Strange Journals

Ramblings on Bookbinding, Photography, Journaling and Art

New Books Emerge from the Box-O-Blanks

I’m in the process of rebooting my blog and I thought I’d start by binding some new books. I recently came across a box of wood blanks that I had cut some time ago for binding journals. The box got used to the back of a shelf and I forgot about it; I might have cut these for a class I was going to teach or because it’s too hot to do it in the summer, I really don’t remember. I’ve been through the box, and there’s a pretty broad assortment of domestic and exotic hardwoods including Bloodwood, Paduk, Cherry, Walnut and Maple Burl.

Box of Wood Blanks

Box of Blanks

I typically work in several journals at a time normally have a small, medium and large one in progress at the same time. When I get down to the last signature in a journal, I bind a new one for myself. I’m asked all the time if I sell my journals and I do occasionally, but it’s not like have have a bunch of them sitting around on the shelf at any given time. I’ve decided to take the blanks in this box though and go on a holiday binding binge and put some of them up for sale. I walked away from Etsy a few years ago for a variety of reasons so I’ll probably just put them on eBay.

I’ve already dipped into the box and bound three journals, and here they are

Carved Cherry

This journal is approximately 3” x 4” and contains 8 signatures of Extra White, 140 Lb. Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper. The cover is Cherry which has been carved, washed with Milk Paint and then finished with Danish Oil. The journal is Coptic bound and sewn with 4-ply Irish Linen thread.

Carved Cherry Journal: Front View

Carved Cherry Journal: Binding Detail

This Journal is currently available for purchase on eBay.

Walnut Burl

This journal is approximately 3” x 4” and contains 8 signatures of Extra White, 140 Lb. Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper. The cover is Walnut Burl, wood that was rejected by a furniture maker in the midwest. I like the striations and patterns in burled walnut so it’s finished simply with several coats of wax. The journal is coptic bound and sewn with 4-ply polyester thread.

Walnut Journal: Front View

Walnut Journal: Front View

Walnut Journal: Sewing Detail

This journal is currently available for purchase on eBay.

Inlaid Walnut Journal

This journal is approximately 3” x 5” and contains 8 signatures of, 140 Lb. Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper. The cover is Walnut Burl and inlaid with a strip of Red Oak which has been carved and then washed with milk paint. The covers are finished with several coats of paste wax. The journal is Coptic bound and sewn with 4-ply polyester thread.

Walnut Journal with Oak Inlay: Front View

Walnut Journal with Oak Inlay: Front View

This journal is currently available for purchase on eBay.

The Monteverde Prima

I recently acquired a new fountain pen from the helpful people at Pen Chalet. I’d been looking for something new for my everyday carry after Sketchbook Skool; something I could use to both write and draw. I was looking through Pen Chalet’s website and the Monteverde Prima caught my eye, the Prima comes in 5 different colors and I decided to go for the green swirl. I had thought I’d be seeing an opaque green but the color was nicer than I expected with different shades of iridescent jade green streaked with veins of black. The resin is translucent and if I have one criticism about the color, it might be a little too translucent but that’s a personal preference.

Monteverde Prima Green Sworl

Monteverde Prima

I ordered the pen with a fine nib because when I ordered it, I had sketching in mind and since I like a fine line it seemed like a logical chose. The nib is stainless steel and while it’s not a flex nib I found that it actually does function like one, I was able to vary the line width without much effort; much less effort than say a Lamy Safari. An ink cartridge and convertor are included and frankly, I tossed the cartridge into my endless drawer of cartridges since I rarely use them; I prefer a convertor so that I can leverage the board array of inks I have on hand. The pen features a screw on cap, you’ll need about three twists to get it off. As a side note, I loved the convertor in this pen because unlike so may others, it screws in so I’m fairly confident it’s not going to pop off.

