Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Studio Visitors to Cheer Me!

Nora Waddell and Boni Jaworski

Today I was blessed with visitors to the grotto studio. Nora Waddell, good friend from St. Barnabas Church, our faith community, brought an artist who is a good friend of hers, Boni Jaworski, a long time Deep River resident. Boni is a watercolor artist, among all her other interests, and a member of the Valley Artisans Cooperative here in  Deep  River. Both were fascinated with my press and small collection of type and other art equipment and supplies. It was wonderful to share the studio with them!

As I came back to the studio I was able to add more elements to my Almost a Nun artist's book and to get out one of my wooden bookcovers to begin planing the layout of the page for the manuscript leaf that will be held inside.

Almost a Nun

Wooden folio bookcover
Folio Inside

The inside embellishments for Almost  a Nun are coming along slowly-I find that I have more to include than I have space for in the book, so tomorrow will be all about "less is more"!!! I made the wooden bookcover last summer at the cottage. It has brass mini piano hinges and a brass clasp, both from Lee Valley Tools. The inside folio is Arches 300 pound watercolor paper. I coated the wooden cover with 3 coats of tongue oil, let it dry in the sun for a couple of days, and then closed it with the paper inside. I was hoping to have some of the tongue oil seep into the folio for a specific aging effect to the paper and it has worked. I hope tomorrow to add the text and illumination to this folio and finish attaching the folio to the cover. This wooden folio book will end up with it's own marbled paper box for safekeeping.

I spent most of late yesterday afternoon and last night updating my blog/website and my online shop. Pages have been added here for gallery and book arts items as well as information about commission work. It feels wonderful to have my pages here fuller with more representations of my work to share with others.

Having visitors today to the grotto was wonderful. Nora and Boni's energy for my studio, my work, and my creative verve were so inspiring! Being able to share my story with these two wonderful souls helped to bring many ideas to the forefront that have been bubbling just under the surface of my conscious mind these past months. Being able to share creative ideas, information about materials and supplies, and our own life stories was amazing.

It once again reminded me how important it is to share our stories with one another. Reaching into our personal 'story archive' of our world to share both our visual and spiritual vocabularies, enriches the experience of living in community with others. This type of interaction is essential for artists as they tell their story through their work, using their own visual vocabulary, to bring their souls into the world. My own creative verve vibrates and my aura is filled with joy when guests come and listen to my stories, and share their own. My work process, with each breath I take and each stroke I make, incorporates these experiences and helps to bridge the thin-ness between dream and reality, between the path and the journey, between this world and the next, .

All will be well, and all will be well, and with the joy and peace of God, all will be well!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fly Me To The Moon

Fly Me To The Moon Collage
My creative verve has returned with great joy!
I have begun making the collages necessary for my next artist's book edition, "Creation". This is the first of 7 collages that I hope will be made over the next two weeks. Each of these collages will be scanned and printed to serve as illustrations in the small edition of 7 copies of the book.

These collages are 9" x7". Each illustrative element comes from my print "morgue" of samples. The page is assembled using semi-gloss gel medium and PVA glue on an acid free board.

I have yet to decide how to add the 2-3 lines of text per page, but am leaning towards letterpress.

Over the past year I have been working to finish my first artist's book edition,  The Abecedarium for the Makers of Artist's Books. I have posted a link on my page to the slide show of the images for this edition. I need to gather signatures and begin to bind this edition soon.

In addition to working on these projects, I have a blank book on the sewing frame today, and am finishing work on Almost A Nun, my unique artist's book.  I can work between all these projects as glue and glazes dry.

I am missing items for the Abecedarium edition,  and need to start going through all the tubs to find them. Moving has stressed my organization in the studio to the max. I am hoping to spend part of the day organizing all the materials storage in the grotto in between gluing and glazing. I have been frustrated as of late not having exact places for everything, so cleaning the closets and going through plastic tubs will help me order my world a bit.

