23 July 2013

Tricks of the Trade

Aspen tree stencil applied in gesso
with green spray ink.
I've been having a lot of fun making & discussing art socially in the past week, in addition to making art on my own. I have some very talented friends who are a constant source of energy boosts and support and I want to use this opportunity to give a shout-out to thank them all for being there. I *really* mean it!

Ms. PocketSize, who blogs regularly these days on her incredible adventure with "arting" has been posting some examples of her work with stencils and gesso.  I wanted to learn this art, since I'm rather limited in my stencil repertoire. Fortunately, I know Ms. PocketSize IRL, so she generously agreed to include a gesso with stencils demo into our randomly-scheduled art-nites at her mother's gorgeous and well-equipped mixed media studio (Zingala has another studio just for her textile art. Wow! Two art studios.)

The gesso stencil technique is rather fiddly, but I got the hang of it fairly quickly. I started with several stencils from TheCraftersWorkshop.com and then went for gold and used my artistcellar TEXTure Rivermap stencil by Jill K. Berry. The results were uneven, but I'll share my best efforts.

I made several great impressions of each stencil eventually. Ms. PocketSize encouraged me to try turning the stencil over on a blank page after I've pushed the gesso through the "positive" side of the stencil. The results of the "negative" stencil of the gears was rather steampunky, especially when I sprayed ink over it using my Glimmer Mist in chalkboard by Tattered Angels.  Another successful attempt was the aspen tree stencil with a medium green ink spray overlay (see above).  The best of the bunch was definitely the Rivermap stencil.  Not only is Jill K. Berry's font so awesome-looking, but I used red and green spray inks blended together, meeting in the middle.

Gessoed Rivermap stamp by J.K. Berry with spray ink.
The result of flipping the gear stencil over
while it was covered with gesso. Chalkboard mist.

Art adventure number two, was an impromptu opportunity at work. Several friends in my day-job world are paper conservators. I love to watch them carefully sew books back together, reattach their covers, and glue down marbled end papers whenever I walk through the conservation lab. They are all artists. Really, you have to be to do what they do everyday. You not only put things together, but often you have to take them apart, remove layers of nasty tape and other ickiness.  It's a kind of magic to me.

The other day, Vicki Lee was demonstrating for the benefit of her summer interns, how simple folded calendar books are made.  The calendar books are based upon surviving examples of late medieval and renaissance books in the Vade Museum. Vicki learned how to make these at a workshop, so now she was sharing the techniques.

No greater thing is there in life but to learn something and then share it with others. Spread the love, I say.  I want to try and make a fold-out art book using a binding technique like this.

Folding Calendar binding,
based upon historical sample

"Take Me Along" binding showing where
the pages will be sewn together
"Take Me Along" binding page laid out open

Working alongside other artists and creative types is the surest way for me to continue to practice and grow as an artist.  My other collaboration of the week was formed from a need to reconnect with a friend and to beat the heat wave we've been experiencing.

My friend is herself a budding multi-media artist. She's taking classes in a variety of techniques and working out through practice how she can best express herself. In other words, she and I are on a parallel path.  We spent more time just catching up on each other's lives and gabbing than we did on making art itself, but the process of talking about the art you're making is almost as important as the art-making part.

We tried out a "artful shamanism" guided journey technique that I've learned from artist Effy Wild as one of the mixed media lessons in Life Book 2013.  If that sounds too out there, think of it purely as mediation like you might do in a Buddhist monastery or during a yoga class. Anyway, let's just say that the process, or journey, enabled each of us to find a powerful symbol to use in a creative way.

The symbol that I imagined is becoming a work of art. Since the resulting visual image is still in progress, you'll have to wait for the next edition of Pull of the Tides to learn more.

Stay tuned to this channel.

Until then, get off your duff and do something, anything, creative!


  1. I really love how your gesso and stencils turned out! I enjoy our impromptu get togethers and I agree that talking about what you're doing is as important as doing it. Having like minded people around to talk to is important in growing in art. I'd love to learn the Folding Calendar binding that Vicki was teaching the interns.

  2. Awesome! Your stenciling work turned out great, and we can play with it some more next time, too. Maybe work on layering a bit :) I wish I could've been there for the bookbinding lesson from Vicki, but I'm glad you're having fun at work and outside with all your creative friends!

    1. Layering, hmmm. Think I'm ready for the next level? ;-)

  3. You're welcome! I'm happy to pass along anything I know related to books (or anything else). I wish we all had more time to create together, it really is inspiring all the way around!

  4. Hello there! Thank you for your lovely comments.

    Maybe we need to hire Vicki to give us all a special Folding Calendar making workshop some evening or weekend. (I bet we can lure her with special meal and perhaps an excellent bottle of vino.)

    I have been thinking about trying to make one of these Folding Calendar bindings for telling a cartoon story (sort of a mini-graphic novel.) My idea was to have a couple of ravens or crows as narrators. I saw lots of blackbirds when I spent time out West this summer and loved to watch the antics of the corvid kind. If I use the fold-out bindings, each part could be one comicbook episode, because when you open the book there are convenient four-page spreads in each section.