Strange Journals

Ramblings on Bookbinding, Photography, Journaling and Art

Field Notes: Spring 2013

The Spring 2013 edition of Field Notes showed up in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago. This time, they chose three images typical of the “American Vista” and printed them in with what they describe as “1960s imprecision.” The images on each cover are slightly out of register and in a storage way it’s a nice change from the crisp precision of your standard laser printer.

An America the Beautiful waterside decal is included and Field Notes thoughtfully provided an installation video to make sure you get it right.

On the downside, it seems as though there is some sort of curse on my Field Notes subscription. This is my third year as a Field Notes subscriber and it seems as though each shipment alway has a kind not from the Post Office attached to it. What’s the deal Mr. Postmaster?


Book of the Tasty Peas

I was searching for a texture plate the other day and while I was rifling around in one of the drawers that I keep molds in, I stumbled across one of those silicone ice molds. Someone gave it to me at a birthday party as a gift, I think was the sentiment was something like “Ha! you’re getting older now, here’s a mold to make ice dentures”. I threw it in a pile with all the other silly cliche presents and apparently it got tossed in with all the other molds.

I pulled the mold out of the drawer and decided to make something out of it. I molded up a few sets of heath using some Pearl Premo and Super Sculpey. They sat around uncured for a few days while I though about exactly what to make out of them and for some reason, what emerged was The Book of Tasty Peas.

Here’s a shot of the from cover.


A Few More Hearts

Someone wrote me after my posting a few days ago and comment that my hearts weren’t in very Valentiney colors. Fine. Here you go.


Long and Skinny

It will be time to put the holiday decorations soon and I don’t want to kill myself climbing over a ton of junk while I do it so I thought tidying up the garage might be a good idea. I found a piece of red oak about 3″ X 24″ while I was cleaning up, seemed like a good excuse to bind a new book. The book show below is approximately 3″ X 10″ and contains 8 signatures of 200gm Fabriano Artistico. The wood was finished with several coats of milk paint in different colors and then distressed using a sander. The signatures are sewn to the leather spine with 4-ply Irish Linen using a long stitch. As I was getting ready to bind it all up, I thought it was a little blah so I added a band of polymer clay faces across the front cover. Here are the photos…

Long and Skinny: Front
Long and Skinny: Back

What Happens to Scrap Clay?

If you’ve read this blog, you know I work in a variety of mediums; wood, metal, paper and polymer clay to name a few. Recently, I’ve been fooling around with the Mokume-gane technique again. It’s a great technique and you can achieve amazing results with it but one area in which it falls short, at least for me is in creating large flat sheets like book covers. At any rate, I was tinkering with it when a friend stopped by to drop off some holiday cookies and I had the block and some shavings out on my work surface. If you haven’t tried this before, basically you layer up a block of different colors, deform the layers to provide interesting patterns and then shave thin slices off the surface of the block. This particular friend is a little OCD and is particularly fond of orderly stacks of things and when they saw the thin shavings I’d taken off the block and other partial blocks of clay scattered around asked, “what happens to all the scraps?”


Most people who work with polymer clay have scrap bins and every bit eventually gets used. Sometimes similar colors just get mixed together for a project or it may all just get mixed into some muddy grey or brown chunk of clay that ends up as a base or unseen part of a project. This time, I just decided to use the scraps on the spot and see if I could preserve the variance in the colors I had used in the mokume-gane block. I think an email from one of the big box craft stores triggered this; frankly I didn’t read the thing but I swear it had something about Valentine’s Day in the subject. A few minutes later, I had shaped the scraps into a pile of hearts. In the photo below, you can see a few of them, the three on the left are raw clay and the three on the right are already baked. The only difference you may notice is that the colors are a little deeper in the ones that have been baked.


Once baked, I wet sanded then starting at 400 grit and ending at 1200 grit. Your average craft store or Home Depot type sandpaper isn’t meant to be used for wet sanding so pay a visit to your local auto paint store, they’ll have the stuff in stock ranging from 400 grit to 2000 grit. Once the wet sanding was complete, I took the outside to my buffing wheel and buffed them out to a high gloss. Here are a couple of shots of the finished ones. I should probably mention at this point that Sculpey may not work for this; you can do the mokume-gane technique using Sculpey, but it won’t buff to a high glass like Premo or Fimo will.



I’m pretty happy with the way the colors play together and the big surprise was they way the plain old Super Sculpey worked out. That’s pretty much it. The only thing left to do is drill into the top of each heart and add a sterling eye pin so it can be strung as a necklace or earring. Cheers.

Peerless Palette

A few months ago I scored several of the small Peerless Bonus Packs at a going out of business sale. The small bonus pack has forty colors on 2″ X 2″ sheets. Normally, they’re in the $22.00 to $26.00 range but the because I’d been a frequent customer the owner ended up charging me $10.00 each. They’ve been sitting on my desk for a while and I’d been considering making a small coptic bound book out of one of them but after tinkering around I decided against it. I would have had to interleave each color with an acetate sheet and the whole affair would have ended up being too bulky.

Instead of a book, I ended up opting for Jane Davenport’s solution. I’ve seen various riffs on this theme and while I wanted to make one, I’m fairly lazy and I felt like measuring everything out would be a drag. I went the digital route and used Adobe Illustrator’s distribute function to line everything up. Once the template was done, I cut a piece of 300 gsm Fabriano Artistico down to letter size and ran it through my laser printer. The pallet is made from both the Peerless Bonus pack and the Peerless Complete Edition and I just cut the sheets up with a pair of scissors and applied them to the palette with some Tombow permeant adhesive. The only thing not pictured, is a piece of acetate that prevents the colors from rubbing together.