My daughter Kristin Mortensen (an artist) is always telling me that my organizing of all my materials is part of my work process. She is continually telling me to stop organizing the stuff and make art! I find, however, that in order to organize the composition in the piece I am working on, I must organize the materials, equipment, and objects around me in my studio space. A place for everything, and everything in its' place, as my mother used to say.

More and more, as I work in the studio daily and I become absorbed with my work, I realize that I have dreamed it all many times over. Each morning I come to the studio and dutifully write my "Morning Pages" (Julia Cameron-The Artist's Way- would be so proud of me!) and complete my morning prayers. I open my heart and soul to God and listen for what messages the angels bring to me. As I pray, I become conscious of the dreams from the night before and how they relate to my creative process. The THIN-NESS between this world and the next, the dream and the reality, becomes ever more present with each breath I take and each stroke I make.

Each studio day also brings a great appreciation for the abundance in our lives-our faith community, the wonderful home we own, and the wonderful peacefulness that surrounds us living in Deep River, so close to the Ottawa River and our beloved cottage. The scales of modernity continue to fall from me and my soul relishes the peace of having this wonderful studio and all the materials and equipment to work with here in the grotto.

All will be well, and all will be well, and with the grace and glory of God in her heaven, all will be well.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Music In Me

The Music In Me Collage, Stage 1, front
This image represents my first work with a new international collage group, The Collage Collaborative, organized by my friend Nikki Soppelsa, from Ohio. Each person begins a collage, and then it is mailed to the next person on the list. Usually 4-5 people work on one collage. The work cycles through the list and eventually comes home to live with the person who started it. I am fascinated with this entire process and thrilled to have been invited to participate.

This is my first, "The Music In Me". It includes images from a 19th century original music score I found in a box of old music that came to me through the "Free" tab on Craig's List in Cambridge last summer, and Victorian Music Covers.  I found an old photo of my Great Aunt Minni and have included it here.

This particular great aunt, my father's mother's older sister, fell in love with a doctor's son and they became engaged. Her engagement present was a diamond ring that came from "the old country" and a bed that came to Iowa in a Conestoga Wagon. The marriage never took place as the young man took the "Inter Urban" train to Davenport, Iowa and met a Dance Hall girl. He fell in love with  her, and ran off to San Francisco. Aunt Minni kept the ring and the bed, which both came to me when I married. My grandmother used to tell me the story when I was in middle school, warning me about the dangers of boy friends!

What I remember most about my great aunt Minni was that she loved music. She was always humming when I was a small girl. We would go to great aunt Emily's farm in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, and her sister, Minni, would be there for the weekend, helping to make bread, lemonade, and angel food cake. She would walk with my sister and I and our grandmother, Clara, down to the creek and watch us wade in the water. She died when I was only 6 years old, but I will always remember her music.

Due to my hearing issues I don't sing all that well, but I always carry the music in me from those summer days with my grandmother and her sisters.

Participating in this collage group is exactly what I need at this juncture in my creative space. We are still surrounded by snow, and cold temperatures, but at least we have marvelous sunshine this morning. Beams of wonderful warm light are streaming into the grotto as I work this morning. It makes me think of my friend Nikki, and all the people in The Collage Collaborative-they too are like beams of light, sending their emails and sharing their own creative process with me electronically. Amazing what technology has done to connect artists and creative types internationally!

Each person who emails or posts, or sends photos of what they are working on is like a note in a symphony that is being written with each breath we take, each stroke we make. I will carry this music in me, just as I do the music of my grandmother and her sisters.

All will be well, and all will be well, and with the grace and light of God in our souls, all will be well.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Studio Day Today!!!!!

My current project, an artist's book entitled, Almost A Nun, is coming along quite well. I created the graphic above from a photo of one pair of my old binoculars and added the type in Illustrator. The crux of the work is about private prayer in public places, and public prayer in private spaces. There will be three main sections of the book, referring back to the TRINITY, with illustrative collages, objects, and images from both my family history and the history of manuscript books of hours.

All of my artist's books spring from my soul almost fully formed. Most often I dream about making them for a period of time, then I begin "the looking" for the supplies I need to complete them. My daughter Kris refers to this as my "hunter gathering" mode. When I have acquired all the items I wish to have for the book, they are put into a box or a small tub as I ruminate on how it will all actually come together.