I inked up the convertor of my new Monteverde Prima with one of my favorite inks, Noodler’s Saguaro Wine and took it for a test drive on the three surfaces I most often use, a Rhodia #16, a Leuchtturm1917 and a sheet of Fabriano Artistico Hot Press watercolor paper. Across the board I found that it wasn’t the silky smooth experience that many people lust after. For me though, that’s a good thing because I like the tactile feedback it makes drawing and sketching a better experience. The line width of the nib is on par with a Faber-Castell Pitt artist pen with the S tip but your mileage may vary since different inks have different properties in terms of how they flow. That said, I went though a couple of different Noodler’s inks and the line width remained fairly consistent.

The Prima is well balanced and comfortable in the hand and while the cap posts well, in this particular pen I preferred to not to post the cap. Nothing about weight or balance here, it’s just a little easier for sketching with when I may be twisting the pen at a variety of angles. Sketching with the pen is a nice experience; the flexibility of the nib was nice allowing me to achieve some variation in line width. With a light touch I was able to get a hairline and a little more pressure allowed me to get to a broader width and was able to create some very nice cross hatching, shading and stippling.

All in all, I thought his was a great pen and I want to thank the folks at Pen Chalet for suggesting it. In terms of the tactical experience it offers more than a Lamy Safari which is pretty much one of my go to pens for sketching and writing. In fact, I’m so satisfied with this pen that its take a place in my journaling bag and has become of my daily carry. Check out Pen Chalet, they have a good selection and are a helpful bunch.

21 Secrets is Just Around the Corner

Just a reminder that I’ll be one of the instructors in Spring 2015 version of 21 SECRETS. I’ll be joining other journal artists like Eric Scott & David Modler better know as The Journal Fodder Junkies, Carolyn Dube and Joyce van der Lely. 21 SECRETS is more than just an online workshop, it’s like having 21 talented, inspiring artist friends to art journal along with any day at any time! 21 SECRETS is made up of a diverse, talented community of artists that are most of all passionate about sharing what they love about art journaling with you!

The workshop consists of the 21 SECRETS eBook that contains 25+ hours of inspiring videos, full color photos, printouts, and detailed instructions. The videos showcase new techniques, unique methods, and bold approaches to art journaling. You can sign up now at the 21 SECRETS website.



I’ll be teaching with 21 Secrets

I happy to announce that I’ve been selected as one of the 21 artists that will be teaching in the Spring 2015 Edition of the 21 Secrets Art Journaling Workshop! 21 Secrets is a wonderful online site for classes created by Hali Karla and Connie Hozvicka at Dirty Footprints Studio.

I’ll be teaching a a new online class title “Bound to Journal.” My journaling is a conglomeration of intentional art, random thoughts, ideas in work and the overflowing debris of my brain. In this workshop, I’ll take you through my process from end-to-end. We’ll start by taking a tour through one or two of my journals and my journaling bag. Next, I’ll teach you how to bind a twelve-page folio journal which when completed, can be bound into a larger book. I’ll focus on journaling with some materials that are typically used for creating urban art.

I often incorporate photographs in my journals so I’ll demonstrate some simple techniques for taking control of the camera in your phone and taking great photos will allow you to document events and create distressed or distorted images. Finally, we’ll tie the techniques I’ve show you together will create a series of rich pages that will speak to who you are.

For more information on the Spring 2015 21 Secrets Art Journaling Workshop. Click Here.


Back to Skool… Sketchbook Skool that is…

I recently signed up for Danny Gregory’s Sketchbook Skool. I didn’t feel as though I wanted to go through the basics so I signed up for the Storytelling course. Led by Koosje Koene this class focuses on using your sketchbook to create rich, meaningful art to document your lives stories. There are six artists teaching in this class and I’m looking forward to Mattias Adolfsson whose work I admire. I have a penchant for drawing machines in my journals and Mattias’ often created incredibly complex machines in his work which are complicated and rich in detail.

I’m already through the first week and one of the assignments was to create a manual for something that illustrates how it works so I illustrated how I refill my Lamy Safari fountain pen. Here it is.

Filling a Lamy Safari

Filling a Lamy Safari


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.