Create a heartfelt offering for our glorious mother earth - Gaia herself.
Create a heartfelt offering for our glorious mother earth - Gaia herself.
(otherwise known as the just-because prompt)
Select a few pieces that keep catching your eye.
bonus points if you choose some things you've been mentally pairing off and on throughout the challenge but they've had no direct or even tangential relationship to the prompt of the day.
do that thing. make THAT collage.
Today I zoomed back into the pages of my bumblebee allegory version of real life on our property. Although this looks like a bush it's actually an Eastern Fringe Tree. I got her for a paltry sum a few years back just past the point when she'd flowered and shed the dried blooms. I call her Fair Lass because she's very fair indeed. She came here in the middle of a drought so I waited for sustained rain before planting. The following year her trunk was dead but several suckers emerged from the base. Last year they all budded and leafed. When I checked last weekend their buds were clearly wick despite the bitter cold. Sometimes the prolonged cold stretch still to come claims the vigor of a few shoots. I cut them back and prune to shape the general architecture that's emerging.
This tree isn't native to our region but it's quite able to thrive in our hardiness zone. For years I've eyed their showy many-trunked beauty in other peoples' yards or gardens. Have observed they often self-coppice as a way of adjusting their inner strength to new england's specific cold season demands for survival. If you follow the above link and scroll through the photos at the top of the page you'll see what the Fair Lass is likely to become.
Anything I plant takes into account what it might look like when my son's my current age, Providence willing. It also takes into account how little interest he's shown in actively gardening throughout his life. I want things that thrive quite well on their own and are mostly healing in the medicinal sense but I've also taken care to plant a few trees/bushes that can thrive on their own steam and also flower in show-stopping frequently sweet-scented blooms that prompt him to say "mom" out loud. Just a few times a year should he choose to keep living here.
Although the Poplar that looks nothing like a poplar in its allegorical version and the Fair Lass are not in this close proximity they will one day be the Tree Keepers of this space I call the Evolving Sanctuary. For today's prompt I stuck as close to the Fringe Tree's appearance last year as I could. Wound up using very unusual paper choices but this challenge has loosened me up a lot in that way.
In the process of rummaging for Florentine papers to fulfill yesterday's prompt I found an overlooked fragment of the frog paper I wanted to use for the magical frog pond spread above. Four bear witness to the goat's amazing feat while the fifth basks in holographic star-light...
(eta: I never knew until 4 or 5 years ago that hummingbirds sometimes fly at night ...)
I could have gotten all the narrative bases covered for this spread if I'd put a fragment of Italian paper covered with various frog species in the place where I thought I put it after I cut a lot of it apart - creating individual motifs to include in Grace's special collage kit/supplies. Alas I did not and must now locate and clip from the remainder which is "filed" within my paper stash storage shelf. And it's at the very bottom of my deceptively compact/dutifully color sorted recycled/gift/designer/self-made art papers. Because it's an older piece from older-old days when retail sheets were significantly larger. Thus it's under everything else including my stash of watercolor and drawing paper destined for future sketchbooks. If I want to preserve the space-conscious system, I'll have to remove things one careful layer at a time. In other words - not today.
My personal self-assessment for the first third of this challenge is that I've not been stretching either myself or my pre-set Rules for this experience nearly enough. Instead I've been feeling my way into a comfortable fit with the leadership role. And staying on top of these twice-daily/set time postings as a non-negotiable part of how I set up my days' structure and to-do lists. THAT'S how I've stretched. The results are all well and good (not to mention considerable) for my personal growth curve but it hasn't helped me tighten-up and deepen my collage-based skill set(s). To that end I'm resolved to actively stretch in some measurable way for each day of the challenge's duration. See what happens.
My biggest intentional stretch for today's prompt involved allowing myself to cover up the busy scrapbook paper. Normally (meaning with-in my non-challenge creative life) I'd cover up whatever I please but part of picking the paper was pushing myself to work around the significant challenge/obstacle it presented. Sometime in the later afternoon yesterday I decided working with one half of the sheet's pattern was sufficient challenge and I could let myself off the hook with this half. I 'allowed' myself to make this choice so I'd have a lot more uninterrupted (and far higher contrast) space to articulate things that are especially dear to me about this anchor-point in the property's original landscape design and its enduring execution. Used white gesso laced with a tiny amount of beachy green craft paint and scraped a few careless wet-on-wet layers to get some texture and hints of the dark colors underneath.
