Tag Archives: Handmade

Finding Inspiration

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I’m gearing up for art fairs, and looking through my current book inventory. Here is a collection of sketchbooks and journals of different sizes and bindings. I have themes other than cats, but I’ve offered images for feline-lovers for awhile. I’m trying to think of some fresher ways to approach the work, including making the whole collection look more cohesive.

Hand made books with cat covers

A selection of cat themed book covers that I created. The fabrics are all hand-dyed and/or screen printed.

On a recent trip to the Art Institute of Chicago, I encountered a few pieces that, while very different stylistically, employ color palettes that are similar.

Paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago; Whistler, Balthus, VanGogh

Upper Left: The Artist in His Studio, by James McNeil Whistler; Upper Right: Girl with Cat, by Balthus; Lower Panel: The Parisian Novels (The Yellow Books) detail, by Vincent VanGogh

I love how these artists use the primary colors in muted tones and variation to create a cohesive looks. So, I was thinking I would try to emulate some of these colors in my book covers for spring and summer. I particularly love the gray-blues and gold tones interspersed with pink. I also want some patterns that are more intricate, and  viewable from multiple angles without seeming “upside down.” My current cat designs, for example, only face one way, so I’m thinking of incorporating rotational symmetry, and adding other images and shapes to make them more dynamic. Other possible themes include birds, tea, and geometry.

How do you find inspiration for your art work? What resources to you use? How do you keep your work interesting and fresh? I’d love your feedback!

In the meantime, the books above are still available to a good home. You can check them out here on my Etsy site.

 

 

Horizontal Cats

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We had our first snow fall of the season this weekend. Cats do not ask to go out in the Tabby Shack when it’s snowing. Instead, they  seek warmth in after-storm sun puddles.

Tabby cat on carpet

Don’t let this cute picture fool you, I was seconds away from being bopped.

Just to mix it up a bit, a cat may take over my work stool in the studio where I’m creating new book cloth in preparation for the next holiday show.

Cat on black chair

Lucy deposits cat hair on my chair, while simultaneously waiting for me to give her head scruffs.

I’m excited about the new work, even if Lucy is not impressed.

Hand printed cloth

No cats appear on the new printed cloth.  It turns out that not everybody loves cats! Who knew?

Your Itinerant Attack Cat

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Handmade Books

Just a sampling of my handmade sketchbooks and journals.

Directly after Drawlloween, I turned all of my attention to production for the Holiday Art Market where I sold my handmade paper goods. Namely, journals and sketchbooks that I bind by hand, with covers of original design. In preparation for the show, I completed 90 books and orbs in just fourteen days! I’ve been blogging about my progress and describe one bookmaking process here, give an update here,  and then discuss my paper orbs in a later post.

Art fair booth set up

Attack Cat Studio at the Holiday Art Market.

I had a successful showing this weekend and visitors to the market seemed to really like my work. Since this was the first full-on beta test for Attack Cat Studio, I feel pretty good about the results. It was especially interesting to watch people interact with the displays. For example, some of the book stands are a little tippy. But, the flow of traffic through my booth seemed to work well. I also collected a few contacts who are interested in taking a bookmaking class with me in the winter.

Attack Cat Studio Logo

In addition to connecting people with sketchbooks and journals, I get to talk with cat lovers who notice my logo. The most frequently asked question is, “Which one is the attack cat?!”

Now, I prepare for another show, this one in December, at the Merry Maker’s Marketplace. I have new images to print for book covers, larger sketchbooks to create, and lots of pocket-sized journals to replace. If you’re interested in seeing some more of my work, you can check meow-t on Etsy.

Cat in a Box

Miss Bean, the original Attack Cat.

A Stitch in Time

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Today, in an attempt to catch up from being totally distracted by Drawlloween (see this you don’t know what I’m talking about,) I sewed together 45, yes, f-o-r-t-y-f-i-v-e, books just waiting for covers. I have an art show the second weekend in November, and I’m a little behind on production as I was having too much fun drawing kitties the entire month of October. Aside from being tired from sitting for 15 hours, I did binge watch about 8 episodes of Grimm, season one. And, while I was flanked by cats both on the couch and in the studio, sadly, there are no felines in the photo of today’s efforts.

