14 April 2014

In the Stars

The Star Book is a fun structure because it can be viewed as a page turning book, or stretched out like an accordion, or displayed as a three dimensional object.

A student's star book taking shape

I taught this structure in Wishi Washi Studio this past weekend and, as per usual, my students came up with some clever work.

My demo piece coming along

The multiple layers of paper form three dimensional panels.

My demo piece after adding many more elements

This is a perfect book for the inclusion of family photos, both old and new...

Fancy student work progressing  with family photos

they make great pieces to display around the holidays...

Student work with a festive Easter theme

and they make wonderful gifts.

The image below illustrates why it is called a Star Book. When the first panel is brought around to meet the last panel it forms a star shape when viewed from above. 

Student work almost complete!

I teach this class online at Creativebug so you are in luck if you missed the class in Wishi Washi Studio but want to learn this structure.

There's still time to make an amazing Star Book for Mother's Day, or for a Graduation gift, or for all of those Spring birthdays!

07 April 2014

Book in Painting: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

I recently spent a week in and around Boston, Massachusetts where I lived for 10 years a number of moons ago. I went to graduate school there and lived just down the street from the Museum of Fine Arts, or the MFA as locals call it. So, whenever I visit it is a necessary pilgrimage to go roam the halls of that beautiful building and visit my favorite rooms and works of art as well as whatever new they have on view.

Of course, I ran into some books in paintings! So, my series continues. (see this post and this post and this post for my past posts in this series). The MFA has expanded and gotten so large that it takes me two days to get through it. The first day I found only a few books in paintings in the European wings but the second day when I returned I hit the bounty in the Art of the Americas Wing - which is kind of a museum unto itself.

I believe this image is the first I have found in this series that is relatively modern:

Still Life: Past Revisited by Eldzier Cortor, 1973

The others I found in the Americas Wing dated from the 18th and 19th centuries:

And, the grand finale is by El Greco and located in one of my favorite rooms in the MFA: the Koch Gallery:

I love how the sitter is saving his place in the book!

Thanks MFA!


26 March 2014

That Cbug

 So, I might appear to be biased about this since I am an instructor on Creativebug, but I've been really loving their offerings lately and have been using it personally for my own art more and more.
In addition to their regular arts and crafts courses offered by amazing individuals, Creativebug has also started offering series'. The first was the Building a Creative Brand Series offered in the fall, followed by the 4-week Line Drawing class offered by Lisa Congdon that just wrapped up this week. Now, they are about to launch another four-week course, Pattern Drafting, taught by Cal Patch beginning on April 1st. And, they will be updating and running the Building a Creative Brand Series again starting April 14th.

i've been stitching more and more in my art

Lately, I have been gleaning information and techniques for my current artwork from many of my fellow Creativebug instructors including Rebecca Ringquist and Liesl Gibson as I've been incorporating more embroidery and sewing into my work. Creativebug has been a great encyclopedic source for me.

I have had a fun and relaxing time playing along with Lisa Congdon in her drawing course (I called it my "doodle therapy").

my photo doodle from Lisa Congdon's class

And, I'm looking forward to learning Pattern Drafting from Cal Patch since I've started making clothes out of my block printed fabrics and have been having a hard time finding that perfect pattern - I'm hoping I can make my own.

my block printed fabric

Hope you'll play and learn along with me!

24 March 2014


I love SCRAP!

This past Saturday I taught a workshop there: The Exploding Picture Box. It is a really fun workshop to teach and it was especially fun teaching it at SCRAP.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area you have probably been there and if not - go! If you are not in the area be sure to put it on your list next time visit. This is directly from their website:

"SCRAP is a non-profit creative reuse center, materials depot, and workshop space founded in 1976 in San Francisco, California.

SCRAP breathes new life into old objects and reduces waste by diverting over 200 tons of materials heading to landfill every year.

Donations of quality re-usable materials such as textiles, buttons, paper, craft and office supplies, plastics, and wood are collected from businesses, institutions, and individuals then sorted and made available to teachers, parents, artists, and organizations."

You never know what you will find at SCRAP.

If it has the above stencil on it you can't buy it because they use it to move stuff around - they have some really cool carts.

This past weekend there were multiple sewing machines...

Weird things like this object above - not sure what it is...

there is always TONS of fabric and they let it go for really cheap!

there is a loom there now and many mannequins...

and magazines in Braille, including Playboy...pretty funny when you think about it.

I always get distracted there and end up doing some shopping for myself - most of these scissors came home with me - they were all a little different after all! Including those scary looking electric ones at the left side of the picture - they worked!

All materials for the class were gleaned from the SCRAP collection.

File folders are the perfect material for The Exploding Picture Box so SCRAP gathered up a couple of boxes of them for my students.

I love all of the color combinations!

 The boxes started taking shape...

The Exploding Picture Box is very book-like as it has 28 planes/surfaces that can be written on or decorated with photographs and images. See this post for some completed boxes from a class in my studio last year.


It was a fun day with a full class of great students. My car left a little heavier - but I really needed everything I brought home...really!

Thanks SCRAP!

