Paper and Money

Christmas Paper Dolls

When I was eight, I wasn’t getting an allowance or any money of my own. I don’t remember even thinking that it was a possibility to ask for money to buy something. It just wasn’t within my realm of experience at that time. So you can imagine my incredible glee when, as I was walking home from school, dragging the inside of my foot along the gutter in order to kick-up the leaves, I spotted a one dollar bill. A one dollar bill! I was so excited, I scooped it up and ran the rest of the way home.

“Look Mom! Look!” I breathlessly yelled to my mother as I proudly held the crumbled bill up for her to see. She was very happy for me and told me to put it in a safe place.

From the moment I got that dollar I couldn’t stop thinking about how I was going to spend it. Maybe I could buy some Barbie clothes, or some candy. Maybe I could get a 45 record like my older friend, Gail.

The next time Mom went shopping, she took me to the variety store in the little strip mall. I walked up and down the aisle. I had never really gone shopping for myself before, and I must have taken a long time checking the inky adhesive price tags on every little thing. It soon dawned on me that most of what I had originally wanted to buy was beyond my reach financially. But then I went to the coloring book section, and there on the top shelf, spread out in all their glory, were the smooth, colorful covers of the paper doll books. I don’t remember which ones I bought, but I do know that they were only a quarter a piece, and that I ended up buying four of them — one for me, and one for each of my sisters. Mom must have paid the tax . . . or maybe there wasn’t any tax. I really don’t remember.

I do remember that when I got home to my sisters and pulled the paper dolls out of the brown kraft paper bag, I got my first memory of what it felt like to buy something for someone else and how good it felt. We played with those paper dolls for hours. And even though my youngest sister was a little too young to cut them out, I helped her, and we had a lot of fun.

Other times, I would take the old Sears catalog and cut out the pictures of girls and their fashions and try to turn them into paper dolls. I even would try and make those tabs around the edges to keep them on the “dolls.” But the paper was too floppy, and it never worked out very well. Still, I could spend hours just cutting and trimming and giving each girl a name and a family and a history.

I loved paper dolls when I was little, so when I saw some French paper doll sheets for sale at a flea market a couple of years ago, I bought them, thinking I could use them in my art. And then I found some more in some old editions of Ladies Home Journal that I had purchased. So I decided to scan them, clean them up a bit, and put them on the Public Domain Images page on my web site. Now I have about fifteen pages of Paper Dolls and other vintage paper crafts on my web site.

As I was working on these images on my computer, I kept wanting to get back to making my Gothic Fairies. It occurred to me that when I’m making these little collages I’m cutting and pasting paper dolls again, and giving them names, and families, and stories, just like I did when I was a little girl. So I guess that love for paper never went away.

Book Arts Class

Skylar and Sloan

It’s four a.m., and I can’t sleep. It’s very dark and still except for the glow of the monitor and the hum of the CPU fan. Today will be my third consecutive day staying home from school. I have a nasty cold. It started with a sore throat and cough last week. I tried to fight it off by drinking lots of water and basically willing it to go away, but the cold had more tenacity than I did. By the end of school on Monday, I could barely talk. So I decided to just stay home and take care of myself. It’s hard to be in front of 130 twelve year olds when you feel lousy. And then I have the added joy of having to oh-so-discreetly cross my legs everytime I cough. It’s not a pretty sight. My husband hates it when I’m sick. Yesterday he said that if I would just think positive and act like I feel healthy, then I would be okay. So it’s all in my head, eh? Bring me a kleenex and leave me alone.

I’m not very good at lying around the house and doing nothing for the sake of getting better. So yesterday I scheduled some more ebay auctions for my gothic fairy collages. I’ve sold three so far but am in a quandry about how many times to list a piece before removing it from circulation. I don’t feel like giving up just because a collage hasn’t found a home yet. I know there’s somebody for each one of my small blessings; they just have to find their rightful owner. Maybe I’ll pull them after listing them three times and put them on the collage art page on my web site and try to sell them there.

Later on in the day I made some little sample books for the Book Arts class that I will start teaching on Monday after school. I have ten young ladies signed up for the class, and I’m very excited about making books with them.

For the first class I’m going to show a powerpoint presentation of some incredible artist books so they can get an idea of the unlimited possibilities for creating artist books. Many of the images I used are from the Guild of Book Workers’ 100th Anniversary Exhibition. You should really take a look at this site when you have some time to kill; the variety of artistic vision is breathtaking.

Next we’re going to make some 3″ X 4″ books that are folded from a single sheet of 8 1/2″ X 11″ paper. I got the recipes from Shereen LaPlantz’s great book Cover-to-Cover. I’m going to have lots of colored paper for them to use. I thought this would be a good way to introduce them to different types of folds, how to use a bone folder for scoring and creating nice tight creases (we’re going to use old credit cards as cheap imitation bone folders), and how to safely use an exacto blade for cutting.

I wanted them to make a little box in which they could put their finished books, and I found this neat Super Deluxe Tuckbox Template Maker where you can enter the dimensions of the box you want to create and it will make a custom template that you can print out on your computer. (The calculations on the template maker are a little off, so if you do this be sure to add .25 to all your dimensions, otherwise it will come out too small.) I printed my template on cardstock and made a cute little tuckbox for the books to fit in. I think the girls are really going to enjoy this.

I also plan on showing them my texture box so they can start collecting textures of their own since the next class will be all about decorating paper. I’m going to show them how to make a string stamp as their homework assignment. Hopefully at the next class we’ll have ten very cool string stamps that we can use to decorate our paper. I can’t wait!

