More Studio Pix

My studio started out as an office, and it still serves that purpose as needed, but with the introduction of wireless communication into our home, my office is pretty much anywhere I want it to be. And since Steven's work requires him to keep a slew of computers going at all times, that equipment is available to me as well when I need it. So after moving some files to another part of the house, adding my worktable, and reconfiguring the space, the room now functions primarily as a studio.

We built it as an addition off our bedroom, approximately 15' long by 11' wide. Formerly, our bedroom opened onto a deck, overlooking our back yard and the moutains in the distance. We chopped off that portion of the deck, kept the double-doorway (but not the doors) to help keep the new space separate. Directly underneath is the addition to Steven's office, which originally followed the footprint of our bedroom.

I'm one of those people whose mood is affected in a major way by physical environment, so I wanted the space to be pleasing to my eye (which almost immediately makes it feel comfortable) and to be bright and airy. Having grown up in Florida, the one thing I need above all things is lots of light, so tall windows, which I keep open as much as possible, run the length of one wall. Another wall has a glassed double door that opens onto our deck -- since my worktable is up against, it functions primarily as a window. The ceiling is gabled and high, and we installed a large ceiling fan, since we get the afternoon sun straight on. I wanted a calming space, so the walls are painted a very pale violet, as is the ceiling (the color of the walls in our bedroom is a touch deeper). The floors are inexpensive wood painted off-white. The curtains are simple sheer cotton/linen and affixed to curtain rods with those easy clip thingies, so no sewing was involved. (I'm convinced that those clip thingies were invented just for me. Why didn't I invent those?)

I feel a sense of well-being just walking into this room, which is exactly what I'd hoped for as I was planning the space. So, I have no excuse not to create; it's all up to me (yikes!).

When we first added on the room, I designed this cabinet with drawers and shelves as a built-in. The shallow drawers hold papers up to a certain size, the other drawers are for supplies and such, and the shelves contain books and other supplies. To the right, on the small teal table, is a set of drawers I bought at Ikea, which I'm in the process of painting. They're great for all kinds of odds and ends.

This desk holds all my electronic equipment: printers, copier, and docking station for my laptop. There's a scanner on a small cart with wheels underneath the desk. The shelf to the right used to be in our bedroom and I keep a small stereo and CDs here. Half the time I listen to music while I'm working; the rest of the time I'm tuned in to books-on-tape/CD).

On the table to the right is my "get-up-and-go" supply tote (I love this thing!). It's always stocked and ready for a class or for a visit to a friend's studio. Behind it is the sewing machine that I have yet to use. I bought it a few years ago so that my mother could use it when she visits us for a month in the summer (I've gotten some great sofa pillows and a beautiful shower curtain out of the deal). Recently I decided that I wanted to start doing stitching on paper, so I dusted it off and put it in my studio as a reminder. I have some rubber stamps that I used to keep in a drawer. About a year ago, I took a class at Random Arts (Jane Powell and her husband Paul's fabulous store) and loved her system of putting stamps out on the equivalent of tiny shelves (pieces of wood about two inches deep) screwed into the wall. It's a good way to see what you have, and provides a bit of visual interest.
I built a giant, free-standing bulletin board (about 7 feet high) to which I tack images that inspire me or simply make me happy. The surface is made of cushy ceiling tiles. I stretched rows of seven different vintage fabrics around the front and stapled them to the back of the tiles, then a friend built a frame around the whole thing. There's a small desk here that I placed on bricks to bring it up to the height of my worktable. It holds supplies that I use often and some work-in-progress. You can hardly see it at top left, but I hung a small candle chandelier that I found at a salvage shop. I sanded off the rust and painted it the same color of the floor and the cabinet, and added some tall violet candles (it's a shame, of couse, but for safety's sake it's never lit).
This is the main view from my studio. The trees are at their lushest in the summer, so I see the mountains only through the windows of the trees. Fall is my favorite season; the leaves begin to fall, giving me a better long-distance view, and I get to enjoy the amazing canvas of fall colors on the mountains.


Book Arts Cheer

I've been feeling a bit under the weather for the last couple of days. Maybe my last post did me in after all. Now, what never fails to brighten my spirits? My worktable, naturellement! I've written about my love affair with this table before, including its design (here and here) and its unqualified beauty (here). So I took my first pix of THE table and my studio. Any bookmaker who's worked at a standard-height desk or table knows what a joy it is to work on a surface whose height is geared to book work. And, oh, the bliss of having one whose height was tailor-made for moi!