The rather celestial paper flower was cut in half to represent the two dominant tree medicine spirits (hemlock and maple) that stand tall over the pond. Had planned to play with visual resolution a bit by allowing the alchemical sun transparency on the adjacent page to serve as the third star. But now that piece is simply holding space until I can get what I've decided to use instead appropriately sized, printed out and affixed. Have added a second small holographic star reflected in the pond water.
When I had to cut my original eyeball freehand oval into a smaller shape I was left with an elongated sliver of a crescent moon. Was born during the waxing sliver so this particular image - frequently oversized as it is here - appears in a lot of my autobiographical collage projects. I have been to the frog pond late at night in this lunar phase. It's a good sync for Frog medicine and other historical & mythological associations frequently ascribed to these wonderful little creatures. Not sure how widespread this is but here on the east coast many native frog colonies are losing ground to a fungus very similar to athlete's foot. This year our own colony was healthy but somewhat elusive.
On a later spring morning, en route to the pond, I suddenly noticed a portion of an adjacent landscaping rock move very slow-quickly. Didn't have my distance glasses to sharpen the precise details but grew up in South Jersey. Can thus recognize at a fair pace the unique lower rear shell of a snapping turtle. It is always the same - even on very small/young offspring. The one at our pond was barely four inches long at that first siting. I was initially - childhood reptile geek that I was - enchanted. Then fearful for the frogs.
Somewhat less pressingly but no less pragmatic was my fear T's special kitty could easily lose a paw or even part of her face. Had no idea how fast these turtles grew. Multiple online info sources confirmed their growth rate would be commensurate with the scope of their food supply. At this stage of their lives these turtles are largely carnivorous. This particular turtle had chosen to live in and at the edge of a (relative to its current size HUGE) water source loaded with a few hundred pollywogs.
Eventually my concern for other creatures was eclipsed with worry for our newest reptilian neighbor. The turtle had crested 6.5 - 7 inches (estimate) by the time it was clear the frogs hadn't been able to save more than a small percentage of their young but they'd otherwise seamlessly adopted a far more low-profile way of thriving rather than being driven-off. In later September I noticed the turtle's upper carapace was saturated with some kind of parasite or fungus. It wasn't going in the water anymore but simply lurking between the pond and a thriving juniper bush. The problem with its carapace looked like the beginning of a lichen colony on a rock. I spent a few days calling around to MA-based people who might either know something about what I was seeing or could put me in touch with somebody who did. In those 2-3 days' time the turtle appeared to vanish. It never re-appeared and on the second day of my noticing it gone the frogs were once again scattered all over the flat landscaping rocks that ring the pond. As if the disturbance in their routine had never occurred.
(The little snapping turtle is remembered and wondered-about in the form of the oversized star swimming in the pool.)
Since I was in the mood to fill more space and (re)solve some additional problems I returned to the inside front cover of my booklet. Got another vertical tree column in place. Recognized that the only true value I saw to any of the remaining imagery from the original art paper was the wood tree a bird was turning into its home.
Additionally I very much liked what Dee extrapolated of the chair's symbolic meaning placed there among living relatives. Wanted to keep that potentiality active and emphasized. So I added flowers to cover the eggs (which I originally thought could be a callout to the innumerable hens and at least 7 roosters who live at the farm across the road. but that didn't work.). They don't represent what grows there so much as the color signifies the number of hummingbird-friendly plants I've cultivated in an area where these beautiful Tiny Giants of the bird world now return to nest and thrive year after year. It's also the very first 3-season fueling site in the bee-centric food highway that winds its way throughout our property.
Used rolled up washi tape to stick-down a fragment of brayer cleaning paper. This will remind me to keep an eye peeled for similar options in the narrow but electrified green color range - to evoke a certain greenish haze that epitomizes late spring through high summer here. It's great to feel on far greater track with my envisioned progress rate. BUT ...
This is what my work desk looks like right now. Sometime by the end of next weekend I hope to have everything dialed-back and cleared to the edge of the cups full of pencils, brushes, and small "other" tools I find indespensible
Finalize your layout. Take a picture of it, back to front and front to back. This will be good documentation and reference when/if you decide to make additional booklets.
Hopefully you have your folios ready to go but in case you still need encouragement and examples of how to trouble shoot beyond the point covered in the last post - Above is the cover of my assembled book. In the end I changed the size to smaller dimensions in order to prevent floppiness. Lost all the design elements I thought I loved too much to be free of them. In full disclosure I stopped resisting the idea once I discovered a second identical bag. Jim reminded me one of them was holding one of my current fave long-sleeved tees bearing the slogan seen above and below.
