quest book that told the history of the railroad along the trail, with a verse for each clue/stopping point.  It was a fine trail that took us along the banks of a beautiful lake, a wetlands, and some old buildings.

At the end of the trail our final clue involved finding a date (1893) carved in the road cut that ran alongside that part of the railroad.  Railroad workers had carved dates and initials in many places along the cut.  The kids loved scrambling up the rocky road cut, and at one point Mike had to talk his daredevil Luca down from a pretty high point, which he somehow had managed to get to without our seeing him fly up the rocks.  Our final clue told us to look for a twin oak behind the petroglyph.  Luca and Barnaby found the treasure box!  In the box was a rubber stamp of railroad tracks, shown on this page.  We each got to stamp our notebooks with the stamp and then we signed a log book in the treasure box.  Hooray for the Girl Scout troop that wrote the quest!

Every time I go to New Hampshire I go searching for loons, which I never see.  My daughter-in-law tells me she spots them occasionally at the dam near their house;  my son sees them when fishing at a nearby pond.  But they always elude me.  So this trip I dragged people to a supposedly loon-populated pond every chance I could get.  The first three trips were on drizzly days and there were no loons.  Finally my husband and I and a Vermont friend who was visiting us went out to Grafton Pond on a sunny, breezy day and we were rewarded!  Three loons!  They didn't do their loony cry, but they were wonderful to see, low in the water like heavily-loaded barges, really big ducky things.  And while the loons were diving for food out away from shore, we also spotted an enormous snapping turtle in the pond right below the rocks on which we were perched.  Finally!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Will There Ever Be a New Post Here?

Yes!  My excuse for such lame updating is that I've been traveling as well as having guests for the whole month of September, AND I didn't bring my laptop along when I traveled.  I did bring my journal, though, and have many pages to use as blog fodder.  This one is from the ten days I spent in New Hampshire visiting our son and his wife and three little boys.  On the day shown on this page, we were visiting a fine little museum in Windsor, Vermont-- The American Precision Museum. It's a collection of early machinery and pictures of factories.  It has a nice collection of primitive sewing machines, and the one I drew here was a pre-runner to the sewing machine called a revolving looper. 

After we visited the museum, we were looking around the grounds.  The building is mid- 19th century brick and is situated on a small river (which was close to flood level that day due to recent floods in that area), from which the machinery in the original building was run.  Most interesting to the boys and me were some chunks of old bricks scattered around the parking lot in the weeds near the banks of the river.  We decided they were old bricks as they matched the bricks in the building perfectly.  So we collected a few chunks and took them home to grate on a paving stone in order to make paint.  The kids and I took turns grating the brick chunks and then carefully brushing the brick dust onto sheets of paper to transfer to a container.  After a long afternoon of grating (which was very satisfying and during which the boys actually had little fights over who got to use the stone when) we had collected enough pigment to grind with a mortar and pestle and some gum Arabic from an art store in Hanover.  We added a drop of maple syrup to improve the elasticity and wetness factor of our paint, and the resulting paint can be seen on this page.

We also mixed some of our red orange paint (Windsor Red Ochre) with some white gouache that I had in order to make a pretty apricot colored pastel, also shown here.  Stay tuned for more pages from New Hampshire!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Two Posts in One Week!

Usually the effort of posting takes me at least two weeks to recover from, but this week,  I received a review of an art exhibition that I thought might be interesting to those of you who enjoy artists' books, so here it is.  I wish I had images for all the other artists, but I haven't been to the show as it is in Chattanooga, many miles from Asheville.  I'll write to the show's curator and see if she will send me some of the other images, and if I get them, I'll definitely pass them on to you.

Meanwhile, the image above is from one of my books that is in the show, an accordion-folded book, the pages of which are one very long hand-colored woodcut print called Row, Row.  The article below includes another image of a book from the show, Susie Hall's  Fall Folios," plus the newspaper review, which makes interesting reading as it gives a nice overview of some of the work that's currently being done in this field.  I'll also post my other three books from the show.

(I'll move this posting to the Exhibitions page of this blog for easy access in the future.)
from Felicitous Space by Gwen Diehn
from Imrana by Gwen Diehn
from Ice Fishing in New Hampshire by Gwen Diehn

Monday, August 22, 2011

Join Me at the John C.Campbell Folk School!

