Book Arts Fair in Liverpool coming up – Die Stadt/The City on display

a shot from my laptop camera

Live goes by in a flurry once more with therapy sessions every single day this week, and no studio time for me. I am very weary of hospitals, therapy, and especially therapy dressed up as play sessions. Even my kids see through this easily by now. To keep myself in good mood, new hair dye is drying on my scalp as I am typing this. The result will hopefully be blue hair, but might end up nothing or blue skin – who knows. The excitement of the unknown…

I don’t have much time for blogging – the instructions actually say, I should have rinsed my hair 5 minutes ago. But I wanted to remind you that on the upcoming weekend there is the book art fair in Liverpool. I will probably be visiting with husband and kids. My book Die Stadt/The city is on display in the accompaning book arts exhibition, and I was very happy to hear that it has received much interest from visitors (and apparently they sold several copies, which I am going to bring on my visit. – Yay!). If you want to take a look, too, now is a good chance! If you indeed intend to go, drop me a line – it would be fun meeting up with you for a coffee.

Talk to you -hopefully- soon when I have more time at my hands!

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Nightmare Boxes Update – Thinking, Pondering

I am currently pondering how to add text to my nightmare boxes. It is another one of those projects of which I thought I would finish it in just a week and now I have been working on it for much longer. The project started out rather straightforward:

The first trials consisted of just the text written on paper, adorned with images from an medieval manuskript, folded in a labyrinth accordion style and inserted in the box. The plan was to completely print them on my pigment inkjet printer, decorate the boxes, – done easily and fast. But I became more and more dissatisfied with the look of the writing and the exact positioning on the paper, and the paper as a medium while I was preparing for the printrun.
The first modification was to write the text with a goose feather. Although not completely convinced of my caligraphy skills, I liked this “more medieval” look. A sample of scanned, and layered over the existing document.
The next modification was printing on parchment rather than paper. The printing itself worked surprisingly well. But a variety of other difficulties came up: While looking cool, the folding was not so easy, and the resulting textblock was rather thick, and had a rather tight fit in the box. The folded sheet had two spreads that were hidden, and therefore did not carry any text. Thinking of how to reduce bulk, I realized that the structure of the labyrinth accordion was not only too bulky, but generally not so very well chosen. It is great if you want both a text that can be leafed through, but also use the backsides that, once the structure is unfolded, give an additional something. – I had made it such that if you undid the labyrinth, you could see one of the creatures completely, together with brief information about the spell. But the image was not that spectacular, and it was not that much of a revelation I even had made sure that this informational text was readable while still folded.
So now I though of using a simple accordion structure instead. Or maybe a scroll, or maybe… Giving up this initial idea, the project opened up to a variety of options. Not quite decided what to do, I settled on making the boxes first.

Out of a whim I decided to fill them with found objects and let pieces of wood “grow out” of the boxes. That felt very right at the moment, I was not sure where exactly I was going.

I still like the boxes as such, but I am struggling to create a coherent something.

The past week I have pondered numerous possibilties of how to add the text and create a book, and I have not given up any of them. The main choice I will have to make is whether the text belongs into the box or whether the box is an addition to something the book with the spell. – I pondered for example making the box the cover of the book; making another box that holds both, the box and the book; putting both in a leather pouch; putting the text into the box such that it pops out when the box is opened; putting a book in the bottom of the box; using the wood as a dowel for a scroll…
It seems I have not found quite the right thing yet. Today I played with the idea of putting the text, written on a scroll, into a leather pouch. This in turn I wanted to fix to the side of the box. I reduced this more and more and ended up with some kind of napkin ring construction and a scroll to go into the box again. But somehow this still doesn’t seem completely right.

Probably I will have to gain more clarity of how the whole thing should work and function before I can decide on how to put in text. Or maybe I just need to take a break with them.

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Nightmare Boxes

my workspace this morning

There is an old German spell against nightmare (or creature nightmare), which I find very fascinating. Its translation goes somewhat like this:

Nightmare, you evil creature
don’t come here tonight.
You shall wade through all waters,
You shall pick all leaves from all tress
You shall count all spades of grass there are,
Don’t come to torture me tonight.

The original rhymes. – I am not good at translating in general, and poems are even worse. The idea behind the spell is that nightmare is not just forbidden to come but given tasks to fulfill that are supposed to keep it for so long that there the night will be over before it can come here.

