Saturday, 18 July 2015


Sitting in the middle of summer, I look back and think about the artist books I have made and exhibited over the years and I look ahead at teaching the Book Arts course over the next three semesters.  



Over the years I have played with papers, objects, and themes to create a number of artist books   I grew up on a large lake and in the summer we were water babies, spending most of our summer holidays playing in the lake.  My newest creation is based on the theme of water. The simple story being told in this book is from the water's perspective, telling the reader about it's personal traits.   

For the cover of this book, I found a beautiful piece of stained glass that represented the characteristics one would find in water
I used the Suminagashi marbling technique to marble the pages of the book.  For the first time in my book making life,  I used letter press, hand setting wood and metal letters and using the Vandercook press.  I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the process and the final outcome very much.  

Other pages in the book include different pictures of water on a background of roasted seaweed and laminated together. 

 Here are some examples of the letter press on the marbled pages.  

 I made a clam shell box for the book and lined it with quilted fabric. The outside of the box is covered with hand dyed canvas, a small piece can be seen here on the inside spine. 

For viewing the book I created a cradle, lined with the same quilted fabric, and I used leather for the spine.  This book will be in the Instructor's Exhibit at the Ottawa School of Art Gallery at the Shenkman Arts Centre from August 7th to September 6th.  The vernissage is on August 23rd from 1:00 to 3:00 pm. 


I designed and bound two books that went to the Artist Book Exhibit at Cuesta College in California.  The theme for the first one was reflection.  One of my students gave me a small piece of mirrored paper and I found some at the local art store.  I like to photograph reflections and I decided to put the two elements together.  


I did an abstract drawing on the cover, a small paper cut in the top right hand corner and I used a stencil and coloured India ink pens for the title. 

I hand dyed the pages and then suspended the photographs in the center of each page.  Each photograph was backed with the mirrored paper so that it would reflect the image on the opposite page - the viewer gets a reflection of a reflection.  It is great fun leafing through this book and seeing these reflections. 

 These are lights in an elevator, reflected on the walls. The image on the left is the mirrored paper and the image on the right is the actual photograph.
This is an image of the parliament buildings reflected in one of the glass fronted buildings across the street. 

 This is a reflection in the fire hall door next to the building I was living in.  Across the street was a car dealership and the different shapes and colours created a very interesting reflection in the glass.  

 This picture is the reflection of the autumn colours of trees in the Rideau Canal. 


The theme, for this book is Illumination.  One summer evening I started playing with my camera while taking pictures of night lights and I created some very interesting images.  I call them my experimental photography.  

 This is the cover and it is a picture of a staircase with lighting along its sides.  It looks like a large spider with coloured legs.  This is the second time I used the letterpress and I enjoyed it just as much as the first time.  I used different words beside each photograph to describe the lights.

Each photograph was backed with the same mirrored paper as in the Reflection book.  Instead of suspending the photographs on each page, I decided to create paper cuts, that represented the photograph, on the other side of the page. 


The cremation of Sam McGee, by Robert W. Service,  was and still is one of my favourite poems.  I created a double accordion book, for this poem, which represents a barge.  

The front of the book is shaped like the front of a barge and the back of the book is shaped like a sail boat.  The sails are hand dyed canvas. 

Front view of book - barge

Rear view of book - sail boat
The poem was computer generated. For the parts of the poem that talked about the north  I used photographs of the Canadian arctic as the background and for the parts of the poem that talked about warmth and the south, I used photographs with summer images. 

This book was part of a group exhibit called, 'Warmth', at  The Cube gallery in Ottawa.  


A couple of years ago I ventured into the world of zines.  In my mind I was going to make a typically small zine, just to see how it felt.  Well, to my surprise, I created a much larger piece that I really like and is now a part of my personal collection.  I made one copy of it for a friend.  As the images started to appear, the title, 'She Zine', exposed itself. 

