Bay Area Book Arts Jam This Saturday!

LA Travels
mixed-media book: (running stitch) beads, fabric, paper, thread, buttons, elastic, metal eyelet 3 1/4″ x 4″ x 1 1/2″ ©2010 Leah Virsik

Bay Area Book Arts Jam
Saturday, October 16 | 10am to 4pm

Foothill College
12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills, California
Free admission; parking $2

I’m looking forward to showing my work this Saturday, October 16th at the 2010 Book Arts Jam at Foothill College. As well as having books for sale, I’ll also be teaching how to make mini-postcard books at my table. Come for the day and stop by to say hello.

Book Arts Jam 2010 is a one-day regional celebration of the book, print, and paper arts, co-sponsored by the Bay Area Book Artists and Foothill College. This year’s event features an exhibition of artists’ books, an Exhibitors Showcase with work by more than 60 artists and craftspeople, artist talks, a silent auction, and a full-service onsite cafeteria. Remember, books make great gifts.

For more info, go to

di·chot·o·my: an installation

Together with some great help and valuable input from Claudia LamarLanell Dike and Lorraine Bruce we put up my Dichotomy installation Tuesday evening at the Kensington Library at 61 Arlington Avenue, Kensington, CA. It’ll be up July 1–August 29, 2010. The library open hours are Mon & Tue: 12 – 8 Thu: 10 – 6  Fri: 1 – 5  Sat: 10 – 5.

This site-specific installation consists of sixty sub-parts loosely arranged by color to fill the art wall of the Kensington Library. They are meant to be viewed as a whole, not as a series of works arranged like paintings in a gallery or museum. The design is intended to fill the space – a space for books. These are “pages”, if you will. Think of them as one linear book, laid page by page, end to end. While one’s eye may prefer one or another “page”, the true beauty (or ugliness) lies in the whole. My next step is to make the virtual book into a real one. See examples of my books here. Dichotomy is sixty individual pieces – arranged to fit Kensington Library’s art wall. Each piece has a title and consists of a variety of artistic elements, including among others: collage, screenprinting, wax crayon resist, stitching, repurposed art and office supplies. Arranged on the wall loosely by color and design, each individual piece stands on its own. Like one? Request one by commenting on specific card(s) on my flickr page. I will be mailing them to select recipients at the end of the show. If you are selected, I will contact you for your address.

di·chot·o·my: division into two parts or classifications, esp when they are sharply distinguished or opposed.

Thank you to my husband Tom for your patience and for listening. I appreciate you making me a priority and for helping me to clarify my thoughts for this project.

Thank you to Claudia Lamar and Lanell Dike for your enthusiasm and assistance in hanging this installation. Lanell, thank for suggesting a cleaner way of hanging and Lorraine Bruce, thank you for this opportunity and for asking me to exhibit in the first place.

Defining My Work

Mini Wallpaper Book

mixed-media book: (running stitch) paper, thread, wallpaper, beads, button, eyelet, elastic
2 5/8″ x 3″ x 3/4″ ©2010 Leah Virsik

My books are getting smaller and smaller lately. I’m using up scraps of paper, mostly and preparing for a class at SCRAP on Saturday, July 10th from 1:00 to 4:00. More details soon!

Still working through Alyson B. Stanfield’s Relatively Pain-free Artist Statement e-book. I’m on a tough question about categorizing my work. And partly I think because I have two different things I do… books and abstract paintings… which at times overlap. Currently, my book focus has been on binding books by hand. Some of my books are one-of-a-kind artist’s books but many are blank books. My blank books are one-of-a-kind as well with emphasis primarily on the cover and the binding. I really feel like I’m in the middle of my creative process and I’m not quite sure which direction I’ll go. I’d like to create more artist’s books but I also get a lot of satisfaction out of quickly making a handbound book. Lately, I’ve been making books as examples that I can teach.