As many of you know, although I truly enjoy teaching, twenty years of doing it full-time has made me reluctant to teach much since retiring from teaching two years ago.  But every now and then an invitation comes to me that is just too tempting.  The John C. Campbell Folk School is one of these.  I'm familiar with the place because my good friend Sandy Webster lives across the road from the school, and I've spent many a weekend working in Sandy's studio with her, and Sandy teaches there regularly.

The place itself is unbelievably beautiful, almost a cliche of itself-- the valley with low mountains in the background, the old buildings, the cute little blacksmith shop, the cows grazing in nearby pastures, tiny buildings in the miniature village of Brasstown (which lowers its own New Year's Eve ball, just like Times Square in NYC, only Brasstown lowers its ball from a flagpole outside of a store on the main street).  But the studios are serious and well-equipped, the range of classes taught broad, and the work produced impressive.  So if you're looking for a class to jump-start your practice in the New Year, the Folk School might be just the place for you!

Friday, August 12, 2011

From Journal to Print

One of my excuses for slackness in blogging lately is that I've been working really hard to finish the large woodblock print shown here.  (I've also used this print as the basis for an edition of artists' books that my friend Laura and I have done as a collaboration.)  Here's the story:  about a year ago Laura, whom I had just gotten to know, and I discovered that we had lived in the exact same small neighborhood in New Orleans.  I grew up in the neighborhood and then lived there again in the mid-70s;  Laura moved there in the 70s to study to be a jockey at the horse race track (which was a mysterious and forbidden place in the neighborhood when I was in elementary school and spending many hours a week trying to sneak into it).  As we talked about our adventures in this wonderous place, we were amazed at how similarly we remembered tiny details-- the broken spot of pavement on Leda Street in front of the old Jockey Club;  the sweet olive trees that perfumed the entire two-block area in autumn and spring;  the corner grocery store, still operating today, the odd religio/cultural underpinnings of the place.

So last year Laura and I each made a journal for our neighborhood project, and we began research and image gathering.  We've met nearly every two weeks for the past year to eat dinner at one of our houses and then retreat to  the studio and work for several hours on whatever phase of the project we were on.  Our journals have been repositories of the images and ideas we've incorporated into our prints and now our edition of books.

Below are two of my journal pages that gave rise to images on the print.  One shows my sketches of bats that lived in the palmetto palms in our yard, a fun feature of our lives, as we hunted for the dead baby bats that frequently fell from the tree and conducted elaborate funerals for them. Bats were a feature of the neighborhood as they swooped around every evening scooping up bugs while we played Kick the Can in the street until the street lights came on.
 The page shown below is where Laura and I worked on the idea of the religious syncretism that was very present in the amalgamation of French Catholicism and African Voudou in the neighborhood.  This close connection of two different cultural and religious strains made for an interesting set of rituals and processions and ceremonies.  On the page below, I used a general map of the neighborhood to construct an approximation of a voudou veve, which ended up a rubber stamp cut incorporated into the larger woodcut (lower right area, in brown).  On the same page, Laura reflected on my sketch of a Catholic Virgin Mary statue that was treated ritually much in the same way the Voudou Erzulie Frieda was.  We several times wrote in each other's journals as we developed our thinking.

We have titled our series (the large prints and the edition of books) Faubourg nan Main Bon Dieu, which means Neighborhood in the Hands of the Good God.  In another posting I will show the finished books and Laura's big print.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

From Clothlets to Bleeding Art

The sketch above was made by Anne Rippy, a woman on our sketch crawl to the Screen Door last Sunday.  She did the drawing as well as the painting right there.  I asked her if she would send me her sketch and her explanation of the mediums she used because her method of getting color onto this sketch was not only extremely handy, but also a very interesting revival of an ancient process by which colors could be stored and easily transported.  First, here's Anne's explanation:
When Anne showed us her sheets of super-pigmented tissue paper (the Spectra Bleeding Art tissue), I remembered reading a while back about a Medieval process called the making of clothlets.  I hunted around until I found my copy of Daniel Thompson's The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting,  and sure enough, on page 143 there's a discussion of clothlets, which I am quoting here at  length:

"The method of making the colour out of the seeds of the Crozophora [sunflower] is described in many medieval texts.  It was prepared. . . in the form of "clothlets," bits of [linen] cloth saturated with the juice of the seed of capsules.  The capsules were gathered in the summer, and the juice extracted from them by squeezing gently, so that the kernels, the seeds proper, were not broken, but the juice of the capsule was expressed.  When a good supply of this juice was ready, cloths were dipped into it, dried, and redipped and redried over and over, until they had soaked up a substantial amount of the colour."

