Clamshell Workshop Recap

This time of year, workshops – both planning for them and teaching them – take up the majority of my time. This has been a new realization as I eagerly compile handouts and make lots of teaching guides. All the while, the stack of works in progress remain on the bench like a group of archaeological artifacts on display. It is a little bit frustrating not to get to those projects, but the reason I can’t devote attention to them right now is highly rewarding.

Earlier this March, I had the opportunity to teach a Clamshell Workshop in my studio, the first workshop to kick off the year. While the workshop was originally planned to be taught to a small group of students, it turned into a private lesson due to various schedule conflicts. Teaching one on one has many benefits, one of which is to be able to focus on the needs of just one student. When teaching a full class, it is hard to check in with everyone’s specific progress the whole time. That is just the nature of a classroom. However, with just one student I was able to not only give all my attention to this student, but I was able to do a thorough testing of my teaching materials.

clam assembly

Box making can be really stressful and I still remember when I first learned all the finicky steps of putting together a clamshell box. The materials are hard to cut by hand, specifically binder’s board, a lesson very quickly learned. Without a board shear, your hand gets tired from drawing the knife across the material over and over again, taking 10 or more cuts to make it through the material. Additionally, the room for error is great when your hand gets tired. The angle can change and your cutting can be not quite straight. However, it is the reality of most book binders and book artists so it is valuable to be able to show how I have learned to work around the lack of convenient tools.

clamshell open

Another potential stress inducing quality of box making is wrapping. In order for the cloth to wrap the board neatly, there is a series of cuts that needs to be made at various points of the cloth. Additionally, any material being used needs to be accommodated in the initial stages of measuring and creating the box. Without a live demonstration, all of this can be terribly confusing when trying to learn from a book or online.

clamshell closed

We spent two afternoons working through the steps of box making with great success. What resulted was a beautiful clamshell box lined with handmade marbled papers and a simple recessed label on the front. Most importantly, I had a student leave the studio with the enthusiasm and ability to make more boxes.

This class also gave me a lot of good things to think about as I finish preparation for the Box Making for Book Artists workshop I will be teaching this May at the Paper and Book Intensive in Saugatuck, Michigan. We will be making a box that is essentially a clamshell with a few modifications to make it helpful for artists looking to house unique materials. Can’t wait till May!

Return from paradise

I’ve just returned from a week long trip of fun in another time zone and have come back with a mid winter bounce in my step. Workshop prep continues but there are some projects on the bench that are pulling at my finger tips begging to be transformed from works in progress to finished pieces.



The clamshell box workshop pieces have been cut and are ready to go for the upcoming classes. Course materials are coming together for the Paper and Book Intensive as well.

As for creative endeavors, I am playing with fore edge decoration methods. I’ll look to print resources and the blog posts of colleagues for guidance during my trials as I focus on tinted edges rather than gold applications.


web board and edge

Move over, horse, its the year of the sheep

sheep linocut proof


Last year, 2014, had many galloping moments, but I look forward to a steadier, sheep paced 2015. In 2014, I had the pleasure of teaching many wonderful workshops, participating in exhibits, and a few other events. This coming year has many events on the calendar already with more to come. As the year progresses, additional events will be added so keep a lookout at this website or on Facebook.

If you have any questions or would like to participate in any of the events listed below, feel free to send me a message!






Clamshell Box Making
Date: February 28-March 1, 2015 Saturday and Sunday
Time: 10:00am-2:30pm, with a short break for lunch
Location: Spring Leaf Press Studio, BLOOMINGTON, IN
Fee: $150.00

clamshell example

The clamshell box is the most versatile protective enclosure for artwork, books and objects. In this two day workshop, we will construct a sturdy clamshell box using handmade paper and bookcloth that not only protects the objects inside but is a great way to present professional work. During the class, we will discuss modifying the traditional clamshell in order to accommodate unusual shapes, create divided trays, and even make secret compartments. Participants will also learn how to make their own book cloth which can be used in the workshop or saved for future projects. The clamshell box will be made to house materials that are 8 x 10 inches. If you’re interested in making your clamshell box to hold materials of a different size, please say so at the time of registration.

Reserve your spot by emailing me here. Workshop fees can be paid by cash, check or credit card the day of the workshop. Upon registration, participants will be sent a list of things they should bring to the workshop.



