Sunday, October 31, 2010

working with others

on occasion someone asks me to assist them in a printing project. usually i make the paper for a special edition or collage or on a couple of occasions, wedding invitations. it's easy when someone buys what i have on hand. when i make paper i usually make at least 100 8.5x11 in. sheets, which is about one potful of any botanical i harvest, clean, and put on to cook. while not a production papermaker, i make WAY more than the average amateur working in the kitchen. i like the work i've done lately because i move from one paper to the next, changing pulps slowly, so that many sheets have a variety of fiber in the pulp. these papers are often more interesting and quite often strong and versatile. some of these i have colored with strong black walnut dye.

so when working with another artist i have certain standards to adhere to. book artists and especially letterpress printers know what their presses will like and what they won't tolerate. they also like to design a whole book so that it works in every way the way they want it to. 
The Hummingbird by Sue Leopard, edition of 10
sue bought a selection of my papers a few years ago at wells college during their summer book arts institute. she recently contacted me to see if i had more of the same or complementary papers and i was able to find just enough!
sue wrote: 
Hi Velma, Thank you for your wonderful papers. The HUMMINGBIRD book is now completed  in an edition of 10.
I used a variety of your papers for the covers and you are credited in the colophon. The poem is by RUTH KESSLER of Rochester.

It will be on display in my upcoming show at 23 SANDY GALLERY in Portland, OR, opening Nov 5th.

i wish i could go to the opening, helen hiebert is also showing at this time. i'd go see ian, my son, too. i am pleased with this beautiful book, and honored that she cited me in the colophon.
do you see this morning's gift? snow!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

october ending

moving through the end of october and into november. yesterday a bout of food poisoning, fine today. all the trees are bare, or almost all. their protection from the weather, is the little they can give. the tamaracks are gold and now shedding, too. 
a strange thing happened at work, i wrote a shifu book poem. it isn't yet on vellum.
and the latest shifu book has a maine stone, too. i still have large rock pages to make. and sewing and binding and framing. and a weekend that's raining, and, they say, will snow.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


rumble, rumble, rumble, ta da!
well, it's in print. 
my lovely daughter hannah coached me through photoshopping this from an email pdf to a jpeg. now i'm smarter than ever, so look out! seriously it took me half an hour to learn this and she put me on speaker phone so her grad schoolmate could hear me (good thing i love you, brat) but i did it. now i will go back to what i know how to do, make paper. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


vat of abaca and dogbane, reflection includes little sheets drying, a mould and deckle, and a maple.
the house smells of soda ash cook. yesterday i cooked up a huge stock pot of hosta leaves. today i'm using a bit of that liquid as dye liquor for some ecoprints, i bound up cotton and silk with leaves from maple, lilac, wogelia (sp?), i think that's what it's called, a shrub that this year bloomed beautifully. i have made five of the big rock book's pages, and have to cut a new deckle because the other one failed after five (good) sheets.
foam deckle on borrowed european mould from mark mcmurray on my ancient paintsmeared rolly table.
you can probably see where the deckle failed, on the top and right side. the new one (i'm too tired to cut it tonight) has a bit more heft and i will reinforce it. re cutting: do NOT use an exacto knife, new blade, if you are tired. you will make an error. you also will if you're too cocky. you must be very "present" to not get hurt. i know this. so i will wash my hair and retire (early) with a wonderful book, the inner studio by andrew levitt, that i am savoring, section by section. i can only imagine what art school might have been like with such an inspiring and thinking teacher. (andrew is wendy's husband.)
thinking about the rockness of these books in contrast with the seemingly delicateness of ecoprints and shifu and miniature books. doesn't it seem strange that i'm making miniature woven books of poems covered in delicate sheep vellum and then big books with rough paper and split rock covers?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

sunday thoughts

i like rainy days, and after yesterday's snow, then wild cloudy sky with sunshine all day, this rainy gray is peaceful. there is an edge of cool, but it's not cold. most of the trees are bare now, but still lots of floliage in the underbrush.
and gunshots. they're hunting geese someplace nearby, it sounds like thunder. and the one or two or three shot volleys are the guys with their deer rifles, missing mostly, by the sound of it. of course i have to deal with poachers on my land, trespassers, because i like the idea of going out on my land, though i seldom do in hunting season.

