8 1/2" x 11" Book Making · Book Art · Drawings

Rembrandt and Jose

I decided I needed some help with a two-hour workshop that I was leading this past weekend. I looked towards two artists, Rembrandt van Rijn, Dutch painter 1606- 1669, and Jose Gaytan, Brooklyn photographer, 1949-2011, for support.

Here’s one of Rembrandt’s drawings:

Dutch Landscape by Rembrandt van Rijn

and here’s a landscape photographed by Jose ;

Brooklyn Landscape by Jose Gaytan

What these two gentlemen have in common, besides having both died in their early sixties, is the way that their works betray the fact that their eyes were wide open to the world in front of them. This openness, this posture of yes , is where I wanted to begin. Rather than actually teach I wanted these talented, interesting, smart workshop participants to spend their time working from a place in themselves that reenforced exploration and moving forward.

After showing a 6 minute and 40 second movie of insightful clips that I snipped  from TED talks – from talks by Elizabeth Gilbert,  Brene Brown, and Mina Bissell –  I laid out a pile of intentionally low quality black and white copies of works by Rembrandt, by Jose, and also by Elizabeth Murray, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, and Georgia O’Keefe. Again, I chose these artists’ works based on the way that I sense that their interface with the world was remarkably open.

Working on images by Matisse, Murray, and O'Keefe
Working on images by Matisse, Murray, and O’Keefe

After I laid out prismacolor pencils, black markers, glue, colored paper and scissors, we reworked the images of the masters. My hope is that by responding to masters’ work we give ourselves the gift of integrating great influences. After people got to work I just hung out a tried not to interupt.

This workshop was the quietest workshop that I’ve ever led. After awhile I finally had to interupt the work so that we could actually do some bookmaking. We hinged together two of the 8 1/2″ x 11″ papers that we had worked on, so that each person had a single 11″ x 17″ paper. We used this to make a V-Pockets Book Cover.

Last step was to make pages by cutting other papers in half, then fold them in half.

Pages were sewn in using a simple pamphlet stitch, embellished with beads.

I have to mention that  I was very happy with the way that people seemed to be involved with their work, and I was delighted by their results, too.

The last ten minutes of workshop was spent looking at each others books.

It seemed to me that the morning was a great success.

PS…At the end of my last post I mentioned that have copies of the BASIS 2012 catalogue to give away for the asking. That offer is still open. Don’t be shy! No use having them sitting on my shelf.

8 1/2" x 11" Book Making

Royalty Check!


Nine years ago Kathy Pike, a seasoned Scholastic author of educational books, asked if I would like to be a co-author on a book that has been entitled 25 Totally Terrific Social Studies Activities: Step-by-Step Directions for Motivating Projects That Students Can Do Independently. I did my work, received an advance, and for years and years that was the last I heard of the book. It seemed  to have been shelved and forgotten.  A couple of years ago I discovered that it had been published. Scholastic sent me ten copies of the book. It was a thrill to have the book in my hands. Now I’ve unexpectedly received a few hundred dollars of royalty money in the mail. I guess the book is selling…as well it should .

25 Totally Terrific Social Studies Activities: Step-by-Step Directions for Motivating Projects That Students Can Do Independently

First, let me say there’s nothing fancy about this book. On the other hand, it’s only $9.00 and it’s full of really  accessible projects.  When I first saw the book I was sad that it wasn’t one of those full color glossy bookmaking books, but when I took the time to really look it I have to say that it’s diamond in the rough.  The title references social studies projects, which is just fine, but it’s really a great resource about making books in the classroom.

The picutes in the book are all in black and white, but I still have some of the orginal color photos from my old camera. Here’s a color photo of one of the projects.

I bribed my children into doing the writing and making the images for this sample book as I wanted it to look authentic.

No one asked me to look over the way that the publishers presented the directions in the book, so some of the directions are not quite on target.  Here’s a tip: if you buy the book and want to make the Origami Pamphlet you can print up a better set of Origami Pamphlet directions right here.

Here’s another page. I’m showing this because it describes a clever structure, submitted by one of the other authors Jean Mumper. I’ve never made it this one, but I keep meaning to try out.

At the time that we were working on the manuscript Kathy directed me to a group of students who had made this folded circle book. I took some photos which (hopefully) give a sense of the circular way that the pages of this book open.

Folded Circle Book, unfolding

This circle is about the size of a coffee can lid.

Folded Circle Book, folded

The title fully shows only when the book is fully closed.

The first quarter revealed

When each quarter of the book is opened, a picture is revealed, and, as an added bonus, there is room on the folded piece to write a caption. The books that I saw were made with layers of  circles so that there are more than  four quarter pages to the book.

