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life in balance


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Saying goodbye to a mentor and an inspiration

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As I finish this latest warp for Clementine, we’ve moved into the second trimester, otherwise known as “the time when most people believe it’s wise to announce that you are pregnant”. And so I did, and in return I got back some truly awful news; my beloved weaving teacher, mentor and dear friend of eleven years died recently due to an undiagnosed cancer. She passed away suddenly just days before I reached out to share my news.

Normally I really prefer this space to be upbeat, but if you all will indulge me, I’d like one howl out into the void here. Cancer is so terribly hungry; it takes from us so unfairly and it takes so very much. Deb taught me about a lot more than what it meant to weave with dedication and care to my craft – though I will always attribute my attention to my selvedges to her eagle eye in the studio. Nothing stuck out to her quite like a bad selvedge. Some of the things she taught me about how to live in this world are so central to my well-being that there’s simply no way to describe them. She was thrilled for me when I met my husband and thrilled for us when we married. Having known me at a time when I really struggled with what it meant to be a good partner and a good mother, I know she would have felt such joy for me as we welcome our first child. The notion of entering my thirties next week without her in the world is difficult to wrap my mind around.

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And thus, this week, I give you: some beautiful photos of this wonderful yardage, and a lot of respect for the woman who got me my loom and enabled me to do the work I do today that makes me so very happy. I know deep down that she would have wanted me to go forward with joy, and so I’m going to try. And I’ll always mind my selvedges. Truth.

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Announcing: the small press project

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So, today we’re taking an abrupt turn to the left as I introduce y’all to a new project I’m working on this year. I went back and forth about whether I wanted to talk about this before I was ready to fully launch the business; in the end, I think silence on the subject for the year is artificial, the sort of thing designed to make it seem as though this business sprung fully formed from me like Athena out of Zeus, and I’m not interested in that sort of showmanship. So! Welcome behind the curtain; pull up a chair and let’s talk about the small press I’m hoping to be ready to launch late this year.

When I say press, I really mean press; I’m planning to print poetry and short fiction from a range of authors, and will be both soliciting works and accepting submissions. I’m not there yet; for one thing, I’m still drawing up the paperwork, but am hoping for a split that compensates both myself and the writers on fairly equal footing. Certainly we’ll be more author-focused than mainstream publishing! The objective of the press will be intentional production – to create volumes where content and construction are in absolute, soulful harmony. I’ll be working at Pyramid Atlantic, a wonderful, professional space in Silver Spring, on Vandercook presses, typesetting and printing each and every page personally. I’ll be binding all editions by hand, and in boxed editions, I will be handcrafting the boxes to fit the spirit of each edition. We’ll also have the capability to work with artists and include unique printed or hand-drawn illustrations in our editions. I’ve been focusing on self-education this year as I work to make this project a reality, and I’ll be sharing those experiences in this space from now on, starting with this latest class in bookbinding at Pyramid.

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I’ve actually got a fair bit of bookbinding experience, but it’s mostly been in pamphlet and kit styles, neither of which is appropriate for a small press edition. I enrolled in this class to experiment with a wider variety of binding styles. We covered coptic stitch, sewing over tapes and working with leather. All three of the models we made are pretty labor-intensive, and some are more appropriate for blank journals than printed books, but I fell in love with the shape and style of the small coptic stitch book and am planning to do an early edition in that format. Measuring in at just 3.5 inches square, this book can expand to be as thick as you’d like; the thicker it is the more charming it somehow becomes.

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I was also taken with the structure of the book that involved long-stitch sewing over tapes; in this book, we used PVC glue to attach recycled leather from an old skirt to a flexible pink material for DIY tapes. I like this style of making your own tapes, but don’t care for how the pink color shows up at the edges of the tapes once the book is sewn together. Though I’m happy with my model book, I won’t use DIY tapes like this again unless I can figure out a way around this issue.

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I was excited to discover that our last book would be a long-stitch leather journal with a foldover edge, a style I love that I’ve been buying from To Boldly Fold for two years now. The sewing in long-stitch is pretty easy, but cutting the cover evenly was challenging and gave me a new appreciation for how well-made To Boldly Fold’s journals are. I’ve never been able to afford to buy a large journal like this, so I look forward to experimenting more with this style for my own personal journals going forward. I don’t see myself binding a press project this way, but I’m glad to have learned some leather-working basics.

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My next instructional class towards the press is an enclosure design workshop at Penland later this summer. I’m so nervous about being away at a workshop for two weeks while I’m five months pregnant (and let’s not get into how nervous he is about it…) but it will be an invaluable opportunity to really sink into enclosures and think about how to present the books the press publishes. Of course I’ll be sharing lots of photos and stories from that experience next month!