i spent a while looking at some letterpress printers online, and decided i just plain love the look of big type and layered colors on posters, especially the stuff i see from amos paul kennedy, and hatch show print. i like those BIG words.

i've always looked at the doings at the university of iowa, and their new website has a great video about the book arts program. i have iowa flax paper in my flat file that i use for book covers, i have purchased their books kits which are now produced and sold by gary frost and joyce miller at  iowa book works. one of those kits taught me how board books work. 
map board book
but this is one of those mornings when my thoughts meander and i think what it is about books. and i realize that for me a book is art and ideas all packaged in a format that i can carry around with me, to read, to share, to relive at will. i will be out soon in the mill making more rock book pages with dogbane and abaca, and cutting the last deckle for the biggest pages of all. all these pebbles will be roiling about in my head as i prepare for the show. the frames came, and they are wrong, so i have to deal with that later, get ready to reorder tomorrow and return these lovely but unusable ones. sigh. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

while i slept

an old friend arrived leaving the rock book changed.
it has begun.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


i was looking for a way to better carry home the johnny jump-ups and violas i found. 
i have a clutch of violas for ice flower dyeing that i added to yesterday. with the help of a wonderful basket.
it was beautiful in the cool sunlight, golden and windy.
and time to gather hosta leaves, too

Sunday, October 17, 2010


leaves are more than half shed from our landscape. the country is beginning to show her bones once again. fewer leaves in my yard than when my kids were young and we made huge piles of (mostly) maple leaves, like so much shredded gloss. three grandparent trees have shattered and fallen, and another is partially dead, leaving only one of the original "in the yard" elders. the other elders are here and there on the land, but not many are left.
i love this rock's surface, the color, the fissures
i am thinking of rock, of rock books, of shifu, of milkweed, of sunshine and frost and heavy rain. it is the season of books and woodstoves and hot tea and chocolate. it is the time of remembering and anticipating, the final harvests. canada celebrated thanksgiving while we celebrated conquering our first nations. odd.
two of the three finished, unsewn. i have to borrow a large mould for the big one, and finish the other small one. binding and content coming along. barry smith put a bug back in my ear that i had chased out. placing them in the landscape...somehow. i have been thinking about it. 
so come, please. it will be a small show, but i hope it will be a glimpse into my thinking. so from vessels to hold air to vessels to hold thoughts to vessels to hold humus, i am traveling through these ideas in woven paper and words. since this was published, the show has been scheduled to stay up into the beginning of december.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

later thursday...

this one is the largest rock book, and the first found cover. to put it in perspective, the leaves to the left of the bottom cover are about three inches long. i can only hold one half at a time!
some rock book pages.

and today i found out that i will be getting an sos grant, special opportunity stipend grant from the new york state arts council to help with my costs for the upcoming show at the st lawrence county arts council. i am so grateful because now i can frame several of my woven photos properly!

kinds of blue

gold and cerulean
my words woven by the incredible neki in barcelona. a gift she sent to me, a thank you for my words. this is what the internet does well: connects you with someone you'd never meet, a weaver, who masters using technology as a tool for weaving, who has a aesthetic that is  inviting and is an accomplished craftswoman. and she makes fiber books! what you can't see in the photo is how much of a puzzle it is to read those words. i struggled for a long time. the photograph picks them up, but not the depth of weaving, or the brilliant blues.
and i've been making milkweed pulp from the bast fiber in the stalks, not the seeds. i have spun the seed fiber before, and have saved a bunch in the freezer to pulp later on.
struggling with another sinus infection and a tooth that is being capped. there's a strange giant temporary living on my 6 year molar! it's weirder than braces were.

Monday, October 11, 2010

shifu and healing

i went to visit wendy in toronto last week. also to attend a talk given by master shifu artist hiroko karuno. i took the train from brockville. i was gone only a few hours. in that time i experienced many amazing things.
the AGO. an amazing collection. reinvented with these wooden ribs that vault to the ceiling of the old structure. i was here in 1975 or thereabouts. then i looked at the henry more sculpture. now i look at the group of seven and some inuit work. and wendy took me to soma. serious chocolate. heaven. i had hot chocolate that was like a meal. 

