The Spiral Path of Words & Color


Happy Blog-iversary to me!

I began this blog to keep a (slightly) ordered record of my creative doings and makings. I figured the self-accountability of posting about my various colorful doings would prompt me into more regular habits. At the very least, it would create an ordered timeline of events I could take a backwards look at and track this meandering journey.

In fact that’s become a bigger part than I had reckoned on.

That was SEVEN years ago.

Much of my early blogging was to document my experiments in dying paper.

The idea arrived in my mind as I was pouring another bucket of colored water away, post-fabric-dying process.

Fabric dye remains ‘active’ for a relatively short time. Leaving cloth to soak for a long time will allow it to absorb deeper into the fibres, giving richer more intense colors, but the major part of the dying magic occurs in the first half hour or so. That pretty colored water will do nothing else. I got wondering – this is no good for fabric – but what about paper…?

In the passage of these 7 years I forget how I evolved to using inks instead of recycled dye water… something to do with the salt in the dye water being corrosive to the paper, and (more likely) the very dilute colors not suiting my bright vivid world. But I come back to these experiments again and again.

Way back, my first experiments were with an old dictionary. She’d already lost her cover and was very loose at the bindings. She was ready to become art paper.

Earlier this year I began playing about with these old book pages and something in my creativity woke up. I began what’s turned out to be an epic adventure into paper dying.

Revisiting ink dying with the remaining pages of that dictionary from years ago.

Life spirals around in familiar patterns – have you noticed this too?

The paper I’ve been using recently has also been from retired dictionaries. I remember these books from when I was a kid, they were falling-apart-old even then.

I’ve also got this 2 volume set of ‘The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary’. Huge books with multiple pages of regular sized print reduced into one. Barely visible words, the books actually come with a magnifying glass.

They’re so weighty [2 volumes of 4000+ pages!] They really feel like they’re holding the mass of an entire language.

I remember finding these books fascinating as a kid, but they were barely ever used, they’re just absurdly impractical. Instead they served as a doorstop for a while, and eventually found their way into a box of stored things in a damp garage. An unhappy demise for any book. Many years later, re-emerging, covers tatty and box almost destroyed, but pages miraculously almost intact.

This year these two gigantic tomes transcended into their latest incarnation: ART.

Afforded the freedom that this quantity of paper – literally thousands of pages from these dismantled books – I’ve really explored the ways the different types of paper take up different types of ink.

I’ve become obsessed!

I’ll show you more of these experiments next post, and what my plans are for these colorful pages!

Meanwhile, if you want to be first to know – and get a special discount on what I’m making – join up for my monthly-ish newsletter.

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Water In Parallel (part 4)


The story so far, has lead us to this point

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Now, if you know me at all, you’ll understand that I need colour like I need coffee, sleep and oxygen.

So while the peeling back process had restored some of the original brightness, it’s not enough for me. I’m getting hungry for colour and there’s only one remedy there: throw some ink at it:

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Swished with water as well (yeh – Water theme – Water literally. It’s the method acting school of artistry)

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Plus some black for more contrast, and some lime green and chartreuse for good measure (and for the fact they’re colours I adore)

If I were to try and define my process as a shape, it would be zig-zag: No sooner had I reinstated the brightness, I felt a call to white a load of it out. I know – don’t ask – I’ve stopped trying to second guess where I’m going, I’m just hanging on for the ride now. So I feel like wavy shapes will bring in more Water-y feeling (that I just can’t see now it’s ink drenched). I neeed more wateryness!

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This is a 50-50 mix of white acrylic and matt medium for a semi-transparency. painted on and dabbed about with a cloth for a dabbled bubbly sea wave froth look.

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Yeh? maybe not so, but I still like the effect. On a roll with the wave shapes, along came some more collaging from scraps that got in the path of the flying ink a few days earlier. (No paper ever goes to waste here!)IMG_4014

I’ll leave you here for now. Next post coming soon……….

Book of my days


I’m making a journal for the new year, which as the Solstice starts a new moon too, I began from it then. I’m enjoying the making process, and it’s another invented as it goes along adventure. And like all the rest of them, it’s a work in progress that isn’t exactly finished (the making stage) before beginning (the using stage). Kinda overlapped.

Over the years I’ve used regular diaries, journals, notebooks, sketchbooks, heaps of loose paper and the backs of envelopes to record the events, the thoughts and feelings, the minutiae, that collectively forms my days. On assessing the amount of rescued and recycled paper I’ve amassed, this time I decided to make my own book. I was surprised how easy it turned out to be. If you’ve ever considered doing this, here’s how I did mine…

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Obsolete letterheads, beheaded.


Here’s a thing about shop bought books – you wanna stick in new bits and pages, lists and the like, scrips and scraps and souvenirs and reminders. So either you gotta make space by extracting some of the pages it was bought with often leaving the binding loose and flimsy or severed and prone to accidental page-drop…. Or you live with a bulging wedge shaped book that won’t shut flat. Which is fine, in both cases, absolutely fine.

But if it’s a book of my own inventing… can I bypass that whole thing?

This fitted with the predicament of using recycled letterheads: once the letterheaded part was sliced off, the resulting folded in half size makes for fairly small pages. Not so compatible with big loopy writing that makes up words who need space to play in. So here comes the multipurpose wide page/thin page idea!

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I’m thinking the thin pages will be ideal for post it notes and small folded pages to be stuck in. And they are list shaped too and I love a good list! Consequently my book is starting it in the reverse wedge shape and will, in time, plump out into a flat book shape.


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The actual binding part (this is Coptic, but there are numerous ways to string a book here). My teacher is Sea Lemon. She is very neat and precise and I am not, so please don’t judge her instruction by my results! I looked at a few how to videos and found hers the simplest to follow. Then went ahead, broke all the rules, and did my own thing loosely based on this technique. People fall into two camps: those who embrace the slapdash yet sturdy approach and those who wince at the evidently hand cobbled outcome. If you fall into the latter camp, brace yourself, or click away now.


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measured, templated, holes completely off the line. idk. Accuracy just isn’t in my DNA. And wonky works too.


The paper is neatly cut to size approximately and the stringing holes were measured. Perhaps not really accurately. The knots are good and knotty.


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Not beautiful, but workable. I’ll settle for that. Neatfreaks: please Tut now.


I guess my reasons for sharing the guts of this cobbled affair with you is to say – If you’re at all interested in converting a pile of unwanted paper into a book you can use for whatever you fancy – scrap booking, journaling, some form of record keeping or and fancy schmancy writing and drawing doings – then even if you’re a careless, cack-handed hurrier like me – it can be done! Go and give it a whizz. If it doesn’t work…? well if the paper was already destined for the recycling box then you only postponed its destiny, used up a little but of time and in all likelihood learnt some useful life lessons along the way.