In my current work I want to investigate this once more. Currently I am still playing and the project still shifts around and changes every day. Currently I am planning to combine the words in its original old rhineland dialect, written on parchment, with boxes of found objects. But I am still busy putting the boxes together, and I not sure where exactly it is going. I am also playing with the idea of using the lino cut I made a while ago or making a new one, too. I’ll see.

state yesterdat – already looks different today

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Busy, busy, busy

very first preliminary work, done in 2011

My apologies for being -once again and even more than usual- short-mouthed online and for slacking with replies to comments and emails, and many thanks to all who have written and commented nonetheless. All your messages were read, and very much appreciated; I more or less locked myself up here in the last week(s) to get the work done, and receiving messages and comments feels like an umbilical to the life and world ouside my attic refuge. –  But then, instead of returning the favour of connection, evil me just put the messages aside for the moment. I hope to catch up with you all in the evenings to come.

As you might have guessed from that introduction, I have been busy, busy, busy once more: Yesterday evening while hubby was watching a football match, I finished the first steps for a new book/edition with the current working title “346” and am seriously thinking of yet another edition with the working title “Johannisfriedhof” (that is the name of a graveyard in Leipzig, translated it would be John’s graveyard) for which the first stages of planning have been done, too. I would like to finish them in the next two weeks, so time is really pressing.

I don’t want to give away too much at this stage, but I can say that much: 346 was my room number in hospital where I spend 7 weeks in 2011. I had the idea to make something about that since I first entered that room, and now, finally, I am ready for this book. It will be a collection of photographic prints in a box together with a small information sheet/booklet. I prepared all the images and ordered a first set of prints to work with. For the edition I am thinking of having simple boxes custom (machine-) made. To make editioning easy and keep the price of the finished product down. Since working withe the messages in bottles, I have grown more and more fond of the idea of democratic multiplies. – Experiences and/or tips anyone with having boxes made? Do you know a good place to order them?

The Johannisfriedhof is supposed to be another edition, and again I am looking for a low-end means of production. I might end up photocopying it, which will put it into the realm of zines, I guess. Also the combination of a short story, a short-short story with sketches and a centre-poster thingy fits within the genre, I guess. But will have to work more on the details.

Oh, and then there is also the “Nachtmahr” edition, for which a couple of boxes are already piling on my desk, but I currently have a few problems with the content. More about that when I have figured them out.

boxes with slight variations – trials for a “Nachtmahr” edition

And off I go back to the sketch-boards.

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Erased, a collaboration of Büchertiger Studio & Press and Rucni uvez Zoranoske

Version 1: Parchment with gesso ground on one side and acrylic wash on the other side, acrylics and ink

I mentioned before that I am working on a piece that is supposed to end up as a book collaboration between Zoran an me. The text is “erased” a poem that I wrote earlier this year. Since I started to work on it, I made countless trial versions, and now have 5 versions I dare count as actual outcome. Two of them – those that I like best, of course – are now on their way to Zoran, who will make a cover and binding for them. Not an easy task: How do you bind 7, 5 or 3 single pages?
Three versions are still here, and I wonder whether I should have a go at a binding, too.

Version 2: parchment, ink and acrylics, – no gesso or acrylic wash

Ich habe schon in einem vorherigen Blogpost meine Zusammenarbeit mit Zoran erwähnt. Seit ich zuerst daran gearbeitet habe, habe ich jetzt einen Haufen Probe-Exemplare und auch 5 fertige Exemplare von Erased fertig. Das ist ein Gedicht, das ich Anfang des Jahres geschrieben habe. Zwei von den fünfen – natürlich die, die mir selbst am besten gefallen – sind nun auf dem Weg zu Zoran. Er macht dann einen Einband und die Bindung. Das ist keine so leichte Aufgabe: Wie bindet man drei, fünf oder sieben Einzelblätter? – Drei Versionen habe ich noch hier, und ich überlege, ob ich selbst mich auch mal an Ihnen versuchen sollte.

Version 3: Parchment, gesso ground on one side, acrylics wash on the other, ink and metal leaf

Version 4: paper, ink, acrylics, – no gesso or acrylic wash

paper, gesso ground on one side, acrylic wash on the other, ink and acrylics

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Swap – Cheryl Penn, “Where I am at – Book 4″

You might remember that when I first finished “absences“, I offered to swap it. Some people agreed to a swap, and it is time that I show off some of what I received in return. Cheryl received my first book for her encyclopaedia of everything but her book was the second that reached me. – It had to travel far, coming from South Africa. The structure is that of an accordion book with a little booklet sewed into the first valley fold with a three hole pamphlet stitch. The pages feature different letters on several levels. I can make out a lot of “bbbb”‘s and “B”‘s, but there is also some writing, of which I have not figured out whether it is asemic. Also other glyphs can be made out and different writing is layered over each other.