wendy and i went to the japanese paper place to hear hiroko karuno talk about her work, about a special installation she did last spring, and see her demonstrate spinning (twisting) kozo for her shifu.
 straightening paper prior to cutting
 opening up the sheets after cutting
spun kozo
 spinning (twisting) kozo
 skeins of naturally dyed kozo
a sample of hiroko's shifu
hiroko concentrating, with a smile
we got to know hiroko and her wonderful husband riding home together. the spinning wheel had pride of place in the front passenger seat. so funny because as any spinner knows, the spinning wheel takes as much space as it needs to! people can squish together, wooden spinning wheels do not!
you may remember this tapestry. it now is used by the children that wendy golden-levitt works with. this girl used my tapestry as a part of her sand table healing work.
 do you see her treasure? i am sheltering her. this young girl is anorexic, eight years old, and she almost died. 
she told me she doesn't need to look pretty anymore. "now i try to just look." i love that! wendy transcribes the children's messages to the artists whose textiles wendy uses in her work and places them in a special cairn on a table in the studio. when i read notes from s. or p. i am so moved. and i learn from them, too. 
and the velma book is still being used, it has place keepers in it, a stick, textiles. can't really be transported in it's current enlarged state, but once the children remove them, it will be movable. some work with it has been done by first nations elders and children. then it travels with wendy to the place she works with these wonderful people. i feel often like these pages that i made, these plants that became paper have much strength for people. more than i ever thought possible!

this trip was surprisingly centered around two other things, unexpected things. one was a deepening friendship with wendy, another was healing from an unsettling taxi experience. i came home with new ideas, hopes and dreams, friendship, taxi-induced headache, some books...and a sense of having been through a threshold. or a fibershed.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

how it is here

my life is a series of small miracles and weirdnesses. and very simple, really. quiet. except for the tiny metallic ting i heard before dawn today. a dog bowl sound. once. then twice. i went to investigate. turned on the light. ready for anything. then saw the movement. a juvenile red squirrel zipped into a basket with my swimming things in it that sits on a small chest. a little curse, then i opened the doors to outside, approached the basket, carefully picked up the leather handles, and transported it to the stoop. there i left it and am hoping the critter has scrammed. sigh. it gets old, the constant battle to keep wildlife (mostly rodents) outdoors.
i scored this book in toronto. i love the title. stones bones and stitches. suits me. i suppose it's appropriate that there are red squirrels trying to lick out wendy's bowl. bones on the work table. and paper and vellum and shifu and...stitches holding it all together.
you also MUST see this. from the current issue of selvedge: from the exhibit threads of feeling. each fabric swatch was harvested by a foundling's mother when she gave up her child, a chosen textile from their personal clothing is the identifying fiber used by mom and orphanage to tie baby to mother. 27,000 of them.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

rock book, done, almost

 this idea is long in preparation, i think i told gin about it a couple of years ago.
there are five large ones, and several small ones. for the show in november at the arts council, i want to have these ready, if not completely completed. (done, done. finished, finished?)
this is a pretty big rock. i'm guessing 20 pounds. found here. pages of thoughts, colors, plants.

i have another story to share, but to do it justice i need a couple of nights' sleep. suffice it to say that i had yet another transforming experience, or perhaps better, a watershed. only paper. a papershed? 

Sunday, October 3, 2010


yesterday i received a phone call from a friend, jody horwitz, who is a knitter. she asked if she could swing by my house and drop off something, i said sure, thinking it might be something for hannah, who worked for jody last winter at the yarn shop. well.
she gave me these beautiful mittens that were from a kit that leena sells. leena dyes her own wool from her flock with natural (cochineal and mushrooms in this case) dyes. this is fiberwork i could never do--oh, i could dye the yarns and raise the sheep, but never ever could i knit something like this. i was stunned, and so very pleased. and my hands will be warm and happy this winter.
a feather from a mourning dove, i think. on top of the cover of a rock book.
front cover and pages of rock book.
the rock books are coming along. all the pages for two are made, but not finished (!) and the third is in process. i have used badger paper and black walnut dye and daylily and mica as well as abaca and a variety of others that i harvested from my freezer and my yard. this has been a productive papermaking september and october for me. 
and i have news this week which i will share later on. right now, it's sunday evening. i must prepare for work (lessons!) and for being away a night. 
a little bit of abaca shifu, colored with pigment from carriage house. i made this paper 25 or so years ago, fully intending to use it right away for shifu. it's aged well. me, too!
the legs of a papermaker after an hour's work. pulp. water. happy. the sun helped dry me out. a sunny but quite cool day. winter's coming on.

Contact Form


Email *

Message *