Thompson goes on to explain that in some cases the cloths were first soaked in lime water in order to neutralize the natural acidity of a juice and render the color of the juice more blue.  In other cases the already-soaked cloths were then exposed to the vapors of ammonia to further increase the alkalinity and make the color more violet.

He goes on to explain that after drying, the clothlets were stored between the leaves of a book.  "Clothlets were a most convenient form of colours for illuminators.  It was only necessary to put a bit of clothlet into a dish, and wet it with a little glair [egg white] or gum water [gum Arabic, another binder] , and the colour would dissolve out of the cloth into the medium, forming a transparent stain.  A good many colours were prepared in this way for late medieval book painting, as transparent colours came to be more and more prized by the painters of miniatures.  Almost any coloured vegetable juice could be prepared in this way with at least some temporary success;  and everything possible was tried;  but the turnsole [sunflower] colours were the most satisfactory and important."  (page 143- 144)

I'm playing around with making some clothlets using the bright orange sap of a celendine poppy plant from my front garden.  Have any of you ever made paints from vegetable or mineral sources?  I'd love to hear your stories in the comments section here. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Strange Appeal of Headlessness

While sketching yesterday with some friends at an antique place that is NOT the Tobacco Barn, I found a lovely concrete statue of a headless Virgin Mary.  She was looking fine, stepping on that snake as usual, opening her hands to send out peaceful, calming rays.  The only thing missing was her head.  I wondered if they were selling her.  She was stuffed back in a corner behind a metal chair, and her head was nowhere in sight, not even on the floor under the chair.  But there was a tag on her, and it read "Headless Mary" with a scribbled-over price that looked like $29.  A great price!

I saw my friend over in another area, so I told her about the Mary.  She was very interested as she already has a headless Buddha and we agreed that headlessness can be a good state, sort of a No Mind, No Problem state taken to pleasant extremes.  We went back over to Mary, but this time it was clear that the price was not $29, but $59, sadly out of our reaches.

So I drew her again, and then went over to the wonderful opium bed across the room and drew it quickly, noting the translation of the Chinese characters carved over the opening:  5 Thousand Years of Prosperity and Longevity, and noting that the price has been reduced from $3800 to $3400.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Making a Coracle

Last summer Jacob, my grandson, and I decided to make a Welsh coracle, a small boat of ancient design, traditionally made of willow branches and animal hide.  We searched out directions for making it, our favorite being Francis Galton's 1860 book The Art of Travel, in which he says in step 3:  "Kill two bullocks and skin them" , with no details on that operation.  (We found newer, less grisly alternatives for the boat's skin in The Whole Earth Catalog and in several YouTubes.)  Above is Jacob seeing if the boat would float in shallow water in a small river near my house.

Above is a page from our notebook.  We first spent a lot of time finding sufficient willow to make the boat.  My friend Maggie Cheney told me about a friend of hers' pond that had willow trees growing along the banks, so we went out there with Maggie one evening last summer and trimmed around 30 long branches and brought them to my house.  We peeled all the willow and saved the bark to make willow paper, then stood the branches up to dry.  Later in the summer we had to soak the branches to make them flexible.  They were so long that we improvised a trough for soaking by lining the ditch in front of my house with a big piece of plastic and filling it with water.  After a couple of weeks the branches were flexible.
We stuck the ends of the branches in the ground in an oval shape and wove a large basket as shown in the first notebook on the right side of the page.  After the basket was secured with tarred twine at the joinings, we made a seat out of ash wood and lashed it into place.  Then last week we covered the boat frame with heavy canvas, as shown above.  We sewed it in place and then painted it with roofing tar to waterproof it.  Two coats seemed to do the job.  So then we set out for the river with the little boat tied to the roof of my VW.   The river is walking distance, but the boat was a little awkward for us to carry down a hill and along a road, so we drove.

When we got to the river we had to carry the boat down a trail until we found a good place to put it in.  Then came the big moment of seeing if it was waterproof and if it floated, and finally, if it could hold us, and most importantly, if we could balance in it.  The above photo shows Jacob enjoying the boat. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Possibly the Definitive Mannequins?

