Trouble is a 25 cent purchase

I was going to begin with my earliest books, but I am currently obsessing over book 61 so that’s where I will begin. About a month ago I went to Construction Junction, a Pittsburgh building materials recycler, to get a piece of rusting iron (more about it at another time). There was a time when you could find such a thing on the street. No more; now only plastic. I found what I wanted for fifty cents and then wandered around; they always have interesting things. I found a bin full of what might have been round seat or pillow covers, all in blue with the “Monopoly” logo, like the game. Also in the bin were were olive green fabrics with the beautifully embroidered name, Cleopatra’s Garden.

img_2589I bought two pieces for an additional fifty cents and started on a book. One of my favorite places here in Pittsburgh is Phipps Conservatory. It’s a nice walk from my apartment and I occasionally take pictures. Over the years I’ve accumulated lots of flower pictures with no particular idea in mind. Using Photoshop I removed backgrounds frommum the flowers and made them look somewhat like watercolors, then printed them out and put them in an accordion fold structure.


Full of confidence I stitched and glued the butterflies to the embroidery after adding iron-on stiffening to the back, and tried to glue the whole thing to a board. My idea was to put the accordion between two covers and be done with it. This was supposed to be a kind of quick knock-off.

Problem #1. The fabric won’t glue. It must have something on it like a flame retardant or spot retardant. I managed to glue the butterflies but I also stitched them and hadn’t tried to pull them up. (They pull up easily).

Problem #2. I couldn’t wrap the fabric around the board. It was too thick or maybe the board was too thin.

Problem #3. There wasn’t enough fabric in one solid piece to cover the back board.

Problem #4. I was able to glue the accordion to the board but the paper tore when I lifted it. There was not enough support to keep the accordion properly aligned.

These problems didn’t show up as neatly as I wrote them down. Before realizing this wasn’t going to work I went to the local crafts store and spent $7 on ribbons to cover the back pieces and tape to make the accordion. The tape was the only thing I finally used.

After I tore the attached accordion I decided to put the whole thing in a box, which I made from illustration board. I gave up on using the pieced fabric for the box and went back to the crafts shop for some paper; $3.50 on sale. Then I stitched the embroidery to a window in the paper and glued the whole thing to the box. What you can’t see in the photo above is that I turned the embroidery the wrong way. Also made a couple of mistakes when I put the accordion together. In Thailand they make a deliberate mistake in their creations because only God can make a perfect object. I tried to convince myself but three mistakes are too many.

So I have created another accordion and another box. Now I’m trying to figure out how to handle the whole thing. Problem#5, which is really the biggest problem, is the size of the embroidery. It’s actually too large for what I want to do. Still thinking about it.

January 25

Finally finished.


New box

Made a new box. Bought seam binding and stitched it around the embroidery, then glued and stitched to the paper. I was able to move the butterflies img_2626-1and restitch and glue them in place. They hide a number of stitching sins. The box opens correctly and there is almost enough room for the entire accordion. The last page has a problem, unfortunately. That’s my homage to the Thai gods.

This box is 8.5 x 5.5 x 1.25. If I were to do it again using the 8 x 10 sheets, I would make the box 8.5 x 6 x 1.5 and the cover 9 x 6.125 allowing an overhang on three sides. I hinged the cover using Tyvek inside. I would like to figure out a better hinge so I could open the cover more than 90 degrees.


I went to a real (printing) paper distributor, bought a good card stock and made another book. I made the sides out of single sheets and only laminated the seven bridge sheets. It's much better–not perfect by any means, but much better. Now I'm back to work on the Japanese garden book.

We've had wonderful weather the last few weeks so I've spent a lot of time walking. I like it much better than the health club. I don't know which is better exercise.

I looked at two apartments that just came on the market. One of them has wonderful space but I really can't afford it. So, we'll just forget it. The other would be OK. I'm not in love with it and I really don't want to buy anything for another month or two, so we'll just wait and see what happens.

At the beginning of the month, when the weather became so nice, I met up with another Pittsburgh blogger and we went walking in Frick Park. Nice walk, and I really prefer having company when I walk there, but going alone allows me to take pictures and spend more time just looking.

Here are a few pictures from my second walk in Frick Park.





The tree below is on the next block when I walk to Frick Park. I don't know anything about it, not even its species or why it grew these great bumps/burls. I'm just pleased no one has cut it down.


The book is finished

although I plan to do it again. I still want better card stock and better craftsmanship. Here's the book, closed.

The closure, on the left, is fragile, even worse than I anticipated, so I want to figure out another way to do it.

Back view:

That's the Allegheny River at the back end of the tunnel. Here is the wrapper opened.

The same closure works this way, also, finishing the back of the book when it is open. A view from above:

Photographing this thing is a nightmare. I no longer have proper backdrops or the lighting. Here is the front of the open book with the wrapper loosely encircling it.

With the two flaps opened you can look into the book. Here you can see four or five of the ten pages.