Want to make one of your own? Download the template by clicking on the link below:

Peerless Palette Template

Three of Three

I’ve been traveling for my Clark Kent job so I hadn’t had time to complete the third in a series of three books I had been working on until today. I used wood to create the covers for the first two in this series but on this one, I chose polymer clay simply because cutting up tiny pieces of wood on a table saw presents some safety issues. The coverall size of this book is small, it’s 1 1/2″ X 2″. Not too much too say about it you can just look at the photos, the front has a contrasting stripe of black polymer clay and the back has some copper studs.




Two of Three

I wrapped up the second book in the series of three I’m working on late last night. The covers for this book came from a board that I uncovered while tidying up. I remember buying this board, a piece of Fiddleback Maple because it had some spalling along the edge and I wanted to work it into the design. While the wood looked beautiful on it’s own, I wanted just a touch of contrast so I did some inlay using a scrap of Bloodwood with the same technique I used on the small Walnut Journal.

Pretty much a lazy choice on my part but hey, the tools were already out. To get everything where it needed to be, the back cover ended up just short of the length it needed to be and I was just going to live with it but I realized I had enough left on the Bloodwood scrap so I edge-glued it onto the back cover, trimmed it up and brought it up to the right length. It’s difficult to see in the photo, but you look closely you can just make it out along the bottom of the back cover, it’s only about 1/4″ wide. This book is 8 1/2″ X 5 1/2″ – enjoy.




Coming Soon, Three New Books…

This year the 4th of July fell on on Wednesday which as you might imagine left an awkward space in the middle of the week. Binding some books seemed like a good way to fill the space so I grabbed a package of Fabriano Artistico and began tearing it down. Beyond the mid-week lull, the other factor driving me was that my small Mesquite Journal only had two pages left in it. It’s a small journal, about 4 3/4″ X 3″ and I made it from the branch of a mesquite tree that a storm took down. Over the time I’ve been working in this journal I’ve really gotten to like the size so I wanted another one the same size. Here’s a shot of the Mesquite Journal i you haven’t seen it.


5 1/2″ X 8 1/2″ is also a favorite size so after a few quick calculations six sheets yielded enough for three books. One 5 1/2″ X 8 1/2″, one 4 3/4″ X 3″ and a micro-book 1 1/2″ X 2 7/8″. The first book out of the three completed was the one I intend to replace the Mesquite one with. The covers are walnut burl. Like the mesquite journal, I inlaid the cover with a contrasting wood, in this case fiddleback maple. Here it is.




More to come.

Review: Fabriano EcoQua Notepad

I must have had my head down because I completely missed this one. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you know that I almost exclusively use Fabriano Paper in my hand bound journals. While I use the journals I make, there are still plenty of Moleskines, Rhodia notepads and Quattro pads around the house and it seems like they multiply like rabbits. A couple of days ago while I was browsing through a Utrecht store I discovered the Fabriano EcoQua.

The Fabiano EcoQua comes in a variety colors which include Lemon, Lime, Raspberry, Wine, Black, Blue, Stone, and Orange. A variety of sizes and binding styles are available also and i snagged the A5 size which is around 8 1/4″ X 5 3/4″. The paper inside is dot ruled with light grey dots and the pad is bound along the side with a glued binding. The front cover is a heavy textured card stock and the back cover is lightweight cardboard.

Here’s the front cover, you can see the texture and may be able to make out the Fabriano embossed into the cover.

Fabriano EcoQua Back

Here’s a shot of the back cover. Not much there except for the details about the pad itself.


Here’s a photo of the binding. It’s fairly typical for a pad and is glued padding compound which is a fexible PVA adhesive. Like any other pad, you can easily pull off sheets of paper.

The pad is made from smooth 85gm paper. Side by side with a Rhodia, I’d say the the paper in the EcoQua is almost, but not quite as smooth and it doesn’t seem as opaque as the Rhodia paper either. The paper is off white and I want to say it leans toward a cool grey but that may just be the dot rule tilting my perception. The paper does take ink incredible well. I tested the pad with a Lamy Safari pen with a fine point and Pilot’s Iroshizuku Yama-Budo ink. It’s a great red-purple color and while it is a wet writing ink, the EcoQua took it without any problem. There was no feathering to speak of and it seem to dry fairly quickly. You can see a sample in the image below.

Fabriano EcoQua Interior

Here’s a little better detail of the ghost.

I still had some questions about the opacity of the paper so on the second sheet of the pad I jotted down some text with a Lamy Safari pen with an extra fine nib and Noodler’s Black ink. If you look closely you may be able to see the text on the second page ghosting through just about half-way down the page. Not a show stopper, but something to be aware of if ghosting is something that really bothers you.

If you’re environmentally conscious, Fabriano’s got that covered. The pad is made in Italy in an environmental responsible way that is certified by the FSC. The paper is chlorine and acid free and is recyclable.

Overall, I really like these pads and I’ve already gone back and purchased a couple more to strategically locate throughout the house and office. Since I focused on the A5 adhesive bound pad in this review, I really didn’t enumerate all the options that are available so here’s a video about the product that I found on YouTube that will give you a better idea of the other options.

I’m Teaching at Art Unraveled 2014!

I’m Teaching at Art & Soul Portland 2015


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