Many years ago, as one of my Mail Art projects, I used to fold two-inch wide pieces of paper into little accordion books and decorate them with rubber stamps and pieces of paper that I cut out from incoming Mail Art and decorated envelopes. I carved a rubber stamp with a little graphic of a Mail Box and the words “Bits of Mail” to stamp on the little book covers. Before sending them out, I dated and numbered them on the back. I saved one example for my archives and made a few color copies to use later as collage inspirations. While I was getting the color copies made, it came up in conversation with the copy center worker that one of the black and white machines had red toner in it. I made a lot of copies with the red toner because I knew I’d find uses for the copies later!
Some of my old collage papers along with my Mail Archives had been in storage unseen for 20 years or more. I’ve been getting some of them out lately as I move stuff. With fresh eyes, I’m getting some new ideas and inspiration for improving old ideas. I decided to take these old copies and make new versions of the mini accordion books.
First I cut up the copies that weren’t already in strips into two inch wide pieces, the same size as the originals. Then I folded them and glued one red ink copy to one color copy back to back to make longer books.
I had a large paper crafting stash by 1998 already because I started making collages in 1985 in my first college design class and I’ve been collecting interesting papers for collages ever since. In the intervening years, there are a lot more paper crafting supplies available and some of them are a lot more to my taste than what was available in the late 1990s. Back in the day I would have said I was a “weird” stamper not a “cute” stamper. I also enjoy sophisticated antique imagery and have a lot of papers from two of my favorite brands, Tim Holtz and 7 Gypsies, in my stash. I decided that the Tim Holtz idea-ology Correspondence paper pad was a good fit for this project and I glued some of the postal themed textures onto a selection of the blank pages of my books. The dominant colors in this series are red white and blue which looks good with the red toner ink on some of my papers and the postal motifs fit the “Bits of Mail” theme.
Next I went through I box of paper scraps that I keep for teaching a card class that I run from time to time on how to make greeting cards from little scraps, rubber stamps and stencils. I took out a selection of papers that I thought would make good backgrounds and glued them in a random fashion to every other page, leaving some blank.
There is an old trick that I learned in drawing class long ago to help get unstuck if you are facing a blank piece of paper with no ideas – draw a quick frame around your drawing area before you start. This helps because it’s less daunting to start drawing on a paper that you’ve made some marks on than a blank surface. I get the same creative boost from using scrap papers for perhaps a similar reason – there is already some content there, however sparse and random, and that is often all I need to get me going in a creative direction.
The little accordion books I’ve made are pictured above ready to add content. What kind of content would that be? There are lots of things I could do with these little books. I could write, draw, stamp or paste in words and/or images to make a finished artistic statement. I could use them as a storage and display folio for tiny works of art such as postage stamps, faux postage stamps or tiny photos and images. I could send them off into the Mail Art network as an “add and pass on” project. What would you make?
For additional inspiration, here are some samples of tiny books made by other people that I’ve received through the mail over the years. People of any age and ability level can make tiny books. Why not try one?
Yesterday my husband Tom and I attended the last day of the Gauguin exhibit at the St. Louis Art Museum, Paul Gauguin: The Art of Invention. Our friend Mike went with us and treated us to the tickets that he had earned from doing volunteer work.
When I first became interested in studying art, I wanted to be a painter. When I took ceramics and printmaking for the first time, I lost interest in painting and stopped reading about it as much as I used to in favor of my new passions. Over the years I also have done some pretty intense study of fiber arts, various crafts, collage, Dadaism, neo-Dadaism and Mail Art, ‘Zines, book arts, Outsider Art, Pop Art, photography, computer animation, web design, architecture, graphic design, the decorative arts, archaeology and anything Mid-Century Modern. Impressionism and Post-Impressionism were the first kinds of painting that drew me in but over the years I came to prefer Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism as painting styles. I hadn’t done any reading on Gauguin for a long time.
I really enjoy artists and designers who work in a variety of media, such as Alexander Calder, Henri Matisse and Frank Lloyd Wright. A lot of times I feel guilty about having so many interests and dabbling in so many different occupations and areas of study. Today’s society seems mostly to expect you to do only one thing but that is not and never will be “me”. So at this Gauguin show I was very intrigued to see some of Gauguin’s ceramics, wood carvings and woodcut prints alongside the paintings. There were ceramics and decorative objects from Gauguin’s personal collection as well as Oceanic and Peruvian art that was representative of the cultures Gauguin was influenced by. He was also at various times a sailor, a stockbroker and a writer. People like this make me not feel so weird!