But there are other features that make me swoon at the sight of my table. Although I have a built-in cabinet with some large, shallow drawers in which I store paper, the largest sheets of both decorative papers and text papers spent their lives rolled up in a box. Now they lay comfortably on one of the table's two shelves.

The work surface is formica, which makes it easy to clean; it's large enough that I can have separate areas for cutting and gluing; and it's wide enough that I can keep supplies close at hand but not in my way. Oh, and did I mention that it's on casters? What more could a BookGirl possibly want!?

Photos of the table today, more photos of the studio later.

NOTE: In my previous posts, I mentioned the wonderful craftsmanship and service of Bill Bennert, who made and helped design my table (he also built the tables for BookWorks, Asheville's excellent book arts learning center. Bill doesn't have a web site, but if you are interested in his contact information, please leave a comment and I'll get back to you.



I'm getting tired of writing about diminishing coverage of book reviews in metropolitan newspapers. Tired and depressed. The National Book Critics Circle blog, Critical Mass, notes that this past weekend was the last for the San Diego Union Tribune's stand-alone book section:
"In short – through the stewardship of Arthur Salm, this was a section which brought the muchness of the world -- as it is represented in books -- to readers in a sophisticated fashion, and looks to be no more. Newspaper consumers, especially women, have continuously said this kind of coverage matters to them, and yet newspaper owners continue to go against that knowledge. Some newspapers have even proven that marketing this part of their Sunday section can actually improve ad sales and maybe even circulation."
For information about the National Book Critics Circle's Campaign to Save Book Reviewing and how you can get involved, click here.

Critical Compendium

If you simply must have one more daily book review web read -- check out Critical Compendium: A Daily Dose of Book Reviews from Around the World. Here's what they say about themselves (Here's what IT says about ITSELF?): Thanks to Scott McLemee at ArtsJournal for the lead.

"What you'll find at this site: Book reviews, and lots of them. Every day we post links and a one or two line synopsis to reviews from newspapers, journals, magazines and web zines. You will also find a sizable list of links to book review sections around the world.
What you won't find: Links to literary blogs. Nothing against them, but this site provides readers with reviews rather than the more open ended ruminations/discussions found on blogs. We also don't link, for the most part, to sites that require subscriptions. That's why you don't see, for instance, the Atlantic Monthly. The Economist, on the other hand, requires a subscription to see the current issue, though previous reviews can be viewed for free. Thus, we link to The Economist."


The Penland Experience - Part 4

A few more pix of my books and page details from the Book Arts workshop I participated in at Penland. You can read my earlier posts about my time at Penland here, here, and here. The colors on my pages are a result of 1) the paints available for use by the class; and 2) pure chance. What surprised me most was how much I liked the palettes. The day before I arrived at Penland, I wouldn't have seen myself using these combinations. Each time I look at my books now, they tell me to keep trying new things.


Your Personal Library Catalog Card

John Blyberg is a librarian. If social, academic and technology issues surrounding libraries are your thing, John's site covers these, and contains a comprehensive blogroll of other sites dealing with these topics. My favorite site feature is the cool Catalog Card Generator. For those of us who loved the tactile pleasure of riffling through the card catalog at our local lbrary, now we can have -- no, make! -- our own. (Be sure to put in --make up-- a "call number" or the card won't generate.)


The Penland Experience - Part 3

I finally managed to take photos of the books I made at Penland, and here are some of those images.

I'd worked only briefly with acrylic paint in the past, so I was looking forward (although with a bit of trepidation), to my two-week Book Arts workshop at Penland, where we were going to paint papers for our books. I wasn't disappointed. We spent days and days painting layers of paint on both sides of large sheets of Arches Cover. We used various techniques and tools to create texture with each new layer. We cut up the papers and used them as pages for the books we made. Altogether, we made about a half-dozen books, each a different structure, each a little more complex than the last.

We supplemented this with other processes: printmaking (making collagraphs on an etching press), carving rubber stamps for mark-making, and using handwriting as graphic imagery. I loved it all. I loved it and I was anxious about it. "Am I doing it right?," I kept wondering. After a while, I stopped wondering. I still wasn't sure, but I'd decided to treat what I was doing as an experiment. After all, if you can't experiment during a workshop, when can you?

So though perfectionism and I are on a first-name basis, I told myself that wanting to achieve perfection at something that others -- notably, our instructor, Laura Wait --had been doing for years was just a titch overambitious. The self-talk helped, and there's something about Penland itself that encourages you to take risks and try new things.

