Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Guest Blogger Alison Kurke on Tim Ely's class at PBI

Alison Kurke is today's guest blogger. She is a maker of gorgeous books and fabulous collages; she lives in Italy and is always on the lookout for good red wine. She has very kindly shared her thoughts here about Tim Ely's PBI class (Tim's website
Alison also has a blog, which you can visit at and you can view some of Alison's work on Flickr. Check out her book making projects and her collages. Thank you, Alison.

I signed up for Tim Ely's class at PBI 2013 (Ideas and Actions in Context and Construction) for all the wrong reasons, believing it to be the course I'd missed last summer, taught by someone else entirely. Enormous brain fart, but also a stroke of luck, since it seems to have been the hot-ticket class that everyone wanted to take. The title and description were enigmatic. So enigmatic that I had no idea what would be covered. I knew only that I was stuck in a rut churning out blank, and "almost-blank" books to delight other people, and spending most of my time fabricating collages or assemblages for their covers. Those were the elements that interested me most, rather than the sea of blank pages.

A selection of books made in this class

The materials list was vague, but curiously extensive, especially for someone not in the habit of drawing ("Bring your existing sketchbook"…"What do you seek to understand more deeply?" Where to begin?). After hearing Tim deliver a lecture the first evening about his work I was actively worried. This was a man, a rather unusual man, it appeared, who invented languages, sciences, and entire solar systems in beautifully made books. Self-contained, obsessed, clearly highly intelligent, productive, ingenious. His natural curiosity and endless capacity to invent and record was manifest in his books. He reassured me that I'd be fine despite my anxieties about being found wanting and incapable. And I was fine, despite enduring the ridicule of fellow PBIers for lugging my too voluminous (and mostly unnecessary) supplies to and from class in a conspicuous, wheelie carry-on bag.

I am so satisfied with what I learned from Tim. Not only a new book form or two, but books that open flat - a revelation for someone like me who is allergic to coptic bindings. Who knew how adaptable drumming on could be? Who even knew what it was before Tim's class? Perhaps everyone present but me.

Tim Ely inspecting hollow-back spine construction

Who knew that perfect mitered corners were possible, reproducible and sort of easy to attain? Who knew that fabric, mine an 1830s cotton print acquired 100 years ago in the UK, could be turned into amazing and versatile book cloth though the application of a wheat paste made from Swan's Down Cake Flour? That this very paste could be mixed with some medium and some acrylic to make actual paste paper? Now I know. A new world has opened up before me.

Perfectly mitered corners, in progress

He unselfishly shared with us his wisdom acquired over decades - tools, tips, tweaks. Although Tim's intention had been to teach us and help us model three variations of this hollow-backed/drum-leaf binding, we managed only two, but almost all of us with variations and quirks of our own. Tim's well-advised system of starting a sketchbook involved adding some decoration or drawing to the folios before binding them delayed us, but everyone in the class enjoyed the time dedicated to making some marks and the results were varied and interesting.

Alison's first hollow-back book made in this class

His books are "sketchbookthinkingvehicles" - diaries, idea books, repositories of concepts both fully-formed and stimulative. His books are precisely measured, expertly trimmed, lovingly planned. Mine, are perhaps none of those things, but I love them all. They can be commemorations, springboards, friends, to be added to and referred to forever. They are the histories of ourselves that we leave as monuments to our creativity. Taking the class has challenged me to try to put my best self there. I am hoping to rise to that challenge.

- Alison Kurke

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Guest Blogger Victoria Cowan, on Finesse Papermaking at PBI

Victoria Cowan is my guest blogger for today. She is an award-winning artist and a gifted instructor. Both experimental and productive, she shows new work regularly in a number of venues, and is much in demand as a workshop leader. Because her preference is to explore an idea in depth, Victoria usually makes a series to follow the branches of an original inspiration. Perception, cognition and memory are her particular areas of interest. For more about Victoria, visit her website at Victoria attended her first PBI this year and started her first day making paper in Bernie Vinzani's class. Thank you for sharing your experience here on my blog and I am looking forward to seeing what you do with your papers in the future!