As a former ‘zine publisher (Lime Green News 1991-1998), I was excited to see a woodblock print graphic in the exhibit that Gauguin carved to help him publish his own newspaper, which could be considered a type of ‘zine. I’m currently taking a Mass Communications class and in our textbook Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future by Stanley J. Baran and Dennis K. Davis, I’ve highlighted a very intriguing sentence: “Extremists were often forced to rely on older media like pamphlets, handbills and political rallies.” I don’t know if Gauguin would have been considered an “extremist” in his time but he was critical of religion and government and his lifestyle was, to put it politely, pretty “bohemian”. When I read the above sentence in my textbook I thought of the history of self publishing and the many forms it can take. Before movable type printing presses, documents were hand written or perhaps laboriously printed with hand-printing methods such as stamping and wood block printing. Later there were typewriters, carbon paper, mimeographs, copy machines, desktop computers with printers and the World Wide Web, making self-publishing easier and more accessible.
When I was ‘zine publishing, I used to make my originals on paper to be copied on a copy machine at the office supply superstore. I started out with text printed out on an inkjet printer on my 1983 Commodore 64 computer, which I used for all my word processing until 1995. I essentially made big collages for my pages, combining the printed text with a variety of graphics, collages and hand-drawings. If I wanted to add color I would sometimes carve a rubber stamp and stamp it on the finished prints. I think the largest edition I ever made of my ‘zine was 100, so stamping 100 times to add a bit of color was feasible.
I got a Windows computer in 1995 with a black and white laser printer. At that time I got Internet access for the first time and started reading on the World Wide Web. My first web site went live in 1997. Gradually I made my ‘zine using more modern desktop publishing methods and by learning software such as the Microsoft Office suite, Corel Draw and Photoshop. The last years of my ‘zine incorporated more and more “modern” techniques but were still made as big collages with some hand-embellishments before copying. In 1998 I just switched my ‘zine content over to my web site, which although a bit out of date in spots is still live (www.limegreennews.com). It needs some (ok a lot of) work because I’ve been neglecting it in favor of the blog you are reading now.
Publishing online is very satisfying, but I miss the lower-tech, handcrafted methods of self-publishing sometimes. I still like book arts in various forms. I’d like to write about or engage in some self-publishing as I work on my master’s degree if possible. It’s been on my mind ever since reading that sentence in the textbook. I got out some of my old ‘zine originals to go down memory lane and think about some possible research ideas. ‘Zine publishers do a lot of trading and I had a big collection of other people’s ‘zines plus material they sent me for consideration for publication. I donated the bulk of my collection to the Poetry and Rare Books collection at the University of New York at Buffalo some years ago but I did save a few things I especially liked. I have no idea what they kept of my collection if anything, but they did have a subscription to my ‘zine when it was in publication and I didn’t know of anyone else who might be interested! I didn’t save much of the “extremist” stuff for my own collection because it frankly scared me and was one of the reasons I dropped out of the printed ‘zine scene – it helped contribute to a major anxiety attack that I eventually received treatment for and recovered from. I don’t think I’ve ever said publicly why I dropped out of the ‘zine and Mail Art scene suddenly but that is a major part of why I did that. I do miss aspects of it though. I’m kind of hoping that working on my degree will bring opportunities to do some research on this era of communication or even get back into it in some way. I might even re-publish on this blog some things that are not too embarrassing that aren’t yet online. We’ll see!
Just for fun, since the art show I just saw included Oceanic art and some work by Gauguin that shows how he was influenced by that art , here is what the cover of Lime Green News #2 looked like. I took a postcard with rubber stamped art work that I liked from another mail artist and taped down some sketches from my then-current Oceanic art history class. I drew and stamped crudely around the sketches and the postcard to make a cover. On the left is my original, on the right is a simulation of what the cover would have looked like after copying it on a black and white machine at the office supply superstore. I don’t know if I even have a printed version of this issue in my archives, I probably just have the original. At that time, if my memory is correct, I used to print about 10-15 copies just to trade with people.
What do Ross Perot and Oceanic art have to do with each other? I had no idea then and don’t now, but one thing I have not ever grown out of is making collages out of random things. Now I call it Art Journaling and use it as one of my artistic outlets since I don’t really try to make “Fine Art” type art any more. It’s not that I don’t have plenty of ideas, I do, I just don’t see what good it would do for anybody. But I never know what older ideas I’m going to go back to!
Last fall during the Old Webster Fall Art Walk, I demonstrated making pages for an art journal with paper collage work and stencils at Schnarr’s Hardware. I added in some paint samples to pay tribute to the hardware store atmosphere and remind me to have fun with colors. Later on I added some image transfers I made with clear packing tape. Learn how to make image transfers and add them to your art journal pages on the Schnarr’s blog:
Tom and I will be celebrating our sixth month anniversary of being married in less than a week! We renewed our marriage vows for the first time at mass this past weekend as part of World Marriage Day. Also Valentine’s Day is in two days and I’m planning the home cooked meal that Tom requested for his Valentine gift as I work on my projects this week. Love is definitely in the air!
Renewing our vows is a good reminder that love is a verb and marriage is something we celebrate and practice every day…so I don’t feel too bad that I’m still working on a couple of projects that incorporate greeting cards that we received for our showers and wedding. (Cards are still trickling in, actually, so I’m really not behind!)
