Tag Archives: handmade

Corrugated Cardboard Book

About a week ago my coworker gave me some large sheets of cardboard. I often use them at work for making posters. Sometimes I take the sheets home and draw and sketch on them. This time I chopped them into 8×11 sized sheets and decided to make a book. I’ve wanted to practice some of the structures from Keith A. Smith’s book “Smith’s Sewing Single Sheets” for awhile. This is the second book I’ve made from this book, and once I figured out the structure and the stitching it’s about as difficult as any 2 needle Coptic stitch.

There are some areas where I need to work on my stitching but over all this is definitely a book structure I will make again. 


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For the cover I managed to find some honeycomb corrugated cardboard, I sanded the images off and then applied several layers of gesso to build texture. I then rubbed in some black gesso, several layers of asphaltum colored Golden glaze and then added a little unbleached titanium. I finished it off by added a heavy layer of satin varnish and then buffed that with bee’s wax. The pictures do not do this justice. There is a lot more depth to the color than shows in these pics.

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 Each of the leaves has 2 layers of gesso on one side.

I’ll be honest; I’m not sure what I’m going to do with this book. The little issues with the stitching mean that I can’t (won’t) sell it but I think it’s such a cool structure that I want to do something with it. Part of making this was to make it prove to myself that I could do it.

Art Journals, Finished Books, Artfire Update

My fingers aren't working well so I'll probably edit this in the afternoon, so bear with me for the day…

First off head over to my online buddy's site The Artistic Biker. He's started his first art journal this weekend and he's off to a fantastic start. He's got his daughter started too. Way to go on starting kids off with a lifetime habit that is both educational and very good for emotional well being. I'm sure she'll look at her journals when an adult with fond memories of her father. I htink I was around 10 or so when I was given my first journal. I was one of those orange red locking 5&10 (five and dime) 5 year Diaries. I wasn't artistic in it at all, just wrote my pre-teen angst. Infact I didn't start to journal on a daily basis until I was 12. Which is when I filled the little journals and bought a 6×9 college ruled spiral bound notebook. I decorated the cover with a collage and over the next year filled it with dreadful teen angst. I have all the journals I've ever written. I'm missing 1 from my college years but over all they are all here, somewhere in my home. I digress.

This weekend I created what I'm calling a basic journal. 128 pages of great cardstock, smythe sewn, and a simple cover made of board and decorative papers. they measure 5×8 inches and 1 fat inch thick. The cover is soft and flexible but not too too soft. the cost of them is low, but they are great quality. I've priced them at $12. Find them here on my artfire shop.


Some Artfire news. I'm stoked that they are offering a holiday season free-for-all. All members can list unlimited items for the holiday season. They stay up until January1st, 2010. No fees, no gimmicks no catches. Sell stuff for free and hold onto all that cash you'd be spending on fees. Your saving $36 on the verified subscription price. As a way to pass on all the savings I'm offing a $2 coupon code for all  the reader's of my blog, enter PASSITON at checkout.

Blank Books for Journaling

I've been watching more videos on youtube, looking for stuff to post here and also for inspiration. I've also been looking at photos of art on flickr. One of the things that I've noticed is the overwhelming amount of unique journals people are using. Of course there is the ubiquitous moleskine, one of my former faves. but there are also large quantities of other books being used. There is the reclaimed or re-purposed hardback book in which the artist gessoes the pages and works on a printed page. There are spiral bound books, which I've never been a fan of for art journaling but was for sketching- they lay flat, come in a variety of papers and are easily found. The are also great if you focus on writing in your journal. There are the coptic and long stitch handmade books, I've also noticed  and interesting phenomenon in which people are working on a plain flat page and then punching 3 ring binder holes and binding the pages in big giant 3 ring binders or into scrapbook covers. Whichever style of book you choose there are lots of options out there.

Take for instance, you can get a unique decorated moleskine on artfire for not too much more than you would pay for one at B&N or Borders. These are pre-decorated by an artist in many styles.

