Since we moved into our new house not a weekend’s gone by without a trip or two (. . . or three!) to a home improvement store. At first it seemed like each night we spent unpacking was just another chance to lengthen Ye Ole To-Do List but after completing this project we’ve really been enjoying the fruits of our labor. Our previous apartment was tiny and made of cinder blocks so bike storage was tricky. We kept tools on she shelves of a built-in unit, spare parts under the bed, and since we couldn’t drill into the walls, Nick built two bike racks to hold all our rides. They press against the ceiling and floor to hold in place and avoid any wall blemishes, like so: Since the ceiling here is vaulted (awesome!) we needed a new approach. A pegboard seemed like the best option for us: simple to keep organized, easy access, less furniture/shelves to buy. But of course we couldn’t stand the thought of hanging a white square with holes in it on the already white walls, so we did the cool thing and spray painted it! Cut your pegboard down to the size you need, tape off your design, and spray away! We bought a 8×12 pegboard and cut it down in 3 pieces to fit 3 different projects. After a couple coats of paint and a few beers, voila! Although most of the pegboard is covered in tools and bike gear, it’s nice to have some fun color involved. After we hung the board, we took the hooks off the old bike rack and simply drilled them into the wall. I don’t think I could be happier with how our little “dining nook” turned out. Having everything out and in one place is so convenient. And mounting the bikes upwards really takes advantage of all the wall space created by the super high ceilings. It also prevents scuffs on the walls from just leaning all our bikes in a pile. It also prevents the bike pile in the first place! It’s so wonderful to watch each space come together and see how it transforms a rental house into an actual home that’s perfect for us. If you can’t be out riding, where’s your favorite place to park your bike?
On Sunday I turned 24 years old! I’m not sure why I feel kind of embarrassed to admit that. . . maybe because 24 always seemed so old in my head and I thought I would have accomplished more by now. But I’m trying to get over those feelings and I am starting with my own actions. I realized that I have been doing three terrible things since the summer ended:
1. Making excuses to push all of the things I want to do into the future instead of the now.
-Not enough time. Here’s a tip: there is always enough time. If you think you can’t do enough of the things you love, then you need to give up the things you dislike and replace them with the things you desire.
-Not enough space. This is what I have been most guilty of telling myself for the last four months, “If only I had more space to make ______ I could do so much more!” And though it is true that when I move in a few months I will have more space to work on bookmaking and sewing projects, it doesn’t mean I can’t work on things I love until then.
2. Comparing myself to others.
To most people this means looks, but not for me. I compare myself to others my age: their job, their salary, where they live. I compare myself to other cyclists: the miles they ride, the gear they use, how much they drive. I compare myself to other artists: what they make and how often they make it.
And here is the thing: this is bullshit. I mean excuse my french, but why should I care what other people my age are getting paid to do when I would never even want to do what they are doing? I mean, I’m all for getting inspired by others and becoming a better person daily. But this is not the same thing nor is it the right way to do it. I’ve learnt that the only person you should compare yourself to is yourself. That is the only way to know how you have grown as a cyclist, artist, baker, photographer, illustrator, writer, or person.
Think about it: if I compared every poem I wrote to Rainer Maria Rilke, or every mile I ran to Chris Trager, or anything I made to my best friend Danny McClain’s work (which is being featured all up in this post!), then I would literally never get anywhere. In the last year, I have taken poetry classes, done bookbinding workshops, been hit by a truck while cycling, and you know what? I am a better writer, artist, and cyclist because of all of them (even though that last one wasn’t my fault).
Nothing I learned or improved upon in the last year came from me looking at others and getting down on myself. It came from being inspired to never stop learning, never give up, and never quit trying. And that’s what I will keep doing.
3. Not trying out of fear of failing (or fear of criticism).
Okay, I know I literally just said “never quit trying,” and I meant it. Once I try something, I don’t mind trying again to improve it. But it’s just getting me to attempt in the first place that is the hardest. This ties into what I was talking about earlier. For example, it’s so easy for me to look at someone else’s beautifully decorated cake and then decide that I’d rather not make one at all than to try really hard and then have this super ugly cake. But worst case scenario— YOU STILL HAVE CAKE SO I MEAN WHAT IS THE PROBLEM? The point is: whoever made the beautiful cake I am drooling over— at some point— made a cake that they completely hated. You can’t get better at something you never started.
So we learn and we try and we get better. This post was supposed to be about the goals I set for myself this year, but instead this is what came out. You can’t hope to improve unless you take the time to acknowledge things holding you back. Which, in my case, is mostly myself. This post is longer and more personal than usual, so I will save my list of goals for another day, but I feel fine realizing I can achieve those goals if I just cut the nonsense and do what I really, truly, deeply want to do.
In short, I’d like to quote Yer Heart right now, “It’s so much better to mess up than to do nothing at all.”