This is an accordion book and the pages have been glued to Fabriano card stock.  I used India ink pens to draw the images and India ink brush pens to color the images.  The text throughout the book is handwritten and there is one line on each page. 

                She Zine                            Peeking over the garden wall, she looked out into the world. 

 Donning her favourite hat, she ventured out.          She walked through the parks.

                                She explored the cities.              She traveled in cars. 

                               She flew to different places.            She thought about her garden. 

                 She knew it was time to return home.                The End

When closed this book measures: 10 1/8 x 6 3/4 x 1/2 inches/25.5 x 17 x 1.2 cm.
When opened it measures: 10 1/8 x 6 3/4 x 34 inches/25.5 x 17 x 86 cm. 


A number of years ago, I received a grant for a solo exhibit of my books.  Using my hands to create the templates, I made a number of artist books.  The exhibit was called, 'A Show of Hands'

This is one of the books in the collection, taken by Frederic Dekkel, a professional Photographer.  It appeared on my promotional cards.  This book included tunnel, pop-up and accordion techniques.  I used balsa wood for the hands and lined each hand with a wood textured Lokta paper.  Included in this piece were photographs of trees and foliage and the front doors to a building at the Arboretum in Ottawa. 

This is a side view of the book.

This is an interactive book that viewers were invited to play with.  It was made completely of acrylic and I formed the hands into common signals.  The stand is a staircase and the hands were inserted into a slot on each step.  People were invited to move the hands around and hang words on the hands to create their own story. 

These two hands became covers for an accordion book in the exhibit.  

This was another accordion book in the exhibit.  Most of the photographs used in the books were images of peoples' hands performing tasks. 

This was a hanging book.  Each hand was made from fabric and I hand embroidered the designs on the fabric.  I backed each piece with terra skin and then covered it with textured Lokta paper.  Words were attached to the fingers and the hands were joined, in pairs, by braided threads. 

This is a tunnel book and I called it, 'Boys and Their Toys at Work'.  I used photographs of construction sites, men at work on the sites, and images of the equipment they used for their work.  

This is looking into the tunnel.  You can see the hand on the controls in the front.  The image that looks like a dinosaur head is a piece of heavy equipment.  


Recently there was a call for an artist book with the theme, Confined, Concealed and Collected. 

I created this Japanese Hidden Compartment box in response to the call.  

 This is the box closed.  I used metal pieces from a camera I took apart as part of the closures. I used a shell to lift one side of the lid and a hand blown bead for the other side of the lid.

When opened, the viewer sees confined, on the left hand side. Pieces of paper were folded together and confined with threads.  On the right hand side, pieces of paper were  folded and concealed in the folds are words that represent conceal.  This piece can be pulled up so that viewers can see the words inside. 

Turning the box around, the viewer finds the hidden compartment called collected.  This compartment contains leaves, glass hearts, a scrabble letter, the key off a computer key board,  dice, a maple leaf and maple keys, a chicken bone, and a piece of crystal.  This piece will be in the Instructor's Exhibit at the Ottawa School of Art Gallery at the Shenkman Arts Centre from August 7th to September 6th.  The vernissage is on August 23rd from 1:00 to 3:00 pm.  


This was another exhibit I had at the Arts Ottawa East Gallery, called, 'Couples.'  A while back I had a student who was telling me about her challenges with dating.  She said one fellow told her he was a 'confirmed bachelor.'  We had a good chuckle about that and when I went home I started wondering what it meant to be a confirmed bachelor.  Who did the confirming?  What did it actually mean to be a confirmed bachelor?  What were the rules?  This got me thinking about couples and how we define couples.  As a result, I created a number of books and story rooms around couples.   

The Delicious Diva and The Confirmed Bachelor 

This is the book that started it all.  

This was the first book in the collection.  I called it The Delicious Diva and The Confirmed Bachelor.  I cut female torsos out of book board and covered them with decorative papers and leather.  This is the cover for one end of this double accordion book. 