Pile of text blocks.

I sewed all of these together today.

Any Cross Section Through a Sphere is a Circle

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Any Cross Section Through a Sphere is a Circle
Group of Paper Balls

Better in Batches. I learn a lot more by producing multiples.

I’ve been working on these beauties off and on for a week or so. Each handmade paper circle, some twenty-four to thirty per orb, was hand cut and sorted by color and pattern. The orb was then carefully sewn using book binding techniques. The end decorations were made by covering aluminum buttons with dyed cloth.

Sewing the Orb

I used a basic book binding technique to sew the individual folded circles to make the orb.

I continue to consider further possibilities for this structure and enjoy the process of making them a lot. But, that’s where it falls apart. I still haven’t figured out how I’m going to fashion the hanging device in a way that is suitably elegant. Ornament cap? Bead hanger? Hidden screw eye? Or maybe they don’t hang at all. Maybe there are just sweet little buttons on both ends. I would like to be able to suspend the spheres from a decorative cord while enclosing the top opening. I have some ideas yet to try. If you have a suggestion, I’d love to hear from you!

Make Your Own Cat

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Make Your Own Cat

A few years ago, I constructed a prototype toy cat using scraps of hand-dyed fabric and some beans for stuffing. The resulting creature, let’s call him Stuffed Cat One, was entertaining, but not quite what I was trying to achieve. I learned a lot at that time, like, I don’t like working that small, the arms should be longer, the head isn’t dimensional enough, it needs a puss nose and whiskers. It’s kind of a long list. For whatever reason, I woke up this morning, three years later, determined to take another go.

Pink Beanie Cat

Here’s the original! Stuffed Cat One.

Stuffed Cat Two, assembled from black cotton, is fresh off the design table. It was not easy going. First of all, black is impossible! A lint collector of the first degree and hard to see details, I struggled with keeping it clean and concise.

Making a Stuffed Black Cat

Heads, legs, arms, and a tail. Plus, the unstuffed body of Cat Two.

Second, there are some proportions I would change. The distance from the nose to the neck seam is too long for a cat. The narrow arms and legs next to the puffy torso make Stuffed Cat Two look like a cousin to Piglet from the Hundred Acre Wood. The size and placement of the ears may be adding to this problem. The eyes give him that Toothless look from How to Train Your Dragon. However, these eyes are an improvement over the first attempt where I sewed on amber-colored jewels that made Stuffed Cat Two look like Super-Freako Sparkle Kitty.

Stuffed black cat.

The finished prototype. He has whisker issues, but he seems friendly.

Don’t get me wrong. Prototypes are important. I didn’t wake up thinking I was going to make Two, the Amazing Forever Cat. Besides, frustration is instructive. I learned that I like working this size better. I think the overall shape of the nose is improved over Stuffed Cat One. And, during construction, I figured out some shortcuts that would help if I wanted to make more than one at a time.

Stuffed Cats

Stuffed Cat One and Stuffed Cat Two, side by side, for comparison.

It is unclear whether or not I will now, or sometime in the future, create Stuffed Cat Three. All of my observations will guide me should I decide to make adjustments and try again. I just have this romantic notion of a herd of Stuffed Cat minions, all fun and funky, looking down at me from a decorative shelf. No matter what I decide, I’m sure you’ll hear about it one way or another.

An Obvious Mixed Bag

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An Obvious Mixed Bag

I hope you’ll forgive me. I have a case of blog posting procrastination. Not only have I been remodeling the basement, a.k.a. The Mole Level, the weather has been pristine. Clear blue skies, crisp in the morning, yet warm enough in the afternoon for me to be lured away from responsibilities.

Scaredy Cats

Lucy, Vera, and Bean in various stages of denial about the strangers in our house. P.S. I would not usually publish such a poor photo of Vera (center) but her hiding place deep in the closet left me no choice but to use a flash.

The cats have been in hiding during while the workmen are here, so it’s hard to get good cat portraits. And for some reason, I’ve been avoiding my camera, unaware that I should be documenting all of the changes. I must be having an identity crisis. Or, maybe I feel the shift from the mostly carefree days of summer to the seriousness brought on by the ever-so-slight hint of color on the maples.

