Bookbinding & Collage Creative Process

I was asked by someone how I made my books that are on display now at Frank Bette Center for the Arts. I was very touched by the inquiry and it made me smile because I saw myself in the questioner. I love asking about process, how someone does something… that’s what interests me.

I realize I have so many people to thank for my own process and so I thought here would be a good place to share my process and to acknowledge other artists who have helped me get to the point where I am now. To start, San Francisco Center for the Book has some amazing bookmaking workshops and instructors. I’ve taken several bookmaking classes with Victoria Dunkak Heifner who was really great and inspiring. I didn’t even mention their letterpress instruction, that is great as well.

For these books in particular, I came across Teesha Moore’s site and her instructions on how to make your own journal. I thought her description on her own creative process was very informative. Per her suggestion, I used canvas boards. These can be found at a local art supply and are nice because they generally can take a lot of glue and water and don’t warp.

I first did a Polaroid emulsion lift process with the photos I took during the Alameda on Camera weekend. I took some of the slides I had shot and printed them onto Polaroid 669 film with a Vivitar slide printer. You can find these on ebay or craigslist, etc. or you can purchase a Daylab printer. I heated water in a microwave up to 160? measuring it with a meat thermometer. The photos soaked for four minutes. I removed the emulsion from the paper backing, placed the canvas board under the water and moved the photo with a paint brush on top of the canvas board. This film on You Tube is a great visual. Plus, there are some written instructions in Jason Thompson’s very inspiring Making Journals by Hand: 20 Creative Projects for Keeping Your Thoughts. I let the canvas boards dry outdoors in the sun.

Next, I pasted ripped paper around the photographs. Generally, I cover the entire canvas, this was something that Nick Bantock pointed out in a class I took from him. In order to get over the fear of the blank page, it’s helpful to cover it quickly. That has worked for me, it gives me a goal. Working quickly is helpful too, you don’t want to think too much. Generally, I don’t have a specific idea of what the piece will look like when it’s done. I try not to get attached to the different phases it becomes. After the paper is dry, I paint it with watercolors. I actually apply droplets of Dr. Ph. Martin’s Radiant Concentrated Water Color on the piece. My grandmother gave these to me. The colors are really vibrant and beautiful. My friend Maria told me about Tsukineko Walnut Ink that I like to spray on as well. I like to use Java and Walnut Ink. These colors soak into the lighter colors of paper and give a more connected look to the piece. This is something I also learned from Nick Bantock: when you add paint to collage or glued paper, it ends up being more of a painting and a more cohesive piece. In the Padlock Book I created, I also used some pastels, oil and chalk. I picked colors based on ones I saw in the photographs and colors that intuitively spoke to me. Towards the end, I flicked gold and brown acrylic paint on the canvas and after that dried, I sealed it with a matte medium varnish or a gloss varnish.

After a thorough drying, I glued bookbinding cloth to the two canvas boards in the process that Teesha Moore describes. The cloth needs to dry overnight at least. If there are certain areas of the bookcloth that are not staying down, you can add more glue under the cloth, put wax paper on top and then put a weight on top. After a thorough drying, you can paint the bookcloth. This is helpful to cover any glue areas you might have and you can paint the interior of the canvas boards as well. You can also apply paper to the interior canvas boards and paint on top of that if you like.

For these particular books, I didn’t want to use watercolor paper for the inside pages, instead I used Mohawk Superfine 28lb. Softwhite writing from Kelly Paper. I folded 8 sections of 8 pages each (with the grain direction), and cut them 1/2″ shorter on the height (head to tail) of the books and 1/4″ shorter on the width (foredge to spine). I used a professional guillotine cutter at work but there are some printers that will cut paper for you or you can cut it at SFCB.

At this point, I did some solvent transfers on the inside pages. You can read about this in Jason Thompson’s Making Journals by Hand: 20 Creative Projects for Keeping Your Thoughts. The solvent is nasty so please wear a mask and try not to breathe it. One tip would be to put your image on the bottom and your paper on top, apply the solvent and burnish the paper where the resulting image will appear, rather than your transfer image. Another tip is, if you would like your image to be the way you see it, photocopy it with the mirror setting so that the image doesn’t end up backwards.