First class of first day and, typical of me, it only took me a few minutes to put my foot down my throat, not wanting to share a screen. And who did I 'reject'? Why none other than the instructor of my class in the next session. Some days one just does it all off kilter! My reason was clear enough to me (hoping to use the paper I made in an artists' book and thinking that it would lend itself to a good layout if the watermark only took up one side of the sheet), but perhaps I could have done it differently? So I am very appreciative of her not holding it against me.

As an experienced instructor myself, I was impressed by Bernie's exhaustive hand-outs on paper-making. He is also a deeply thoughtful person—he brought an historic document from a paper-making company in Scotland to show to me, because their name was the same as mine.

Bernie Vinzani

Watermarks attached to the screens

Bernie showed us how to apply our watermarks to our screens. Since mine was quite simple, I was ready to make a sheet quite quickly. And luck was with me; the very first one had no clumps, bumps or tears. Bernie publicly announced it; I was no longer a paper virgin.

Everyone was very helpful and there was much interpersonal questioning and showing of methods.

Tom Balbo

Tom let me try his beautifully made small mould & deckle. Annie responded generously when, looking over her shoulder at her mixing different colours of pulp and flinging tears at the screen with abandon, I asked, "Er . . .what are you doing?" The sheets I made as a result are among my favourites because they are so painterly and could become a rich ground for a series of prints.

Two-colour papers

We used different kinds of pulp—including an abaca and hemp mixture, and cotton. Comparing them with what I'd seen when people experiment with using a hand drill for beating pulp in a pail was an immediate and powerful lesson in the importance of a good beater and well-made pulp. Thanks, Andrea!

Samples of class work on display

Now that I have such luscious sheets, each unique, each both delicate and strong, I'm almost afraid to use them. You know . . .it's that old artist thing about not ruining one's canvas, whatever that canvas happens to be. But I'll get over it, and hope I may guest blog again at that time and show you all what I did.

Because the first two days were wintry and the concrete floor very cold and wet, I was wearing thick-soled winter boots made with a waterproof fabric. Shudda known better! I'm pretty sure they are now transformed forever, a souvenir of my first days at PBI that will always make me grin.

- Victoria Cowan

Monday, June 10, 2013

Guest Blogger Charles Wisseman, on Daredevil Letterpress at PBI

Charles Wisseman is a retired pathologist who now does mixed media art with a current emphasis on book arts and papermaking. Charles lives in Champaign, Illinois and has a website where he shares some of his work: Charles took a letterpress class at Paper and Book Intensive last month where they were literally printing in circles, and any other shape they could manage.

Daredevil Letterpress was taught by Jessica Spring, who teaches in Washington State and runs Springtide Press. She encouraged us to think outside the rectangular box when setting up a letterpress layout. Everyone liked the type held in a circle between a roll of tape and a pipe clamp. This opened our mind to the possibilities, and each participant took a different approach.

Printing circular type.

Printing curvy type.

We all were introduced to the wonders of the California job case, the pica pole, the Vandercook press, mixing ink, cleaning up in the least toxic manner, etc. People were encouraged to do prints with more than one color, and to try for a high level of quality.

There is only one Vandercook press in this studio, so print time had to be scheduled. Jessica spent long hours monitoring the printing. Despite the scheduling difficulties, there was a very cooperative atmosphere.

I decided to use the poster press, on loan from the Morgan Conservatory, because this is what I have at home. I have some wood type, also, so I did a layout of wood type held in a galley tray by a carved-out 1/2 inch foam core. Others liked this method of holding type and made complex and sinuous arrangements of type and image. I opted for all hand inking in the poster press to give a very variable edition for the class portfolio. I also tried some of the pressure printing techniques I had seen in the Sarah Bryant class the week before.

Examples of class work

Others did complex linoleum cutouts, water color additions, sewn in thread, images in speedball cutout material, and color gradients. I had little previous experience in letterpress, so all of this seemed daring enough for me. The portfolio looked great, and one set sold well in the scholarship auction. Thanks to PBI for bringing in this innovative and humorous instructor.

- Charles Wisseman