An Accelerated Christmas Present

My husband and I have been talking about getting another dog -- more specifically, another shih tzu. But we'd decided (or at least I'd decided) that we'd wait until the spring or summer when my life was a little bit hectic. Puppies take big chunks of time to housetrain and to acclimate to new surroundings -- time that I don't feel I have right now. So much for the best laid plans...

We picked up Coco (short for Coco Chanel, of course) on Dec 22d and she's settled right in. The ambivalent one (besides me, for a while) is her 3-year-old "older brother" -- our other shih tzu, Twiggy (so named because he's never seen a twig or leaf he didn't want to bring into the house). He's been very gentle -- he seems to understand that the puppy's size merits that -- but he's clearly more subdued, and I think he misses the freedom to roam at will without Coco nipping at his heels and being (he must think), generally a pest. Coco, meanwhile, already thinks she owns the place.

Here's some pix of the new addition, and of Twiggy, who for a 15-lb dog, looks gigantic next to tiny 3-lb Coco.


We used to think of Twiggy as a small dog, but next to 8-week-old Coco, he seems huge!

Twiggy is spending more time up on his window seat these days...


Christmas Lights Gone Wild

I couldn't resist posting this YouTube video. I kept thinking about the person who programmed this -- either wonderfully dedicated or horribly obssessed. Either way, it's quite an achievement.

To all of you who celebrate Christmas, have a happy one!


Making Paste Paper

Can it actually be three weeks since I've posted? It surprises me too. I've been working on a marketing project and also very actively involved in a volunteer project. Of the time left over, I've been spending as much of it as I can in my studio, making books to meet some deadlines. This'll be the state of affairs for the new few months, so for the duration I'll be here less often than I used to -- but I'll try not to let it stretch out much longer than a week without a post.

Earlier this fall, a local arts center asked my friend, Carol, to teach a class in making paste paper. She asked me to help her with the class, so she and I have had a couple of paste paper-making sessions over the last couple of months. Carol makes beautiful traditional paste paper, which she uses primarily as end papers for her books. I've never been much interested in making paste paper (although I admire the work of those, like Carol, who do it well), perhaps because the results seem a little too controlled. That's probably why my own paste paper designs are less traditional --less uniform and generally messier. Here are some photos of the results of our most recent session -- unfortunately, my photos include a fair amount of glare and don't do the papers justice. Most of these are Carol's; a few are mine. Enjoy.


Bookmaking Field Day

To my mind, one of the real joys in life is spending time with people you like engaged in activity all of you enjoy. So I'd been looking forward to getting together with my friends Priscilla and Cheryl to make books. By the time I arrived at Priscilla's she and Cheryl had been experimenting for a while; they love art supplies as much as I do, but are way more prolific than I am.

Priscilla's cats, Chloe and Ginger, kept us company. I was fascinated by Chloe, a very fluffy calico, with a face the spitting image of Garfield's. On her own, she hopped into a bag that Cheryl had placed on the floor and we caught her in the act (below).

I spent most of the time day cutting book board (with an exacto knife, no less -- tedious but meditative) for several books than I plan to make over the next couple of weeks. One of these will be a gatefolk book, like the one in the photo below; the others are straightforward coptic journals. I thoroughly enjoyed dedicating a whole days to book projects. Sharing it with like-minded friends made it all the better.

One of Priscilla's books. Part of the fun is show-and-tell.

Cheryl's card -- using texture paste and a stencil.

Cheryl is making these as gifts -- using the covers of the recipients' favorite childhood books (and a Scrabble board for a Scrabble lover)

Cheryl stitching
A book cover Priscilla made using silver duct tape (!)

A few photos of my gatefold book. The hanging threads are from strips of papers I sewed onto some of the pages.

Chloe feeling snug in Cheryl's bag.

The view from Priscilla's living room -- my photo doesn't do it justice.



