Strange Journals

Ramblings on Bookbinding, Photography, Journaling and Art

Video Tutorial: The Locking Coptic Stitch

A short time ago, I posted some pictures of a jig I was building as a visual aid to help teach students in my book binding classes coptic sewing. I’ve finished the contraption up and I’ve dubbed it the High Speed Sewing Simulator. There’s really no compelling reason to talk about the jig itself so instead, I’ve completed a video tutorial on sewing the Locking Coptic Stitch. The Locking Coptic Stitch is an exposed spine sewing and it’s a variation on the traditional Coptic Stitch. I sew it this way simply because I feel it adds a little more structural integrity to the sewing. Enjoy.

Teaching the Coptic Stitch (Better)

I’ve been teaching the Coptic stitch a lot lately and I’ve been thinking about how to teach it better. When it comes time to teach the stitch during the class everybody gathers around to watch and that’s where the problem is. Everything is too small. with a half-dozed or more people gathered around looking over my shoulder it’s hard to see what’s going on. I’ve tried doing things like sewing with two different colored threads but at the end of the day, nobody can get close enough to see what’s going on during the demo.

I’ve decided to scale up and build a demo rig so everybody can see what’s happening during the demo. I just started working on it today and I hope to have it done soon but here’s what I’ve got so far, I hope to have it done by the end of the week.



Worn by Time: A Coptic Bound Art Journal

Art Unraveled has been going on for the past week or so and it’s been a great event. This past Saturday the Shopping Extravaganza took place and a wide variety of artists and vendors where there selling everything from handmade journals to stencils. Classes start late on Saturday so everyone has plenty of time to shop and I had just enough time to check everything out before teaching my class, “Dug from the Ruins: A Polymer Clay Art Journal”.

Today, I taught my class titled “Worn by Time: A Coptic Bound Art Journal.” In this class, students use Milk Paint to transform ordinary oak boards into a 3″ x 5″ journal. The morning was spent drilling holes for the binding, building up layers of color using Milk Paint and the distressing the surface to reveal those layers and simulate the look of wear and age. For many, the Coptic Sewing is hard to learn so the rest of the day was reserved for sewing demonstrations and hands on help with the binding.

Students finished their books by setting a small image into a bezel and attaching that to the cover and then installing a simple closure that was fabricated from brass. It was a great group of students and their books turned out exceptionally well. I hope to see them again in the future at other events.


A student distresses the covers of their journal in the “Worn By Time” class.

Art Unraveled is Here!

Art Unraveled kicks off in Phoenix tonight with a meet the artist event. If you haven’t attended, Art Unraveled is a week long art event that features classes taught by internationally known artists. There are over 125 workshops that cover a broad range of media like painting, book making, jewelry making, metal work, journaling, fiber/fabric arts, sculpting and assemblage.

I’ll be teaching three classes at Art Unraveled this year, Dug from the Ruins, a journal created from polymer clay; Work by Time, a coptic bound art journal with wood covers and the Inlaid Wood journal wood covers with small circular inlay.

If you’re attending Art Unraveled this year, stop by and say hello.


Dug from the Ruins

Dug from the Ruins

Worn by Time

Worn by Time

The Inlaid Book

The Inlaid Book

Art Unraveled Auction Piece

The Art Unraveled Auction Piece is continuing to take shape. I only have a general idea of what this is going to look like and I’m really just making it up as I go. I began with a the basic structure which I constructed out of ½” plywood scraps I had lying around. I painted the inside of each niche before attaching the front part of the structure. Once that was done, I added some texture to the sides I entertained the ides of texture all around but I’ve left the back unadorned because I think someone might want to mount it on the wall. I created sculptural elements on the front of the piece with epoxy clay and then gave the whole thing a couple of washes to give it some color. Now it’s sitting on my workbench while I ponder where to go next.



Graduation Gift

It’s graduation time again and a family friend, someone we’ve know since he was a wee tot has managed to survive the elementary school system and go over the wall. He’s a talented drummer and over the past couple of years he’s started to journal sporadically with a goal of doing it regularly. I thought it might be nice to bind a journal for him; maybe he’ll go to it more regularly if it’s more meaningful than an off the shelf sketchbook.