This process has been difficult sometimes for my husband because I have so much stuff accumulated for projects that are only in my head! Moving this past year has forced me to consolidate and organize my supplies and materials for books in such a way that they take up much less space and are more easily retrieved when I begin a project. I began documenting my process three years ago at the insistence of my younger daughter, herself an artist. She has long been fascinated by my "object oriented" approach to both art history and also my studio production.

I removed the cover from the book so that I could add elements to the design. The marbled paper came from a dear friend, Sam Ellinport, from Harcourt Bindery in Boston. The binoculars I photographed for the project were acquired from my close friend Alvin Lindo, and antiques dealer in Somerville, MA. And of course, the book from my grandmother.

All of these objects come together in my head before they ever are found and organized and stored for use in creation of an artist's book. This means that I have "stuff" throughout the studio and in my storage places in our home that is all dedicated to the making of an artist's book that is living only in my mind, in my soul, waiting to be born. Each object whether it is a piece of paper, a book, a bead, or a feather, has a story to how it came to live in my studio. Each object reminds me of the creative process ongoing in my head as I dream and the journey to find that which I dream about.

For me, prayer is like that in my daily life. I dream of praying, I pray when I wake up in the night for that ever present "call to nature",  I pray when I am doing the dishes or making a meal. Prayer is a part of the journey to find that which I dream about because prayer changes me in ways I almost can not fathom. I believe that the veil between this world and the next is very thin,  and that it is bridged by our dreams and by our prayers.

This book, for me, is a visual representation of that journey. It is an art object that can be held and interacted with in both tangible and intangible ways. There is the visual and tactile stimulation of holding such an object and the soulful response within the viewer to what is seen and held. I think if we open our hearts and our souls to our dreams, and to our prayers, we can have a similar experience.

I suppose this is another reason why I feel so driven to finally make these books, these works of art, from my soul. My hunter gathering period is over, at least for now. The seeds have been sown and the garden is finally bearing fruit.

All will be well, and all will be well, and with God's infinite grace, all will be well.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Making Altered Books: ALMOST A NUN on the table!

Cover of original book
New title page

Gathering items for insertion
Gluing text blocks to cut window

My creative verve is soaring this morning as I wait for the next snowstorm to visit us here in Deep River. I am working on an artist's book, in "altered book form" today. This book, aptly titled "Almost A Nun" is one I have been waiting to create for almost two years. I found this book in my grandmother's home when I was small and it has been part of my library for a very long time. I actually have two copies, having found another in Cambridge.

I will be making two text block cut windows in this book. One will hold a gilded frame with an image from The Master of the Mary of Burgundy, book of hours. This image shows Mary of Burgundy praying using her book of hours in her private home, while carrying the image of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in her heart during prayer. My work centers on public prayer in private spaces and private prayer in public spaces, and the book of hours is central to this concept. The remainder of the collaged pages will include images of the women in my life who helped influence and guide my faith journey and of prayer.

After my first husband died in 1997, I thought a great deal about what my life would be like after our children graduated from university and went on to their own lives. My deep faith and the spiritual connection I felt to angelic presence in my life lead me to consider a vocation as a Franciscan nun. Obviously, God in her infinite wisdom, had other plans, and I was re-married to an Anglican priest and moved to Canada!!

This artist's book will be a visual conversation with my female ancestors and my angels about prayer, and about the life of spiritual vocation in an ever technologically, media happy world. I hope to present images and ideas that will engage the viewer and challenge them to see the spiritual aspect of day to day living, and how prayer can bring us back to that center each and every day.

I am truly blessed to have the studio space, the materials, and the time to create the works that fill my creative soul. In addition, I have been blessed with the time to refresh and recharge my creative sense through reading, collecting images, and conversations with other artists over these past months. Thank God for all the abundance in my creative life!

There is a prayer from a Durham Manuscript about working in the scriptorium that I would like to share today. It says in part:

"The SCRIPTORIUM is like the renunciation of worldly desires which calls us from the depths of sensuality to the heights of divine love so that we more freely see our model who is in heaven."