Unlike some of the commercial tunnel books much of this one has to be seen from above and as with many other books, each page, or group of pages, has to be seen serially. A few more pictures:


Here is why I want to do it again. Each of the pages should be flat, no curves, with sharp creases and no gaps. 


Back to the book

Thanks to some good questions from Mage I spent the last week figuring out how to 'package' the book, and how to end it. Remember those flaps sticking out the back end?


I've started to work from the back. Even with my fancy diagram I'm still making mistakes about the tabbing. Haven't started glueing yet, just cutting, scoring and folding. My brain doesn't want to deal with all of this, but I'm pushing it. Correcting the diagram I found several mistakes confusing things, which I clarified, I hope.


Horizontal yellow bars are the pages of the book, joining both sides. Three larger angles are pictures showing the depth of the tunnel, which pull apart to show horizontal structures, the bridges. Thinner, smaller angles are the water feature along the sides of the tunnel.

The rectangle at the bottom of the diagram becomes the wrapper for the book, reversing direction and fastening in the front around the compressed book, which is about one inch thick. The wrapper worries me, because it will fold in both directions, creating possibly destructive wear on the paper hinges.

I began working on the wrapper assembly and glued an additional strip of card over each of the tabs. This made the whole thing too thick and cumbersome. Back to the computer I printed the two small pieces, bottom right, together, eliminating the need for one set of tabs, and reinforced the fold with linen tapes; did all of the first glueing steps working backwards through piece 9; and put everything under weights to dry flat.  I won't continue working on it until I see how everything dries.


Finished, but not done

The book is finished. As usual, I am not happy, so there will be another iteration, this time with design changes based on experience. Usually I'm just speculating. The book, opened out fully, is about three feet long.

Here is a picture looking through the opening.

Sorry the pictures aren't better. I didn't set up properly; since I'm going to do it again, I'll worry about good pictures the next time.

I think this is not a tunnel book in the usual sense. It's really a tunnel, of sorts, but you can't see all the way through it unless you open the folded pages.

I've made several decisions about the overall look:

1. I want one more bridge after the second folded page.

2. I will remove the accordion fold next to the cover, connecting it directly to a folded page. Otherwise the whole thing is too loose.

Above, I clipped the first accordion fold closed.

3. I will be more careful with the outside accordion folds so they will be more closely repetitive, unlike what you see below.

I will change the back end of the book so that it is a closed sheet or another bridge. This is the one thing that needs a decision.

I want to decrease the number of pieces I have to glue. Unfortunately, even though I can print front and back with reasonable registration, some of the pieces have to be doubled in order to have some place to hide the glue tabs. My first thought was to print the bridges on one sheet, but the card stock is not heavy enough to support the other pages. So, each of the six bridges will be doubled, the three larger accordion folds will be double, and small accordion folds will be single.

I made a diagram:


Double lines are glued pages. Single lines with yellow triangles are single accordion folds. Probably makes no sense to anyone else, but I want it as part of my record.

All about glue

or as much as I can bring myself to write. I dislike glue almost as much as all of those details. I'm beginning to develop a technique, but it's still a challenge; either too much or too little.Too much soaks into the paper and you get streaks in solid color areas, like the sky. Too little and there are gaps between the sheets. Here you can see one of those gaps and the blue in the last page is streaked.

I tend to forget what gets glued to what. This is the second iteration. Each page has been glued to one other page, but when I got to page three I should have glued to two pages, one before, one after, and I forgot the after pages.

I did it again in the third iteration, but caught it before the glue was entirely set, making for a sloppy joint, but I wanted to see the entire thing put together. I finished on Friday and have spent the weekend trying to figure out how to do it better.

I went over to Staples to look at printers and paper (card) stock, and had a funny experience. The copy center has books of paper samples. When I looked at the samples I knew they had labeled them incorrectly. So I told this to the young man behind the counter. He was very nice and took me over to the paper stock shelves where he opened two different reams and then concluded I was correct. Evidently he had been stung by the mistake and hadn't figured it out. He thanked me for teaching him something. I hope what I really taught him was that old ladies often know what they are talking about. I bought a ream of something they labeled 110 lb. cover, but I don't think it is. It just happens to be the heaviest, brightest stuff they sell. I decided not to get a new printer, but bought more ink instead.

I still have lots of thinking to do. Next post I'll have pictures and the redo plan.


Five days in Pittsburgh

and I'm still thinking about New York.  I have several things to show and tell. First, when I went to the street fair in the village I emerged from the subway to see this.

The street was closed to autos and open to bicycles and walkers. There is an event called Saturday Streets and many streets throughout Manhattan are closed. Street fairs also close long stretches of streets. The auto is not king and that is one of the things that most endears Manhattan to me.

Later in the afternoon, after failing to get a ticket to War Horse, I was walking through Columbus Circle and saw a young woman in full ballet costume walking in front of me. She climbed onto the statue in the center of the Circle and took this pose.

