Monday, 16 July 2018


I love feathers. Of all kinds of birds, in all shapes and sizes. They remind me of lightness and I keep using feather patterns in my art projects.
After I had made my June postcards I had some of the coloured watercolour paper left over. It would have been a waste to throw them out and so I went ahead and made some feathers out of the scraps. I tried to use as much of the paper as I could and ended up with differently sized feathers which I then made into a fan with a brad and srap paper discs.

Making my feathered fan gave me an idea for the end of year teachers gifts in my local playschool, after all they looked after all of my children and now my last set of kids is moving on into big school I wanted to make the teachers gifts a little special. 
So I took papers and my trusty Gelatos and made more colourful paper to cut out my feathers from. I had to make 5 feathers in total for 5 teachers, and out of each paper piece I got a big feather and 4 small feathers.

Cutting out some details and marking the feather lines with my paint markers. I had planned to attach the little feathers with the furry string you see in the next picture but I changed my plans and improvised...

Apart from the feathers I also made hand tie dyed bandana scarves. I made 6 scarves, wrapped them all and then chose 5 at random for gifts, this is the one that was then left for me...

And the little feathered scarf gift parcels all done up. As you can see I ended up using brads to attach the small feathers.

The large feathers all have a Thank You note written on the back. Since I had randomised all the gifts I could not really personalise the notes, but from what I heard later all teachers loved their scarves and feathers...

Thursday, 5 July 2018

June Postcard Trade

I participated in a wonderful postcard trade in June. The only guidelines were that the postcards had to be 4“ x 6“ in size and feature bold colours, some doodles and some writing.  Perfect for when you are starting to explore all the lovely goodies in your art supply stash, and also for using up scraps and leftover papers and such.

I chose heavy watercolour paper for mine, and these particular sheets I had done a splatter technique with fabric dyes, not realising that for this particulad dye to be fixed I would have had to soak the paper in soda ash. So my green splatters moved and stained as soon as I tried to paint and draw over them, and for the postcards I toned the green down and also fixed the dye with a thin coat of gesso. You can see how the green moved in the green streaks in the next picture.

Following the Gesso I gave my paper a nice coating with Gelatos, an item in my stash I am now using more often in my pictures. I first smudge them more even with my fingers and then go over them with thin white acrylic paint.

I think I also used my brayer and white acrylics in my layering process and I ended up with some nice soft but still bold colours. Next I sketched random flower outlines on my cards and filled them in wih thinned white acrylics again, They looked a little ghostly to me and I really liked how they turned out so I decided not to paint them any more but instead I tried to enhance them with a coat of matt black.

Now they looked even ghostlier, if that is even a proper expression. But I think you can see what I mean.
And next I did my doodles and outlines with black and white paint pens.

During this process it turned out that a few more people were participating in the postcard swap than I had anticipated, and also I had falled in love with one of my own cards (making it impossible to send it to someone else) so I had to gesso and prepare another sheet of watercolour paper and make some additional cards. Then lastly they all got a protective coating because I wanted to make sure none of the Gelatos smudged in transit, you can see all my cards in the next picture. The late stragglers I made are still missing some doodled decoration but I figured the paint pen could stick to the coating and would be safe on the journey.

And this is my favourite card I kept. Well, I didn‘t really keep it at first, I mailed it off with all the other ones just adressed to myself. I also had one additional card left over and I mailed that one to my Mom (Hi, Mom...), she had mentioned that she never gets any nice mail at all...

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Scrap Leather Journal Cover

I tend to keep a journal. I used to when I was a teenager, and then I did not for a good number of years, I thought I had probably grown out of it. But in recent months I have found it very helpful to sort „thinking“ out by writing it down. It helps to prioritise what is really important and what is just mental noise and a little time down the road it will be nice to look back to see the changes that have taken place or where changes still need to happen. 
I do my journal writing in a little A6 size notebook made from recycled leather. It has six sewn in signatures and the long stitches on the spine are decorated with tiny bells, I think it was the little bells that made me buy this particular one. Anyhow, this journal is starting to be a little full and so I started to think about what kind of book I would like to keep writing in. I considered taking out the full signatures and replacing them with new ones, but I found that I like to write on narrow lined paper and to obtain (or make) paper to my desired specs seemed a little arduous. Then I thought about storing my full signatures, I live in a small house with a lot of people and stuff in it, storing space is precious. And then in my local stationary shop I found bundles of A4 narrow ruled pads on offer. Unfortunately (I thought then) they all also had holes punched on the left side for filing them in folders. But hold on... for filing them! In folders! I got me a pack of these pads and went home thinking some more.
Last Christmas my Mother in Law sent me a beautiful big box full of leather scraps, she got them for me in the huge craft shop she has in her neighbourhood, they have a big chest full of off cuts and such there. I already had the leather, and the paper, and I had also decided I wanted my journal to have slip in booklets like a travellers notebook. Because now that my paper has holes for filing, why not use them? I then found this lovely video on Youtube on How to upcycle boots into a journal and I was hooked.

Just in case you are wondering: the cutting mat is upside down, not the picture. But you can see the scraps and the paper sample I made for estimating the signature size.

My biggest whole piece of material was the guideline for the patchwork pieces.

To hold the pieces together during sewing I used a fabric glue stick I had bought (and almost never used) years ago, it provides just enough tack to hold the bits together long enough for me to sew them.