801 Toland (entrance on Newcomb)
San Francisco, CA 

10 March 2014

Origami Travel Notebook

 Travel and I have a funny relationship. I love going places, seeing things, being inspired and out of my normal element and I especially enjoy the "head clearing" aspect of getting away for a bit. But, on the flip side I love home. And, sometimes find it hard to leave. There will be a bit more travel for me in the next two years than usual and I am really looking forward to that.

So, it was nice that I had some quite seasoned travelers in my workshop this past Saturday as I led them along in making their own Origami Travel Notebooks! We had a lively morning talking about travels while working on our books.

this is the folded structure with pockets - oh look how nicely the class templates and my Creativebug card fit so nicely into the pocket!

The Origami Travel Notebook is a structure that I devised. The signatures, or sections, are made up of the Origami Pamphlet structure (which I did not make up but rather it is, I am told, a Japanese folding technique originally used to make wallets). One of my students taught me this ingenious little structure, and I immediately loved it, but also saw the structure acting as a signature, or sections, in a paper case book. The subtitle for this workshops is: With Too Many Pockets to Mention because each section holds 6 pockets and depending on how many sections you add...well...you can do the math.

way too many pockets to mention...

It is a fabulous structure for storing little bits of ephemera picked up during travels, making notes, storing a small map, and drawing and writing (since there is also a multi-paged section tucked into the origami sections).

For the covers we used both Cave Papers and Hark Handmade Papers. These papers are gorgeous! and tough! Being handmade papers they possess beautiful deckled edges that can sometimes be a challenge to incorporate into a paper case cover since they are not always square. So I made the suggestion to cut off the deckle, save it, and work it back into the composition of the cover.

this student made beautiful strata with her deckled edges - she will add stitching later
After the books were assembled students spent the rest of their time adorning their books with pieces of maps from my collection.

See more examples from my blogpost last year. And, if you want to learn to make the folded origami structure used as sections in this book you can find my online class at Creativebug under a slightly different name: Six Pocket Keepsake Book.

Happy Travels!

03 March 2014

A Cord Runs Through It

Workshop season is in full swing at Wishi Washi Studio. The first workshop up was a binding that I hadn't taught in a few years, and it was the first time I had taught it in Wishi Washi Studio. I call the binding: A Cord Runs Through It.

A Cord Runs Through It is a contemporary binding with good historical bones. It is a sturdy structure that also allows for creative interpretations

The textblock is held together by sewing linen thread around hemp cords (all my students this day chose the ambitious route and sewed around double cords with a herringbone stitch!)and then those cords run through the covers made of handmade paper. This allows for many design opportunities.

The finished books look gorgeous and will be great sturdy and unique journals. This binding can also be applied to more artistic projects - see The Pharmacist's Daughter on my website.

 Upcoming are more workshops in Wishi Washi Studio, a workshop at SCRAP in San Francisco (The Exploding Picture Box), and don't forget Creativebug if you are not in the San Francisco Bay Area (pssst: they have lowered their price and Lisa Congdon is teaching a 4 week drawing class starting March 4th - you can make books with me and draw in them with Lisa!)

See you out there!

17 February 2014

Shakerag Workshops in June!

from a sample swatch book: maps

This summer I am hitting the road and will be teaching a one-week workshop, The Stitcherly Book, at Shakerag in Tennessee.I am very excited to visit this part of the country and teach this class. As many of you know, I love to tell stories with my books, objects and installations and Shakerag Hollow has a rich one:

Shakerag Hollow is named for an old Sewanee custom whereby residents could procure moonshine before the advent of liquor stores. A customer wanting moonshine would come to the bluff at Beckweth Point, near what is now the fourth hole of the Sewanee golf course, shake a rag at the moonshiner who lived down in the hollow, and leave money for a purchase in a tree stump. Then, as the song about Uncle Bill puts it, "you go 'round the bend, and when you come back, then, there's a jug full o' good ole mountain dew." When he returned, the customer would find a jar of moonshine left in the stump, and the money removed

I want to share a little bit of what I will be teaching there this summer. Those of you who follow Wishi Washi Studio may have seen images of work done by my students in the Stitched Photo Collage workshops (see here and here ). Well, The Stitcherly Book will be a five day version of that but students will have a chance to fully develop their work and make their pieces into a book or series of books.

my teaching sample from a recent workshop

We will explore the use of fabric, thread, hand-stitching, embroidery, found papers, images, photographs and even small found objects in book form.

flocked wallpaper, vintage linen and embroidery

Students will be encouraged to bring their collections of fabric, old book pages, found items, photographs, threads, etc. to experiment with in class.

sample piece with book page, wire and thread
I will teach students at least three book structures so that they can start creating their richly designed pages with the end product of a book in mind.

an accordion book incorporating found items
The result of the week will be a book, or series of books, that possess rich personal narratives with stitcherly depth and dimension.

And, hopefully, some good storytelling.

I hope you can join me in Tennessee this June!

Shakerag Workshops
The Stitcherly Book
Instructor: Jody Alexander
June 8 - 14, 2014