My abstract paintings, abstract expressionism for lack of a better classification, consist of many layers and elements, including paper, paint drippings and eggshells. I work on them without intention until I feel they are done. I’m motivated by color and texture and how they interact with each other on the substrate. My books on the other hand have a very specific intention, measurement and precision.  Lately, I’ve been experimenting a lot with sewing, embroidery, and quilting, incorporating these elements into my books. I try to work fast with a relaxed focus… working with the piece as it develops.

Writing my Artist Statement: Week 2

Mini Fabric Book

Mini-Fabric mixed-media book: (running stitch) beads, fabric, paper, thread, buttons, elastic, metal eyelet 3 1/4″ x 4″ x 1 1/2″ ©2010 Leah Virsik. For image of inside click here.

I’m on my second week of working through Alyson B. Stanfield’s “The Relatively Pain-Free Artist Statement.”

At age six, I wrote that art was my favorite subject. It’s always been something that I’ve been excited about. At age 26, I gave a speech in a drawing class where I feel I first considered myself an artist, at least in a very public way. I took the class with my boyfriend at the time. He drew really well, better than I and he was much more aware. He didn’t love to draw however and didn’t keep up with it. I had a persistence about it. I’m not sure I loved the drawing but the process was enjoyable and it was great to see what came out of me.

Artist is a loaded word. People have different beliefs about what it means. My biggest stumbling block was the fact that I don’t naturally draw realistically. Now, I realize it’s more of a choice or desire than a lack of ability.

One of my favorite definitions of being an artist is in Cay Lang’s Taking the Leap. Cay Lang recalls artist Terry Allen describing how one knows one is an artist: “An artist can’t stop himself. He really has no choice about it.” I can relate to that obsession. I think one can make art but it doesn’t mean one’s an artist. I believe an artist is obsessed, passionate and focused.

I spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out the meaning of “professional artist”. My own initial definition was an artist who sells work, spends a lot of time creating work, marketing it and getting it out into the world. Looking up the phrase brought up other definitions. One from the Canada Council for the Arts gave this definition: professional artist: An artist who: has specialized training in his or her artistic field (not necessarily obtained in an academic institution); is recognized as such by his or her peers (artists working in the same artistic tradition); is committed to devoting more time to the artistic activity if this becomes financially feasible; has a history of public presentation

No language about making money. Very curious how that was my number one requirement. NAVA (Australia) has a definition as well. So, after all that, yes, I consider myself a professional artist. Having a serious commitment to art and it being a major aspect of my life make me a professional artist.

On a bit of a sidenote, I appreciate Seth Godin’s definition of art from Linchpin: “Art is the intentional act of using your humanity to create a change in another person.”

Make Your Own Simple Handbound Journal: February 7

Raid Your Office Supplies! Make Your Own Simple Handbound Journal
Time: Sunday, February 7, 2010
9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. (1/2 hour break for lunch, bring a bag lunch if desired)
Where: Frank Bette Center for the Arts
1601 Paru Street, (at Lincoln) Alameda, CA 94501
Fee: $45 members, $60 non-members. Plus $10 materials fee
(pay materials fee at workshop)
Click here to sign up via PayPal at the Frank Bette site.

In this class for beginners, you’ll create your own 3-section “pamphlet stitch” journal from commonly available office supplies including file folders, envelopes and paper clips. You’ll sew the sections, attach eyelets to the spine and secure your book with an elastic band or a button and string. You’ll then add elements to the cover and inside to make it your own. Take home your own unique handbound journal and a one-section mini-postcard book.

What to Bring: ruler, scissors, glue stick, pencil, a cutting mat and a bone folder. Also, bring a 4″ x 6″ piece of cardstock (or postcard) for a cover for a mini-book. Optional: Bring any elements you’d like to include in your book to personalize it. Some examples are: canceled stamps, rubber stamps, stickers, paper clips, ribbon, old receipts, shopping list, scraps of paper and handwritten notes. Limit these things to 5 1/2″ high. White inside pages and some ephemera will be provided.