I love exposed bindings and Keith A. Smith’s Volume 1 Non-Adhesive Binding Books without Paste or Glue is a wonderful place to learn. I picked the Long Stitch/Link Stitch binding from this book. When finished sewing, (thanks to Tom’s suggestion) I squared up the book by hitting the spine against my table so the book closes correctly.

KaTrings (Say "Kuh-TRINGS")

I’m so excited for my friend KaTrina. She’s making these beautiful button rings above and is having great success getting them out into the world. KaTrina’s been making jewelry and curving wire for as long as I’ve known her. I’m very proud to see her success and be around her excitement for her creations. It seems to me she gets a lot of joy out of making things. She has a big heart, lots of love and thoroughly enjoys animals.

I got the pleasure of seeing her rings in a black velvet-looking case and they just sparkle with all the great colors. It seems that you need one for each outfit! To purchase her rings, to send her your button collection or just for more information you can reach her at KaTrina at KaTrings dot com or give her a call. (Click on the link for her phone number.)

I can’t help but want to promote her. Her enthusiasm is contagious and I want the world to know about her. At one point, Tom said something to me about art and the importance of “completing the circle” of finishing work, getting it out there and letting it go. That in itself is vital. It actually allows more space for one to create. I think this is similar in promotion. When you get to see your friends succeed, it opens up roads of possibility.

Alameda on Camera 2008

Thanks to Tom for getting these photos developed and for helping me stage them. At least one of these books will be shown at the Frank Bette Center for the Arts this Friday night, April 4th from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. through April 27th.

I’m feeling crappy with a head cold so this is a short post.

Pigs, Bookbinding & More

Lots of stuff and I’m not sure where to start…

A friend of my mom’s Pat sent Tom and I the sweetest bridal pig couple ever. Total surpise and really fun. We couldn’t stop talking about them. Really thoughtful gift.

I finished two blank books this weekend and submitted them to the Frank Bette Center for the Arts for the Alameda on Camera show opening April 4. I’m really happy with them. I went through all kinds of emotion ranging from disgust to elation and everything that lives in between. In the end, they’re so much better than I expected. (It’s best when you don’t have expectations or they’re quite low.) They’re for sale but it’s as if I almost don’t want to sell them. I’d like to enjoy them for a little bit longer. I’ll have photos of them hopefully this week to put up here or they’ll be at Frank Bette for viewing this Friday.

I learned a new binding, the Long Stitch Link Stitch from Keith A. Smith’s Volume I Non-Adhesive Binding Booking Without Paste or Glue. It’s an excellent book. Another great source for journal making is Teesha Moore’s site where she gives a great description on how she makes her journals.

I had a really nice weekend with Tom. He helped me a lot and gave me lots of space so that I could work on my art. He cooked and did laundry and mowed the lawns and went food shopping. I’m very lucky to be with him. We worked on solvent photo transfers together in our backyard. It was really fun to watch him get excited about ideas. I want to stay up all night and finish and he helps me by suggesting ways I might get my work done and get to bed early.

We found a sewing machine for $10 at a garage sale this weekend. That was really fun. I need to get a manual but it has all kinds of different stitches that I’m looking forward to using. Now, I get to focus on last minute wedding planning details, cleaning up the garage/studio space and planning a honeymoon. So much I want to do…

I really enjoy Holly Becker’s: and she has great links to lots of other great places. Through her site I found Michele Maule’s blog. I really enjoy reading about Michele’s process plus I’m really enjoying her artwork. I’m always wanting to check out her blog to see what she’s posted next. She’s a definite inspiration for me to post on a more regular basis. Thanks Michele!


Look at all I’ve done. I mean really. I make these lists every once in a while to see how far I’ve come and to see my progress. No list at the moment but I’m gently reminded by Tom how important the process is. I had an idea that I could have the great relationship that I have with him. I also have the idea in my head that I could have the great job that I picture in my head. It’s actually happening… I’m doing the work, I come home to framed art pieces in the living room… I’m working on fun stuff in my studio garage…

Anyway… I’m excited about this woman’s work right now: Erin Zam. I found her through Decor8
at this great shop: Three Potato Four.

