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An Old Dog Learns New Tricks – Guest Blogger Lisa Harkins

April 5, 2011

These are the four books constructed during the course, in addition to the wheat paste papers and fabrics created for their construction. Many thanks to Joan Butterfield for sharing her photos of her work for this post.

In the months leading up to the arrival of Martha Cole for her course, Wheat Paste and Book Structures for the Adventurous, I tried not to think too much about the fact that I would be out of town.  After all, I have been making hand-made books for several years now, and I wasn’t sure there would be much I could learn from her course.  I happened to be in the studio on the day Martha arrived for set-up, and I immediately regretted my previous engagements for the 5 days she was here.

You may have seen the brochures and information we put out about Martha’s course.  You might even have been to Martha’s web site to see more of her work.  I can only tell you that no picture does justice to the work that Martha brought with her to show the students.  I have made paste papers, but Martha’s achieve an intensity of color and a depth of texture that really must be seen in person.  I have made book cloths, but the layers of color, stitch, and collage in Martha’s are simply unbelievable.  Her combinations of content and design make for exciting books that effectively demonstrate the unlimited possibilities of this medium.  I was very lucky to have the chance to sit in her course for just one day in the wheat paste portion of the course.  The day was jam-packed with the elements promised in the course description, but Martha also pays attention to the fine details of construction. A self-taught student like me will be amazed at what they don’t know, and should really treat themselves to the opportunity to gain a strong foundation in the basics.

Two student covers show the beautiful effects of wheat paste, while books in the background hint at what is to come.

Our students seem to always be on the hunt for presentations that showcase their design and stitch, and Martha brought some book structures she specifically designed with those needs in mind.  A textile designer/maker herself, she understands the unique needs for book presentations of stitch, and her art background shows in her book design.  We look forward to Martha’s return – keep your eye out for future opportunities to take a class with her, and don’t do what I did.  Be here.

Martha brought a star structure that, for the purposes of learning, was designed to incorporate images from calendar pages. Joan's inclusion of her own, hand-made prints lend a distinct flavor to her lovely book themed on pomegranates.

This sweet little accordion book has a drummed cover that Martha designed with embroiderers in mind.

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