To find a reclaimed hardback book one needs only go to the local library and look for a book in the sales pile, ask your librarian for help. Also the Salvation Army and Goodwill have book section which you can go through. My local Saver's store has a section of some cool and wacky books, many of which would make great altered books. Also don't look past some of those "employer schwag books" these are the books that employers give out at interviews and job fairs to try and get people interested in coming to work for them. Some larger companies have some really nice schwag books, perfect for manipulation and editing.

Coptic books are a favorite of mine, They are great for sketching outside becuase the binding easily folds over on itself, they are often hardback, which makes for great sketching support, the binding looks really cool, the thread binding is sturdy. The bast part of all, you can stuff the pages full of extra glued in bits and goodies and the won't stress the spine too badly. A search in artfire brings up pages of great and well made one of a kind unique coptic bound journals

The long stitch books are one of my favorites. they come in a variety of leather cover, recycled covers and interesting stitches. They fold over on themselves, can be hardcover or a limp cover, the stitches are visible on the spines and can be very decorative. Best of all they are tough. I've been making and using almost exclusively long stitch bound books for the last 10 years or so and they survive abuse like you wouldn't believe. You  can toss them in the bottom of a bag, stomp on them, spill coffee on them, drop them in a lake and they come out looking pretty good and the binding survives. 

While I'm not a fan of 3 ring binders you might be interested in trying the binder method out. There are some very fun and unique 3 ring binder covers on artfire. I found them by searching for 3ring binder. Very cool. I also found some neat rubber stamps that way.

Whatever you chose try something handmade and unique to get you through this holiday season. By careful Artfire shopping you might find that you make it through spending less than if you bought mass produces crap made overseas.

it’s not too early Secretly I hate Christmas

I don't but what I hate is trying to find unique gifts for my family for Christmas. My family is notoriously hard to buy for and this year I'm taking the handmade plunge and going all out and getting only handmade Christmas gifts for some of the hardest to buy for people on the planet.

I got out of my Mom's birthday easy with some handmade beads for her troll bracelet. For Dad's birthday we got out of it easy with a thick book on drying foods. (He's a farmer) Last Christmas I scored with a reusable shopping bag full of thrift store wool sweaters and a vintage polish coffee percolator. The middle brother got something I don't remember and I copped out and got my youngest brother a…. gift card. I hang my head in shame with that one.

So this Christmas I'm going handmade. But what to get. For my Mom I'll probably get her something again for her bracelet- there are a lot of artists selling really cool lamp work beads for troll bracelets.

I'm not sure what to get Dad or Matt. Allen, well, I'll look for something World of Warcraft related or iPod touch and that will be easy.

I have to start early or I"m left scrambling around in the last week looking like a moron at the mall nearby wandering the aisles with all the men who waited until the last minute. My goal is to buy everything handmade this holiday season!

What about my needs? Who’s going to meet them best Etsy or Artfire?

So through this whole Etsy debacle I’ve been thinking a lot about
what I want out of a selling website. I went through this with eBay. I was with
eBay early in its creation. I like to be on the ground floor of something.
Every website goes through some growing pains as it grows and brings in new
customers and stretches its base audience from a few die hard users to a more
casual set of users. If Etsy were truly shifting itself from the standard
business base model of bottom line growth they would not do this. But let’s
face it Etsy is a business as much as eBay it. The issue with its growth is
that it’s a community of sellers administrated by a hierarchy. The problem is
that the community sees themselves as independent and needn’t answer to a
hierarchy. The issue with any business is that for it to run smoothly it must
have a leader, and that means a hierarchy. Here we have the fundamental issue
with the Etsy system: a hierarchy over independents. It’s the same issue that
eBay had as it grew. The larger the system the more control the hierarchy needs
over its system. When you’ve built that system over independents it’s hard to
gain control.

Let’s face it Etsy did a crap job of it and has across the
years. One of the things I’ve learned as I’ve worked in the retail world as a
grunt, a supervisor and now from the HR side of things is that there are styles
of leadership. There is the do-as-I-say where the leader barks out orders and
the grunts follow them and if they don’t they are disciplined back into order.
Here the grunts are miserable and have little investment. The other style of
leadership that is applicable to this discussion is where the leader discusses
the orders and listens to the grunts. The leader says “here is what I want done”
and leaves it to the grunts as to how it gets done. Grunts love this style, it
invests them in the outcome and allows them freedom to think. You can tell a
new leader because they all start out as “do-as-I-say” types, barking orders
and having employee issues. After awhile someone tells them about the
communication approach and they see it works.