Wedding Invites

We finally sent out the wedding invites and it was such a relief to finish them. I made them extra complicated and I’m very grateful to Tom for helping me assemble them without complaint. My dear, father-in-law (almost) took this photo of them for me.

So what’s the lesson here in being extra complicated? I went to four different places searching for ribbon and we met a very accommodating woman who helped us decide on the ribbon that we ultimately used at Needle in a Haystack. She really took her time and gave us exceptional customer service. She made a comment about choosing the ribbon, about it being a detail and not so important in the long-term aspect of a marriage, even though we might think it important now. I understand her point and appreciated it then too. I find at times that I focus on things with ever tightness and control and they’re not so important. Choose your battles I think. Her advice applies to life so well. I think when we broaden our focus it can give us more space, we can see more things, more possibilities…

I’m such a voyeur. But I imagine other people are as well. Do you know about It’s a great website of things to do in certain areas like San Francisco, New York, etc. but I what I love about it most is the artwork it features. Here’s this week artist for the San Francisco edition. Her heart drawings are great: Ashlee Nicolle Ferlito.

My friend Maria started her own blog! I’m excited, this blog stuff is pretty catchy and fun and might I add incredibly easy. So if you were looking for the impetus to start your own blog, I recommend it.

I read the most fabulous book last year called: Crossing the Unknown Sea, Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity by David Whyte. I’ve linked it here to Amazon but you might be able to find it at your library. Basically, it’s the author’s story of his journey to heartfelt work. It’s beautifully written. Bill Say, my therapist, who can get to the heart of a matter really quickly and effectively, recommended it to me.

I’m thinking of the book now because I’m feeling a little low. I have a goal of supporting myself with my art and my vision of that is clear and fuzzy. I’d like it be more clear. I think basically, I want to give myself some self some permission to let myself get other things done that will make my art more productive when I get back to my artmaking. Permission granted.

Gallery Outing

I went to the Oakland Art Gallery opening show tonight after work. They have a really interesting show of RISD Northern California Alumuni. Oh, and what a great spread of food!

A couple of women’s work really stood out for me: Jane Kim who can also be found on, and Donna M. Castro. Very inspiring.

I was reading through the artist’s bios and one in particular made a difference for me. The artist answered three phrases in what could have been his handwriting. The phrases were: Everytime I design something…, I’m inspired by…, I get excited when… and I get even more excited when… It seems really important to make your bio stand out in a book of many other bios. How can you make your bio stand out? What makes yours different? What do you want to say in 30 seconds or less so that someone flipping through doesn’t pass your page by?

I’m putting together wedding invitations. I owe much gratitude to my boss who let me use his paper cutter. I don’t know what I was thinking when I thought I was going to hand cut all of these. Eventually, when they’re done, I’ll put up a photo.

San Francisco Center for the Book

I’m documenting my creative time… I think it will be especially helpful to look back and see what I’ve created with my time, especially when I don’t feel like I’m quite where I want to be.

Last night I was up late letterpress printing wedding thank you cards and envelopes at San Francisco for the Book. SFCB is such a great resource, one reason why I’m so glad to live in the Bay Area. Melissa was there and very helpful in answering my questions. Thanks Melissa! You can view and purchase Melissa’s work at

Alameda on Camera

Tom came out to Alameda with me and I shot a fair amount of photos on Alameda Point Friday night and early Saturday morning. It was a lot of fun. It was great to be with Tom. He has great ideas. Plus, I wouldn’t have gone half the places I went had I not been with him, especially in the dark.

It was really curious to me that after I looked at my photos last night, I started to see a pattern or a theme within the photos, lots of stairs, locks, hallways, peeling paint, color, chairs, feet… It’s interesting. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out of me within the month that I have to submit my work to Frank Bette.

I bought a slide printer and I’m going to take a stab at image transfer from Polaroid film.