More Books

I started keeping a blog in 2005 on a platform called Live Journal. It was called Moving Music and was about my move from Fort Lee, New Jersey to Pittsburgh. At the end of the year, move completed, I began blogging at Typepad so that I could add photos and changed the name to Fat Old Artist. My friends said I wasn’t fat, which I was–much fatter at that time; that I wasn’t old–Ha Ha. No one said anything about the artist part; that was the one I wondered about–am I really an artist?

I haven’t moved from Pittsburgh but the blog moved to WordPress and the name changed to Studio Ruthe after I found a link to the blog on a site about fat lady porn. Sometime in 2013 I stopped writing much about my life, started writing about the books and changed the name to 100 Books Before I Die. Pictured above are books number 104 to 110–the blogs in book form through August 2012.

This has been a big lesson in book creation. Translating content from simple chronology to double sided pages in signatures is not easy. Each book has five signatures with six folios in each signature–a total of 30 leaves and 120 pages. This is an arbitrary size that worked out pretty well. Signatures are sewn over tapes and open almost flat. My technique improved with each book. If I make 4 or 5 more (which won’t happen), I should be an expert. The last one opens beautifully, but I didn’t get the spine glued straight. Two more books are in the works. One continues from where this left off and awaits more content. The other will have a different format and be about the books.

New Adventure: 2 nights in Philly

The siren call of an exhibit of popup books got to me so, enticing three friends, we drove the length of Pennsylvania on Tuesday. I planned on the exhibit at the Rosenbach, the Magic Garden and the Barnes and scheduled it at my convenience not entirely engaging in reality. As we drove reality hit me in the head and I realized everything was closed on Tuesday and Wednesday . Since I was the tour guide quick revisions were necessary.

Tuesday was a long day of driving; we arrived, tired, about 4 o’clock . After walking around for about an hour we had dinner in the hotel. Wednesday was the problem. We started at the Reading Terminal Market, which was filled with people without masks. Then on to Macy’s to see and hear the Wanamaker organ.

Macy’s is operating on only three floors of the ten or twelve story building

The concert, supposed to begin at noon, finally started about 12:20 and continued with long silences until 12:45. I wonder what will happen to the organ when Macy’s finally folds.

Spent the next hour at the nearby Fabric Museum and Workshop; contemporary, somewhat interesting, more than a little strange. Then back to the car, starving, we went to the Italian Market for cheese steaks, three of them, anyway. I don’t eat meat. Driving around South Philly my friends saw a different version of Philadelphia and let me see changes and gentrification in the area where my grandchildren were born. We finished the afternoon with a visit to Ben Franklin’s grave.

Thursday morning I finally got to see the exhibit: first a tour of the Rosenbach library, then Colette Fu and Lothar Meggendorfer. I took an excellent workshop about making popup books with Colette. This is something I want to do, but haven’t gotten there yet. Meggendorfer was an early producer of popup books for children. I was hoping that more of his work would be on display.

We couldn’t leave without going to the Magic Garden. We passed it on Wednesday during out driving tour and had to go back. One of my early books was photos from the Magic Garden. I took more pictures, there was more to see, but I don’t think I will make another book about it.

We had lunch at the nearby Whole Foods. If only our Pittsburgh WF had as much prepared stuff I would never cook. Next stop was home. It’s a long drive across a large state. Mostly it was easy but then the rains came bringing a fabulous sunset and a great end to the trip.

Travel Diaries

From 2007 to 2014 I created four books about travel in Japan and China. Day to day information appears as it happened earlier in this blog. Here I will discuss the books and how I created them.  I collected all of the emails concerning the trips, all of the blog posts and most of my photos. All pages are printed on Epson Matte Presentation paper, which produces vibrant color and excellent definition.  All four books use Japanese stab binding or some variant — a mistake. Stab binding is best used on thin books with soft covers. These are an inch or more in thickness and have heavy board covers. I was going for the ‘Japanese’ look and didn’t consider utility.

For the first one from Japan in 2007, I brought back a small package of silk scraps that I cut up and machine embroidered on Japanese Washi paper. The glued on bone bead embellishments are from my collection of beads and probably come from India.



The second book is from Japan 2008. Using silk from an Obi I first made a photo transfer and then hand embroidered the tree with French knots.


I’d like to say ‘never again’ to that, but I’m working on binding a fifth book with the title in French knots. I’ve been working on it, off and on, since 2013. The book block is finished–it may never get bound.

