Japanese Bookbinding Workshop

The four little Japanese style books pictured above are the results of a very enjoyable workshop that I attended last weekend. The teacher was excellent and I met a lovely, friendly bunch of people from near and far.

We made the books in a traditional manner using hand made paper string to secure the pages prior to sewing. The covers were made using beautiful Chiyogami papers, which are silk-screened using Japanese kimono patterns as their inspiration. Some of these papers have gold and silver details, all are sumptuous and a delight to work with and gave the notebooks an elegant feel.

Each book was sewn with a different decorative Japanese stitch pattern: four-hole, kang-xi, hemp leaf and tortoise shell using silk thread. We also made the cloth covered traditional Japanese Maru-Chitsu case in which to keep them, which is held closed at the foredge with a pair of Japanese bone fasteners.

I learnt much from this weekend workshop and feel that I could adapt this simple structure to bind my own books in the future and feel very inspired to make some more!


Gordon Setter.

I have been busy working on Easter artwork and a couple of commissioned pieces, none of which I can show you yet. This piece is something I did to illustrate a poem by Robert Burn’s; it was published by Kingfisher and appeared in “A Little Book of Dogs”. I am not entirely sure if the dog in question was actually a Gordon Setter but that was what I was instructed to paint by the editor at the time.

On Friday I hope to take it over to Chester where I will meet up with “Books Illustrated”, and so, in preparation for handing over the original I had the image scanned at my local repro house where they have a wonderful drum scanner. The repro house used to serve many of the local pottery companies; it is a sad sign of the times that in the last six months I was the only artist who used this facility. I dread to think what will happen if this scanner fails, it will be too expensive to repair and I have been unable to find another in my area. Of course I have a scanner here but there is no comparison in image quality. Before the world went digital I used to have my artwork photographed and put onto three inch by five inch transparencies, the problem now is the photographer cannot find suppliers of large format film. It is all very worrying and very sad, especially as I have to drive past so many closed down factories in what used to be the very heart of our pottery industry, poor old Stoke-on Trent!

On A Dog Of Lord Eglinton’s

I never barked when out of season,
I never bit without a reason;
I ne'er insulted weaker brother,
Nor wronged by force or fraud another.
We brutes are placed a rank below;
Happy for man could he say so.

Robert Burns

When life gets me down I find great solace in dogs especially my own little Jack Russell Ted. He makes me smile without fail; he lifts my spirits and keeps me fit. He gives me unconditional love and devotion and asks nothing in return except his keep. A dog that belonged to Lord Eglinton inspired this poem by Robert Burns but I think it will strike a chord with many dog owners.


Sky Walk at Kew.

Before too much time passes, I would like to share with you a wonderful day trip to Kew gardens; we actually went there in September but no matter. We caught a ferry at Westminster Bridge and sailed up the Thames on a sparklingly bright and sunny day. On route we passed many landmarks, houses and gardens of the rich and famous, gradually the scenery started to change from man made to a more natural environment; we saw many herons fishing and huge birds which I believe to be black cormorants which for some reason made me think of Edgar Allen Poe! They certainly had an air of mystery about them.

After a leisurely sail we eventually alighted at Kew pier and walked along the river to the entrance gate, remembering the days when you could go through the turnstile for a penny. The gardens are vast with so many delights on offer, far too many to relate here so I will just show you a few of the things we saw. We made a beeline for the newly constructed skywalk, I loved the idea of walking above the tree canopies and the climb to the top did not disappoint, although I did feel rather queasy looking straight down.

There was every kind of tree you can imagine and more, avenues planted with holly, each one different from the last, magnificent horse chestnuts, maples, alders, firs and beeches and of course oak trees, my favourite being the Lucombe Oak, which was first planted in 1773.

If you have ever been to Kew you will know how huge it is; we must have walked miles that day, in and out of hot houses, through Japanese gardens, we drank tea beneath the shade of a rambling vine and watched butterflies, bees and dragonflies until we had sensory overload! Foot sore and weary we made our way back to the pier in time to catch the last boat home and planned our next garden visit, this time to the Chelsea Physic garden, but that as they say, is another story for another day.

Generations pass while some trees stand,
and old families last not three oaks.
Sir Thomas Browne (1658).


Tea with Amandine Labarre.

Won't you stay a while with us? Pull up a chair and pour yourself a cup. It's time for another "cuppa" interview, this time with the French illustrator extraordinaire Amandine Labarre and I know you are going to love her work! You may already be familiar with her blog Epine Blanche

How do you take your tea and in what kind of cup do you like it served?

Answer-Without sugar, in a tall mug to keep it very hot… My favorite one is a blue ceramic one, homemade by a friend. If a cat could jump on my knees while I’m drinking from it, it would be just perfect.

If you could choose anyone, past , present or future, who would be joining us for tea.

Answer-I think I’d like to invite the great Arthur Rackham. I discovered his work very early and was astonished by it. There’s a real word in his watercolors, the shades talks to my heart, and so do his vision of fairy tales: his characters are full of grace, but there’s also something gloomy, mysterious and frightening in it...I find his Nordic myths paintings really mesmerizing. He seemed to be a quite lonely person, but I’d be honored just to share a cup of tea with him, perhaps evoking old tales quietly. I’m not very talkative either.

Tell me a little about your background in art and design.

Answer-I studied at the faculty, intending to being an art professor. But while writing my final dissertation, dealing with art and shamanism, I took the time to think about what I really wanted, and finally realized I definitely wasn’t made for doing this job..I wanted to be an illustrator, which had been my dream for the very beginning…I just was afraid to fail, but I had a lot of luck, and a year later I was earning my living with my drawings-thanks to my first book I wrote and illustrated, on the theme of faeries and herbs.

Where are you based and does it influence your work?

Answer-I live in Touraine (France), and really love my town. I live next to the Loire and run along it each morning: each day, the sight, the colors, the smells are different and inspiring. This afternoon I saw a kestrel flying just above me for a long moment, as if wondering if I could make a good breakfast for it; I was delighted!

What have you been doing/working on today?

Answer-Today, I took my bicycle and went taking some photos of trees for a personal book project, I also picked some lovely hawthorn berries I found on the way back, I think I’m going to paint it, but I don’t know yet to what purpose, perhaps just for the pleasure of taking a quiet time exploring their beauty.

I hope that you have brought along something wonderful to show us, what is it?

Answer-Well, It’s a picture from a little children’s book I made with my brother, an eerie tale dealing with cats, a quest for the return of light in a shadowy land ..It’s the 3rd book in that collection (this one will be published for next Christmas) and I’m particularly attached to it, they really are done with heart.

I think that is evident Amandine, thank you so much for calling by and sharing your work with us.