Monday, December 30, 2013

2014 Desk Calendar Giveaway!!

I designed a very cool desk calendar this year. It features 12 of my own marbled papers, one for each month, and perfect for sitting on my desk! I had a bunch printed, though, so I can share. There are a few available for purchase through MyMarbledPapers Etsy shop. AND I'm going to give one of them away, for free! All you have to do, is leave a comment for me and I'll include your name when I make a random draw for the winner. I'll also be collecting entries from my Facebook page (you can enter there too, for two chances to win)!

Leave your comment sometime this week - before midnight on January 5th. Make sure your comment includes some information or a link so that I can contact you, if you are the winner. I'll pick the winner on January 6th. I'll accept entries from anywhere in the world and ship it to you for free.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Chritmas 2013!

It's that time of year again. Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates it, and wonderful wishes to everyone who celebrates anything!

In lieu of a Christmas book, this year I found myself folding paper ornaments instead. I came upon these downloadable PDF documents which can be printed, cut, and folded to make various things. The website is

So, these are the two projects that I decided to try. The Elf Ball and the Polar Bear Sled.

And I printed a few "blanks" for the kids to decorate, we added string to hang them, and wah-la!

That was our little Christmas paper project this year. Easy-peasy. Have a fantastical, whimsical, happy holiday!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

2014 Planners are ready!

I have some new colours of leather for the Weekly Planners this year. Perfect for keeping yourself organized in 2014! I can also do monthly format if you prefer. You can check out the various colours currently available now in my Etsy shop.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Preparing for the Halifax Crafters market

Halifax Crafters Holiday Market is Nov 30 & Dec 1. You can get the details and a list of all the vendors on the Halifax Crafters website. See you soon!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Festive Craft Market this weekend

This weekend, I'll be at the 25th Annual Festive Craft Market, Saturday and Sunday, in Bible Hill, NS. There is always a fabulous group of sellers at this market so it is a great place to do some holiday shopping!

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Leather Journal Workshop

Last night I conducted a little workshop at Halifax's most wonderful stationery shop, Duly Noted. I took ten folks through the process of making a soft-cover leather journal with a simple long stitch binding. As you can see, busy hands:

And a rather lovely collection of journals! Most of the participants were completely new to the bookbinding process, and everyone still finished up with a great book.

The kind folks of Duly Noted even provided wine and cheese so it was an enjoyable evening all around. There are some other crafty workshops coming up soon at Duly Noted, so if you want to get in on the action making things and drinking wine at the same time... just let them know! Here's some info about the other workshops. Thanks to everyone who came and made books with me last night, it was great fun.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Happy Halloween!

This year I haven't been able to indulge in making any Halloween-themed books myself; but, I always like to look around and see what other people are doing to bring books and Halloween together. So, I thought I would share some of the things I found.

Great idea number 1, making a super cool bat book. This is by "Bookfolding" on Etsy. There are other Halloween books in this shop too, pumpkins and ghosts, also wonderful.

And number 2, a classy Halloween journal from Baghy, on Etsy.

Number 3 is this awesome leather hardcover journal by TheSelkiesSkin, on Etsy.

Number 4 is this pumpkin book, with tutorial:

And number 5, is this trompe-l'oeil skull print by DogEarPrints, also on Etsy.

And lastly, and super amazing, are Tracy Chong's Halloween pop-up cards. Also on Etsy. This is just one example of Tracy's many awesome pop-ups that I saw during my search.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Halifax Pop Expo on Saturday!

If you in, or near, Halifax this weekend, then you need to check out the Pop Explosion that's been underway this week. On Saturday, it culminates with a "Record - Zine - Craft & Art" Fair at the World Trade and Convention Centre. I will be there, with my journals, please stop by and say Hi!

Thursday, October 03, 2013

"Page Design - It's an Open Book" at PBI

With the help of many guest bloggers, I've been able to share a bit about each of the classes that were offered at PBI in May. There is only one class left to discuss, and I can tell you about this one myself. The class was called "Page Design - It's an Open Book" and it was taught by Paula Jull.

So, when someone applies to attend PBI, one has to rank the classes in order of preference and if you are accepted, they try to get you into your top choices. Of course, all the classes are great so ranking them can be very hard. I tend to rank the bookbinding classes first, then slot in the other areas like letterpress and papermaking etc, because they are outside my comfort zone. Also, there is usually some kind of artsy concept class that I try to stay away from, since those are WAY outside my comfort zone. I have been very lucky and usually I get the classes that I rank highest. This year, however, I found myself in Paula Jull's class, which was one of those artsy concept classes...oh dear.

Of course, it was a good class and I learned a lot from Paula. This just reinforced my belief that there are no bad classes and it is actually very useful to be outside one's comfort zone from time to time.