According to the booklet, she explores here glyphs from the Bhubezi writing system. The borders between decorative strokes, letters from the latin alphabet and these glyphs is flowing and not always clear to me.

detail of some B’s

Those of you who have read this blog for a while know that I am very interested in writing systems as such, and I am intruiged by this skript. Cheryl’s explanation in the booklet raises more questions than it explains. What is that skript? Who are these people? So I asked her, and she told me:

the Bhubezi writing system is one I have devised myself as part of an ongoing mythology – The Women Who Hold Up the World

On her website I found out a bit more. If I understand correctly (and it is all – suposedly deliberately – mysterious), she invented these Bhubezi women, and made several books about their culture, their stories and also invented a writing system for them. They are magical, mysterious and powerful women. – But all there is is just fragments, and I find it hard to understand what she made up and other’s picked up on, or the other way around. The whole makeup is really beautiful to me, enriched with mystery, and she manages to manufacture a genuine atmosphere of old.

another details – maybe showing some Bhubezi glyphs

Apart from raising my interest in this skript on an intellectual level, the book as such is also a valued addition to my collection. I find this layering of different skripts visually interesting, and it is funny to think that some lines might or might not carry meaning.

Thank you very much for swapping, Cheryl!

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Swap – Origami Case and Book

You might remember that when I first finished “absences“, I offered to swap it. Some people agreed to a swap, and it is time that I show off some of what I received in return. The first book to reach me whas this little origami piece by Bernhild Knichel. It is just about 3.5cm cubed in size.

Vielleicht erinnerst du dich ja daran, dass ich mein Buch “absences” zum Tausch angeboten habe. Einige haben dieses Angebot angenommen, und es ist Zeit, mal einiges von dem, was ich im Tausch bekommen habe, vorzuzeigen. Der erste Buch, das mich erreicht hat, ist von Bernhild Knichel. Es ist nur 3.5cm breit, hoch, und tief.

I cannot say for sure what kind of text has been used for the top and the book inside, but it looks like the paper has been taken from a book, and I would guess at a novel. The pieces used here seem to feature a part of the story that is set in a hospital or some medical doctor’s surgery.

I guess that the cover is put together from 4 seperate pieces of origami, but I am not sure. I love this decorative piece on top. I have not seen it anywhere before.

Ich vermute, dass sie Seiten aus einem Roman für den Deckel und auch für das Büchlein in der Schachtel benutzt hat, aber ich kann das nicht mit Sicherheit sagen. Die Textfetzen, die ich lesen kann, beinhalten medizinisches, also vielleicht ein Buch über einen Arzt? – Vielleicht ist der Protagonist auch nur gerade im Krankanhaus?

Der Deckel der Schachtel scheint aus vier Stücken zusammengesetzt zu sein, aber auch darüber bin ich nicht sicher. Ich finde diesen Deckel besonders reizvoll, mit diesem dekorativen Aufbau.

The book inside features more folding technique. At first glance I thought it was a collection of what I got to know as an ATC card holder (way back, at the very end of this rather long blog post.) But closer inspection shows it isn’t: They are all individual origami envelopes, like they can be seen for example in Origami Craft by Karen Elaine Thomas. Then she bound these individual pockets in a French stitch pattern onto this slim ribbon that then serves as a closure.

Das Büchlein in der Schachtel besteht aus vielen einzelnen Täschchen – ebenfalls Origami. Diese einzelnen Täschchen sind mit einem französischen Stich zusammengehalten und auf dieses schmale Band gebunden, das als Verschluss dient. Beides gefällt mir außerordentlich gut, die Idee zum Verschluss, und die Bindung dieser Täschchen.

The pockets hold small treasures, mostly stamps but also a label of a tea bag. The handwritten text says: “everything in the world exists to end up in a book”

Thank you very much, Bernhild!

Die Täschchen beinhalten kleine Schätze – meist Briefmarken, aber auch ein Teebeutel-Zettelchen. Der handgeschriebene Text auf den Seiten lautet: “everything in the world exitsts to end up in a book”

Vielen lieben Dank, Bernhild!