Above the unbound folios are displayed in order as they'll look when bound. Before I changed the book's dimensions, I changed my mind about which paste paper I wanted to include. This is a bit matchy-matchy for my tastes but that will be easy to correct (or learn to appreciate as 'new growth' on my part) along the collage-patched way of things. I made the shift because I had a LOT of ideas of ways I'd like to draw on the spine/ley line I saw on the other paper. Didn't want to wait until my next opportunity to hit a color copier before getting the book assembled and so I made the swap-out. Once I did I immediately decided to revert to my original idea of having part of a shopping bag serve as back drop for a treasure map. Since then I've clarified that I intend to use the space to do a funky interpretation of the wild gardens I've planted to benefit the neighboring farm's bee hives as well as wild bees/hummingbirds/other nectar seeking insects. Think that's something that must have been percolating when I chose the sheet of bee related collage elements I'd been hoarding as something I'd challenge myself to use up in it's entirety.
The patch from the swapped-out paste paper appears on both sides. The original bag paper was thin to nothingness just there and I decided I wanted something that will give me a visual guide for where I want to put the map's scale and orientation markers. There are many grey portions of the bag which I've patched over with yellow cut-outs from other parts of the bag. Sometimes I made an effort to create flowing lines from patch to patch and others not so much. I used Yes paste for the strengthening and flexibility properties and also because it's got a patented 'curl proof' property that's really helpful for smoothly joining two heavier papers of similar weight. It's equally helpful to fuse a thinner paper bag to a thicker paper as I did with the cover.
note: For inner page work and thin-to-thin fusion I strongly prefer glue sticks.
This layout shows the page order from the centerfold to the back cover (which is blank on the inside).
Note the way I strengthened the cover's seam by adding a strip of a contrasting paper. I chose it because the sheet literally fell on my foot. It fit my emergent color palette, and I then realized J. got it for me during a fabulous birthday tour of all our old haunts in Boston last summer. That's what I wanted and all I wanted - 102 degree temps be damned - we were going and so we went. Our very last activity was a visit to the Dick Blick store in Central Square in Cambridge. Walked by the solid wall of decorative paper drawers with an averted gaze but J. was right behind me raven-heckling "oh come on! It's you're birthday - don't worry about details just get what you want!"
I selected three or four papers and it's a very happy memory so I was glad this book wound up covered in evidence of my life partner's Way of partnering. Not quite sure exactly how to tie that in with the bee map and whatever's between now and then but the book's page layout does suggest also doing some kind of surreal rendition of my literal landscape and the farm where the hive bees originate. Maybe I'll represent more wild places on the blank inside cover.
Once I'd cut into the cactus birthday paper I decided to use it as a unifying patch/work agent throughout the booklet.
Its placement here made me think of expanding the scope of the treasure map from what I kinda-sorta sense happening in the centerfold. I envisioned ways the cactus paper could be re-imagined as the wild windrow at the back of our field. The other side hmmmm. two or three ideas are so formless I can't really say. I can say it's been really fun beginning to outline no-pressure yet engrossing prompts to help everyone participating feel like they're accomplishing something that's personally meaningful. There's me and three other people actively committed in the online commentary sense. I'm aware of some maybe/gonna try folks from the walking around world and a few who send regular emails but otherwise do things very quietly and privately. Maybe 11 all told. I think this is good for a sense of disembodied community even if we aren't all connected. It's more ... collage-worthy somehow.
preparing your pages for pamphlet stitching.
use a ruler to make sure all your pages have the same height.
Fold each sheet of paper in half.
Double check your pages' width this time. If anything is extending beyond your front cover and that's not the look you're going for, trim it back to size.
Mark each sheet right inside of the fold:
1/2 inch from top and bottom
At the half-point of the length between the top and bottom marks
make all the holes with a needle, stiletto, awl etc.
Nest the folios together and hold the fold towards the light.
Make sure all the holes are aligned.
Correct if necessary.
don't worry unduly about any corrections
for a book this size that's bound with this particular stitch a couple of extra holes aren't likely to matter at a construction level. You can also compensate by binding just a little more loosely to avoid pulled-tight abrasion points between threaded and empty holes.