A Slab of Beef and My Little Book

A humungous, over-sized replica of a piece of steak won the Grand Prize at the 3rd Annual National Juried Exhibition of the Art League of Northern California in Novato. This chunk of cow was amazing; it must have been about four feet by three feet in diameter, and it looked exactly like the meat I buy at Raley’s, from the fatty marbling down to the hand-drawn bar code on the label and the cellophane wrapping stretched over styrofoam with the blood pooling inside under the meat. It was displayed low to the ground on a pedestal and had a “Do Not Touch” sign placed in front of it. Good thing too, because I really wanted to feel what it was made of. I tried to get a closer look at the display label, but there were always people standing in front of it. I think it may have said “resin.”

I dragged my husband and my long-suffering son to the artists’ reception last Saturday night. We actually had to drive an hour and a half out of our way to get to Novato because we were going to visit my dad in Sacramento after the show. My son didn’t want to be going to his grandpa’s in the first place, so he was rather surly and unenthusiastic — you know, a typical mopey adolescent.

I had really talked myself into schmoozing while I was there. I was going to mingle with artists, network, bask in the glow of my art work. But it was not to be. The gallery was crowded, mostly noticeably by the front door where there were serving brie and fruit and other interesting tidbits. I tried to appease my son by directing him towards the free food, but that didn’t do much good.

Meanwhile, my husband and I snaked our way along the walls of the little gallery, looking at the art work. Some of it I loved – a huge oil painting of a woman in a sheik black mini-dress lying on the floor repairing a dishwasher really stood out. As did an assemblage piece made entirely of discarded radio tubes. There was a nice variety of types of art, from collage and ceramics to oils, watercolors, and photography. My piece was the only altered book or book art piece. It was in the back gallery on the wall across from the meat. It looked tiny and forlorn by comparison. And a couple little matchstick pieces had broken off from the top. Directly below my book was a painting (or was it a photograph?) of a dog in a funeral home. I liked the looks of that.

When we got to the back room where Fear was hanging I noticed two women pointing at it and talking. I wanted to get close to them so I could hear what they were saying, but the room was too small and crowded and noisy, and that sirloin was taking up so much room! I wondered if it would be kosher to walk up to them and say, “Hi, I’m the artist that made that. What do ya think?” But I was too chicken. So I waited until they left and Michael took a couple of pictures of me standing next to my pride and joy. Did I tell you before that my son picked out that one to enter? I let him choose the three of the six books in the Broken Doll series that I would submit because I couldn’t decide. He may be a surly teenager, but he is my absolute best source for truthfulness — no matter how the truth might hurt!

It’s hard to try to wheedle yourself into a conversation with strangers when you haven’t had a drink and your son and husband are hanging on your sleeve. It’s hard enough for me to engage in small talk even without those hindrances. So after making one and a half rounds again, (with one last look at my book to make sure it was still there) we left and headed up to Sacramento to see my dad.

Drowning in Pink

Saffron Skies

I find myself drowning in pink. I recently finished a new altered book/wall hanging, Saffron Skies, which was packed with frills of light pink darkening to magenta. And now I’m working on a book called Dream of Orchids which is also filled with pink . . . and violet, yellow, hints of orange, and white. This book is going to be similar in structure to Anatomy of Paradise. You can see some of the orchids I made in the picture below.

Right now my tiny work area is covered in beautiful scraps of pinkish and yellowish paper, and there are pink inks and crayons and oil pastels lying around. It’s such a lovely mess, that I almost hate to clean it up. But I will. I need to make room for green so I can start working on the tendrils, leaves, and vines that my orchids will dangle from.

Today was my first day of work, and although the thought of going back to work is somewhat depressing, I enjoyed seeing my colleagues and felt that familiar rush of energy and excitement that getting ready for the new school year always brings to me — even as I’m sad by the loss of my “art time.” I got home around four, and continued working on my book, and before I knew it, it was 8:00 p.m. already! The time goes by so fast, and I have so much that I want to do.

But going to back to work also tends to make me more efficient in some ways. I have to make more productive use of each minute and really multi-task. So I write a blog entry while the paint is drying, and I eat a sandwich while the glue sets, and I take a break when all the pinkness is done and watch some TV with my son. Then I clean up and get started again until my eyelids just get too heavy and I know it’s time for bed.

Good News!

Kneel to the Prettiest

Last week I received an acceptance letter from the Art League of Northern California which is located near me in Novato. I had submitted jpegs of three of my Broken Doll altered books to their 3rd Annual National Juried Exhibition. I wasn’t sure which of the six altered books I should submit, so I let my son John decide. They rejected two of the pieces, but accepted Fear. The letter said they had over 400 entries and were only able to selet 62 pieces, so I’m pretty excited that one of my altered books were among those chosen. The Opening Reception is scheduled for Saturday, September 9, 2006 from 5 – 8 p.m. My husband will be in Greece, so hopefully my sister will be able to go with me for moral support.

Although I still have a lot of ideas for my Broken Dolls series of books that I want to play around with, I’ve decided to to some more Wall Hangings for a while. I need to take a break from the dark, weirdness of that other work for a while and work with some bright colors. I’ve had a book on my shelf for over a year now; it’s called Saffron Skies. I’ve had an idea for that book swirling in my head since I first got it, so I spent the afternoon painting paper shades of pink and splattering the pages with halo pink-gold and metallic gold. So much fun. And to make it even more enjoyable . . . I’m working in a clean, uncluttered work space!! HOORAY! We’ll see how long that lasts . . .