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In my last post I mentioned these small little exercises I was going to make into a contribution for We Love Your Books: “Home”. I was going to make a traditional wrap around case for them, and print onto the covering fabric. My idea was, that there would be motion on there, a wirlwind of children’s mouths opening in laughter and for crying, running feet, spilled something, and in the centre, these small exercises with brush and ink, just black lines. On the inside panels there are paste downs, on one of which I was going to put a brief explanation like: my studio is in the centre of my home, providing calm in the middle of a storm. – Or something along these lines.

As you can see, that is not what happened.

Making the graphics for the case is what really kept me from doing that. I spend 6 or maybe even 8 hours, trying to lay out this cover. Failing so completely that I did not even think about giving it a try. I thought I had the look of the image, or rather collage, pretty much figured out, but everything that I put on the screen looks cheesy, and just didn’t produce the atmosphere I was looking for. Man, graphic design IS difficult.

I still wanted to make the wrap around case, though, and then decided to rather drop back to the simplicity the books have. So I printed a scan of a brush line onto the white fabric, and built the case, again according to the instructions I found in Kojiro Ikegami’s “Japanese Bookbinding: Instructions From A Master Craftsman”.

In meinem letzten Blogpost habe ich diese 5 kleinen Büchlein erwähnt, die im Bild oben zu sehen sind. Ich hatte eigentlich vor, sie zu meinem Beitrag zu “We love your books: Home” zu machen. Dafür hatte ich vor, ein Wickelcover wie oben zu machen, und mit selbstbedrucktem Stoff zu beziehen. Allerdings schwebte mir ein ganz anderes Einbandmotif vor, als da jetzt draus geworden ist. Ich hatt die Idee, dass da viel Bewegung rein sollte, rennende Kinderfüße, Gesichter, lachende und brüllende Münder, und fliegendes Spielzeug. Aber daraus ist nicht geworden.

Ich dachte, ich hätte ein klares Bild vor Augen, wie ich diese Collage zusammensetze, aber das stellte sich als ziemlich schwierig heraus, und keiner der Ansätze, die ich in 6-8 Stunden produziert habe, sah auch nur so vielversprechend aus, dass ich ihn wirklich zu Ende geführt hätte. – Grafikdesign ist im Detail doch ganz schön schwierig!

Da habe ich mich dann also besonnen, und eben einfach einen Einband für 5 einfache Minibücher gemacht. Auf dem Einband ist jetzt ein Scan einer der vielen Linien aus Tinte gedruckt, die auch in den Büchlein zu finden sind.

Diesen Wickeleinband habe ich, genau wie die Büchlein, nach der Anleitung in Kojiro Ikegamis “Japanese Bookbinding: Instructions From A Master Craftsman” gemacht. – Naja, oder fast. Für solch kleine Formate, muss man immer das eine oder andere ein wenig anpassen. Zum Beispiel hat mein Einband eine, und nicht zwei Halterungen aus Bein.

Ich bin nicht so sehr glücklich mit der Wahl des Einbandgewebes: Es ist ziemlich steif, und ist für so ein kleines Format nicht optimal. Also denke ich darüber nach, nochmal ein neuen Einband zu machen. Andererseits gefällt mir dieser aufgedruckte Tintestrich sehr gut.

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Studio Week

the first version of “erased”

This past week was my “studio week”. It had been marked in my calendar for weeks. – One week in which the responsibility for the kids, for organizing childcare, and generally everything that regarded the kids, as well as household chores did not rest on me. It would
I have been looking forward to this week for a long time. Other mothers might choose to spend such a time with sleep and some good books, but it probably does not come as a surprise to you that I spend the biggest chunk of that time in my studio. I climbed up the stairs to my refugium rather early on most days, and on one day I even started there, still in my nightwear at 5 am.

It was a good week but also exhausting. Now I feel like I need some vacation. And while a Sunday and bank holiday Monday are coming up, there is also the tax form that I have to return by June 1st…

Of course I did not manage to do all I hoped to do. M. says that has partly to do with the fundamental fact that one never manages to do all one wants to do, no matter how much time there is, and partly to my poor planning. Probably he is right. But I can show off some results.

a first version of “erased”

A while ago, Zoran Vidakovic asked me to participate in a project of his. He is working on a series of books, for which he either contributes the content or the binding, and befrieneded artists and bookbinders contribute the other part.
I was happy to be asked and said “yes”. – And then did nothing for a while because so much else was going on. So it was one of my first priorities to produce something for him this week. I had decided to contribute contents, and more specifically, I wanted to use my poem “erased”. I wrote it this year in January and used it before before for a message in a bottle. Since the text and with it the general concept was already there, I expected this to go straight forward. Unfortunately that was not the case. I made a lot of paper versions before I finally finished a first copy on parchment of which you can see a couple of pages in the photos above.

detail of the newest ruled world

I also worked on my new version of ruled worlds, and made a first world “world” from all the pages in one of the Victorian Geometry for Artists books that I purchased for this project. Unfortunately I finished it just tonight, and I have not managed to make better photos of it. There is definitely still room for improvement, but I think I am on a good path there.

