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Burning Me Open


I have had such a wonderful time working on this book. The project uses materials that are visually and texturally so rich they were a joy to work with.


There are 18 copies in the edition, plus one A/P. It measures 5 x 3 x 2 3/4 inches (closed) and weighs 24 ounces. It is priced at $540.



It takes the text and imagery from my 2009 artists’ book of the same title. I wrote the original text; the original illustrations were oil-paintings, re-created as line illustrations for this project.


The book pages are transparent, and thus allow sections of several pages to be viewed at once. The pages are rigid and thick, designed to display well both flat or upright. When displayed upright, lighting can be adjusted for increased interplay between the line illustrations and the shadows they cast.



text selection from the book:

there is one who touches me so it burns

my hands open

at their feeling of

the length of me


The materials:


Peltogyne (Purpleheart) is a tree native to Central and South America, growing in the tropical rainforests, This beautiful wood is a light brown when freshly cut that then shifts towards a deep reddish-violet as it is exposed more to UV rays. As a hardwood, it sands down to a smooth hard surface and once waxed feels wonderful to touch. Purpleheart is an exotic lumber, this batch acquired from a US company that insists its suppliers follow Responsible Forestry Practices.



Copper is one of my favorite metals and this book uses both copper leaf and thin copper tape of the sort used in stained glass. When the book is closed, it is possible to see down through several layers. A reality of working with transparent materials and text is that portions of the text will inevitably be reversed. This I find distracting so my solution for this book was to block the bottom inch or so of each page with an opaque (in this case copper leaf) material. I also needed something to help hold the pages together. I had first tried drilling holes in all 4 corners of each page and using copper wire as rivets but the task was fussy, time consuming with the end result visually dissatisfying.


The solution I settled on was creating shapes of copper leaf with PMA mounted on each side. The PMA faces the acrylic pages and holds them in place until the copper tape can be wrapped around the outer perimeter of each page.


How we did it:


The rigid pages that make up the text block are constructed of  several layers, a sandwich (from the bottom up) of etched cast acrylic, copper leaf with PMA on both sides facing outward and a second piece of etched acrylic. This creates pages that are 3/16 inch thick, their edges are sealed with copper tape.

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The covers were planed to 3/8 inch thick, the cover image laser etched in, the title area chiseled out, then sanded and waxed.

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The recessed title label is laser printed copper leaf mounted on museum board.  The book is coptic sewn across the spine with dyed and waxed 4 ply linen thread, using yet another variation from Keith Smith’s well worn Sewing Single Sheets (Non-Adhesive Binding Volume IV).

WIP burning_me_open edition_0001


My thanks go to Shannon Perry, who created the illustrator files from a series of oil paintings I produced in 2007 and my studio assistants Stefanie Cornish and Jonathan Wiley. Without their help this project might still be in the idea stage


Copies of this book are available for purchase from Abecedarian Gallery.

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Tongue Tied

Tongue Tied_0175This post comes at the request of a special collections librarian, curious about the use of wax (problematic in its stickiness and fragility) on the lid and base of this book’s container. The material use of Tongue Tied is an excellent example of material selection bearing close relationship to project content/concept.

Tongue Tied is based on a poem by Patricia Beers, a disturbing poem describing the almost unbearable results of a lifetime of keeping silent.

The subject matter is a painful one. One reaction to pain is what I think of as ‘fear biting’ – holding others at bay because to allow closeness invites pain. To get physically close to this text isn’t impossible but does require caution as it, and the box it is housed in, have the sharp end of nails sticking out.
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When one is silent, others have to to dig and pry to find out more. Some of the text is hidden beneath images that need to be lifted to be read, other texts have incomplete letter forms (accomplished by using an asian lace paper), making passages difficult, but not impossible to read.

Tongue Tied_0174Another panel lifts to hold part of a broken and smashed thimble. This obvious use of artifact links to the text line ‘whatever silenced me when young has put a thimble on my tongue’. Tongue Tied detailAnother panel lifts to expose the narrow shape I use to depict a scar, this one has stitching implying the wound is held closed, but barely.

A less obvious relationship of material to content is the use of a plasticized Wyndstone paper that reminds me of commercial floor linoleum. Here is the back story behind that selection:Tongue Tied_0177

When I was in elementary school, one of my favorite classes was science. The teacher, Miss Koury, was big boned and focused, quite often the butt of jokes I didn’t then understand. She brooked no nonsense. Typically there would be a lecture, a demonstration and then we would line up to gather materials for our assignments. I was a well-behaved child for the most part, and didn’t get in trouble for talking in other classes. But in Miss Koury’s class, wild with enthusiasm, I was frequently reprimanded for talking while waiting in line.