This is the Delicious Diva's side of the book.  I used photographic images that were curvaceous and rounded for the background and  I incorporated the poem, Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou. 

This is the cover of the other end of the book and it is the male torso cut from book board and covered with decorative papers and leather.  

For the Confirmed Bachelor's side of the book, I used photographic images of angular buildings for the background and incorporated the poem, To Lou Andreas Solome by Rainer Maria Rilke.


This is another couple, Peter Rabbit and Mr. MacGregor, from the stories of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter.  This is a double accordion book with hand dyed paper, hand drawings and paper cut outs.

Here is Peter Rabbit on the cover of one end of the book.  He is made out of rabbit fur and leather. 

Here is Mr. MacGregor on the cover at the other end of the book.  He is made from leather and rabbit fur. 

I hand wrote the text for this book.  I did a maquette first to make sure I could do the drawings and cut outs and calculate the number of pages it would take.  I wanted to make sure the images would correspond with the written text. I used India ink brush pens for the colour in the cut outs and drawings.  


I was experiencing a bit of creative lethargy at one point in designing pieces for this exhibit.  I was telling a friend  about it and she suggested Venus Fly Trap which fit very well with the couples theme when I included the fly.  I found two poems online, one from the perspective of the fly and the other from the perspective of the Venus Fly trap.  

These were so much fun to make.  I used an image transfer method to transfer the text into the fly traps, porcupine quills were used for the hairs and I used two dried acorns for the bodies of the flies with textured leather for the wings.  The paper was hand dyed and coated with a gel gloss.  

The Fly  

                                                         By John Ryles, 2011

It was an autumn day; a fresh aroma the air.
Breathing in deeply, I was trapped in a snare.
How was I loured into this dangerous trap,
I was not looking or even aware.

There was a sweet sticky dew tasting like mead,
This honey nectar turned my head to greed.
Losing control I was going out of my mind,
In a strange flower bed, I left my world behind.

Now wondering in a deep psychedelic dream,
I am floating eagerly down a rainbow stream.
Tender fresh flesh standing bold and proud,
Attracting prey with her bright coloured shroud.

Giving in freely, about to be devoured.
My censors telling me I was being deflowered.
There were silky soft hairs all over my skin,
Is a shocking end about to begin?

If no one had noticed I was ensnared in this place,
It may have all ended in humiliation and disgrace.
Now in so deep I have lost all self control,
It was as if a demon had stolen my soul.

Just then a watchful serpent raised its head,
Looking straight at me it hissed and said.
“I can see you; you have had your fun,
Now it is time to pay, or get out and run.”

Shocked out of the dream, I saw my plight,
What he said was true, I made my flight.
Lucky to escape, my advice is here,
If you see a Venus Flytrap,



                                                               By Rich Benney

Venus said

“Come in,

I’ll shut the door,” 

And so he flew


Never to fly out again - - -

“Welcome to dinner,”

She said,

“I love

Insectual a fares

And dining

On the fly - - -

Do I lie?

This is an assortment of the artist books I have designed, created and exhibited over the last couple of years.  I find making artist books is a great way to release my creativity.  


The Ottawa School of Art is offering my Book Arts Course again this fall, winter and spring.  There will also be some workshops offered at the Shenkman Arts Centre campus.  The fall semester will be Introductory Book Arts; the winter semester will be Artist Books and the spring semester will be  Boxes and Story Rooms.  I teach at both campuses: evenings at the 35 George Street campus and Wednesday afternoons at the Shenmkan Arts Centre campus.  For course and workshop information and registration, go to: interest/adult


Where you can find my books:
  • Ottawa School of Art Boutique, 35 George Street, Ottawa, Ontario 
  • Ottawa Art Gallery, 2 Daly Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario 
  • La Fab Gallery, Old Chelsea, Quebec 
You can also contact me:,  for information about, availability of and prices for my books.  

I hope you are enjoying your summer and wishing you relaxation for the remainder of the season.  



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