We have had several mail carriers over the years. Growing up in rural Wisconsin, the mail carrier knew us all by name and somehow managed to know which grandmother I addressed on the envelope as just ‘Grandma’ and then the town’s name.
He also delivered the baby chicks—and Mom made sure she had a fresh pot of coffee and some cake to offer when he came in with the chicks. Dad took the time from chores to be sure he could be there too–just to hear the latest gossip about neighborly doings in a time when travel was limited due to weather.
My good friend in Wisconsin leaves glasses of lemonade and brownies in the mailbox on hot summer days.
Our mail carrier will pick up the newspaper and deposit it on our front porch, hides packages behind the columns so they are not visible from the street.
But then there was this package.
My latest hobby has been learning how to make hand-made books. I had dabbled a bit in the past, made several fiber based books, and then discovered an instructor on-line…a new hobby with new words and new supplies and a plethora of things to try—-
Each month there is a new project. I used copy paper and some drawing paper and then decided to splurge on some Mohawk Superfine paper—and this is how it arrived—all ten sheets of 22 by 30. It was difficult to fit it into the cab of my truck…..although I can get down and up from the floor, a nice large flat surface at my shop is easier on my knees.
It is now torn into appropriate sized pieces for signature making—and that was a challenge in itself.
Fire has an odd fascination and while I trained as a chemical plant/refinery firefighter, participated in numerous drills at school and in the dorm, watched with horror as fire consumed houses and acres of trees, my plan always was to exit quickly and wait for someone to bring the injured to me.
However, I viewed the remains of the forest fire that swept over Colorado some years ago, the beauty of the starkness of the blackened tree trunks against the snow on the mountains. While wandering about, I found some smallish twigs turned into charcoal, picked them up and brought them home. I had used vine charcoal in some of my drawing classes and thought these bits might work in a similar fashion.
My plan was always to use fabric as the base for the drawings; I used a relatively coarsely woven fabric, spread some gesso on until it was just barely damp and then attempt to use the twigs. I found it was easier to dip the twig in the gesso and draw—but still the lines were very faint.
I decided to embroider over the lines.
Then while reading about book-cloth, I wondered why I couldn’t use a decorative paper as the paper layer.
I’m gathering up courage to finish this book–I must glue it to the cover; everything is done but this very last step— and now that I’ve written about it here, I may be compelled to complete this project.
One of the things that occupied my thoughts this past year was learning how to make/bind/create books. I have taken some classes at the Houston Quilt Festival, bought books and some tools; but then I discovered a wonderful site on facebook featuring hand-made books. In the midst of all the vitriol posted about masks and politics, this was a welcome spot—just interesting and supportive. Although I know a lot about fabric, paper was a whole different world.
I took some zoom classes with the Printing Museum in Houston—those were fun and joined the Hand made Book Club and have been trying to keep up with the various books she posts each month–with such great videos for each step along the way.
One month’s project was a flutter book.
I wrote a short story about Monarch butterflies–milkweed grows along the fence rows on my farm. I have been thinking about using my crumb pieced blocks as book cloth instead of paper. I am not expert yet—but will keep working on it. Here is my flutter book.
A happy childhood is never out of reach according to Tom Robbins. I have never read one of his novels; but this quip has been oft repeated.
One of the things I never did was fingerpaint. Maybe it was deemed too messy or too frivolous or too expensive. We did not have art until fourth grade and the messiest project was the one where we colored a piece of paper with our crayons, then painted it with black paint and scratched out a drawing as we removed some of the black paint.
Recently I thought I might try something new—making books. One of the projects was making paste paper. This is adult finger-painting.
The steps are simple. Start with paper–a fairly heavy paper. Wet it on both sides. Spread some paste (I used pre-mixed wall-paper paste) colored with acrylic paint( I bought a six pack of acrylic paint from Dick Blick for about $6 several years ago), then manipulate the paste/paint into designs.
I used a cut-up foam brush; the bottom of a thread cone; some sort of rubber grid from the grouting section of Home Depot and a scrubbie. The paper was ‘pastel’ paper.
I hung it to dry on my makeshift clothesline.
Now I have a nice selection to use as book-covers or maybe even the pages of a hand-made book.
It has been fun learning a new craft–the terms, the forms, the artists. And a challenge to use what I have. I have no idea why I had pastel paper; I don’t recall ever working with pastels—but experimenting and learning new things is a happy childhood.
This quarantine has been challenging—and although I am not really doing anything much differently from my usual, life feels stale and stagnant.
With so many entities posting on-line courses and challenges, I decided to try making some hand-made books. About ten or more years ago, I made a lot of fiber based books and I still enjoy making covers for Marble notebooks along with fiber postcards. Working with paper requires different skills and I am certainly an amateur.
This month’s challenge was to make book cloth; and use it to make a slim case bound book. I used a mixed media paper, the cardboard backing from one of those yellow lined legal pads, tissue paper from a gift and a small strip of fabric adhered to fusible interfacing.
I’m not sure I got the grain of the signatures aligned properly; the signatures are not sewn as closely together as perhaps they should have been and I somehow managed to sew one signature in upside down—-but it is done and ready for me to paint/draw/glue stuff onto its pages.
the end paper was a scrap paper used to clean up from printing
and here you can see the spine with the signatures
the other people on the facebook group have posted some wonderful pieces; I am a complete novice at this—but it has been fun and a good diversion.
Blogging is a natural progression for someone who enjoys the written word and beautiful imagery. My photographs are hosted at sylviaweir.smugmug.com. I am slowly transitioning all my photographs to this site and will hopefully edit them to a manageable number. In the meantime, I have organized my blog photos by year and so you may wish to merely sample the blog photos
Feel free to contact me for any questions. My website here has not been fully populated but as I work on my smugmug site, I will update these pages.
My work begins with a word, a thought, an idea, or a bit of a poem. I search through my library of images mostly on Smugmug or sometimes I go out and photograph new images. A pieced quilt pattern is sometimes chosen, sometimes I use a piece of fabric I have altered in the past. The imagery is added on using hand applique and then thread is used to add details.
Each piece is meant to draw the viewer inward providing them with ample opportunities to add their own story to the piece. If the piece evokes the emotion or thought I wished conveyed, then I consider the piece successful.
Sometimes I play 'what if' with fabric and paint and imagery. These might be considered equivalent to scale work in music--something I always enjoyed.