Then she was helped down by a waiting young man and danced with him (he didn't really dance) all around the area.

You just never know what will happen right in front of you.

Here are a few more pictures from the HighLine.






At least I haven't been spending so much time in restaurants. Thursday morning Mary and I went out to the botanic garden in the Bronx. The well-advertised exhibit wasn't so spectacular, but the Poet's Walk and the lily pond were spectacular. Here is a photo of someone doing a tricky bit of photography. Just imagine if the camera dropped into the water.

I don't know if the other photographer found it as amusing as I did.

We had lunch at the garden, but most of our visiting was done walking around–my doctor would approve.

Dinner was a long visit with Jean at another restaurant, but I've been sticking to salads.

Friday was a real walking day. Phyllis and I went up on the High Line. This is a real winner. The city converted an old railroad track into a long, skinny park. It's a great place: you can see into back yards, roof gardens and other usually hidden places.

Here the tracks remain, but the ties are covered with something that makes for easy walking.

The path rose above the tracks, visible below, and everything is landscaped beautifully.

This time we had a large, late lunch. After I got back to the apartment, worn out, I had a very small dinner alone. 

No dates today so I went down to Union Square by myself. I was going to go out to Brooklyn to a Saturday event called a Smorgasburg–more food–but opted instead for a street fair in the village. Bought more earrings, and a Mozzarepa for lunch; wandered through the green market in Union Square then over to Lincoln Center, hoping to get a ticket for War Horse. No luck. Looked at quilts at the folk art museum, walked over to Lee's Art Supply to check for more paper; finally got a bus and I'm vegging out at the apartment. 

I'm worried: if I can't get through three weeks in NY, how will I do six weeks in Japan next year. Maybe it's the heat.

Sunday, Monday

I said goodby to Renee, who should be in Ireland by now, and  went down to Chinatown to a Chinese festival in Columbus Park. I expected lots of vendors, like a typical NY street fair, but I guess the entrenched vendors didn't want competition, so there was lots of gambling and game playing, cards and checkers but no mah jong, and a charming small orchestra, the Street Classical Music Ensemble. I thought I was videoing them, but can't seem to play it here. You may get to see it when I return to a higher level of technology. 

I walked from Chinatown to Soho to the Film Forum and saw a documentary about El Bulli, the famous Spanish restaurant. I had heard many wonderful things about it, but after watching the film I realized I would have hated it, even if I could have afforded to go there. I love to eat, and I love trying all kinds of different foods, but this restaurant was more interested in providing emotion and excitement, not so much food. It was described as avant garde. I think avant garde food would trouble me even more than avant garde art. 

This morning I went to the tip of Manhattan and walked first to the World Trade Center site. Here is what I saw–reflected in the windows of the hotel across the street.



Then actually focused on the site.
Continuing down Broadway I went into Century 21 and bought a set of three pairs of earrings for $10. I forgot to bring some with me and felt naked all week. Then I found a block full of food trucks and got a wonderful falafel sandwich, which I ate in a little park. Then I went to one of my favorite museums in Manhattan: the American Indian Museum at the Custom House. They have a great exhibit called "The Infinity of Nations"–a survey of the wonderful art produced by the indigenous peoples of the Americas. I enjoyed seeing it, but it seems to me there is great irony in producing an exhibition lauding the cultures and civilizations we have so completely destroyed.

Chicago continued

One of the exhibits at the History Museum was

Facing Freedom

What does freedom mean? To whom should freedom be extended? How are denied rights gained? These are some of the questions the new American history exhibition explores. Based on the central idea that the history of the United States has been shaped by conflicts over what it means to be free, this new exhibition uses images, artifacts, and interactivity to explore familiar and not-so-familiar stories from the nation’s past. From women's suffrage and the formation of unions, to Japanese internment, to a local school boycott, the exhibition highlights some of the ways Americans have struggled over the true meaning of freedom.

It's a powerful exhibit as pertinent today as its recollection of events of the past.

On Thursday we went on an Architecture Foundation tour of the Fine Arts Building, an artists' building on Michigan Avenue. I've been in the building many times, but learned all sorts of new things from the tour. I didn't know there was this beautiful courtyard on the fourth floor.

I would like to have a studio that opens into the courtyard and have tea every afternoon when the 4 o'clock low hits me.

Afterward we went to Millenium Park, the jewel of Chicago, and looked at the Lurie Garden. Chicago's motto is "city in a garden." You can really believe that here.

Friday morning I left Chicago and drove down to New Albany, Indiana, a suburb of Louisville, Kentucky, to go to Jan's opening. Here she is taking my picture. Be sure to note the wonderful banner they hung for the show.

You can read more about the show in her blog here and in the show blog here. It was a great opening and a great show. I'm very glad I went, although I hope I remember not to do two hard days of driving, back to back, again. I got back to Pittsburgh in spite of tornado warnings in Ohio and a terrible traffic backup in Kentucky.