In mid-November I wrote about the PLAY Retreat rolling around again and showed a prototype of the small journals I was planning on giving as gifts to the other attendees. In early December I actually hand bound 50 cahiers, I really didn’t think it was important enough to post about so I let it pass. Since then, I’ve exchange email with a couple of the people who normally attend and they asked about the small sketch books I make each year.
I just finished them up tonight and you can see a shot of them below as they wait to be signed and belly banded to the matching cahiers. The cover is French Paper Company’s 140 Lb. Kraft Muscletone. The book block is Wausau’s 57 Lb. Exact Vellum Bristol which is hand-sewn to the cover with 4-ply Irish Linen thread.
I bumped into Tracy Moore online a few days ago and it reminded me that the annual PLAY Retreat is just around the corner. There’s an informal custom of bringing a small giveaway and each year I create a sketchbook for all the other attendees, they’ve been so well received that I’ve kept the form factor each year I just change the design. In 2009, I gave out a matched pair, a sketchbook and a cahier bundled together with a printed band, but I waited until the last minute to make them last year so it was just the sketchbook.
This year, I decided to start early for a change and I’ve created a prototype for the cahier. I’ve decided to go a little larger with the artwork on the cover this year and after tinkering with several different paper combinations, I’m going with some earth tones this year. Here’s a shot of the prototype:
The current crop of HD video cameras are great but I don’t know that I’d want to throw one into the bag I carry my journal around in — it would get trashed in relatively short order. While There’s always a small digital camera for grabbing pictures of things that I want to explore in one way or another later on or for capturing images of things that amuse me for some reason at that particular moment like the sign below.
Documenting your artwork is always a good thing and although I have access to several very good quality video cameras over the past few months I’ve been thinking about getting a pocket size video camera — something that could ride around in my bag and be pulled out at a moments notice and something I could blow off were it lost, stolen or damaged. I wasn’t concerned with super high-def panoramic cinematic excellence , I was more interested in capturing the moment. The Flip series of cameras seemed like the logical choice but as I did some research, I stumbled across the Kodak Zi8 which is a direct competitor to the Flips — in the end I chose it over the Flip for three reasons.
First, the thing I hate about most about these types of cameras is the crappy audio quality; above all the the external microphone jack is what sold me on the Zi8. With it, I can plug a good microphone in and get excellent audio. The second feature of the Zi8 that appealed to me was the ability to use an SD card and a replaceable battery — If I get to the end of the road with storage or juice, a quick swap gets me going again. The third and final factor was video quality, my personal preference in side-by-side comparisons was the Zi8. The day that I chose to see how much it cost on Amazon was the closer, by chance it was $30.00 off that day which made it a $150.00 investment.
Even though I got it around the holidays I didn’t actually have time to tinker with it until I was at PLAY and my goal in using it at PLAY was to see how fast I could throw together event documentation. To put the video below together I intentionally relied on iMovie and one of its default templates instead of the more robust video editors I have access to. While it may be cheesey, the total time to whack this thing together not including the 25 minutes it took to actually upload it to YouTube — about 35 minutes.
If you want to see more information about the Kodak Zi8, Amazon is a good place to start, click on the image below to get there:
Day three was a productive day as everyone worked on their projects, there were a few demos but overall people had their attention focused on finishing up their stuff.
Andrew’s Steampunk Journal looked great. He created it using an old clock spring, some watch parts and Ice Resin. I thought the texture he used on the surface of the clay was very nice and was surprised to find out he used some metal corset boning to create it. Andrew is a fashion designer and apparently, he carries some around with him.
Keeley spent the time working on her creatures. Their faces were so perfect that I assumed that they were made from a mold. But as Keeley talked about the work she told me that’s not the case, each one is individually sculpted. Her material of choice is PaperClay and that that I’ve seen a good example of what you can create with it, I may have to reevaluate it as a creative tool.
At least two polymer clay heart boxes were under construction but I know there were more.
Most people settled into the routine of just making things today or journaling today. Several people who had started polymer clay books yesterday finished them today by completing the baking process and painting them. A few people, myself included continued working with the polymer clay and made boxes that were shaped around organic forms. Some molded forms like a heart out of foil, I used a rock.
Some of the other PLAY participants were admiring my tiny jade book and The Books of the Jade Skulls. They asked about the technique I use to create the faux jade with polymer clay so I set up a demonstration and taught them how to make it. The demonstration left me with a piece of faux jade clay, I thought about making another small pocket book with it but instead I decided to make a box. I covered a rock with a layer of gold clay, then covered the first layer with the faux jade.
Day one of PLAY was all about polymer clay. Tracy Moore taught his Relic Journal and demonstrated how to make journal covers using polymer clay and jewelers resin to build. This is a similar technique I used for The Book of Jade Faces, but the surfaces are painted instead of composed using colored clays. Several people were new to polymer so there were lots of questions of questions and some trial and error. There was a wide variety of styles from completely organic forms to some highly structured compositions. I’d have to give the “Eye for Detail” prize to Matt who created a forest of mushrooms on his cover complete with the gills on the underside of each mushroom.
