Friday, April 24, 2015


When I work on an art project, I really test my theme for the year: Letting Go.

I'm putting together a small book of watercolors that I painted. I know they will look much better when they are framed in some matter. They will stop being just sketches. The book I am making is called "Ephemera" based on a visual poem I wrote about things disappearing.

Putting together a book is mind-bending. As I work on the book, I need to visualize its completed form, I need to calculate dimensions, I need to measure accurately, and I need to be precise with the assemblage. I have to work really hard to make these actions happen so that I end up with pages that line up without any squiggly edges out of whack.

As you can see on this try making accordion folds, I didn't quite make the folds precise enough, which can throw off the book's form. That's when I have to ask myself, "Does it matter?"

I have a choice here of just letting go or making the most polished book that I can. I have to ask myself, "Is this the best I can do at this time?" Then I think of another small book I made with shows a quote from Lao Tsu.

Each time I practice making a book, I find new problems, new mistakes to make. Sometimes I need to begin again, other times I am satisfied with what I've done, while other times I can let go of my preconceived ideas of what I wanted and discover a better solution.

With some books I've made, I have reveled in their imprecision. When I have used cloth bindings, the pages naturally twist and give a little. They are full of scraps and stitches.

What I have to ask myself each time, "Is this the kind of book I want to make or is it a book that needs to be made as meticulously as possible?"  What questions do you ask yourself as you work?

For this book of very careful watercolors, I think it is important to develop the precision I need to make a book that allows the watercolors  to shine and also pleases me. I may make the book over and over again until it just right. I've decided to cut apart what I have assembled already and remake the book entirely. 

Instead of an accordion folded book, I cut and folded enough separate pieces of paper to hold the small paintings. After gluing a painting to each page, I tied the pages together with square knots at both bottom and top. I then punched two holes in the fold of each piece and made a loop to anchor the ribbon that I attached to the covers to hold the whole book together.

In the process of finishing the book, I used matt medium to attach end papers. I didn't notice until everything was dry that a big drop of medium landed on the first page of the book. Do I let that go? Do I have to start over? No. Instead, I took a piece of the end paper and attached it to the first page. The drip disappeared under an interesting page that had a trace of ink swiped across it.

When I finished, I did not have a perfect book. I remembered when I was younger, my inner critic parts would have been jumping up and down in frustration. I have learned to talk with those parts so now I can slow down, enjoy what I am doing, and be patient with my results. My mom said, "It takes some people a long time to grow up." I now know what she meant by that. 
I am still learning to let go.

If you are interested in making books, look through Alisa Golden's book, Making Handmade Books, and you will find 100 ways to build a book.  Check out her website too.

Two galleries to discover:  23 Sandy Gallery in Portland, Oregon, which specializes in book art exhibits.

 Seager Grey Gallery in Mill Valley, California.Their annual book arts exhibit starts
 May 5:


  1. What you are doing looks like fun! And it's fun to read about your thought processes while doing them. Certainly it's a process of growing up. :-)

    1. Yeah, book making is fun and difficult at the same time.

  2. Thanks, Jan. I am having fun with all the projects I'm working on.

  3. Thanks for sharing Martha. I am inspired!

  4. Thank you again, Elizabeth. Your writing class through Story Circle Network inspired me. I am glad I could do the same for you!


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