As I see things I think this is where Etsy went wrong, as a
young leader they don’t inform the grunts of changes in advance, they make them
and don’t bother telling the grunts. If they told their sellers of changes in
advance most of us would have rode the wave out and seen what happened on the other
end. They could have had more useful and meaningful conversations with the
sellers over issues they were having by opening a thread in the forums titled “what
have you noticed since the SEO changes happened?” They would have had thousands
of unpaid watchful eyes taking note of changes. This data could have been
invaluable. Instead Etsy left it to the sellers to discover the issue and post
rants and raves in the forums. So rather than having an intelligent discussion
on the issue, we were left with angry forum posts full of piss and vinegar.

I’ve seen the young leader approach a dozen times before,
when questioned they invariably come back at you with “I know best.” Sadly it’s
not always the case. Opening up a dialog with the sellers opens up a lot of
information and it’s too bad Etsy didn’t go that route.

The thing is that I need that form a sales location. I need
open and honest communication. I’ve rarely seen a successful leader that hasn’t
employed open and honest communication. It goes with the territory. I’m not
saying that Etsy HQ need to post to the blog or forums every time they get a
new desk or chair but when something comes through that they think MIGHT have
an effect on their sellers they should open up a discussion or send a
conversation to us, or put something up in the heading on the sellers page.

I would love to see Etsy increase its customer base, believe
me I love that they are interested in growing their sales, I know they don’t
care who gets those sales, the bottom line dollars are bottom line dollars.
Funneling buyers through the hard to use search ont eh front page isn’t going
to help. It’s going to lose them. The search function works marginally better
than it used to but it’s still rough and makes me unhappy. As a seller I need a
search function that works and the best way for them to fix that is to take
some of those millions they are grossing (what are Etsy’s net profits anyway?)
and hire a team of tag investigators that do nothing but investigate miss
tagged items as reported by the sellers and buyers. I’m sick and tired of
miss-tagged items on Etsy. It drives me insane.

So my needs from a sales site are as follows:

  1.  Open and honest communication about changes in
  2.  A fix on the search function
  3.  Miss Tagged items taken care of, in a timely
  4.  A more democratic front page

For the record I’d still be with eBay if it wasn’t skewed
for the big sellers and resellers of stuff. In the end after eBay and PayPal
fees I ended up giving up something like 15% of my item price to eBay.
Currently Etsy fees are about 6% on a $9.99 item (not including paypal fees).
ArtFire is a flat rate for a month the more sales the less it will be
percentage-wise for me.

I hope Etsy uses this to wake up and move from the do-as-I-say
leader model to the communicative mature leader model it’s time for Etsy to be
grown up and learn top down decisions with independent sellers don’t pan out
well for them.

I meant for this post to be more about Etsyhacks.com I don’t
have the money to support them right now but once I start selling again I will.
They have some greasemonkey scripts for FireFox that make using Etsy so much
easier and enjoyable. Head over and check it out.

quality matters so represent

Here is something that bugs the hell out of me: when people
put badly done work out there. I was searching on Etsy and came upon a seller
making Coptic bound books. The covers were fantastic. So I looked at a bunch of
their work. I found several books in their shop that I’d have been embarrassed to
list myself. Why? Loose and sloppy stitching, crooked stitches, and spines that
were lined up with the holes in the books and not the spine edge of the cover. This
was selling for top dollar too. The seller had listed it with the rest of their
listings as if it were the same quality.* ARGH.

I have 2 main issues with this practice by sellers. First it
gives sellers of handmade goods a bad impression. By selling that book that
seller is making all bookbinders look bad in the eyes of the buyer. As sellers
of handmade goods we have to remember that we represent ALL the other makers of
the same goods. When that book fails it will leave a bad taste in the mouth of
the buyer. That seller is looking to make a quick buck but ultimately will
tarnish his/her image.