I didn't lose all my fear when I was in the studio (fear of failure, of embarrassment, of whatever else scares us when we feel vulnerable), but what was left was healthy. It was the kind of fear that pushes you to create even though you're not sure of the outcome. And since by nature and habit I really like to know the outcome in advance, managing to live with the ambiguity was a big deal.

I read somewhere today that, in art, the most important thing is to start, and the second most important thing is to finish, and that if you do those two things, everything else will take care of itself. In a fundamental way, that's what places like Penland give you: a start and a finish. And that makes the next time all that much easier.

More to come.

Drum leaf binding (developed by Tim Ely) - the book is approximately 15" high by 3 1/2" wide.

The first two-page spread from the book. We worked with signs and symbols.
I focused on the triangle and the letter 'M'

A close-up of another of the spreads from the book

We overpainted mylar that we'd used underneath our pages as we painted.

A two-page spread from another book

A head-on view of the pages of another book


Another One Bites the Dust

Peter Zane, the book editor of the Raleigh News and Observer for the past decade, tells us in his goodbye column that he's moving to a post as the paper's "ideas writer." He is hopeful (but not optimistic) that the paper will resurrect its book column. This is the latest entry in the decimation of book coverage at various newspapers around the country, including those in Atlanta, Dallas, Orlando, Cleveland, Los Angeles and Chicago. Zane calls it a "literary St. Valentine's Day massacre." I've commented on this before, including here and here. Clicking the National Book Critics Circle Campaign to Save Book Reviewing button on the left column of this site will tell you how you can get involved.

Zane writes:
"...while the rest of the paper reports the news of the day, we [the book review writers] carry news of the spirit...Book reviews are an integral part of the journalistic mission: They bring new information to light, scrutinize ideas shaping our culture, foster debate and encourage people to read -- not only books but magazines, journals ... and newspapers. When newspapers diminish books coverage, they diminish themselves."

The Pumpkins Are Coming, The Pumpkins Are Coming!

What does this post have to do with books? Not a thing, but then, BookGirl reserves the right to write about other things that catch her fancy. Today it's the Smashing Pumpkins coming to Asheville.

The re-united alt-rockers are doing a nine-day gig at The Orange Peel as part of their U.S. comeback tour. Their promoter said that the Pumpkins were interested in doing an East Coast "residency" -- a series of shows in one place -- and asked for an Asheville venue. I'm not a big Smashing Pumpkins fan, but even if I were, the tickets were sold out in less than five minutes, so it's just as well.

The tickets originally sold for $20 (a price set by the band -- nice to see that in these days of wildly overpriced music-act tickets, the Pumpkins are being generous in their pricing. Unfortunately, they're already being scalped on the Internet: $890 at TicketsNow.com as of this morning). Fifty percent of the tickets sold outside the state, with sales in NY, DC, Massachusetts, Indiana, and Canada.

That's more than 8,000 people coming in over the course of nine days. Maybe they'll buy some books at Malaprop's while they here, where they can order the only existing biography of the band: Smashing Pumpkins: Tales of a Scorched Earth. Ha! There's my book tie-in!

The Pumpkins at a recent concert in Paris:


Words, Words, Words

I started reading the major English newspapers during my tenure at my two former BLFs (Big Law Firms), both of whom had London offices (I have a particular affection for arts and books coverage in The Guardian and its blogs). I also scan Canada's newspapers from time to time. On any given day there's usually something of particular interest to BookGirl in one of these, so keep that in mind when you're deciding whether it would be of interest to you -- but, of course, you wouldn't be reading BookGirl unless you shared at least a little of her less-than-mass-market pasttimes.

Today's entry is an article from Canada's Globe and Mail: Vocabulary: Are We Losing Our Lexicon? There are few things that BookGirl likes more than words and language -- and books, of course, are simply a variation on the theme -- so this story of the battle between the linguists and the logophiles was just my cup of tea/coffee this morning. Not because I have a large vocabulary (I don't, a fact I constantly bemoan), but because I love to see and hear words used well, and precisely, and think that people who care enough about words to argue about them are pretty cool.

Here's the subtitle of the story:
"With the Lord of Loquacity in Chicago and schools playing down language to level the playing field, is the mind-expanding power of a well-stocked vocabulary becoming a thing of the past?"
Now, tell the truth, aren't you just dying to read this?


Collecting Journals

I think more about journals now than I ever have. The reason, mostly, is a Creative Journaling class I took at BookWorks with textile artist -- and journal queen -- Heather Allen Swarttouw. I wrote about it here. And while blogs are a form of journal, they're nowhere near as deliciously tactile as the three-dimensional variety.

