To Have and to Hold is a collaborative series created together with visual artist Rosemarie Peloquin. These two pieces are currently a part of the For the Love of Craft exhibition at the Pembina Hills Art Centre in Morden, Manitoba July 3, 2020 – August 14, 2020.
Rosemarie is a sculptor – she works with her hands, felting wool into soft human gestures and portraits, imbuing painterly life into pillowy fibre. I am a book artist – I too work to give life to my materials, caring constantly for the form they will take in someone’s hands – their texture, movement, smell – all designed to be interactive.
I find that the beauty of collaboration is identifying where your work overlaps and exploring what can grow from that space.
For us, the connection is born out of an urge to touch, to hold and to be tactile with our work. A natural instinct that we both encourage with our viewers.
The timing of the pandemic lock-down coincided so precisely with the planning of this collaborative project that we couldn’t help but see the irony. Two artists living an hour’s driving distance apart, planning to work together to make art that is intended to be handled by our viewers – at a time when contact between each other and contact with our audience are ruled out? We had to laugh.
The sudden change in logistics posed some challenges. We switched to porch deliveries – Rosemarie would deliver a piece in progress and we would stage quick outdoor trades for each other’s inspiration back in our separate studios. I gave Rosemarie some of the cedar bark I wanted to use as book covers – she came back with the idea to create tiny, cradling hands for it from natural wool fibre, and thus gifted me tufts of wool to study as I worked. Studio visits became outdoor-when-the-weather-permits-visits.
I loved the idea of heightening the experience of the book as a held object. I often think of books as vessels for knowledge and connection. Rosemarie works often with the form of hands, reflecting on their ability to convey meaning through movement and touch. It’s fitting that at a time when neither of our works can be held by viewers, they can be given new meaning together.
As we continue our collaborative relationship, the poetry in the process has become about learning how to create together while remaining apart. It has grown in us an even deeper appreciation of our innate need to touch and to hold.
We would like to thank the Manitoba Arts Council for their generous support of this project.
The covers for this series of books are all taken from a much loved family tree. Three years ago one of our Pine Trees got knocked down in a lightening storm.
This pine tree was in the ‘background’ of so many family events and figures prominently in many family photos. It was a sad day when we had to take it down. It had grown from three feet tall when we first moved onto this property to over forty feet. A small consolation was a rough cut of the tree that I kept. Fresh cut wood needs to cure one year for every inch of thickness – and so it has sat on my workbench for the past three years. At times the bark wanted to pull away from the wood and I would gently push it back, apply some adhesive and wrap it in a tensor bandage to dry. I wanted to keep that natural edge!
Eventually I had the log cut into two large slabs but was still unsure as to how I would make it into a book. Many ideas came and went over those three years.
In a woodworking class I was told about the process of torrefaction and decided to give it a try. I baked the wood pieces at 350 degrees for four hours and watched as the wood took on a deep golden hue. Besides the aesthetic element of deepening the grain colour, torrefaction also strengthens the wood.
I was really happy with how it turned out. Initially I thought that I would make a large book with hefty covers. However, I eventually decided to cut it down into smaller books – each of which would maintain some of that gorgeous grain and the bark along the natural edge.
It took me a long time to muster the courage to cut one of the slabs into six smaller pieces. I cut out paper models, I drew it out on the wood, erased it and drew it again. I imagined all the possibilities in my mind’s eye … I didn’t want to regret my choice!
I took the plunge and the result is that there will be twelve books from my two slabs – each of which carry on the heritage of our family’s pine tree.
I wanted the pages to pick up on the unique grain of the wood so I aged them in a tea bath – allowing the tea to bubble around on the surface to create the unique landscapes.
All of the books in this series are bound using the two needle coptic stitch. Each one is slightly different depending on what best suits the cut of wood. This one is sewn with angled holes using linen thread that has also been hand dyed.
The covers for these books are made up of a variety of exotic woods creatively handcrafted by Tore Vollan. Tore is the Bestefar (Norwegian for grandpa) of my goddaughter Hannah.
Tore was born in Trondheim, Norway in 1931. He immigrated to Canada then moved to Washington State where he became a citizen and met his wife. He became superintendent of a construction company, but when his granddaughter was born, he retired, and devoted the rest of his life to help raising her. It was at this point that he began focusing on his woodworking. He crafted fine clocks, chests, trays, and jewelry boxes for over 20 years, often having his work displayed in galleries and winning awards. As he got older he made less and less, not just because he was tired, but because he didn’t feel he had a purpose. Then his granddaughter suggested he make a set of book covers for her godmother to make into a journal. This renewed his joy of woodworking and he swiftly created hundreds of covers that his granddaughter would either bring in her suitcase or mail to Winnipeg.
Tore died in April of 2018. His last act in his workshop was to pack up all of his unfinished work to send to Canada.
I am so honoured to be able to incorporate Tore’s beautifully crafted wooden covers into the books that I make and I treasure every set that sits in my studio ready to be transformed into a book.
This collection is currently at Woodlands Gallery in Winnipeg as part of their emerging artists’ holiday exhibition.
Being by water has always been soul restoring for me – whether it’s by our favourite place to camp in the Experimental Lakes region of northern Ontario, our home away from home on Malcom Island, north of Vancouver Island or once in a lifetime far away places – being by water gives me rest. I love taking long walks along shorelines and discovering what has been washed ashore.
These driftwood books are made from pieces found along the shores of Lake Ethelma in northern Ontario, Long Beach and Campbell River on Vancouver Island and in Sointula on Malcom Island (north of Vancouver Island).
Yesterday I taught the first of two coptic binding workshops out at the beautiful Runs With Scissors Studio out near Winnipeg Beach.
In the morning we focused on creating book covers on archival book board. Some of the participants had created geli prints from a workshop the day before taught by Heidi Hunter, others brought their own hand dyed fabric to cover the boards and others used maps and other decorative paper to cover their boards.
In the afternoon we got to work preparing templates, drilling holes, creating spine liners and learning the two-needle coptic stitch. The books they created are all so beautiful and wonderfully unique.
THIS is why I love the coptic binding method so much. It allows for endless opportunity for creativity and innovation.
There are still a few spots available for my second workshop which will be in the same beautiful setting on Sunday, July 29th from 10-4. This one will focus on creating books with wooden covers. The cost for this workshop is $99 plus a $20 kit fee which includes everything you need.