The number of cards we received is astonishing. My Mom kept her wedding cards in a scrapbook. I like to scrapbook, and working cards into scrapbooks and journals is something I’ve been doing for awhile. I love to make handmade books and journals of all kinds and I’ll use almost any excuse to make one. I wanted a guestbook to use at our picnic wedding reception so I naturally made my own. I decided to work greeting cards from our showers (we’re spoiled, between the two of us we had three!) into the guestbook pages. At one of our couples showers there was a fun activity where the other shower guests wrote marriage advice on pieces of paper and we read them out loud. I put those paper pieces in the guestbook also. I intended for the unfilled parts of the guestbook to function as a photo album too, so whenever we look at our wedding photos (which I haven’t even gotten printed yet) we will remember greetings and wishes of happiness from our loved ones.
I was able to incorporate nearly every card we received prior to the wedding day into the wedding guestbook/scrapbook which is at the right side of the photo above. I made the covers from scrap mat board which I covered with map patterned paper to fit our nautical theme. The picnic reception was at a lake and Tom and I brought our kayaks. I made nautical themed collages for the front and back covers of the guestbook, protected them with a layer of transparency film, then attached them with decorative metal brads. I used metal binding rings made by 7gypsies to hold the book together at the spine. Before I fastened the collages in place, I scanned them for use as background graphics on our wedding web site. Papers for the collages came from Canvas Corp, their brand 7gypsies and other sources that I’ve collected over the years.
Here are three examples of 8.5 x 11 inch pages from the guestbook. On some pages I covered nearly the whole page with cards, notes and assorted embellishments. Other pages had blank areas for messages and later photo mounting and journaling. I used a lot of nautical themed paper from Canvas Corp, assorted goodies from my extensive paper stash and added in a little traditional wedding related imagery to blend with the greeting cards. My new Mother In Law is very talented, she painted the card with the two kayaks. She also gave us a great watercolor painting with nautical flags spelling out “Love Lives Here”. A most thoughtful and personal gift that we will always treasure!
At the wedding and since the wedding, we have received many times more cards and if I did what my Mom did and mounted them all on scrapbook pages, I would be making several huge books that would take up a lot of space. I very much wanted to keep all the cards. So I started thinking – several sides of these cards are either blank or have minimal content. What if the cards were not mounted into a book, but instead became the book? Then I could use empty space on the cards to write or mount photos or other memorabilia and embellishments. The cards could become a memory book for reminders, experiences, meditations, thoughts and much more.
I had in my stash some clear tag shapes for making handmade books that were about the size of the cards, so I used one of the plastic tags as a template and I started tracing around important sections of the cards to make tag-shaped book pages.
On sides that had something I wanted to cover up such as card manufacturer information on the back, I laminated with glue some paper with lines printed on it to make a good journaling surface. The example below left is paper from Canvas Corp. I bought a bunch of that design because I make a lot of journals. Some card backs like the seashore themed example below right are good for writing on or adding small photos just as they are.
I have not done a lot of reading yet on Love Languages, but I’m aware of what they are enough to know that one of my ways of giving love and feeling like I am loved is gift giving on special occasions. The gifts don’t have to be expensive, they can be handmade or simple. A good gift for me or Tom could be an experience like a Birthday hike. Tom and I also both think acts of service are a way to give love and to feel love, so when giving gifts to Tom I try to work that in there somehow. The image below shows an example of that on the left – Tom is sporty and we both like to participate in fitness activities so I made him a set of two-sided “coupon” cards good for a workout with me. The idea is to put a date on the cards as they are redeemed and put them in little pockets in my initial tag book. On the right below is an example of a tag page that I have treated like a scrapbook or journal page by using graphics from card parts, scrapbooking-type embellishments and patterned translucent vellum paper so that the cards are visible after they go into a pocket.
Realizing I would end up with enough tag shapes to make several books, I noticed a card with a graphic of a piece of toast on it. I decided it would be cute to cut the toast shape out and use it as a template to cut some of the cards into pages for one or two toast shaped books.
I’m going to keep our wedding memories alive for years as I use these little books to document and journal about our marriage. Happy Valentine’s Day and Anniversary Tom! I love you!
I’ve been involved in the letterboxing hobby since 2010 but I just now got around to planting my first letterboxes. Each box contains a logbook for visitors to stamp in and a hand-carved stamp for finders to stamp into their own personal logbooks. If you want to try to find either of these boxes, go to the web site www.atlasquest.com for clues. If you want to see the stamps in these boxes, you have to find them! It’s against the “rules” for me to show you online!
If letterboxing looks like an activity you would enjoy, I can teach you how to carve a custom rubber stamp, make a logbook, get clues and look for boxes. I hope you can join me at Schnarr’s Hardware on March 22 and 29, 2018 where I will be teaching: Introduction to Letterboxing