Folding Circle Book, with pages unfolding more

These folding circle books had some fun sculptural possibilities.

 It was a good experience to write my part of this book. It was a real pleasure to get a surprise check many years later. I want to say, though, that the best part of putting a book into the world is that I was able to write a dedication. While my children were young their nursery school teacher and day care provider, Becky Potter, was an angel in my life. There is no way I could adequately ever thank her for the support and care and wisdom my family found in her generous spirit. I was so happy to dedicate my part of the book to her.


8 1/2" x 11" Book Making · Artful Recycling · Books Made from one sheet of folded paper · Making Books with children · Making books with elementary students · origami pamphlet

Impromptu Bookmaking

I was working with first graders today when something unexpected happened.

Colorful miniature book

I have visited this school for many years, helping first graders to make lovely books, which they fill with their own original poems. (I’ve written about this project in detail at

https://bookzoompa.wordpress.com/2010/03/17/books-for-poetry-by-first-graders/), and here’s a sample of the the completed project made by first graders in 2010.

Today, when I walked into the class they were finishing up going over math problems that had been copied on to half sheets of paper. When they were done the teacher asked them to put away the papers, and we got to work.

My agenda was to guide the students through making an origami pamphlet out of a 19″ x 23″ sheet of paper, followed by making a book cover with pockets. What was unexpected is that they finished this all in 48 minutes, which left us with an extra 12 minutes. This rarely happens. I was about to hand to class back over to the regular classroom teacher when I remembered those math sheets.

We had just made the origami pamphlet out of large papers, and I had gone over the directions slowly and explicitly, so I thought that these first graders would enjoy making tiny little books using the very same methods of folding as they did in the bigger books.

They were stars. They remembered the steps and made their new little books in about a minute. Then they got to work.

Now, remember, these are first graders whose writing skills are just beginning to emerge, but, for the most part,  the fact that their writing skills were limited didn’t  bother them in the least.. I was lucky enough to hear an exchange of thoughts between two students: one child immediately got to work writing about rainbows and ribbons. The girl next to her bewailed that she didn’t know what to do. The prolific child told her classmate to just write words, but the girl said she didn’t know any words. Undaunted the rainbow girl advised her friend that she should just make up words. This turned out to be a satisfying suggestion, and the formerly clueless child got right to work.

It’s been my experience that if children are given little blank books they start writing.

Today I saw this happen again. As soon as the class finished constructing their books there was hardly another word spoken in the room as they all wrote, drew and imagined.

8 1/2" x 11" Book Making · Book Artists · simple book binding

Making Books with Ed Hutchins

This past Saturday Ed Hutchins presented a three-hour workshop as part of the Book Arts Summer in Salem event. Ed is the kind of book artist and teacher that I would recommend taking a workshop with no matter what it is he is teaching. So of course I signed up.

As everyone’s style of teaching is different I am pleased when I can be a student in a book arts class. Ed chose to show us how to make four different books using half sheets of regular copy paper. He offered Canson Mi-Tientes paper for the covers. The photo above, shows how Ed “set the table” for this class.

All the books that we made were sewn with a basic three-station pamphlet stitch. Even though these books look nearly identical in style, don’t be fooled by the outside covers…

We made a book with a pocket in the cover, and a book with tabbed covers, based on a Keith Smith design as well as a simple pamphlet .

Here’s the tabbed and folded cover in-progress. Ed provided a template for the tabbed cover, and even scored the fold lines to help facilitate the creation of this cover.

We also made a book with two groupings of papers sewn in onto separate folds….

…and to give the inside a raison d’etre, we added place holders for an image.

After we made each book, Ed made a point of talking about content. His message was ‘These are not to be blank books. You have lots of interesting things to say! ‘

He asked us to brainstorm on what we would put into the books. Here are some of the things that we and he came up with

  • poems
  • jokes
  • recipes
  • details of last night’s lobster dinner
  • leaf prints,
  • drawings
  • autographs
  • collage of a trip
  • a big eye
  • weather report
  • weather response
  • photos
  • family history
  • overheard conversations
  • rubber stamps
  • stamps harvested from our fan mail
  • phobias
  • what stood out about today
  • plans for tomorrow

Speaking of plans for tomorrow, my plan for tomorrow is prepare for the workshop that I will be teaching on July 30, as part of BASIS. In the next few days I will be starting to write about the structure, Hedi Kyle’s Blizzard Book, that I will be presenting. I am looking forward to having this excuse to make one variation after the other of these Blizzard Books!