Above is a Japanese screw-punch. If you ever decide to make your own sketchbooks with heavier weight paper - and/or you have any sort of hand pain or weakness that makes a lot of twisting and grinding of your knuckle joints very unhappy and painful - you may want to invest. Don't choose by the price. You want an authentic item and there are a lot of counterfeits on the market. I used this treasured tool in order to complete my booklet on a day when the mostly kinda-sorta successfully denied arthritis in my right index finger was not to be trifled with.
load your needle with thread that's two times the length of your booklet's spine PLUS 5 inches
Bring your needle to the center hole of your booklet's outside cover. Slide the needle and thread through all the folios. As you near the end of your thread catch it with a loose finger. Hold it firm while you tape it securely in place, off to one side of the spine, until the full bookmaking stitch has been completed. Leave a three and a half inch tail. This will give you enough thread for knotting the stitch into place.
note: it may take a couple tries before you successfully keep everything securely loaded on the thread. Be patient with yourself and the process. Once it's loaded bring the needle and thread along the inside cover fold to the bottom hole of the book.
Thread your needle through that hole with a moderately loose tension
Bring the needle and thread along the outside spine of the book with a slow and steady movement as you pull the thread to create a firmer stitch.
note: avoid pulling too firmly into place before you've threaded the top hole and pulled to the desired tightness at that specific structural station. Finesse the tension as necessary with even distribution between the 3 holes.
Complete your booklet's binding stitch with a surgeon's knot.
note: The link above features a very clear visual and written description of making a surgeon's knot. Ignore the beading chatter at the end (unless of course that's of interest to you) and just focus on the knot making instruction.
pro tip: I leave the tails as-is and tucked around the long binding stitch. Since I use waxed linen thread they generally stay put. Once I'm done working into the pages I'll either clip them shorter or place a tiny bit of glue on the wrapped threads to seal them into position because I like this look very much as a finishing statement.
Don't be concerned if you don't yet have an idea of what you want to express. In the next couple of weeks I'll be sharing different examples of gluebooks I've made that are only very loosely themed and one that has no theme whatsoever other than making my eyes happy and keeping my mind pleasantly entertained. Every time I post I'll try to remember to add a few questions-of-inquiry that may help you get a clear sense of your expressive intentions.
Am re-posting the image from yesterday in order to review a few things that may help you personalize and tweak what you've gathered so far. The 11 x 15 enamel butcher's tray in the rear is my official "kit case" for this project. Everything that's out on display fits in the tray which in turn fits neatly on top of the large wooden thread box at the back of my sewing table.
clockwise down from the tray - baggies containing the cut-apart bee collage sheet and the 'loose handful' of personal ephemera quadrant of my four fold recipe strategy. Part of a bouquet wrapper from flowers J. brought home. Included spontaneously when I'd really only planned to set it aside in my stash because the design speaks to the time of year and how we're experiencing it here as well as serving as a more personal autobiographical layer of meaning.
In the center are three items that insisted I cut them out and keep them with this project's stash. I reluctantly set them aside with everything else because I just didn't see it in relation to what I'd gathered. But then in the literal light of a new day I saw the scrapbook paper I'd thought was backed in forest green was actually a dark turquoisey-teal. That paved the way for the cactus paper and then, with these three pulled clippings, just the level of clash that makes me happiest. You can't see the show-stopping lotus-printed art paper cut off by the insistent magazine cut-outs but, believe me, it's there. A copy of my grandmother's favorite bird book in the last years of her life. I found it online very cheap so got a copy to replace hers and one to cut apart. A sheet of very weathered paper I stenciled with spray inks. These little test sprays happen to feature my two favorite stencils. The purple mono-print look on the left is an actual seed head. The one on the right is a repetitive design pattern I generally cut into pieces. The pattern's single unit is for me representational of a magic seed.
Above is my loose handful of personal ephemera unfurled. Since I didn't feel like going downstairs into the house and rooting through pockets and drawers and bags I simply went to my work desk and loose-skimmed scraps at the margin of the desk's cutting mat Clear Space. There was a lot of pretty chaos happening there. So far I have a clear idea for both the Venus - to rise from our Gaia breast fire pit and the printer's glitch strip of a winter photo I took used as the background for the treasure map's scale bar. We'll see how closely I follow that plan as time moves forward.
pro tip: If particular pieces you've collected speak very strongly to you - even if they don't speak to you of their specific purpose - put them aside for use as potential visual anchoring points in your own booklet's narrative.