There's an item and a photo in a recent post in Notebookism that reminded me of how much I've enjoyed buying journals over the years. I now make many of my own, but it doesn't diminish the pleasure of finding just the right journal, and like the author of the post, I particularly like to bring back journals from places in which I've traveled. My favorite to date (I guess this means I'll have to take a photo of it and post it here sometime soon) is a dark leather journal from Venice, with a small piece of round millefiori glass set into its cover. The endpapers are a subtle patterned paper, and each creamy white page has small illustrations of Venice across the top.

And here's a different take on journals (and the people who fear them!) from artist Kelly Kilmer.



I miss my friend Susan, whom I was fortunate to have as a colleague for several years during my tenure at BLF (Big Law Firm). She's extremely bright and highly capable, not to mention stylish, witty, and generous... well, you get the picture. But to me, one of her finest qualities is her silliness. Hands down. What a joy, working as hard as we were, to allow ourselves the luxury of total and abject silliness from time to time.

Naturally, we were judicious. Because we worked in different cities on the East Coast, we usually reserved our alter agos for nights on the road when we found ourselves in the same town at the same time. There's no point in trying to describe our dialogue or exploits. They were what my husband calls a "Be There" experience. And, in fact, they probably weren't funny to anyone but us.

Susan and I were/are particularly silly about our dogs. She was goofy about her dogs before I was, since my dog, Twiggy, didn't join our family until two years ago. I caught up quickly. Susan has two delightful standard poodles and I have an adorable Shih Tzu (this isn't hyperbole, it's the honest truth). Susan's dogs emulate her curly 'do ("coif" as Susan might say). My 'do and Twiggy's look more alike the longer we co-habitate.

Susan's latest car is a bright red MINI Cooper convertible-- if ever a car had her name on it, it's this one (well, actually, it does have her name on it, but that's another story). Those are the two pups with her -- one riding shotgun, the other in the rumble seat. We don't talk very often these days, but getting this photo reminded me of how much I miss her.


Veddddy In-ter-est-ing

My thanks to my friend, Mary, who posted a link to Personal DNA, an online personality test, on her blog. Having worked all through college as an assistant to the director of my college's Psychological Testing Service, I have a predictable attraction to tests that profess to tell me what I already know.

The test took me about 35 minutes to complete. I'd say it was about 80% accurate, and I think I understand how the 20% discrepancy came about. The category they assigned me is "Faithful Visionary," which to me sounds a bit like a description of a Moonie (Mary's "Benevolent Architect" sounds much more -- well -- benevolent).

One interesting thing was my comparative score on one of the qualities the test measures: "femininity." Relative to the 30,000 other test-takers that Personal DNA claims to have on file, I registered a paltry score of 4 , which means that 96% of the other (I assume) females that took the test had higher showings in that category. I have only my recollection of the types of questions and the way I answered them to go by, but I suspect that the questions likely equated "femininity" with qualities that society has traditionally associated with women -- for example, putting others' concerns before their own (a question I specifically recall from the test) -- qualities that I, partly by choice and partly by circumstance, possess not at all or to a lesser degree than this historical model of womanhood.

The other way to look at this, of course, is that 96% of the women who took this test have these qualities, irrespective of whether there's gender bias in the questions, and that I'm way out of step with my fellow women (or at least the ones who took this test). BookGirl isn't going to lose any sleep over this -- gee, I almost said that BookGirl wasn't going to worry her pretty little head over it, but that would have been wrong.

If like me, you enjoy this kind of thing, take the test. Many of the questions are thought-provoking, and that's always a good thing.


Each Day Is a Different One

There's little I enjoy more than looking out the windows of our bright front room toward the mountains in the distance. Usually there's at least one squirrel enjoying the kernels of corn that fall on the deck from the birdfeeders. Sometimes Twiggy, who usually prefers to see the world comfortably from his spot on the kitchen window seat, moseys outside too.

I read this quote on Misty Mawn's blog site this morning. How easy it is, isn't it, to forget something this simple yet so true?
"You can become blind by seeing each day as a similar one. Each day is a different one, each day brings a miracle of its own. It's just a matter of paying attention to this miracle." ~ Paulo Coelho


The Penland Experience - Part 2

I'm still processing (what a clinical word that is!) my two-week book arts workshop at Penland. I signed up for the course because I wanted to explore content in bookmaking. I've been taking bookbinding classes for just over a year now, and I've concentrated on book structures. It seemed the way to lay a foundation in book arts, to build a vocabulary and establish a context. If you know me, it isn't news that I tend to be linear and incremental in my approach to things. So it seems that I've intuitively been developing a personal book arts curriculum over the course of the past year.