Everything we did in this class was related to a book's content. Since I spend so much time making blank books, it is hard to switch gears and think about the page with content. But I did. We discussed and experimented with classic page layout options, the golden rectangle, and the Villard de Honnecourt diagrams, as well as some layout options that were less common. We considered different book formats and structures and how that related to content. We explored patterning and repetition, borders, titles, and consideration of the spread. We worked with type and lettering as critical page elements. We made rubbings and worked with found compositions, and talked about using randomly selected words to inspire new ideas.

No comfort zone there.

The objectives of this class did not necessarily include any finished book art objects. I did, though, put together a couple small books using some of the things we were discussing.


Trees is an accordion book and the page size was determined by a musical interval (diminished 5th). The position of the text box was determined by the application of Villard de Honnecourt's diagram across each spread. The first letter of each text area are found images, and the other text is all handwritten. It is a list of the trees of Michigan (since I was in Michigan at the time), using their latin names. The trees are hand-drawn, branching out from the valley folds.

I also made a small pamphlet where I focused on the use of text and found compositions, Empty Spaces Created Through White Spaces & Black Places. I started by selecting some images from books. I took those images and put them on a window with another paper over them, and then I traced the most dominant lines that came through. Those dominant lines were my found compositions. I put the found compositions together with the original images in this pamphlet and added a bit of text to each of my line drawings. It was an interesting experiment although the end result is an odd mixture of things, I certainly felt that some of the exercises might be further developed in future projects.

Title Page

Empty Spaces

We also made these cool folders to contain all the bits of work we produced in this class; it all came together very nicely in the end. So, thank you, Paula, for introducing me to these things. It was all very new to me, and even though it was outside of the zone, I was happy to be there and pleased with the work I produced!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Guest Blogger Ashley Ivey, on Big Ass Paper at PBI

Ashley Ivey is my guest blogger today. She is a designer and maker living in Tallahassee, Florida. She spent the past year working at Florida State University's Facility for Arts Research and Small Craft Advisory Press ( Ashley and I met at PBI, and spent some time chasing wet paper around the grounds of OxBow, in the middle of the night, as a thunderstorm was rolling in around us. But that is not what she is writing about. Ashley has very kindly written a post for us about her class with Julie McLaughlan, where she made some REALLY big paper.

Big Ass Paper with Julie McLaughlan was incredibly fun, rewarding, and truly hard work! Julie began the workshop by showing us examples of finished papers. Julie's fantastic, corset-inspired sculptural art pairs handmade Kozo paper with steel armature. She often dyes the soft, tissue thin sheets with Indigo or Kakishibu.

Julie McLaughlan

Julie and Andrea Peterson had worked the fiber to the final stages by the time our workshop began, but they explained the whole process from growing the Kozo plant (commonly known as paper mulberry in the US) to harvesting it, stripping off the bark, drying, boiling with soda ash, rinsing, and finally beating the fiber to pulp. We all took turns hand beating many pounds of rinsed Kozo. Each pound was beaten with wooden mallets until it reached the consistency of mashed banana and dispersed easily in water. This was seriously hard work, but really fun to do with cheerful classmates overlooking the positively lovely lagoon at Oxbow.

Ashly (far right) & classmates beating kozo.

While part of the class began beating pulp, others began assembling the huge portable screens Julie brought for forming our Big Ass sheets. The 8.5' x 7' (2.6m x 2m) frames are made from 1" (2.5cm) aluminum tubing and are designed to break down easily for storage and travel. A system of threaded rods, bolts and washers connects and tightens the frame after each side is run through the corresponding pocket in the screen.

Our class worked with several screen designs and as the workshop progressed, we found that we liked a new version of Julie's screens that had sleeves covering the majority of the metal frame sides. The 5" (12.5cm) wide pockets held strong against the weight of the water, pulp, and formation aid and were easier to grip than older versions that attached to the frames using tabs. Julie has experimented with several screen materials and recommends sunshade screen or heavy mosquito netting.

The pool (please forgive me for this breach in proper terminology! I detest the word v-a-t and in this case it was so large that 'pool' seems a more proper description anyway!) was made from 8' and 10' lengths of 2"x12" boards (2.4m and 3m lengths of 2.5cm x 30cm boards). The frame was placed over a heavy blue tarp and then thick plastic sheeting was layered over the frame to hold the water. Julie warned us not to use cheap tarps as the fiberglass they contain can make it into your feet!

Eight people pulling a sheet of paper.