Box Making for Artist Books, Paper and Book Intensive 2015!
at Oxbow’s beautiful campus in SAUGATUCK, MI
May 17 to 28, 2015, Session 1

Stu­dents will learn how to con­struct pro­fes­sional enclo­sures for artist books using mate­ri­als and tech­niques cre­atively. We will dis­cuss ways that the boxes can ref­er­ence the nature of the item or items inside while main­tain­ing a cohe­sive design. We will explore a range of mate­ri­als, both tra­di­tional and uncom­mon, as they can be applied to enclo­sures and books. Through the cre­ation of a vari­ety of pla­que­ttes, we will also explore dec­o­ra­tive tech­niques such as raised and recessed sur­faces, sten­cil­ing, and wrap­ping curved board edges. The project made in class will house the prac­tice pla­que­ttes, con­tain a secret com­part­ment held closed with mag­nets, and have a divided tray within the secret com­part­ment with inset options, giv­ing stu­dents more prac­tice with unusual inte­ri­ors. This work­shop will be per­fect for book artists and any­one inter­ested in box making.

box for artist books

See the full catalog of course descriptions at the PBI Website.




Bloomington Open Studios Tour
June 6-7, 2015
Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 10am-4pm
More info HERE.

open studio



Adventures in Content, Charleston SC

Brien Beidler, a friend and colleague,  works at the Charleston Library Society and invited me to Charleston to teach Adventures in Content a month ago to a wonderfully enthusiastic group of people at Redux Studios. In a two day workshop setting, the students would work through their own artist books prompted by a list of three words chosen by me. In order to simulate the creative process from concept to completion, everyone was asked to think about these words before class. Once we all met in the morning, we went around and discussed our ideas for our projects. With those thoughts floating around in our minds, we began by getting our hands dirty with some practical techniques that are useful in many book projects.

Getting traction on a new piece, whether it is an artist book or otherwise, can prove to be more difficult than it seems at the start. There are moments when a particular stage requires an unusual amount of problem solving. Outside of an institution or a classroom setting, where someone is guiding you through the creation process, you have to find your own solutions. When working on your own, it is hard to figure out what you need or how you work. The best solution I found to these moments is the project Kristin, of Space Paste Press, and I developed in 2011. We not only wanted to be able to stimulate new work but also to have a sounding board when certain things caused us to get stuck. Prompting one another with topics, communicating during the creation of each project, and talking about the finished pieces provided me with the most thorough insight into my creative process so far. I reflect on this project and these questions so often that I decided to develop Adventures in Content around this idea. How do you incorporate good content into artist books so that the result is professional and engaging? What do you do when you hit a wall?

Trying out some techniquesIn the above photo, you can see everyone trying their hands at paste paper, paste cloth, and book cloth. There are so many ways to customize these materials to take on the feel of each project that they become a huge asset in the book artist’s tool box. The greatest part about working with people from varying professional backgrounds are the wonderful things they contribute. Experimentation gave us great results!

what can we get when we crinkle wet paste paper? a stamp being used to get great designs in the pasteBacking cloth is especially handy for the times that you need durable materials but can’t quite find the pattern or designs you are looking for in stores. Below, one of the students is practicing the technique with a small piece of cotton.

Sep132014_0040Working alongside one another while making these materials helped share simple, yet powerful innovations.

Sep132014_0045 Sep132014_0050Below are some photos of lovely paste papers, cloths, and book cloths made by the students.

Sep132014_0053 Sep132014_0054 Sep132014_0070Breaking for lunch, we fortified ourselves and released our brains from the exhilarating morning. Soon as we got back though, we got to a few more decorative techniques before everyone went to town on their individual projects.

Sumi ink and salt used together create a delicate but wonderful design in its wet application.

Sep132014_0072Acetone transfers are a great way to get imagery or text on a piece of paper that can’t be run through a printer. Citrasolv was suggested as an alternative to acetone. (It certainly smelled better, but caution should always be taken when using any kinds of chemicals in the studio. Gloves and ventilation!)

Sep142014_0029 The rest of the afternoon was spent with everyone working on their artist book mock-ups. Before the end of the day, I brought out the year long project with Kristin and gave everyone a few more things to think about over night.


The second day began with everyone jumping in and getting back to their individual ideas for their books. I made my way around the room, discussing ideas with everyone and enjoying the great projects that were developing.

After a little while, we all grouped together and each person presented their book project to the group. This gave us an opportunity to get immediate feedback…what is strong about the book? What would each of us like to see more of? Is the format working with the content? As an instructor, I couldn’t have asked for a more creative and responsive bunch. Everyone gave great feedback and helped generate a supportive working environment where we could all share these ideas. Thanks to the insightful responses, everyone left with fantastic mock-ups or the starts to their final pieces.

Sep142014_0014 Sep142014_0015 Sep142014_0016 Sep142014_0019 Sep142014_0026Thanks to all the participants, and Brien of course, for giving me the opportunity to teach this class. It was a blast and I look forward to teaching it again soon!

