What’s fun?

So you all know that I spend a lot of time thinking about composition. Something about arranging, juxtaposing, aligning… I like all that stuff. But it can also make you crazy when the process just becomes riddled with doubts and uncertainties.

Thats a good time to take a break and get back to the fun of collage. Its the middle of summer, its beautiful outside, I don’t feel like angst-ing right now. So I looked at my table and asked: What is fun, here?


Certainly any FUN list of mine must begin with stripes and dots.  I find them on book covers occasionally, too occasionally, so I mostly make my own.  Golden High Flow Acrylic paint is a great place to start. Sumi ink is delicious, but it will smear if you paint over it with acrylic medium, so I usually go with the High Flow.


Vintage kids books, especially with a lot of scribbling, are VERY fun.  We were all kids once and making art can take you back to those wild days of not knowing what you were doing and thinking it was all great, no matter what. These were the days before you developed a good inner critic who stops you at every turn to make sure you are passing inspection. The critic is not all bad, she has a lot of knowledge, for one thing. But getting away from her, and all her rational thinking, is freeing.  And FREE is good for creativity.


I have a small collection of fun things here. An old computer card immediately brings up my fond memories of Fortran and card decks in college…not. Actually I just think they are cool looking, all that repetition of tiny numbers and the punched rectangles.

Clearly, there is much fun to be had in type from paperback book covers. Especially those self improvement books and their bold promises! 30 days?!? I have never stuck to anything for 30 days, not even being how I want to be!

Finally, I have to admit that I think circles are fun. Perfect circles, for some reason, are especially fun.

Feel free to share your experiences of FUN materials in the comments section below.

Happy *summer* Creating,



Hacking the Hardback

Sorry for the late blog post, we just got over two weekends of the Santa Fe Studio Tour, which is a fair amount of work to host.  We meet so many interesting people, and this year I was more proactive in explaining my work. Turns out most people don’t know I am working with books, and what is paperback, what is hardback, etc.  I was really reminded of how fun it is to build collages onto hardback book covers.  I get to spend a whole day on this in my upcoming workshops, so I was showing my guests the fun possibilities of hacking into the hardback book cover.



Here is the basic toolkit: needles and thread, knives to cut with, an awl to make holes. I also recommend a chop saw (not shown due to the condition of my husband’s workshop at present). You can also add in things like a drill, wire, waxed linen thread, a dremmel tool. And if you have a woodshop available to you, a drill press, a jigsaw, etc.

So lets look at some work. This is an early piece I did in a Lisa Kokin workshop.

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I began with the front and back covers taped together for the substrate. Lisa had distributed bundles of paper made by cutting an old math book using a chop saw (by the fabulous Tools Diva, Lia Roozendaal).  This is where my love of books began, with little pieces of truncated sentences: 23. Mass, 24. Weight. (I studied a lot of math and physics at college, maybe this is why it amuses me).

The grid is a nice stable structure to begin from, but quite soon Lisa and Lia were urging me to disrupt its order and break outside the squares.  And so the fun began. In fact, as I look at it, this may well be the story of how I left Math (serious) and went for Art (fun). Punctures, stitching, and a little paint set me free.

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In “Secrets”, I carve into the book with an exacto knife. You can go all the way through the book board and make a hole, or just cut away a few layers, as you see with the stripes. There have been several different man-images in this piece, but I kept covering over them so now we just have The Absent Man, which sorta works for me, actually.


Another grid piece, this time working with more open space and asymmetry. The piece begins with the outside of the hardback book, where the fabric has been peeled away exposing a surface of textured, dried, adhesive.  I like how it looks like a cement wall.

Besides the carving and the stitching, I have glued other sawn chunks of hardbacks onto the substrate (you won’t believe how fun it is to saw a book into pieces like this). The small chunk in the upper right is a piece of book pages, cut about an inch from the spine.  The spine material was torn off leaving some glue and string. This little chunk juts out about an inch.  It is secured by a generous dollop of PVA glue. The stiffness of the book board, as well as its ability to absorb the glue and make a strong bond, allows you to get more dimensional  in your collages. It can be a very refreshing change from your normal work.

So give this a try, I promise you will enjoy it.  And if you need a little more guidance, come to a workshop and play with us!

Happy Creating,



Collage Design: Enjoy the Mystery.

I was perusing my instagram feed earlier today and was struck by how much the work changes as you develop it. At least in MY process. Many times I just sit down with a substrate (paper or board that is covered in papers), and just start arranging pieces from the stuff on my table before me. There is no idea. Its just about appealing combinations. It might be a color scheme, it might be some words (like the title of this book “medieval Latin Lyrics”. How obscure is that?!?). It might be just a play of rectangles and and parallel lines.


Here is where I got after the first sitting.  I like the slate blue texture in the upper left but it just does not go with anything else with that color and its too dominant. Same with the AV.  Beautiful letterforms but too dominant. There are a lot of sacrifices, but its ok. There are plenty more collages to make.


Now something is taking shape, its sort of like an art deco train or building.   I’ve been lucky to keep the Medieval Latin Lyrics title, and added in a few choice phrases: The Tiresome Letter (for laughs), and “the sanity of science” (which of course brings up religion and politics, but just for a second :).


Here is the final piece. The new rounded corner  on top creates a nice unity to the black shapes (which I have broken up further with some neutral brown verticals). What is it? I don’t know, I just enjoy its shapes and proportions.

So just a word about words: they are for fun. They come from wildly different places (a children’s games book and a Penguin Classics) and are just tucked in as a little bit of spice.  They suggest something and then run away and hide. Which amuses me, and reminds me of real life: lots of little half clues and lots of unresolved mysteries. Yum!

I hope you are enjoying this marvelous summer of 2016.

Happy Creating,