I am super excited to learn that two of my books will be featured in the Encoded Structures: Interpreting the Story exhibition in conjunction with the Handmade & Bound Festival in Nashville, Tn!
The festival takes place Sept. 30th & Oct. 1st at the Watkins College of Art, Design, & Film. The Opening Reception is September 30, 2011 @ 6:30 pm and the exhibit ends October 31, 2011. If you like books, zines, mini-comics, and other things handmade, then you should definitely check it out! You can also read about my two books that will be there: Dreamweaver and Wanderlust.
We started off the week by dyeing papers and using techniques like batik and discharge to create patterns. Then we learned some iron on transfer techniques and applied them to paper and fabric. I used all of these techniques on watercolor paper, but I also used them on pages of a dinosaur book that I found the week before. Then we used the papers we created to make collages, this is mine:
I created this by pulling fabric over a stretcher frame (like you would canvas) and then applied additional layers of paper & fabric to it with acrylic medium. This made the layers really stiff, like a vinyl or waterproof shoes. But I didn’t want to just have this 24″ x 21″ collage piece, so I decided to cut it up in order to make smaller, more interesting collage surfaces:
After I had some interesting 3″ x 3″ squares, I knew I wanted to create a book with them. I have loved Jacob’s Ladders since I learned about them in high school (I didn’t have one as a kid), and when I discovered it can be used as a book form, well, I fell even harder for the magical structures. Since I wanted six panels, and a Jacob’s Ladder is viewed from both sides, I needed a dozen collages. I started cutting, arranging, and stapling my pieces:
If you have never seen a Jacob’s Ladder in person, you can watch this video to see how it works. The instructions I used are from Creating Handmade Books, a text I had from the first book arts class I ever took.
I ended up weaving a small basket out of my collage scraps to house this book. I would still like to make a lid for it, but I am pleased with how it’s turning out:
I feel like this class pretty much tied the entire summer up for me. I am positive I will use several of these techniques often. This book is very unique from any I have made in the past, and I am sure that with some more play, I can continue to push my books in new and exciting directions.
I’m excited to make this form again, even though it took me about 3 tries to bind it correctly. Maybe one day I will make instructions that aren’t so confusing so that no one has to go through what I did. Or maybe I’m the only one that had this much trouble with a Jacob’s Ladder? Either way, I plan on practicing this form again, so hopefully I will have more to share in the future. Let me know if you have any tips!
I had the extreme pleasure of taking a workshop taught by Carol Barton while I was at Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts this summer. Carol is not only the author of The Pocket Paper Engineer Volumes I & II, but also a fantastic book artist, often making editions upwards of 300!
We started the week learning simple pop-up constructions and how to layer them. Does this look like a face to anyone else?
We also experimented with some platform and prop structures (which you can learn about in her 2nd book) and then moved on to more complicated shapes. I played around with cutting out letters:
We also learned some 3D book froms, such as: accordion, carousal, and tunnel book structures. I wanted to try something new, so I decided to focus on making a flag book. I used materials I already had, like textured packing paper and a book of old maps. Here is the cover of Wanderlust Full Speed Ahead:
Covers & spine detail:
Detail of cut-outs:
During the week several students worked on carousal books. Since I had made one before, I focused on getting the flag book done. However, after I finished it, I did eventually end up starting a carousal book. But I still wanted to do something new, so I decided to scale mine down and make a miniature. Here is the start of it:
It begins with three nested layers. When you are done, it folds into a circle or “carousal” shape. When I learned this form in college, we called it a “Star Book” for obvious reasons:
This book is about 2 1/4″ x 2 1/8″ and is shaping up pretty nicely. I plan on incorporating layered pop ups and lots of stitching into it. Here is a detail of the back:
I learned so much in this workshop that I can incorporate into my work. I am excited to finish this book and to start new ones. I can now visualize what I want to make and easily achieve it. Make sure to check back here to see a finished version.
I decided to try something a little different than usual this summer: Encaustic Collage. This technique is also known as “hot wax painting” and involves layering melted wax on a surface and encasing papers into it (if you wish). You can also transfer images/text onto the surface and lots of other techniques, but I won’t bore you with details. Instead, I’ll just show you this piece I made:
In case you couldn’t tell, this was partially inspired by The Labyrinth. Also inspired by: kittens, nebulae, marbled paper, fancy dresses, etc. Although this class was a challenge, I am glad I took it. And even though I got some work I like out of it, I know I won’t really be doing it in the future. It’s pretty time consuming and messy, and at the end of the day, I would rather spend my time making books or baking cakes. I mean, I’m all for being a well rounded person and artist, but with so many interests, I’m already nervous about being a Jill-of-all-trades-master-of-none some day, you know? I am going to spend my energy and free time on bookmaking, embroidery, and baking: so we all have that to look forward to.