My punishment was to be locked in the storage closet during the best part of the class. The closet had a commercial linoleum much like the Wyndstone paper. I was silenced. My love of learning had to live side by side with a fear of being punished for displaying joy at the process. I spent the rest of my school life avoiding science classes. When I saw this Wyndstone paper at an art supply store, I was stricken by something I couldn’t then identify or articulate. I bought it not knowing why soon after I brought the paper to the studio I found this poem and began designing this book.

Tongue Tied_0173The book is contained in a black mesh box, the mesh walls held in place with galvanized nails, at the same time the mesh wraps around the outside of the nails; additional stitching helps hold everything in place. The use of ‘galvanized’ material is relevant. One definition is to shock or excite someone into taking action, the other to coat iron or steel with a protective layer of zinc. I leave you to reason why I chose these particular nails for the box.

Tongue Tied_0171Both the base and lid to the box are painted black, and then overcoated with a beeswax/damar mix that has been pigmented with dry charcoal. The result it a semi-hard surface that remains sticky, attracting bits of dirt and dust, adding another layer of the fear-biting concept to this work. Emphasizing duality by enticing one to come closer and then imposing risk of harm when one does come closer is a hallmark of some of my more succesful pieces.

Tongue Tied is held in several public and special collections including University of Colorado, Norlin Library, University of Utah Marriot Library, University of Denver Penrose Library, University of Idaho, Savannah College of Art and Design and Oberline University. A few copies remain and can be purchased by contacting any of my dealers: Abecedarian Gallery, 23 Sandy Gallery, Vamp and Tramp Booksellers.
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Cosmeceutical Collection

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This collection was designed in 2006, and the first copies produced that year. It is in the Alan Chasanoff collection, and in Special Collections at the Topeka County Public Library, Emory University, Scripps College, University of Washington, University of Miami and University of Denver. The archives are also held at University of Denver.  It was reviewed as part of Emory University’s Artists Book Showcase; read that review here.

Rather than completing the production all at once, I produced copies in response to orders, and this is one instance where procrastination was of tremendous value. Knowing more now than I did when the boxed set was designed and having access to different tools has benefitted the production process and end quality of the piece.

The set combines three of my miniature books (Belladonna, Compact Beauty and Lashlure), books that use cosmetic cases as containers, in a custom made box.

Production of the miniatures may be the focus of another blog entry – here I am concentrating on the box itself. Here is what the individual books look like:

belladonna 2

lash lure open

compact beauty

The box tray has 3 recessed areas, each of different size, shape and depth, for each of the miniature books.



I considered using wood and having the recessions routed out, and also considered laminating individually cut pieces of thinner material, such as Davy board to make the base. I eventually settled on a product called Balsa Foam.

WIP Cosmeceutical Collection

Starting with sheets of 9x12x1 inch Balsa Foam, I cut them each in half using 2 partial cuts with a power miter saw.


WIP Cosmeceutical Collection

I then used a drawing template to mark the surface for the interior cut outs.







These were then cut out with a power scroll saw, after first drilling holes in the cut out areas for insertion of saw blade. Balsa Foam is a handy product but I don’t plan to use it again. The dust generated by manipulating it is no doubt toxic and, even though I used the denser of the two grades it is subject to cracking and breaking.

Each recessed area requires a different depth so platforms for Belladonna and Lashlure are cut from museum board and inserted them into the appropriate area, holding them to the correct height by shimmng them from underneath with built up pieces of foam core. Compact Beauty does not require a platform.


After the tray is shaped, it is sealed on all sides with acrylic polymer. This helps contain the dust and lessens the absorption rate. Pared down leather is used to line each recess sides and bottom. The top surface gets a second coat of thicker polymer (a gel medium) that shows texture, then is painted with two layered colors of acrylic paint. The top layer is an ‘interference’ pigment so has a subtle sparkle to it, similar to that of many cosmetic products.


Pink leather (from Harmatan) is laminated to 2 play museum board, then trimmed to strips the length of the box sides by the tray height plus 1/8 inch. After the edges are painted with liquid acrylic ink, they are attached to the tray box sides.

There isn’t anything out of the ordinary in the production of the box’s outer shell. Prior to gluing the tray into the shell, a ribbon is run across the underside of the case between the recesses for Belladonna and Compact Beauty – the ribbon comes up into the tray and makes removing the books from the recesses much easier. Lashlure doesn’t require a ribbon.


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The case has a pink leather spine, the paper coverings are Mohawk Superfine Text laserprinted and then overpainted with a mixture of acrylic (pink again!) and methylcellulose. This is a necessary step to seal the transfer toner, which otherwise will flake off. Prior to this step, laser foil is affixed to the title portion of the text on the container lid.