Uncommon Handbound Books by Cindy Leaders

A Christmas Gift for Generations

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I had the privilege of making a very special book recently. A customer wanted a book for her elderly father-in-law to record his stories and memories for his grandchildren. He has lived in a small town in Nebraska for his entire life, so she wanted a map of his home state on the cover. She even had a title for it. I cut a window and placed the words on the title page so they would show through the cover.

She and her husband presented the book to him at Thanksgiving, and he was very touched by it. What a treasure that journal will be to the next generation! It was a gift to him this year but will be a gift to those who love him for years to come. My mom passed away in 2000, and we still thumb through her old journals every year when we get together.

Remember what's important this holiday season and spend some time listening to your aging loved ones.


Happy Birthday to My Dear Sis

Monday, October 18, 2010

As usual, the first breath of fresh fall air is bringing me back from my annual summer blog hiatus. Unlike many creatures, I hibernate in the late summer, when the heat becomes unbearable and we southerners need gills to breathe. But the leaves are turning now, and the days are delightfully cool. Windows open, I'm ready to re-enter the blogging world!

My sister has just celebrated a birthday this month. No need to mention which one. Let's just say it was a milestone. And as ever must be pointed out, she always remains older than me. Skies are her favorite thing in all the world, as I noted in a previous blog entry. So I made this book for her in celebration of the night sky.

She actually asked for this journal on a clear night last fall at our father's house. He lives in the middle of nowhere in southern Alabama, and with no street lights or homes nearby, there are more stars visible there than anywhere I visit. "That's what I want on my journal! Stars!" After a few false starts, I was so happy to send her this as a gift. Happy birthday, Barb!


Class Over

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I finished up Laure Ferlita's Artful Journaling Foundations class this week. This scan is kind of the "first fruits" of my class. I discovered a wren on my screened porch yesterday morning and got such a great picture of captivity and freedom in watching his struggle to get out. Six weeks ago, I would have been frustrated in my attempt to illustrate my insights, but I was able to sit down and quickly make this page.

Here are the last couple of pages I did for the class itself:

I highly recommend this class for anyone who is drawn to a certain type of art journaling. It's far more precise than a lot of things out there right now. It's not the deeply layered, collaged type of journaling where it seems you just let the page take you where it wants to go. She teaches the foundations of drawing, presents super helpful video lessons on the basic principles of watercolor and walks you through borders, backgrounds and planning a layout for your pages.

I wasn't sure how I'd do in the class, but soon discovered that I had more drawing and "seeing" skills than I'd given myself credit for. Again I know this is not great art for publication or anything, but this is exactly what I had hoped to be able to do. I have a long way to go, but Ms. Ferlita has given me a place to start. I definitely plan to take the followup course in the fall.

Thanks, Laure!


More from Art Journaling Class . . .

Friday, June 25, 2010

The assignment for this lessonwas to create a word in an artful way. I also incorporated a lesson on making creative borders.

The so-called "scary" parts are in the middle, but they're hemmed in by the cool, clear truth on either side. This is a bit more "cartoon-y" than I would normally like, but it gets the point across. I had a blast with this assignment!

Laure turned us loose on this one. In previous lessons, she created the painting for us on video as an example to follow. We were on our own this time! It was definitely challenging but I'm fairly pleased with the results, considering I'm new to watercolors.


Artful Journaling Class

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I've left Ms. Trout for a time to take my very first online class: Laure Ferlita's Artful Journaling Foundations. It's quite challenging for me as not only am I learning more about how to draw, I am dabbling for the first time in the magical art of watercolor. I generally work in acrylics, and watercolor is COMPLETELY backwards from acrylics. I am having to learn how to think and see all over again. It's definitely stretching me!

Anyway, I figured I'd share a couple of my early efforts so far.

I'm not going to win any competitions, but learning something new is ALWAYS good, right? I've got new synapses firing all over the place!