Shortly before my studio week started, I purchased an ink stick, a new brush, and an ink stone as well as a packet of Japanese Kanji practise paper. So between, before and during much of the above, I played with the new toys. I had used Chinese ink before but only that which comes ready made.
Liz Davidson posted throughout April pictures of lines in ink on her blog, and maybe that sparked my interest in it again. Since I had no idea whatsoever how to use inkstick and -stone, I looked for tutorials in that regard, and found this video on youtube with the title “how to make your own strokes in sumi-e”. The presented exercise looked interesting, and I thought I’d have a go with that.
I filled page after page with strokes and pattern, trying out various brushed I have. It was great fun! The first thing I needed to learn was makeing the ink. It is not hard as such, but I found it hard to decide when I was done rubbing. The first few trials produced rather faint strokes. I played almost every day and still feel much room for play. The image above is from tonight, when I was tidying up and found a brush that I had not tried before.

I even made some mini books from it. It was an opportunity to pull out Kojiro Ikegami (“Japanese Bookbinding: Instructions From A Master Craftsman”, the book about japanese bookbinding) and practise the real thing: The mini books are complete with an inner binding and fabric corner pieces.


I also made the odd job here and there and am all in all rather satisfied with the week. The mini books were meant to end up as a contribution to the year’s we love your books with the theme “home”. For this to happen, I’ll have to finish the box and pick up the last loose ends for it, though. But even if this won’t happen, I am really happy with the little books.


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Testing Gesso

Lefranc & Bourgeois Gesso

The first time I used gesso was with what I then still called bloodsong. I don’t remember clearly but I don’t think I bought it especially for this project; I don’t remember using it for anything else, though. Before I tried it, I thought gesso was essentially white acrylic paint. What I bought to try it out was a comparably cheap one from Lefranc & Bourgois, which was explicitly suitable for paper. It was not the cheapest I could get, but definitely on the cheaper end. From the moment I first tried it on paper, I was in love with it. I love the heavy feel of the covered paper and the rough surface texture. The gesso I had was firm enough so that the brush left clearly visible strokes, and dries in about 30 minutes. Since then I have used it for almost everything I made: I paint with it in my big sketchbook that you can see above, I used it for chasing infinity, I am using it for soulsong, used it for ruled worlds, for absences, and for another project (erased) that I have not yet talked about here.  And last week my 1l jar was used up. Empty. Easy, I thought, I’ll just buy a new one.

That turned out harder than expected, though, since I couldn’t find it here. I was willing to order it in Germany, but couldn’t find it there, either. Not knowing anything about gesso in general, I feared that my purchase might have been a lucky one, and other gesso might be totally different. And what do you do in times of despair? – Right, ask the internet. The internet told me that I was right to fear: many people swearing on one and only one gesso – but of course they couldn’t agree on which one. Also, I found out not all types of gesso are suitable for use on paper. And I found the opion repeated that cheaper ones are essentially white acrylic paint and one should settle for expensive brands. For many of those I was not sure they would be suitable for paper, though, and it would have hurt to pay for them and then find out they don’t work.

In the end I just settled again for comparably cheap: Windson & Newton. Galeria Acrylic Mediums. White Gesso Primer.

new gesso tried

And I am rather happy with it. At first I thought I liked the other one better. Well, I still miss it. But I am getting more and more the feeling I might be imagining a difference where there is none. It also yields a nice, rough surface, and the same, heavy feel on the paper. I think I notice that it is a little less opaque and needs longer to dry, but as I said, I might be imagining it.

While I was trying out gesso, I also ordered a very, very cheap jar of black gesso by pebeo – just to try it.

black gesso trial

Now I know what people mean when they say cheap gesso has a plasticy feel to it, and is more like acrylic paint than like plaster: The page painted with the black gesso feels kind of smooth. The whole thing reminds me a lot of chalkboard paint. Which is not necessarily bad, I am rather happy with both purchases. Yay! Worries and freaking unnecessary :-)

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