I can't remember how long it's been since I've posted less often than once a week. Not since I started my blog, I think. But I've taken on a fairly large, time-intensive project -- well, it's not so much the size of the project as it is that I have a tendency to fill up my life, so that when a new project comes along, it's not easy to keep all the balls in the air. That's what's happening now. Something has to give, and sometimes the "something" are things that I enjoy. So I'll likely be blogging less frequently over the next few months. Sigh.

Bookmaking is one of those balls that I'm trying to keep in the air. I'm trying to be as disciplined about making time for book arts as I am about my new project. It's all about balance, right? Unfortunately, balance is something I've never been very good at it. I've decided that it's as good a time as any to practice.

I haven't been so busy, 'though, as to miss the splendor of the changing leaves in our mountains. We've suffered a severe drought this year, along with much of the country, so it seemed a little touch and go as to whether we would see much color this fall. Luckily, although the drought delayed the colors, it didn't stop them. The photos give just a tiny inkling of the wondrous displays on the mountainsides.

This is my favorite time of year here, and the visual display is just one of the many reasons. The beginning of a new season is a good reminder that nature keeps its balance, whatever the challenges that try to interfere. It's a good lesson for to remember right now.

The view from my studio

Looking out beyond our back yard.

Now I know what "sun-dappled" means.

It amazes me that the gerbera daisy plant is still blooming.

A pumpkin sale!


The Bookstore Cafe

The right coffeehouse is one of my great pleasures. Whenever I want to get in a good long spell of uninterrupted reading I head to a coffeehouse. When I have a writing project that I have to concentrate on, a coffeehouse is usually my first choice. Why a coffeehouse rather than home? Well, at home I tend to feel that there are other things I should be attending to, say, all the weeding I'm always meaning to do but never get around to. And, of course, there's that pleasant feeling of being alone but in good company. I'll talk to people in a coffeehouse that I probaby wouldn't talk to elsewhere. It seems that by virtue of being there, you're part of the same club.

Bookstores with coffeeshops/cafes are particular favorites. My very first was in the late 70s when I was in Washington, DC for a conference: Kramerbooks and Afterwords in Dupont Circle (its web site claims that it was the first bookstore/cafe in the country to feature cappuccino and espresso). When I moved to DC in the mid-90s, Kramerbooks had become a full-scale restaurant, and although its selection of books was still terrific, the food had started to wrestle with the books for attention, and the pace was too hectic for the kind of leisurely exploring that I like most.

It didn't take me long to find another great bookstore cafe hang-out, though. (Did you know that DC has the largest number of bookstores, per capita, of any city in the United States?). The wonderful Politics & Prose was one Metro stop and a nice walk north of my Cleveland Park neighborhood. The coffeehouse was downstairs; the seating, besides the usual table and chairs, consisted of a large, old, plump sofa and a couple of mismatched chairs. I was usually there a couple of Sunday mornings a month. I enjoyed my Sunday Washington Post with a cup of coffee and toasted bagel or big slice of pumpkin bread. I rarely left without buying a book (my post-breakfast browsing), but I never felt that it was part of the bargain for spending time there.

I should say that I'm an equal opportunity bookstore-cum-coffeehouse disciple. Given a choice, I'll opt for an independent, but I'm happy to spend time at Starbucks and Barnes and Noble too. (I'm also an equal opportunity book buyer. I buy at independent bookstores, chains, library book sales, flea markets, and online). I'm lucky now to live in a place that values bookstores and coffeehouses and the role they play in building community. As much as I find myself in them, I suppose I've come to take them for granted.

So it hit home today when I read an article in the UK's Guardian that the Iranian government has closed down the coffeeshops in four bookstores in Tehran this week. One of the coffeehouses is in one of the city's best-known bookstores, which regularly hosted readings by writers and had become a popular meeting place for literary types. The government justified the closures by saying that "the coffeehouses constituted an illegal mixing of trade," but critics believe that the move is aimed at restricting the gathering of intellectuals and educated young people, and that more closings will follow.

Such a small thing, I used to think, being able to enjoy books and coffee whenever and wherever you want, and being with others who want the same.