Steamroller Printing Event

It has been just over a week since the steamroller printing event took place in Michigan City. I have been reminiscing about the day’s events again because the post show opening is this Friday at Walnut Ink Projects (details at bottom of post). I mentioned before that it was my first time participating in this kind of event despite hearing about them taking place just about everywhere. The scale of the pieces alone is what really got me interested. Pretty much all of my work thus far has been smaller than two square feet, however, many ideas for new work are much much bigger lately.

blocks at the ready for ink

blocks at the ready for ink

With the event four hours away from where I lived, I decided to stay all of Saturday helping set up in the morning and staying until clean up at the end. This was not a requirement of the event, but as I found out to be true later, there is no way an event like this can run without a lot of people giving their time. When I arrived at 9:00am Saturday morning at Walnut Ink Gallery, there was already a group of people in the midst of setting up. I met the ambitious people responsible for arranging this day and then set to work hanging lines that would hold the wet prints as they came off the “press”. By 10:00am tents were up, inking tables were prepped, the steamroller was in place, and food trucks started to arrive.

block getting rolled with ink

block getting rolled with ink

But there wasn’t time to admire all the progress. We had eleven 3ft by 7 ft blocks to print throughout the day and each block would be printed at least three times. Luckily we had two art students on hand who pretty much took care of inking all day long. This is a big job (excuse the pun) because these blocks required a LOT of ink and a keen eye to be sure there was enough deposited on the entire image. So once the first block was sufficiently covered with ink, the excitement of seeing the heavy machinery roll over it was almost too much to bear.

in place and ready to print

in place and ready to print

In order for the printing to succeed, two boards of equal depth and size were laid on either side of the block. Each board was big enough to accommodate the length of the steamroller so that it didn’t have to mount and dismount the set up between prints. (The following images may help understand this idea better.)  So the inked block was laid down on the pavement between the two  boards. Next, a piece of muslin cloth had to be laid on the inked surface, in alignment, without allowing any creases across the whole surface. This operation required six people to accomplish, another instance where volunteers were certainly necessary. Finally, a thick mat was rolled out on top of the muslin to keep the cloth in place as well as to distribute the pressure evenly across the block. Once complete, everyone stepped back. Time for steamrolling.

ready, set, go!

ready, set, go!

After the cheering stopped, the mat was rolled away and the cloth print was carefully lifted. There is nothing like pulling a print, especially one that requires many people to move it. This excitement got artists and spectators really into the process. People who came to just watch ended up jumping in to help put down a piece of cloth or  carry away a freshly pulled print. The enthusiasm was infectious and I could see many people going away with an excited insight into this strange event.

muslin above block

artists and volunteers holding cloth at the ready

muslin placement

laying the cloth down

smooth down muslin

keeping it smooth

hanging a print

hanging the finished piece

The block Andrea and I had collaborated on was due to print around 1:00pm. So when the time came, I was ready to see how our block would turn out. I even helped ink up our block myself! The successful inking is still something I am working on in my own studio so I was eager to get some guidance from the folks who had more printing experience under their belts.

inking our block

inking the block

our block in place

block ready to roll

muslin on our block 2

muslin on the block

steamrolling our block

padded and ready

steamrolling our block


our printed cloth

its a print!

Finally, our block was printed a total of four times. Three of the prints were on the muslin supplied by the gallery and one was on some handmade paper Andrea made specially for the project. The prints themselves came out in a variety of ways. The first was inked a little light, so the solution to that was obvious. The second print, on paper, had some spots that appeared to have printed twice. This most likely was due to the nature of the paper moving a but during the roll and it turns out it should have been dampened before printing. The last two prints on muslin were a little better but still there was some ghosting or double printing.

printing with paper

lining up the paper

printing with paper 2

laying it down

steamrolling paper print

can’t get enough steamrolling

paper print

a print on beautiful handmade paper!

It was great to see the block finally printed, however I found myself wondering why some of these things happened the way they did. Due to the nature of the event, there wasn’t time to have a conference about the issues each print had. But all of these unknowns emphasized the areas in printmaking that I need to strengthen. I have much more experience making blocks than I do printing them. It is still difficult for me to identify which parts of the printing process to alter in order to fix certain problems with each print. This of course can only be solved by doing more printing and ideally while working with people who have that knowledge. All of this makes me eager to continue learning about this medium because it has certainly become a big part of my work.

After the prints were pulled for our block, I took a break for lunch. After I came back and the rest of the day continued like the first half. People continued to come and see the steamroller seemingly squash the contents below only to have a printed piece as the result. Kids were absolutely fascinated as much as the adults they were with. And to top it all off, we were able to print all but one print before the impending rain storm visited the event. Luckily printing in oil means that the prints were safe and sound.

Opening for the show full of these prints is:
Friday, September 5, 5:00-9:00pm.
Walnut Ink Projects
607 Franklin St, Michigan City, IN