As I prepare to return to the table and my work, I feel the scales of modernity falling from my back. My spiritual eye is tuned to the thin nature of the distance between this world and the next, and my heart recognizes how prayer changes me and helps to make me whole. I am conscious of the great cloud of witnesses who have come before us and surround us with their love. It is my hope and prayer that the work I feel called to produce within my grotto studio will help others enter the conversation of faith, hope, love, and prayer.

All will be well, all will be well, and with the grace and glory of God, all will be well.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Where did February go?

 It seems like just yesterday I was sitting in my studio during the January blizzard commenting on getting busy. Well this did not happen. I hit a creative block in the midst of having several colds. I retreated to the warmth of the family room with our lovely woodstove. I have been reading "vacation for the mind" books as well as creative books and sleeping a great deal.

Well, we are out of wood for the moment, so this  past week I have come back into the grotto to work and finally unpack my type and begin making books again.

The image above is from a Trader Joe's greeting card I purchased the same year I bought my 3-wheel bike. I am aching to be riding again as well as being outside in the fresh air.  However, -20C is way too cold for this old red-head. My long johns and I have been staying inside, praying for warm weather and bright sunny sky.

Over the past couple of weeks I have made a great friend who supervises The Collage Collaborative on Facebook. This group of people works together in teams to create collage images. One person starts the project, then sends it to the next person on the list for additions, and so on, and the last person on the list returns it to the person who began the work. I find this idea of collaborative work fascinating and am hoping to try a project this Spring. Looking at all the work the members have completed over the past little while is inspiring to me.

A very good friend from The Museum of Printing in North Andover, MA, pointed out this very interesting project called LetterMPress. I have posted the link here on my blog page. It is a project that asked for funding from people through This project is to support the development of a virtual letterpress "AP" for the iPad and hopefully later use on the Mac platform. The video is very interesting to me as a book artist, trying to learn letterpress. I have good friends who are experts in the field of Letterpress Printing who are not impressed with this effort. However, I am excited to see someone who is trying to get "newbies" to graphic design and book arts interested in what it is all about. I am hoping that this excitement over the project will help people become interested in the true letterpress printers out there, like John Kristensen of Firefly Press, and Michael Babcock of interrobang.

Being alone in the studio has been very good for me these past weeks. Even though I have not produced much finished work, I have thought a great deal about my work process. My artist's book projects are sorted into bins, with items I need to transfer, copy to be set into type, and paper that needs to be trimmed. I have been thinking a great deal also about why I am so driven to create work that I am not sure anyone will see or let alone understand. I have no earthly idea how I will enter the conversation, so to speak, here in Canada once the snow is melted, and the air is warm, but I know for certain that this is what I must do. I feel that I have something to contribute, my own story to tell, in order contribute to the creative flow in the world from a spiritual perspective, and I think that is what keeps me so driven.

This typewriter is most likely the first ergonomic keyboard invented. It is from my father's collection of old machines. These past months I have been thinking a lot about what drove my father to not only run his business, but also to collect and restore relics of the past.  I think he did it because he wanted their story to be told with love and care. So much of our high tech society is a throw-away society. We have a toaster for a couple of years, and when it breaks, it goes to the dump instead of being repaired. My father made sure these older machines were repaired so that people could try them out and see how they worked. It was part of his story to tell-not to forget what has come before us in this world, and be sure to understand how what came before informs how we interact with one another, and how we build on that interaction for tomorrow.

I think I am driven to make art for the same reason. My story is one of extended family who are no longer alive, of creation and angels, and faith, hope and love. The works I create are meant to be held in the hand, close to the heart, and experienced as books and objects all at the same time. Each object in our lives tells a story, a piece of "rusty gold" as it were, and we must learn to cherish the story as we hold onto the object. Even if we have to let the object go, the story will remain.

In the weeks to come I hope to be better at telling my story here and also sharing my work process on all the projects I have in my head and on the desk. All will be well, and all will be well, and with God's will, all will be well.