Andrea Dezso

How smitten am I with Andrea Dezso? How admiring am I of her talent, her versatility and her range? How fascinating is it that she's from Romania (Transylvania, no less) and that her Romanian culture and immigrant experience figure often in her art? Let's just say "a lot," and leave it at that. I claim her as a book artist, since she works often in the book form, but, in fact, she is not easily classified, since she is a sculptor, a writer, an illustrator, a designer and a muralist (I'm sure I've missed something -- ah, yes, filmmaker).

The wonderful blog of the Rag & Bone Bindery led me to Dezso's work, and I was hooked. I want to show you every single piece that's on her pages at the Parsons New School for Design site, but I'm limiting myself to just a few. I hope that you'll take a much more extensive look at her work on the Parsons site, which includes detailed information about the both Dezso, her work as a whole and the individual pieces. Here's a recent article from the New York Times.

Dezso, who is 39, came to New York ten years ago after receiving a residency at The New York Center for Book Arts. She teaches at Parsons and takes on projects for clients such as McSweeney's, the indie literary publication (so indie it's now mainstream) founded by writer Dave Eggers. For McSweeney's Issue 23 she masterminded a "poster" which, when folded, allowed each short story in the issue its own individually designed front and back cover. Geesh!

Top right: Pioneers Give First Aid To Their Comrades, Andrea Dezso. One-of-a-kind pop-up book. Paper, board, acrylics, colored pencils. 2007 New York city. "This book was inspired by the first aid classes we were required to take as young pioneers in Romania in the eighties. We learned that if someone has a seizure and becomes unconscious we must pull out their tongue and pin it to their pioneer short with a safety pin to prevent suffocation."

The Moon's Party, Andrea Dezso
One-of-a-kind fold out book about the Moon and her animal friends, 1995

City Ornament, Andrea Dezso
Op Art piece appeared in The New York Times Op-Ed page on December 25th 2006

Above and Below: Of My Son, Andrea Dezso
One-of-a-kind book 1994

Illustration for "Pick Your Poison", Andrea Dezso
, published in The New York Times Op-Ed
page on Sunday, May 14th 2006

Shadow Books, Andrea Dezso
One-of-a-kind multi-layered, hand-sewn and cut paper theaters illuminated with light emitting diodes (LED). Installation of books and photographs exhibited at Flux Factory's Cartunnel Comix Fluxture show in 2004. Four books in the series, all in private collections. Size of each book: 4X6X4 inches

The Mothsucker, Andrea Dezso
One-of-a-kind artist's book. Coptic binding by the artist. Mixed media on 100% cotton
Fabriano watercolor paper. Size: 5X7 inches. 1998- 2000. Book in private collection This book documents my challenging adjustment process of living in New York City.

Kidney Cold, Andrea Dezso.
Embroidered Drawing from the "My Mother Claimed" 2006 series. Cotton and metallic floss embroidery and glass beads on cotton canvas

She Wishes She Never Married, Andrea Dezso
Embroidered Drawing from the "My Mother Claimed" 2006 series. Cotton and metallic floss embroidery and glass beads on cotton canvas

Mamushka, Andrea Dezso
Picture book, 16 pages, written and illustrated by Andrea Dezsö. Published in Esopus magazine issue #3 in 2004

New York Dreams (Carousel Book), Andrea Dezso
One-of-a-kind artist's pop-up book on Lana 100% cotton watercolor paper. Mixed media.
Sizes: variable. 1997-98. Collection of the artist

Above and Below: Andrea Dezsö: McSweeney's ISSUE 23 book and wrap-around jacket folded out into a poster
Illuminated paper cutouts, embroidery, drawing, painting, collage, calligraphy– I created the art for McSweeney's issue 23 entirely by hand.

From the McSweeney's website: Every story gets its own front and back cover, drawn, collaged, or embroidered by the polymathic Andrea Dezsö. The whole thing is wrapped in a jacket that unfolds into five square feet of double-sided glory--spread it out one way for dozens of very short stories by Dave Eggers, arranged in what we're pretty sure is a volvelle; flip it over and witness all those Dezsö illustrations stitched into one unbroken expanse.