Little Recycled Remnant Notebooks

Monday, June 14, 2010

You can probably imagine that paper scraps pile up pretty quickly in my studio. I literally have an entire bookshelf that holds just "book innards" leftover from reinvented journals. I can't stand to throw them away. These little stab bound notebooks are an effort to use some of these leftovers in a creative way.

Everything used here, except the thread, has been recycled. The 20-ish blank pages are made from stationery that a local realtor discarded. The remaining 30 or so pages are made from leftover scraps from other projects: pages from old books and encyclopedias, as well as primary, graph, legal and ledger paper.

The front cover is a vintage library card embellished with some old postage stamps left from my sons days of "collecting" and rubber stamped for a little added interest. Of course, you know I can't resist a theme, so I've tried to coordinate the stamps with the title of the book on the library card. I can't help myself! The card is scored at the bound end to make for easier opening. The back cover is either part of a manilla folder (again salvaged from another project) or a remnant of card stock. It's all aged a bit with ink and bound together with red linen thread.

These are available in my Etsy shop for $10 plus a nominal shipping fee. By the way, all return buyers now receive free shipping to US addresses. I hope these go well because they were a lot of fun to make! And, of course, they lighten the scrap load. :)


Interview on Bookbindingteam.com

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Friends of UsefulBooks may be interested in the interview featuring yours truly on the Bookbinding Etsy Street Team blog.
Welcome, to the BEST interview series. We interrupt the showcasing of the contributions to our book swap for an interview with the swap organizer Cindy of Useful Books. She is located in Toccoa, Georgia, USA, in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains 2 hours northeast of Atlanta.

Hi Cindy, thank you for the chance to getting to know you a little better! I am always interested to know: How did you choose your shopname?

I enjoyed reading children’s classics to my sons when they were young, and we particularly enjoyed A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh. (Not the Disney anti-Pooh—the real thing!) In one adventure, Pooh was very proud to find a Useful Pot for Putting Things In. My shop name is taken from that. My little bunny mascot is an original design which I drew and painted. He is meant to be evocative of an illustration from an old children’s book as well.

Read the rest of the interview here.


BEST Collaborative Book Project Sneak Peak

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I'm participating in the first ever collaborative book project hosted by the Bookbinding Etsy Street Team (BEST for short). About twenty book artists are making pages for three different themed books. Each one in my group is producing the same page seven times, one for each participant and a show piece for the team. All of us will receive a full set of pages to bind into our own artist book. It's a very cool idea which I understand is done regularly, but this is my first. I've been a little anxious about my pages but they're done now and leaving for Utah tomorrow!

The poem upon which my book is based is titled Desert Lizard by one of our artists. I don't know if I have the right to print it here, but basically its got a desert-y, rusty feel to it, and trains and oil tankers figure in as well. Lots of cool imagery. My page is actually made from a sheet of sandpaper. The gritty side is painted with acrylic paints in hot desert colors. Since sandpaper cracks when bent, I've covered the fold with linen tape that's been painted with a textured rust paint. The tape wasn't sticking very well, so I used copper stained glass tape to cover all the edges. I like the shiny element the copper tape adds.

To the other side, I affixed a magazine page that had been treated with Citrasolve a la a CPS article from a few months ago. They're all different, but most are dark, suggesting to me a night landscape. I actually had these already and was just waiting for a place to use them. I painted and stamped the page just a little and added a clunky embellishment made from a big rubber washer and a couple of smaller metals ones that I aged, glued and wired together with copper wire. I was thinking "train" when I made these, but it's possible that they would stand in for the sun as well.

Can't wait to see everyone elses' contributions!


The Amazing Versatile Expandable Travel Journal

I have been pondering the Perfect Travel Journal for several months. Something you can write in, draw and paint in, personalize, store photos, scraps and memorabilia and that would just be fun to use. Something equally useful for artists, scrapbookers and journalers alike. Neither too large not to small but just right. I'm thrilled to finally have completed a form that I think works on every level.