I have to admit my sewing machine did not like this job, it kept skipping stitches and left me with uneven stitching and some extra holes in the leather, but faced with the choice of being annoyed about it or embracing the very rustic look (oh I can be a perfectionist at times) I went for the rustic look. 
The large holes in the next picture are made on purpose though, the cover flap was too big but I did not want to cut it so I just bent in inwards and this will be the securing seam.

Front view at this stage, I took the belt buckle off an old childrens boot and I will attach it with the handsewn securing seam.

I wanted to use a thick waxed cord but I did not have enough of it so I decided to use twine instead, I had to use a needle and loop method to get the twine through the punched holes. And there also is already some bling attached...

And the finishedcover front, even with two little clusters of bells attached. I had to have the bells...

The cover was planned to hold six signatures, But after it was assembled there was still a lot of room in the spine. I had doubled the layers of leather to give the spine more stability, but this caused the stiffer section to be bigger than my six signatures and so I added another set of holes. I now have eight signatures inside.

Side views of the finished thing...

Inside cover flap, I might make a little opening into it for holding a pen...

And my signatures. The one on the left is a stack of bound watercolour paper folios and on the right is one of my writing signatures. I just folded my lined paper in half, put a cream paper around the stack and stitched them together with a pamphlet stitch.

And now you see my signature unfolded: the punched holes in the side mean I can easily file my filled signatures and I have an A4 page to write on, giving me plenty of space and even margins. Yes I have to turn the journal „sideways“ to write in it but I don‘t mind, that just makes it unique...

And all my journals lovely layers to view...

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Sewn Boiled Paper Book

If you have read the previous post you know how the following beautiful book pages came to be, this post is all about the sewing and decoration process.
I also noticed that all my pictures turned out way too big for my blog layout so I am reducing the size, hopefully not loosing any of the details.

The following pictures show the holes in the folio (a single page is a folio, a few pages together are a signature) and also in the inner spine of the book cover. I wanted to give the spine a little extra stability and glued an extra piece of sturdy paper inside. I then used a dremel type of handheld drill to make the holes in the cover and in the folios, the watercolour paper is just a little too thick for a needle to go through.

When I make a book I always enjoy the sewing process the most, I think I used a long stitch here, with waxed embroidery thread and added wooden beads on the outside of the spine.

The finished book from the outside, the wood beads on the spine with tied long stitch binding and the closed cover with deckled feature edge. The blue tint on some of the leaves is from red beech leaves. We cut a green beech tree a few years ago and it came back with green and dark red leaves. The red always turns blue, you can try it out with most red berry tea varieties as well. The teabags start out red and turn bluish during drying. I wonder what would happen to paper boiled in red berry tea?

I also made sure that I placed folios next to each other that also had been together during the boiling process because I wanted to have continuity while flipping through the finished book. I will give a few examples here of this continuity.

Two adjacent folios, one mirroring the patters of the other.

Same folios, this time with the deckled cover opened. I took care to place leaves under each deckled cover as well.

The whole folio opened, revealing another mirroring pattern.

The next adjacent folios, the one on the left is the one from the pictures above.

Same thing here, deckled cover opened...

And the full folio inside visible.

This is what I meant by continuity, even though each folio is totally unique they are still connected to each other by the mirrored patterns of their outer covers with their neighbouring folios. 

Here are a few more lovelies...

And now all I have to do is fill this book with some awesome art. And to be honest that is a little scary to think of because I love how the book turned out, what if I mess it up with a drawing? The only think to keep in mind now is that without its intended content the book is still incomplete and unfinished...

Boiling Another Book

Boiling a book, or boiling paper is just a fancy way of saying eco printing. I do not like to use the expression eco printing because even though I have read countless tutorials on it and watched videos about it, there always seem to be an awful lot of ingedients involved (like allum and mordants and such) and I tend to try and go the „easiest“ way possible with as few ingredients as I can get away with. I suppose, having stated I like to go the easy way, you will read on and throw your hands in the air and exclaim that my process is anything but easy and so complicated, but really the only difficult and time consuming bit was planning the layout how I wanted my book to be later and tearing the relatively thick watercolour paper I used.

I started out with a single large sheet of watercolour paper, it is larger than 18“ x 24“ (the size of the green cutting mat underneath). I absolutely love the natural deckled edge of the paper and I wanted to keep it for my book and even make it a key feature. So to have my pages all matching in with this I did not cut my paper, I folded it repeatedly on the same fold and tore it. I need 8 pages for my planned book, so the fist fold is lenghtways, in preparation of then tearing it into 8equal parts.

I will spare you the tedious process, here are my 8 pages with deckled edges.

For the next part the marking lines on the mat came in very handy. I needed to score and fold all my pages according to my diagram below.

This is what it looks like scored and the picture afterwards shows the page folded as planned, featuring the deckled edge.

I also planned out a cover for my pages to be sewn into and to be boiled along with the rest if the book. For that I went into my garden and picked plenty of different leaves and grasses. I then layered the pages as I wanted them, with plant material inside and outside and between and tied it into a nice loose little bundle ready for boiling. I do not have pictures of this process, but I have a picture of the bundle in the pot, simmering happily.

I used ordinary (black) teabags and roibush teabags for my boiling solution. No chemicals or dyes involved this time, I needed to use one of my cooking pots and chemicals would have ruined it for foodstuffs.
The ready package doesn‘t look very impressive draining in my sink...

But the effect when the leaves are removed and the pages opened up is awesome in my opinion. You will just never be able to predict what is going to happen during the dyeing process and will end up with totally unique pieces.

This post is starting to get a little lenghty so I will show the binding process in my next post...