Here are a few more examples of what people were working on in various stage of completion.
In the process of preparing to go to PLAY for a few days I’ve bound two books, the leather wrap and The Book of Jade Faces. I’ve very satisfied with the way they both turned out but something still wasn’t right, I needed more. I wanted something… a little… beefier? I rummaging through my supplies trying to get an idea of what I wanted and then I found a piece of walnut burl, the grain and striations in the wood were fantastic. I only had one piece of walnut but I was able to squeeze two 8 1/2″ X 5 1/2″ pieces out of it. To do that however, I had to cut it so the grain was running horizontally across the cover instead of from top to bottom. Visually I think it works, the burl hides the direction of the grain well and from structural standpoint this is a fairly hard wood so there shouldn’t be any problem with wear or breakage.
The beauty of the wood called for a very simple treatment so after easing the edges and slightly rounding the corners to avoid “pokeage” a couple of coats of Tung Oil were applied, followed by a couple of coats of Carnuba Wax. The book block is 300 gm (140 Lb.) Fabriano Artistico and sewn to a leather spine with waxed polyester thread using a modified long-stitch. As the stitches go down the spine they get progressively longer and a friend commented that it creates an illusion that each series of Xs is fatter than the one above. Here are the photos:
Unlike Artfest which is several days of formal workshops and classes hosted by Teesha and Tracy Moore, PLAY is a “come as you are and do your own thing, but if you’re interested we’re going to teach a class or do a demo over there” affair. This year, it looks like Tracy is going to teach his Relic Journal class during PLAY. The Relic Journal is made using polymer clay, resin, leather and found objects. I’ve been working with polymer clay for years and teach a similar class but I still like Tracy’s. Tracy limits the size of journals in this class to 5 1/2″ X 5 1/2″ and when I asked him why a few years ago he said it was because of durability and weight considerations. I’ve made bigger structures out of polymer but agree with him on the weight issue, on durability i might argue if it cracks or breaks, I’m okay with that.
I know that I’ll make a Relic Journal while I’m at PLAY but I decided to make one to take with me, maybe it will be my primary journal for the next few months. I think one of the reasons I like Tracy Moore’s work is because like be he’s drawn to what I would consider dystopic forms. Most of the journals I’ve seen come out of this class in the past have at least one skull and almost all are painted in browns and blue-green hues to give the feeling of antiquity. On my leather journal I used some faux bone for the closure, when I make faux bone I generally make a large block of it and use it in several projects over the course of time. I decided to use the bone and built up the cover using a layer of the bone on top of the basic structure, I liked the way it looked but I wanted something to provide contrast with the bone. After think through a variety of options Jade seemed like a good fit. Here are some photos of the completed journal, The Book of Jade Faces.
Here’s a more detailed image of the faces, when I made them using molds I laid a paper thin layer of the bone in the mold before pressing the jade into it.
Over the past couple of years I’ve started to use PLAY as a way point for a fresh start. I usually bind a book just before I go, take it to PLAY and then it becomes one of my primary journals for the year. I haven’t really produced anything over the past couple of months except for one book which was a birthday gift for a friend. She had mentioned what she wanted some time ago in a casual conversation and probably forgot about it. She had talked about what I typically just call a wrap, a single piece of leather that wraps around the pages to enclose them.
I made one for her with some grey leather, the dimensions were about 5″ X 8″ and although I’m not a fan of this style, I actually liked it when it was done. Later that week I stopped by the Leather Factory and found a great half-hide which was kind of a mottled milk chocolate brown… nice. The only logical thing to do? Make a journal out of it.
I bound this journal using the leather I found at the Leather Factory, 200 gsm (90 Lb.) Fabriano Artistic and 4-ply waxed Irish Linen thread. The closure is made from polymer clay using a faux bone technique. My original idea with this was to slip strips under the closure and then tuck them in on the back side of the journal. Here’s a detail of the closure.
I like the work of Portland based artist Theo Ellsworth. Theo lives in a world of creatures, monsters and people who can morph into their worst fears and intentions. I wish his work was more accessible in my area but more often then not, I have to be content with just reading his blog at Art Capacity. I’ve watched him draw and the intensity and focus he puts into his work amazes me.
Last month he wrote about some wood cutouts he made as a Christmas presents for friends and family. I was drawn to one in particular which I believe he drew for his sister. Here’s a shot of it from his blog:
Much like Adam Savage, I’ll freely admit that I’m not a sculptor but I wanted to try and bring his creature into the 3D world anyway. I knew I was going to see Theo at PLAY and wanted to bring him something as a gift. The picture I had to work from wasn’t the greatest and I’m fairly sure the colors I used are more vibrant then Theo’s drawing, but I think did an adequate job.