Graduation Gift Journal 1

Front View

Graduation Gift Journal 2

Spine Detail

Graduation Gift Journal 3

Back View

Zebrawood, Chata Kok, Maple Burl, Brass, Leather, 300 gm Fabraino Artistico 4-ply Polyester Thread

Art Unraveled Teaser

I’ve been working on a few projects that fit into the “as time permits” category this week and one of them is the piece in the photograph below. I’ve chosen to show it in its current state and from the back no less as an Art Unraveled teaser. One of the premier activities at Art Unraveled is a live auction; the purpose of the auction is to create a pool of funding that provides scholarships to attend Art Unraveled during the following year. Linda, the evil mastermind behind AU asks instructors to donate pieces to be featured in the auction and frankly most of my stuff is away in shows and galleries so I’ve decided to make a new piece to be auctioned off at AU. This piece is on its way to being a shrine and I’m not willing to say more about it at this point. I will show a completed photo of it sometime in the next two to three weeks once it’s done so stay tuned’ I’m hoping people will like it.


Art Unraveled Auction Teaser

Art Unraveled is Just Around The Corner

As a reminder, I’ll be teaching three workshops at Art Unraveled this year. This is the first time I’ve taught at this event so I’ve created a video introduction that talks a little bit about my work and the workshops I’ll be teaching.

Defaced and Repaired

As I was paint this mural, I knew in the back of my mind that it was going to be tagged at some point. There has been a lot of tagging activity in the Coronado area lately and I was fairly sure that the taggers would see the murals being painted in the Oak Street Alley as stealing their thunder. I got the call on Monday that it happened and frankly, I surprised it took a whole month. They tagged my robots and murals by Carlos Rivas, Yai and a couple of others. I had some free time this morning so I took a trip downtown and repaired the damage. It took a couple of hours but it’s back to the pre-tagged sate. Let’s see how long it lasts.





I’ll be Teaching at Art and Soul 2015

I was unexpectedly contacted by the folks responsible for the Art and Soul Mixed Media Retreats about a month ago. I’m happy to announce that I’ve accepted their invitation and I’ll be teaching at the Portland event in 2015. I’ve designed three new classes for the event and I hope that they’ll appeal to a large cross section of people who are interested in creating their own personalized art journals. I’m going to be focusing on wood books during this retreat because I think the fit into the ethos of the Pacific Northwest.

I’m calling the first book the Wood Spellbook and it features the all seeing eye of art in the center of the front cover. It features a book block sewn to a leather spine and covers fabricated for red oak and aged with some painting techniques. This will be a little larger than I usually teach, 5 1/2″ x 8 1/2″but I think the size makes the design work and I’ll be teaching students how to paint the medallion the encircles the eye.

Book of Spells

The Book of Spells

Book two is a little smaller, 4″ x 6″ and I’m calling it the Shrine book. The students will be working with Walnut and carving out a recess that you can build a tiny shrine in. The recess will have room for small photos, milagros, charms or other objects that hold magic or memories for the students. I’m really not satisfied with the size f the shrine on the sample I created so look for an updated picture in the next week or two, I’ll probably enlarge the shrine. We’ll finish up by using some easy painting techniques to add a nice patina to the covers.

The Shrine Book

The Shrine Book


The third class I’ve named Mr. Chunky and I’ve included it because I’m constantly asked about teaching a Coptic stitch. The thing about the coptic stitch, at least in my view is that because it’s an exposed spine sewing it’s meant to be “featured” as an integral part of the book. To that end, I’ve made Mr. Chunky thick, twelve signatures worth. That translated to a book block about two inches thick and it allows the sewing to be a dominant part of the project. I’ll be teaching a locking coptic stitch which creates a nice visual element and adds some sturdiness as well.

Mr. Chunky

Mr. Chunky

If you’re interested in seeing more photographs of the projects, check them out on the Workshops page.

I’m Teaching at Art & Soul Portland 2015


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