I also went to China for a month in 2008 and spent even longer thinking about the binding for this book. I began with a large piece of embroidered red silk. While China clearly has it’s elegant aspects my experience was much more concerned with grit and pollution. Finally I cut up the now dirty, gritty bag I had carried all month, used another photo transfer, a bit of the red silk, hand embroidery–not French knots and embellishments from my collection.


China 2008

The fourth book, from a trip to Japan in 2013, is structurally similar to the other three, but instead of the stab binding I used three brass screw posts, fittingly called Chicago posts. The book is thicker than the others and the posts provide a stronger binding.


The paper covering the boards has tiny leaves embedded; the title was printed directly onto the paper. The blue border is book cloth, which covers several mistakes I made during my initial attempt at binding.

Slow Transition

Some time in 1972 or 73 I got together with Jan and Sandy to create a show for our mentor and teacher, George Buehr. He seemed so old to me and I wanted to give him this tribute while he was still alive. I’m laughing as I write this. He was 68 and I was 39. From my 82 year old vantage point I realize he was really quite young. While we were working on curating and putting the show together we also got together with other friends and made blank books. I had never done this before.img_2579After the show was over we had a party out at Ox-Bow in Michigan and I pasted photos into one of the blank books, my first real book creation.


Poster for the show


Hand-written explanation with pictures pasted in


Afterward on Sally’s boat. Me being myself. Graying already at 39.


Inside cover, everything glued in. Never been so glitzy.

Art and an Osher class

I am from a crowded place where siren songs
blast holes in the steady drone of traffic.
I see tall buildings and blue water and
smell bread and flowers as I walk
and sometimes unpleasant perfume
on fashionable women who walk past me.
I would like to taste the lilacs and touch
the passing dogs and cats
But never come close to the lovely ladies.
I am rather pleased with this first attempt at poetry. It was inspired by a wonderful Osher class I took last month at Carnegie Mellon. It was called “Artists as Activists Choose Pittsburgh” and facilitated by Leslie Golomb, who presented ideas about activist art and in three subsequent weeks brought in other artists who created activist work. In the final class Amanda Gross, a fiber artist, asked us to tell her something about ourselves using the following:
I am from… sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch

This is only a small part of what I enjoyed in the class. To explain, I have to make a small digression. Some weeks ago I went to the Carnegie Museum of Art to a space they called “The Sandbox” filled with “photo books” that are actually for sale. I looked at all of the books and understood very little of what I was seeing. The curator/salesperson kept asking me if I had questions. I think slowly of late, and couldn’t even begin to frame my questions. The books contained photos that may or may not have been taken by their author/editor/curator and meant nothing to me. She showed me a book she had compiled, telling me the photos were “vernacular.” That meant they were taken from a collection, made by someone else, over a period of 25 years. She got permission from the owner to put them in “her book,” which was bound professionally. I told her I made books and she gave me a look that said ‘aren’t you a sweet, little old lady.’ So, I am an old lady, not necessarily sweet, and I was confused. All of this was absolutely meaningless to me.

Back to the class: four weeks of food for thought about meaningful art, often beautiful, certainly significant. My artist friends are not here in Pittsburgh and I don’t often have a chance to participate in this kind of stimulating conversation. In the first class, Leslie, who is a print maker, talked about artists as acivists and also about her own work, which has dealt with feminism and slavery amongst other themes and ideas.

In the second class, Ben Sota, the founder of the Zany Umbrella Circus, talked about his passion for circus and how his presentations in other countries have generated thoughts about freedom in his audience.

Bec Young, a printmaker and fiber artist, talked to us in the third class. In addition to doing volunteer work in her community her prints deal with activist themes. Quoting from her artist statement: “…seek to give voice to stories that remain unheard with work that is beautiful and powerful.”

Amanda Gross, who inspired my poetry, showed us her beautiful work and talked to us about her huge community organizing project called knit the bridge, which brought people together from all over Pittsburgh. This last class tied together all of the ideas about making meaningful, beautiful art and banished the despair I felt in the Sandbox.