About the instructor: Leah Virsik enjoys making books and painting. She has a passion for paper and bookbinding and daydreams about art when she’s not actually making it. She creates books out of new and repurposed materials and works with paper, fabric, plastic, metal, acrylic and collage. Learn more about her and her work by visiting

Art Every Day Month: November 29

I was cleaning up my office and put away my sewing machine and ironing board and I know now that I can’t put them away at least for long. I missed them way too much. I have three more little books like this coming together really soon. They are so much fun to make. They’ve come out of AEDM and my mail art postcards.

Art Every Day Month has been such a blessing. I want to make work that I need to make, to connect with it, to find out what it needs, where it wants to be… and it really feels like I’m doing that. I’ve passed the point of no return in many ways. So much of it is just trusting that I’m on that path. Today I was looking for and found some great yarns I had purchased several years ago from Article Pract. They’re going to be used in the other books I’m making. It’s funny how things connect. The scraps of fabric that I’ve had over the years fit right in to the projects I’m working on now.

Erin making book

I had a lot of fun teaching Erin and Dave how to make books. Tom came in and took photos of us. I got a lot of good feedback from them. It’s such an emotional process for me… to teach. I’m quite attached and want things to work out for my students. But at the same time I also know with my own process that classes can be valuable for different reasons in different ways and so often not for the product I produced in the class. So I think more practice teaching and less attachment will help.

Art Every Day Month: November 27

This in progress “Book Cover Beginning” actually looks better on the screen than it does in reality. It doesn’t have as much contrast. I really like the resisting qualities of crayon underneath watercolor. I’ll be folding this paper twice and creating a 1/2′ spine for the pages to go inside. I want to try a new stitch. Looking forward to learning.

I really appreciated this quote by Natalie Goldberg posted on Leah Piken Kolidas’ Day 27 Check-in for Art Every Day Month “Sometimes when you think you are done, it is just the edge of beginning. Probably that’s why we decide we’re done. It’s getting too scary. We are touching down onto something real. It is beyond the point when you think you are done that often something strong comes out.” In Leah’s post she says: “Today is the 27th day of Art Every Day Month. So close to the end of this particular journey. How would you like to wrap things up? What would make a beautiful ending for you?”
In so many ways, I do feel like this is the beginning. I’ve touched upon what it’s like to blog very consistently and to notice what it’s like to do art regularly. I appreciate the chance to document it in such a supportive and encouraging environment. I don’t want to stop but I also want to transition into a new way of being around my creating and maybe it’s just continuing… and discovering what’s right for me.

I had a really nice Thanksgiving yesterday with family. Good food and really nice people to be around. Erin and Dave brought fresh vegetables from Chino Farms. Yum!

From a Box to a Book

Art Has Become My Life, originally uploaded by Leah Virsik.

This is my “box” for Pro Arts 35th Anniversary Party/Box Art Benefit Auction: Saturday, November 7, 6 – 9 pm Preview Exhibition: November 3 – 7, 2009. Thanks to my dad for cutting the box of wood into nice 1/2″ pieces.

Inspired, I signed up for Leah Piken Kolidas’ November Art Every Day Challenge and received a really nice email back from her. I’m exited to join an online art community and post more of my work, more often.

Also, I signed up for Rock Paper Scissors Collective’s Sewing Lab Training. Looking forward to learning how to use their industrial straight stitch and serger! I want to make more books with fabric and leather.

Book Arts Jam 2009


I’m super excited to be a part of Book Arts Jam 2009 this Saturday, October 17 at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. Come for the day and stop by to say hello. As well as displaying my books for sale, I’ll be giving a hands-on demo on how to make a mini-pamphlet book.

Book Arts Jam 2009, is a one-day regional celebration of the book and print arts, co-sponsored by the Bay Area Book Artists and Foothill College. This year’s event features an exhibition of artists’ books, hands-on demonstrations, and make-and-take activities; an exhibitors’ showcase with work by more than 50 artists and craftspeople in the book, paper, and print arts; a slideshow of member work; silent auction; and a full-service onsite cafeteria. Great for families with children, teachers, students, artists, and anyone who likes books. Remember, books make great gifts!

October 17, 2009 | 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Foothill College
12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills, California
Free admission, parking $2 Eventline: 650-949-7591