(Update May 2015:  I now offer three unique custom map journal designs to fit the needs of many different kinds of travelers.  Visit my "For Travels" page here to see them compared side by side, complete with prices and links to my Etsy shop, and see which one is right for you!  Visit my new home on the web at FreeRangeBookbinding.com

The basic structure is an accordion book made from heavy weight 220 gsm paper. Not only does this provide an excellent substrate for the other elements in the book, it takes paint and collage work very well.

At 4-3/8 x 6-3/8, the journal perfectly accommodates 4 x 6 photos. There's window in the front cover so that you can personalize it with a title, artwork or photo of your own choosing. Whatever you affix to the first page becomes your cover image!

There are separate closures on both sides of the book so that you can open it either way to expose the section you want . . .

or you can open both sides and spread the whole thing out.

One section on each side consists of a pamphlet book with 20 pages (40 front and back): 12 from 70 lb drawing paper and 8 from graph, ledger, legal and primary paper for variety and a touch of whimsy.

There are also two pockets made from a manila business envelope and four tabs made from sturdy manila folders which you can use to add in MORE photos, brochures, menus, anything that fits, as separate "pages" in the book.

My favorite inclusion is a manila catalog envelope that has been cut and the bottom, folded and stitched into the book so as to form two envelopes, concealing when opened two small coin envelopes inserted between them. I've added a wrapping closure to keep everything secure.

There are also some blank folds of the heavy paper left open for your art or photos. And because it's an accordion, you can keep adding stuff till your heart's content and it will grow with you.

These are available at my Etsy shop here. They can be customized with any map you like and personalized to make it the perfect gift for any traveler, including you!


My Critic from Journal Spilling

Monday, April 26, 2010

I've been looking at the page that contains this exercise for a while. It's just been open on my desk. I finally decided to tackle it tonight, and the only thing I had in my mind was a magnifying glass. I so over-scrutinize, over-analyze and parse my work. It's exhausting. My critic got a name in the process: Scrooge. Tight-fisted, nose-to-the-grindstone, stingy, miserly Scrooge. The balance came in as I thought about how I measure myself against "better" artists. I'd love to say I thought of the verse in Daniel about the writing on the wall, but it was "A Knight's Tale" that brought the line to my mind: "You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting." Painful words I have spoken to myself regularly.

So here's what I have to say to Mr. Scrooge: Dude, lighten up! It's just art.


Lessons from Walkies

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I developed a wonderful habit of walking a few years ago, and learned to really enjoy it. Missing a morning made me sad. But then we went on a 3-1/2 week vacation, and I completely lost the habit and have never picked it back up. I went yesterday for the first time in ages and had such a nice time! My weimaraner, Griffin, got to go along this time, but I don't think he enjoyed it much. My two short little legs just don't set a pace his four legs can adjust to. I got some excellent insight into myself from watching him though and enjoyed journaling about it when we got home.


Wordless Wednesday - Goldfinches

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Art Journal Page: Your Inner Critic Part 1

Monday, April 12, 2010

Continuing through "Journal Spilling," the next few exercises involve "Taming the Critic." It's an old cliche that we are often our worst critic. We analyze our work in excruciating detail and stamp it "Not Good Enough" compared with some vague and indeterminate vision that we alone possess of what it "should" be. While we'd never dream of judging someone else's work by that same ethereal standard, we discount our own without prejudice.

Since I am a great lover of words, I did a little study of "criticism" and related words. We generally think of the first meaning: judging harshly or finding fault. But it also has an evaluative meaning as in simply making an assessment. A critic evaluates and issues criticism, which can be negative or positive, as in "critical acclaim." Another interesting word from the same Greek root is "criterion" which is the standard by which something is judged. When a critic evaluates, he is measuring against criteria, broad or narrow, specific or general, for success.

It's really not possible to "silence the inner critic" as some suggest. We will always evaluate our own efforts, and we should! Without reflection on our work, we will never have the insights needed to learn and grow.

What we can change is the criteria against which our inner critic judges. If my standard for success is to create, learn and enjoy the process, then I only fail if I don't create, don't learn or don't enjoy.


Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

For more Wordless Wednesday, look here.


Open Door Tryptych Book

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I took a class a couple of years ago and learned to make this unique book. It makes a great statement displayed open, so it's perfect for a special art journal, scrapbook or wedding guest book. I've had couples use one side as a guest book and the other for candid photos from the wedding. The coptic binding allows it to lay completely flat for signing, painting or journaling.

I've been snatching up all the pretty books I could find with identical front and back covers just for the purpose. Old Readers' Digest Condensed Books work well. Not the waxy ones from the 80's but older. Anyway, I've finally gotten on a roll and made a few that I wanted to share.

The trick to making these is getting the angles in both the covers and the paper to match perfectly. If you have a paper trimmer sturdy enough to cut binder's board, I've discovered a method that gets it right every time. I started by marking the angle I wanted on one cover and carefully cutting it on the band saw leftover from my woodworking days. The little triangle you remove becomes the key to getting all the other angles right. I couldn't begin to give you step by step instructions for the rest of the procedure, but a picture is worth 1000 words . . .

The only trick is marking the height of the spines from your first cut on the other front cover piece and adjusting the paper guide on your cutter so that it lines up to cut the right height. Once that adjustment is made, the back cover is a cinch. Prepare and fold the signatures, then cut them the same way, reducing the height by about 3/16 with one further adjustment of the paper guide.


More Journal Spilling

Monday, April 5, 2010

I was so happy that Journal Spilling author Diana Trout found my little blog and commented on a couple of posts! Be sure to spend some time at her Hub Bub blog. She's got some great video tutorials and wonderful encouragement for art journalers and artists. Thanks, Diana!

Last week, I created some background with a few different techniques she suggests. The first is just to make a page NOT WHITE! I started with some marbled paper scraps and just slapped on paint. The second was alcohol spatter and the third salt sprinkled on wet watercolor paint, a look I've always liked. Here are just tiny pictures of all three methods:

Here's another page that didn't specifically come out of an exercise in the book but ended up being fun. I was thinking about what it means to be disciplined and diligent, common themes for me these days. I'm a competent, rational adult, but there are a few areas of my life (diet, exercise and time management) that I seem to continually struggle with being disciplined in. I was thinking about what it takes to actually make a change. As I painted the background, I noticed a figure emerge. I sketched it out, and the rest grew from there:


Reinvented Journals in Action

Friday, March 19, 2010

One of my wonderful customers sent me some pictures of journals that I have made for her to show me how she's using them. It made me so happy to see the blank pages filled with stories and pictures from her life! Living in the Boston area, which is apparently the used book mecca of the US, she sends me the most amazing books to be made into journals for her own particular purposes. Always beautiful and often with a sense of humor, they portray a woman with a sense of her own personal style.

She and her husband took this journal . . .

on a trip to Germany last year for her 40th birthday. She said it was great to write about the trip and store memorabilia WHILE the trip was happening rather than try to do it after the fact.

I like to use "found pages" in my journals, themed with the book's title or purpose if possible. She sent me some pages from an old German child's book to include, and I added some maps and pages from the Germany section of an old encylopedia. Generally these pages aren't big enough to form a complete folio, so inserting them results in a 1 - 2 inch tab in the signature opposite the page. She said those turned out to be really useful for attaching brochures.

I understand that even in the big city, she's quite the farm wife, growing and preserving her own veggies a la little house on the prairie. This is her garden journal . . . .

She also has a journal for use at work meetings, one to record the bird action in her yard and, my personal favorite, one for she and her husband to keep track of compromises that they make so it is "in writing." I'd keep that one in the safe deposit box just in case!

Her husband is running scared these days, since she recently sent me nine (yes, NINE!) more covers to make into journals. Judging by the titles, most of them obviously intended for travel. I'm trying to make a deal with him on the side to dole them out slowly as his travel budget allows!

Thanks, Lisa! I'm inspired by you!