Beach walking

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Time does not behave as usual here; it expands to encompass many events then passes slowly. We arrived with clear skies and sunshine on Monday afternoon and again on Tuesday. Yesterday and today we have had rain, a gray lake and lots of waves. I love to walk along the beach occasionally picking up pieces of driftwood and photographing masses of detritus left by the waves. Years ago, while I was going to art school, I photographed alewives along a beach in Indiana. The fish were larger than what I photographed this week, alewives in Wisconsin. Perhaps I’ll make a book of dead fish.

The rain stopped long enough yesterday for us to visit a wonderful garden and go to a play in the evening, Our theme this year has been serendipity, or as Jan says, “serene deputy” and the rain didn’t begin again until we got into our cars to return home.

The garden is on the lake

The garden is on the lake

We actually get work done in between eating and walking and visiting. I am still working on French knots for my book cover. Jan and Sandy are both working on books. Anna, a newcomer to our group, has been the most prolific, with wonderful cards and a quilt top. When the rain stops I’ll go back to the beach for more pictures of dead fish.

Wednesday, Thursday


Met Phyllis at a bus stop and we took a very long ride to the Cloisters. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go, I hated the bus ride and I thought I had seen all the renaissance religious art I ever wanted to see, but– amazing–I found inspiration for my next book. Those heads sitting on the altarpiece spoke directly to me. More about this, probably not until October.

We returned from the Cloisters on the subway; a much quicker trip. I walked around to some bead shops, returned to the apartment for a nap then met C for dinner. I am thoroughly enjoying visiting with all my friends.

Excitement about the new book kept me from falling asleep. Usually I get so tired from all the walking I fall asleep immediately. I am almost ready to go home sooner so I could go to work. Today I’ll go looking for more images.

Thursday was another long visit; this time with Laura. I haven’t seen her for several years. We had lots of catching up to do.

Trying to catch up

Looking at the rain and at the apartments across the street

\ Looking at the rain and at the apartments across the street

Another sunny, pleasant day on Sunday. I went to the 3rd Avenue street fair, which gave me a major disappointment. One reason I loved the street fairs, besides being able to walk in the middle of the street, was food, particularly “Mozzarepa.” This is a made up, probably copywritten name, for an Americanized, non-authentic, Latin American street food–a circle of corn bread (the kind you get in American restaurants), split in half horizontally and filled with yellow mozzarella (not the fresh kind), and grilled on both sides until the read was browned and the cheese melted.

I’ve been eating this high calorie, high cholesterol for years, at least once every summer. I went to the street fair looking for my Mozzarepa fix, and found a new and different arepa with mozzarella, claiming to be made with real corn. I bought one; it was certainly as advertised and probably more authentic, but not what I wanted. I guess I have to forget Mozzarepa.

Met Jean for dinner and had a lovely visit. This is why I come back to NYC year after year.

Another lovely day Monday: brunch and an all afternoon visit with Mary, dinner with Phyllis. Lots of rain on Tuesday morning. I stayed here until the sun came out, then went to see the other two parts of the exhibit about Al Mutanabi. First stop was Poet’s House in Battery Park City at the bottom of Manhattan, then took the subway up to 114th St. to the library at Columbia University. These exhibits have given me lots to think about, in particular integrating content and structure, and I really enjoyed seeing all the books. After a quick sandwich I went further north to Riverdale to Evy’s apartment where my Teaneck friends gathered for a stitch and bitch.

Photomerge (Adobe Photoshop)

The blog has slowly been changing into a book. I got to March 27 and found five small images and the following: “The first sight of the park is jaw dropping. When I get back to my other computer I’ll try to put together the photos above to show the entire first view.” In the past I’ve done these merges manually. This time I decided to let Photoshop do it for me. To say I am excited by the result is an understatement. I can’t wait to find the next set of images I shot with a merge in mind.


Suizenji at Kumamoto

Suizenji at Kumamoto

Information about making a merge can be found in the tutorial section of Photoshop help under “Reshaping and Transforming”.

No excuses

Nine Mile Run

Nine Mile Run

IMG_5701 IMG_5703

I just didn’t feel like communicating. I’ve been working on my photos, remembering the gardens I visited and working on two, or maybe three new books. I’ll write about them when they are further along.

Flowers above are from a wonderful place in Pittsburgh called Nine Mile Run, at the south end of Frick Park. I walked there last week with Friend #1 and went back today with Friend #2. I’m trying to do more walking. We went to a new entrance to the park; one I didn’t know about, and took a long walk. Getting back to the car we drove to Duck Hollow where the run flows into the Monongahela River. More pictures soon.