Over the weekend I drove past the Tobacco Barn and slipped in for a few minutes to check on the mannequin.  Had she been sold?  Had someone finally rearranged her parts?  The air inside the Barn was throbbing with midsummer heat and heavy with humidity and desultory shoppers.  No one played the piano today.  Back in mannequin land at the very end of booth A-16 the lights were dim and the few people who made it back there looked more lost than on a quest.  The mannequin was in exactly the pose I had left her in last weekend.  So I thought:  She needs a better hat, something to attract people to her fun spirit.  I put a rusty red brocade lampshade with little string tassels on her head.  She looked cocquetish and sort of shy, not the look I was going for exactly, but I drew her anyway.  Her arms and legs are now in a real tangle, and they seem to be dumped behind her, leaving her armless and legless but not really upset about that.
And then I had one more idea for her:  I decided no more Easter Sunday hats or even sweet little lampshades.  What this girl needs is a jaunty bucket on her head and a Girl Scout songbook!  With no arms and legs she has lots of free time.  So she's resting against her legs and using her arms to prop up her songbook.  I sketched her quickly on tea-stained paper in a different notebook and decided to keep the brighter background.  She's sailing away from her tangled, confined life!  She loves going to sea in a tub with a bailing bucket on her head!  "In yonder gre-e-en val-leys where stream-le-ets me-e-an-der...."

Eva G. commented that this mannequin series might want to become a children's book.  I like the idea very much of taking her further.  Definitely a series of prints, maybe an artist's book, maybe a children's book-- anyone else have ideas? 

Monday, June 20, 2011

More Fun With Mannequins

I had an irresistable urge to go revisit the mannequin in the tub at Tobacco Barn this weekend.  I wondered if she would even be there-- certainly I would have bought her if I would have had the $145.  She is, after all, a "hard to find teenager", and even if her tub comes for an additional $25 and her hat yet more-- still, I would imagine someone would have snapped her up.  But no.  No one had even rearranged her!  She was still lounging in the tub looking slightly crazy.  So this time I did it.  Very carefully I handled her fragile limbs and gave her a more adventuresome pose.  Then I drew her from two angles.  She now looks to me like she's paddling her tub- boat in a rough sea!  What a devil-may-care girl she is!  She has a sticky piece of something fluffy on the back of her hand, but that's not stopping her.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mannequin in a Tub: Another Report from the Edge

Yesterday afternoon five of us ventured into the Tobacco Barn, braving 90 degree heat and humidity and armed with sketchbooks and water bottles.  The Tobacco Barn is way too big to have air conditioning, but they have enormous rattly fans in strategic locations, which add to the atmosphere of another time period.  I went looking for a cool spot to park and found this great tub 'o' mannequin parts at the end of a dark row of things.

The mannequin wears a sign around her neck on a piece of red yarn;  it says "Fragile!  Nice complete vintage mannequin.  Pants fit nicely.  Hard to find teenager.  $145"  She also wears a perky straw and plastic fruit Easter Sunday church hat from the fifties complete with a net (were these nets called whimseys?) that creeps down over her forehead.  Her eyes are a little strange and her teeth are extra white next to her painted lips.  Best of all her limbs have been detached and tossed in the tub with her!  What fun she seems to be having without any arms and with her legs playfully sticking out!

(The drawing I did with a black waterproof Pilot V-Ball pen on willow and abaca paper.  I added watercolor when I got home.)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Wamboldtopia Sketch Crawl

Today the journal group that I'm in had its first sketch crawl.  We had heard about a private garden called Wamboldtopia ( near BookWorks ( that had been under growth and change for ten years, the masterwork of Damaris and Ricki Pierce.  The day was sunny and warm, and the garden is actually located near a fairly busy section of town;  but as soon as we passed under the stone archway entrance, we felt like we were in a cool, shady, hidden part of Italy, Bomarzo with its ancient sculpture garden, or an undeveloped and rarely -visited section of a forgotten hill town.

I like to notice what my eye is drawn to, and I kept finding myself parked in front of the several old-tombstone-like skull pieces that were made by Damaris and embedded in stone columns or walls made by Ricki. 

For my final drawing I did the tower (which is really a clever disguise of a chain-link fence at the property line-- pieces of insulation foam wrapped in hardware cloth covered with stucco with a real bell included and the fence top made to look like the top of a stone wall) and a poppy seed head, which reminded me of the skull pieces;  so I concocted my own poppy-head skull exploding its seeds. 