The "pool" was filled about 3/4 full with water and then the beaten Kozo and a healthy dose of PEO formation aid. To keep the pulp as clean as possible, pairs of us took half-day shifts in the pool dispersing fiber and guiding in screens. Pulling each sheet required 6-8 people: 2 in the pool to carefully drag the screen across the bottom; 2 on the end to guide the screen in and hold it down; and 2 - 3 on each side to help lift the screen slowly and evenly out of the water. Each frame was then carried out into the sun to dry.

Big Ass sheets of paper drying in the sun.

When the sheets were dry, we rubbed the backs of the screens to loosen the fibers and then carefully ran our hands between the screens and the paper. The cracking sound of pulling large well-formed sheets off was ecstasy, however we also had many spiderweb thin sheets that took great patience to remove.

Carefully removing paper from the screen.

Stacks of beautiful handmade paper.

In addition to the mass production of giant paper, Julie demonstrated Kakishibu and Indigo dying and we all made tons of smaller sheets of paper (with and without inclusions). It was an amazing class and we all left with tons of paper. Three cheers for Big Ass Paper!

- Ashley Ivey

Friday, August 30, 2013

Link stitch, Long stitch, and Limp bindings at PBI

After having so many guest bloggers this summer, it is my turn now, to write about another one of the PBI classes. I absolutely loved this class taught by Adam Larsson. Partly because these book structures have been a particular interest of mine for several years and as such, I have actually made a lot of books like this and have tried to incorporate the techniques into a lot of my work. More importantly though, this would be the first time that I ever had instruction from an expert in this area, from someone who is working with actual historical examples of these books, from the 13th or 14th centuries that he has examined and studied first-hand.

My previous experience with this type of binding, was all based on tidbits of information here and there, scattered around the internet and overviews in a couple of books (Szirmai and Langwe). I have had to extrapolate a lot of the details about how the books were made, how the sewing was started, how the covers were folded, how the buttons and straps were attached, etc. I would often just try to replicate what I could see in photographs (example) without any detailed instructions.

The instructor for this class, Adam Larsson, has worked with these bindings enough that he was able to give me some insights about how these things were typically done. Adam works in the conservation lab at Uppsala University Library in Uppsala, Sweden, home to one of the most important collections of historic bindings in Scandinavia.

The class was called "The Three Ls: Limp - Link - Long" and that's exactly what it was. We learned three different methods of stitching a limp vellum binding, using just link stitch, using just long stitch, and using a combination of both.

The first book we did, was sewn with only link stitches. I think most people in the class found this one to be the most difficult of the structures that we covered. It is tricky to do this one, and I had only attempted it a couple times in the past. Having now seen how Adam does it, I may be willing to use this more in the future. Admittedly though, I haven't tried it again since the class. During the class, however, I did two books with this structure. The first was four rows of link stitches. The second was three rows of link stitches (which was harder than four!). The stitched circles are just decorative and were done on the spine before the book was bound.

After the link stitch book, we did the combination of link stitch and long stitch. This structure was most familiar to me, and I did three of this style during the class. The first one, I added the extra weaving on the long stitches. The second one, I added the decorative holes punched in the spine piece, and the third was made with soft leather (rather than vellum) and has the buttons on the spine rather than on the front of the book.

Adam demonstrated a third structure, which was a long stitch done without a link stitch. I don't think everyone tried this one, but I was a real keener, and surged ahead and made two of these. In fact, I really liked this structure. I had tried this technique only once before and I did it very differently that time. The way Adam explained it, it suddenly became far more attractive as an option for future work! These are the two that I made in the class, both with two spine pieces, one for each set of stitches.

Although we did most of our books without turn-ins, I did one with turn-ins and consequently made my first parchment tacket. I've made tackets with linen thread before, but making them from strips of vellum is much cooler. Starting with a long skinny strip of vellum, it has to be really wet, then twisted and stretched until it is dry. Then it is dampened again to make it pliable to create the tacket. As the tacket dries in place, it becomes a super solid attachment. This was certainly one of the highlights of my week!

Although I had a lot of questions for Adam about the details of these bindings, the main thing that I learned, was that these historic bindings are greatly varied. The sewing techniques vary from one binder to the next; and, the use of spine plates and buttons and straps and decorative elements also vary from one binder to another and from one region to another, etc. So, there isn't one single correct way to construct these types of books and it is possible to be very creative with them. Other members of the class proved that over and over again. As I surged ahead trying to memorize the stitching techniques, other people in the class were creating masterpieces with decorative elements that I did not even attempt. Here are a few photographs taken at the end of the session where everyone's books were on display. The variations seen here are only a small sampling; the possibilities are truly endless.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Guest Blogger Fran Kovac, tells us about her PBI class with Pam Spitzmueller

Fran Kovac is a bookbinder in Columbus, Ohio, and teaches basic bookbinding techniques at the Morgan Conservatory in Cleveland, Ohio. Apparently she is still camera-shy, so rather than having a headshot of her here, I am using this picture of her fingers sewing a link-stitch endband, again. At PBI this year, Fran was one of the lucky students in Pam Spitzmueller's class. Of course, Pam's expertise in historic bookbinding techniques is exceptional and this class produced exceptional work! The class was called "An Historical, Personal Almanac with a nod to Individual Calendar Books & Wood Leaf Books" where each participant created a replica of an incredible little book.