From the time I took my first book arts class -- at the John C. Campbell Folk School during a week's vacation more than two years ago -- I've been interested in the book as a whole, both form and content. I knew virtually nothing about artists' books at the time, and the more I learned, the more fascinating I found the concept and the books themselves.

It's too early to know how my own style will evolve. I love language too much to exclude words, so text will play a part. But what else? Who knows? I'm clearly attracted to paint and color and abstract forms. Art & Soul was a way to did my toe in this pool, in ways unrelated to book arts. The Penland workshop was a perfect next step, an opportunity to work on new book structures, but with an equal focus on creating imagery and working with paint.

Our instructor, book artist Laura Wait, has a bold, vivid style that attracted me to her work and to the class. She has a background in conservation, too, so she made it clear first thing that "books have to work!" In other words, technique matters. I knew at that point that I'd come to the right place.

More to come.

Laura Wait with one of her artists' books

Detail from another of Laura's books


The Penland Experience

The specifics of my Book Arts workshop aside, my two weeks at Penland were like nothing I've experienced. The environment is designed to make the work the entire focus. The accommodations are spartan, there's no television or radio, meals are short, and the campus is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. So the intensity is built in, which is all to the better. And because everyone is equally absorbed, you feel a kinship with all the perfect strangers that you meet and take meals with and run into at the coffeeshop. Nobody cares how you're dressed or what you do in your "real" life, unless you're an artist. That's worth talking about. "How's your class going?" is the main question at meals. Almost always, it's followed by a comment about how tasty the (french toast, pasta, salad, pesto grilled cheese sandwich) is and how impossible it is that you're still eating three such squares every day.

The view from the Pines dining hall tells you that you're in the country, and the llamas in the field remind you that you're at Penland. For a little solitary R&R I headed to the Craft House porch and the coffee house directly downstairs.

While I was there, PBS aired a three-part series, Craft in America, the first nationally-broadcast series on contemporary craft in the U.S. Penland was featured in the third installment, Community.

More to come soon. Here are a few photos to tide you over.

A great photo by Mary, one of the students in the Book Arts class,
of the view from the Craft House.

Similar view from the Craft House in the evening.
The grass looks like ice, doesn't it?

Part of the ceramic "garden"

A resident llama -- another great shot by Mary


Why It's Foolish for Newspapers to Dump Book Review Sections

By now you've figured out that I'm concerned over the elimination of book criticism at several major metropolitan newspapers. As usual, I direct you to the National Book Critics Circle Campaign to Save Book Reviewing series. Here's background info and how to get involved, if you're so inclined. Of course, NBCC members have a vested interest, since they want to protect their livelihoods, but that doesn't diminish the value of the cause. If you're a Bookie, Critical Mass, the blog of the NBCC Board of Directors, is worth visiting from time to time. Currently, they're running a series of 'so-and-so'-on-what-to-read-this-summer columns.

Mark Bowden, a national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, in a recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, says that there's still a place for newspapers (gee, that makes at least two of us!).

"Pictures and sound are terrific and cannot be beaten when capturing a live breaking news event, but for conveying large amounts of nuanced information, for investigation and analysis, nothing beats, or ever will beat, the written word. I have always believed that when all the superfluous reasons for buying newspapers have been stripped away, what will remain are readers.

"Which is why it is a mistake for newspapers, including this one, to do away with such things as book review sections and Sunday magazines. Our core audience is educated, well-informed, curious and generally smarter than we are - about more than a few things. Essays about books and ideas, reviews of film, theater, art and television - these are far more important for newspapers today than they ever were in the past."



Music Videos Like They Used to Make

I've just returned from an intense (in a good way) two-week workshop in book arts at Penland. I'll be writing about it after a brief recovery period (mostly, I plan to stare into space for a couple of days). In the meantime, here's an inventive music video for "Ankle Injuries," a song by the British band Fujiya & Miyagi. Visually, its style is part "Sledgehammer" by Peter Gabriel and part "Fell In Love With a Girl" by the White Stripes. A bit of fun eye candy for your day.

An amusing (at least to me) side note: The band identifies its members as as "Steve Lewis (Fujiya), David Best (Miyagi), and Matt Hainsby (ampersand). "

Its influences, according to its MySpace page, range from Captain Beefheart, Serge Gainsbourg, and Roxy Music to Talking Heads, Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, and Dexys Midnight Runners.