While at the garden I did pen sketches only and made color notes.  Later this evening I painted with watercolor and gouache and incorporated a few rubber stamps that I had on hand from another project.  The paper in this sketchbook is handmade from willow bast and abaca.

Friday, May 20, 2011

How to be a Slowpoke in a Museum

It's been a while since I've updated this blog, but my excuse is that I've been traveling and don't have a smart phone, etc. etc.  The journal pages above are from a day that I spent at the Museum of Modern Art with my son, visiting the spectacular German Expressionists show that is currently there.  What I love about taking my journal to a museum is that it slows me way down and lets me enter into relationship with a few pieces of work in a way I would not be able to do otherwise.  In this piece I wasn't going for careful drawing;  I wanted, rather, to find the general feeling of the two shows we saw that day (as well as the lovely but ridiculously expensive snack we had in the cafe).  On the left, Belgium artist Francis Alys,  and on the right, the snack and the German Expressionists.

Below are two pages that I did on another day while walking around the garment district in New York on a sketch crawl with some friends.  We were encountering rejection everywhere we went:  one store manager told us that if we drew in his place he would get in trouble with OSHA;  another place told us we could draw but we would have to pay.  We settled on drawing from the windows at a couple of  places.  Then we found a great manequin shop whose manager not only allowed us to draw but consented to sell me a lovely manequin hand, which shall be featured in my next Piece Works blog update (

On another day I went to the Brooklyn Museum with my sketch-crawling friends and visited the African section, one of my favorites.
I greatly enjoy standing for a long time drawing the African nkisi (power figures) whenever I can.  In these drawings I wasn't thinking about outcome, but just losing myself in the details, puzzling out how things fitted together, studying the forms.  Drawing is the best way I've found to do these things.  I have very tolerant and patient friends and family, but if I'm the only one in the group who is drawing, I just arrange to meet up with the others later.  The greatest fun is when others in the group are also drawing, but being the only one drawing doesn't need to be an impediment to taking your time to really, really see the pieces you love. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Brains on Paper

My friend Ann Turkle, a writer and long-time journal keeper, refers to some journals as "brains on paper."  I keep a couple of journals that seem to be well-described by this label.  One of them is shown below in three views.  It's a design notebook that I use for Piece Works, a micro-project that a friend and I share (see our blog at in which we design,  make,  and sell wallets and things made out of upcycled materials-- birdseed bags, chip bags, coffee bags, etc.  We do a fair amount of custom work and a large amount of troubleshooting as we research the strongest materials and how best to use them. 

This is a fold-out page that I taped in.  It's a design for a custom wallet.

This page shows measurements and directions for the same job.
And this page shows some troubleshooting that we did early on in the project when we were refining our basic designs.  The book itself I made out of a bird seed bag using the design described in Tutorial #2.  No one would call this art journaling;  I think of it as essential journaling!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Real Edible Book

Here's a photo of Maya's and my edible book.  This view shows the three Big Hogs looking at the Forest Hog (center, with chocolate jimmy hairs on his back).  The next view shows the broccoli and marzipan trees to better advantage, and also the quote that is pressed into the other side of the cake.
This view shows the edible book from the other direction,  showing the back view of the hogs and facing the forest hog.  You can also see the acorns and apples that the forest hog eats.  The grass is edible Easter grass.  I never knew such a thing existed!  In the background you can see a little bit of other books.  Check out for a full report on the festival!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Different Kind of Edge

 The pink forest hog in today's post is NOT from Tobacco Barn but is actually a marzipan hog that my granddaughter Maya and I made together for part of our entry in the April Fool's Day Edible Book Festival at our local center for the book, Asheville BookWorks (  We made a cake and frosted it with fondant, then we arranged four marzipan pigs, some broccoli and marzipan trees, and some marzipan apples and acorns along with edible Easter grass to make a rendition of a favorite book of ours, Three Big Hogs by Manus Pinkwater.  We printed a quote from the book using plastic letters that Maya's mom had in her cake decorating box.

At the end of the festival, after the judging and voting for favorites, everyone ate the edible books.  All that was left of ours was our big forest hog minus one of his tusks (since repaired).  He looked lonely on the ravaged cake top, so I brought him home to live on my drawing table for a while, and made these drawings of him today.  (Maya won the prize for Best Child Book Artist, and our entry won the popular vote.  A fine time was had by all.)