Left: A workman replaces the carpet in the stairwell as seen through the cat door. Right: Walls prepped for painting in the family room.

Left: A workman replaces the carpet in the stairwell as seen through the cat door. Right: Walls prepped for painting in the family room.

Whatever it is, the cats are constant in their cat-ness, anchoring me to the earth, lest I float away with the first falling leaf. I have, despite the distractions, managed to make some new books in anticipation of a busy (and not-far-away) holiday season.

Handmade books

Handmade books. Larger, printed books are sewn on tapes. Smaller books are suede with tie closure.

Today, the waves on Lake Michigan are supposed to be seven feet high. Maybe I’ll take a drive out to see them…. Ah, but that’s the wistful, wish-it-was-summer me. More likely that I will get back to my blogging and book arts, do some housework, and make a quick run up the road to the vegetable stand for some fresh tomatoes to go with dinner.

Heirloom Tomatoes

It’s easy to find a good tomato this time of year.

A Labor (Day) of Love

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A Labor (Day) of Love

It’s been a long time since I made a flat-back, case bound book. This one is not flashy, just a hard cover with black book cloth and decorative end sheets. I enjoy the process of craft, the kind that requires attention to detail, with every step considered and executed with great care. This book is for my math teacher/artist husband, who likes the elegance of simplicity, and deserves a new book to start the school year.

Parts of a book.

My prepared pages, along with all of the parts for the cover, including the book cloth, end sheets, and binders board.

Book making is a sequential process, each step requiring it’s own precision. It starts with measuring, cutting and folding multiple pages, then sewing them together into an organized stack. Boards have to be cut with lovely right angles, front and back, with one narrow piece for the spine that matches the thickness of the sewn block of pages. If one measurement is just a little off, it can skew the next in a way that throws off the whole in the end. Plus, there’s gluing. Too much, and your paper wrinkles and there are unwanted spurts of glue ooze. Too little, and things don’t hold together properly.

Steps in Book Binding

I enjoy the systematic operations of assembling a book, including checking the measurements, sewing the pages, and applying adhesives.

All of this exactness feeds into my desire for orderliness as the proper recipe of ingredients results in a well-made object. When it’s working, it’s a thing of beauty! In addition, the making of a book has meaning beyond the labor. A book is a personal object, carried in a pocket close to the body, opened by hand. The pages, turned one-by-one, become filled with the thoughts of the recipient. It is in this use that the maker and the owner become collaborators. As the book becomes imbued with life and wear, it becomes an even more beautiful and priceless object.

Black flat back case bound book

Since we no longer teach together (like we did for ten years,) I feel that, by making a book for him to use for notes and drawings, at least a little piece of me goes with him to school every day.

Building A Book

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Building A Book

You may (or may not) have noticed the intermittent, yet ongoing, production from my studio. There was the fabric dyeing day, followed by multiple screen printing sessions using my old thermofax machine to burn screens. Now, I’m finally turning the printed and dyed fabric into blank journals and sketchbooks.

Steps showing sewing on tapes.

Top: The finished cover before the pages are attached. Bottom Left and Right: Shows what the in-process sewing looks like from the inside and the outside of the book.

The books have soft covers that I create by attaching the fabrics to Pellon Fuse-n-Shape, a thick, iron on interfacing that gives the covers some thickness without making them too thick. The binding is a variation of the coptic stitch and sewing over tapes. I like this binding because it leaves the spine exposed, and allows the visible stitches to become part of the aesthetics of the finished book. This binding is also sturdy and allows the book to lie completely flat when opened, a desirable quality when writing or drawing.

Orange Cat Book

Hand-dyed fabric with thermofax screen image, exposed-spine sewing on decorative cotton strips. Book is bound with waxed linen.

I have fun coordinating the cords, threads, and fabrics to individualize every book– no two are identical. Sometimes, I choose contrasting fabrics for the front and back of the book to add visual interest. So far, I have constructed six of these soft cover books and, with each one I complete, I learn a little more about the small things I’d like to finesse.

Cat on table with books

A selection of books, guarded over by the original Attack Cat, Miss Bean.