Here is my second issue: Its bad customer service. Pure and
simple putting out a subpar product will only damage your image in the eyes of
your buyers. Craftspeople have a hard enough time selling our goods without
people selling badly done work. No matter where it’s sold it doesn’t matter
when you put your work out there you represent your work and all the other
people who make something similar. Buyers who learn through use and looking at
other handmade items will soon learn the flaws of a poorly made item. They will
be unhappy. They will not be back. They will feel scammed.

A note to buyers: If you’re looking for some Coptic bound
books where the seller has pride in their craft, does great work and has some
spot on design skill? Check these sellers out:

KateBlack.Etsy.com Her books are amazing, well designed and
well made

MyHandBoundBooks Very well made and fun books

Kristincrane.etsy.com Well made fun and funky and a lot of

Additionally, buyers should feel like they can ask a seller
questions. ASK questions of the binder. Ask how long they have been making
books. My suggestion ould be to not buy books from anyone who been making them
less than 6 months. Bookbinding is not an easy to learn craft and one that take
patience and practice to get good at. I’ve been binding for close to 10 years
and when I take a break from a particular binding style, I always make a few
screw up books, and Coptic is one of those styles you foul up on. Even when I
am making them on a regular basis I screw up regularly.

So for those of you who are sellers, if you must sell a
piece please label it as a second, list the quality faults, be honest with your
buyers and represent all of us well.

 *One could argue that perhaps the seller didn’t know that
this was a flaw, but before going on my tirade I looked at the rest of the shop
and found several books made properly and many books with different designs.
This was obviously a seller who knew better!

Etsy Update 6-24-2008

Just a quick update about my etsy shop.
I've got loads of items up there though I've not been posting about them.

You can find the following there:
9 sets of Jotter notebooks
5 hedgehog or moleskine style journals
11 various styles of recycled journals
1 large leather journal
2 art supply rolls
1 sewing cradle
 See everything here!

Hump Day #13 Sharpie and Gesso


The prompt is open ended and deals only with the material, subject and content are up to you, but the material is dictated.

The next material that I want to write about is actually a combination of materials but it’s a very cool combination that will give you a ghosting effect. The 2 materials are plain old Sharpie brand markers and plain old white gesso. I use Liquitex brand gesso but I think this would work with any brand.

Start out by writing up a journal entry in sharpie. You can use any color, I’ve done this techniques successfully with black and red but I’d love to see results that use other colors. After giving the sharpie some time to dry fully, go over your lines of text with gesso. A nice even thiin layer. There should be no need to thin it with water but if you aren’t getting an even layer you can loosen it with some water. You should barely be able to see the writing under the gesso while it ‘s wet. The key to this technique is a thin even layer.

Now wait for it to dry. If you are impatient like me you can hit it with some heat and dry it out, but you don’t have to.

When you come back to it you should see a faint purplish bleed through of your writing. I find that mine is barely legible but it can clearly be read. From here you can decide if you want to write on top of the gessoed words or draw or collage. As you layer over the gessoed writing you’ll find it becomes more faint and more ghostly. It makes a great background for more writing, drawing or collage.

Prompt # 13 Combine 2 materials: Sharpie and Gesso.

Hump Day Prompt #4 Toned Pages

The prompt is open ended and deals only with the
material, subject and content are up to you, but the
material is dictated.

White pages can be intimidating and boring. I like to randomly turn through my journal and "tone" a page with either watercolor or gouache. I try to stick with a nice even layer of color that doesn’t quite come to all the edges and is a little imperfect. If you like working in colored pencils this adds a fantastic layer of tooth to the page, allowing it to hold a lot of color. It’s also fantastic for pastels.

Prompt #4- Go through your journal with some
basic colors of gouache or watercolors, tone pages. Lay down a thin even coat of one color to
a page. Try yellow ochre (or yellow), red, blue and green. Let the pages dry over
night and then draw on them with a thin sharpie. Nice isn’t it. Gouache has
great tooth for drawing. Try drawing on it with pencil, colored pencil, and
pen. Now go back and add more colors. Mhhh nice isn’t it? You like that don’t

Leave a comment with a link to your blog with pictures of what you’ve done!

(Note: this can also be done with acrylic but that limits what you can put on the page afterward to more acrylic, which is why my suggestion is to stick to watercolor or gouache for this- they way you can add to it with just about anything and even layer on acrylic later if you want.)