In this class, we made a model of a lovely little 1581 Elizabethan pocket almanac that includes erasable writing pages with a brass stylus tucked into the back board. The book was fully leather bound, on thin wood boards. There are two fore-edge brass clasps and blind stamping of a Renaissance flourished design of a central diamond shaped panel and corner pieces.

William Shakespeare was only 17 years old when the book we recreated in this class was printed and bound in 1581 A.D.. It was, for businessmen in the 16th century, a Blackberry of sorts...a combination of an almanac, a diary, a calendar and notepad. While it didn't send or receive messages, it served as a personal organizer for the merchants of the times, and was printed and reprinted in different formats for several decades.

This is a photograph of a photocopied picture (!) of the
original book that the class would be replicating.

It is a small book, measuring only 3 1/8" x 4 3/8" (7.9 x 11.3 cm) (spine dimension given first). It consists of four signatures (sections) of paper, and five bi-folios of the erasable pages. In the original, the erasable pages were made of animal parchment, and coated with a gesso-like mixture that would take an impression, then wipe away. The nine signatures were arranged with one paper signature in front, five bifolios of erasable pages, and three signatures in back. There are two single endsheets, with the stubs next to, but not pasted down on, the boards. With the thin [1/8" (3 mm)] basswood boards, the spine is 3/4” ( 1.8 cm) thick.

In the original, the first signature consisted of the title page, rules for the changes of the moon, a 24 year almanac and calendar, and a monthly calendar. There was a blank page after the five erasable pages (we used cardstock, although I made one bifolio from parchment), and then followed "A prayer for the forgiveness of our sins," a section on weights and measures, a history of England, several pages of descriptions of the various coins of the realm, and other helpful information for the business traveler of the times.

Fran's finished replica.

After arranging the signatures, the book was sewn on three thin cords; that is, three sewing stations and 2 kettle stations. We started with 8 ply cord, but removed three strands to be left with a five ply cord. It is slightly recessed into the signatures, and the sewing is straightforward, around the cords in the paper signatures, but not looped around, merely over the cords in the parchment signatures. The spine was then pasted up with PVA, rounded, and lined with Mohawk Superfine paper.

The boards were shaped with a slight round on the outside spine edge, and beveled on the inside fore-edge, head and tail, to accommodate the leather turn ins. The boards were aligned on the textblock, and the cords frayed and pasted down on the boards. We were using a beautiful calf leather prepared by Pergamena, which required only modest edge paring and some paring at the spine head and tail. The first step was dampening the spine and using PVA to glue up the spine, boning down around the cords. Then, using wheat paste, we pasted out the leather and finished the covering of the book. Pam had designed a large die to create the debossed diamond effect on both front and back covers. This was accomplished by dampening the leather, placing the die, and pressing in a nipping press for at least 6 minutes. The lines surrounding the stamp are cold tooled with a bone folder. The brass stylus, which was formed from 1/16" brass rod, fits into a groove in the back board, and protrudes slightly at the fore edge.

Close-up of the clasps that Fran made for her book.

The final step was creating the brass clasps which hold the book closed. The clasps grasp on the back board, in the English style. We used shears and nibblers to rough out the clasps, files to shape and smooth them, and riveted or pinned them onto the covers using brass escutcheon pins. Although two clasps might not seem necessary on such a small book, the parchment leaves, being hygroscopic, would tend to curl with changes in the humidity. It was a wonderful class, and many thanks to Pam Spitzmueller!

- Fran Kovac

Monday, August 05, 2013

Chalkboard Journals

Another great idea from me. Chalkboards on journal covers! And each one features some of my own hand-marbled paper too. I think these might serve as a perfect any-occasion book. The chalkboard area on the front cover can be changed as often as you like. Perfect for a cottage guestbook, where you can change the date or add a message for special events. Or keep it on the table in the front hallway, where you can jot quick reminders to the family as they are coming and going! It could be your bedside journal, for quick thoughts when you are half asleep - rewrite them inside the book, more coherently in the morning when you're fully awake! This book could also work as a sketchbook since it opens perfectly flat and has heavy paper inside. Write your daily inspirations on the front cover. Let me know in the comments if you have other suggestions for these journals.