Interview with Design Sponge: A Historical Landmark in the Hudson Valley gets Revitalized by Kat Howard

What a whirlwind the last few months have been! I had my second baby (welcome to the world Ronia Skye!), my toddler started preschool, I have been spending every spare moment prepping my collection of tapestries for the Surface Gallery show, and I was interviewed about our old stone house for Design Sponge!

Restoring our historic Dutch home has been a true labor of love, there have been many *surprises,* twists, and turns along the road to bringing it back to life. It feels like there's always a gutter to be replaced, or paint that needs redoing, trees that need pruning, the list goes on and on; so it was therapeutic to share the story about why we actually fell in love with this house in the first place and give a behind the scenes tour of my home studio. You can read the whole interview on Design Sponge

Special thanks to Zio & Sons who styled this beautiful shoot, Hops Petunia who arranged the glorious flowers, and Marili Forastieri for the photography. 

Twenty Things About Me... by Kat Howard

self-portrait next to our 17th century stone house in the Hudson Valley

self-portrait next to our 17th century stone house in the Hudson Valley

It's been a while since I've added a new post to the blog *hides behind massive pile of unsorted yarn and half finished works,* but writing more frequently is definitely something I would like to do in the coming year. For one thing, there's so much that happens in the process of making art, which I would like to document. Sharing the end results of sometimes, weeks, or months of work is all well and good, but that polished final product isn't the reason I'm drawn to create.

Hopefully, in archiving the journey as to how I arrive at the finished artist's book, tapestry, or poem, I'll develop a better understanding of the piece itself -- or at the very least, I'll know where to pick up the loose threads of inspiration when starting future projects. So, stay tuned...

To kick off this new era of being more transparent about my creative process, I'm sharing a list that I was recently asked to make called #twentythingsaboutme as part of an artist spotlight on Instagram. I tried to pick some little known facts, that in one way or another, shape my artistic practice today:

1. I'm a classically trained bookbinder

2. and a letterpress printer

3. I used to work managing Interactive Media for the Whitney Museum of American Art

4. I have two masters degrees, one in poetry and one in book art

5. I'm a history nerd, most of my creative projects are research based

6. the largest work of art I've made was 25 x 15 feet, the smallest, under an inch

7. I'm the mother of a 2 year old and expecting a second baby in June. Heaven help me!

8. I used to think I'd only ever want to live in big cities, but now live in a village in the Hudson Valley/Catskills region of Upstate New York

9. I live in a stone house that was built in 1680, the beams in the basement are charred from when the Brittish attacked in 1777

10. Being a custodian for this ancient home feels like a third job some times, but I love it, smoky chimneys and all.

11. I love fires and the ancient traditions associated with them, so much so that my husband and I got married in front of a roaring hearth

12. Lapsang souchong is my favorite type of tea, and I'm addicted to any coffee from Ethiopia

13. The darker, stormier, mistier day, the better

14. I'll choose to meet you in a coffee shop over a bar any day

15. My mother is Swedish, so you'll see a lot of Scandinavian references in my work

16. Traveling has always been a big part of my life; I have family in Sweden and Ireland

17. My Myers Briggs personaltiy is INFJ

18. I love baking and recently took a class on how to make French macarons

19. I have a secret blog with my sister where we talk about YA novels featuring female characters with agency

20. I'm pretty much undefeated at Star Wars trivial pursuit

 

A Strange and Wondrous Odyssey towards Change by Kat Howard

Our 335 year old stone house...

"The last thing I wanted was infinite security and to be the place an arrow shoots off from. I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket." - The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

Much has happened since I last wrote, at the close of my Thesis Show. After receiving my Master's Degree, my husband Aaron and I (along with our son, Magnus) decided to move from the hustle & bustle of New York City to the Hudson Valley, to a town nestled in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains.

It was a longstanding dream of ours, one that had been tucked back in to the corners of our minds while life happened frantically around us: jobs, two cross country moves, graduate school, a new baby. Even with our busy lives in the city, we found that we both hungered for change. We'd fallen in to a rhythm that was focused on all of the unimportant things, and we found ourselves meandering through Prospect Park sketching out the projects we each hoped to have the space and time to take on - one day. 

So, we took a deep breath and plunged in to the unknown territory of house hunting, learning an unfamiliar town, navigating a rural region with harsher weather, and built something new from scratch. We took comfort in the abundant independent book stores, friendly neighbors, and the knowledge that the hopes from our pensive strolls now had a place to take root. We had the beautiful misfortune of falling in love with a 335 year old stone house, which was originally built by Dutch settlers, and still has charred beams in the basement from when the British tried to burn it to the ground in 1777. The wiring, plumbing, floors, kitchen and bathrooms all needed to be stripped and redone, but we only had eyes for the opportunities this house could offer us.

Since we closed on the house, around 6 months ago, it's taken on the shape of a rather large-scale installation project for me. And I've loved practically every minute of it. Even while pouring myself in to the design and lay out of our new/old house, I didn't have as much time for my other creative practices, I was able to learn the joy that comes with the 'making' of a home in to a space ripe for inspiration. I documented much of the renovation and design on my Instagram account, and viewed the house as an artist's book, to activate thinking about the space in an innovative way. After months of toil, paint fumes, hammering, pratfalls and tears, along with the occasional whispered ghost sighting, this ancient stone house has finally become the vessel we hoped it would be. 

Now that this work is behind me, my fingers have been itching to tackle the artistic ideas that have long been rattling around in my head and bring them in to the physical realm. I'm excited to share with you several new projects that I've been cultivating, among them a series of monochromatic weavings, embroidered texts, leather and vellum hand-bound books made from locally sourced deerskin, and some new zines. In the coming weeks I'll be re-opening my Etsy shop as Book Meat Studio, and I'll continue to document my work here. I hope you enjoy seeing the fruits of my labor; this strange and wondrous odyssey towards change.

MFA Thesis Show: Cornered by Kat Howard

 I finally received the installation shots from my MFA Thesis Show: Cornered! It feels fantastic to see these images to remind me that 8 hours of install time, and 3 straight months of construction, really payed off. I'm so proud of the work that I completed; being able to see visitors interact with the quilts and listen to them share their personal experiences of the installation with me, was truly worthwhile. Here's the wall label that accompanied the show:

This project interrogates woman's relationship to the domestic space, themes of the gothic, and the haunting dependence that some women have with the home, historically and even in the present. To articulate this idea, I used my own writing combined with language from the diaries of the Brontë sisters, as a lens through which to explore the woman whose home and most intimate surroundings are the very instruments of the imprisonment of her mind, body and personhood.

The Brontë sisters wrote wildly imaginative stories, while their real lives were restricted and controlled by their father. How is this struggle towards duality represented in the secret spaces of the home, in the language of the walls, corners, doorways and other charged locations? By interrogating this relationship, I used it as a metaphor to explore the line between public and private, where that line is, and when it is blurred. The Brontës frequently turned towards their intimate surroundings as a metaphor for emotions and feelings that they were forbidden to express outright in the home. Many aspects of the self are buried in this landscape. I'm interested in excavating these sites, to uncover what is obstructed behind the façade, to remove the myth of an idealized home, and examine what lingers.

The Book is the Body: MFA Thesis Show by Kat Howard

Wow. It's hard to believe that it's been nearly three years of hard work, inspiration, challenges, learning, pushing limits, stumbling, picking myself back up, and growing as an artist and a writer, but my thesis show is finally here! Tonight is the opening and I'm feeling pumped. On Wednesday, I went to the gallery and installed my piece, Cornered, a 25 x 15 foot installation of love, sweat and tears, consisting of over 1000 yards of linen thread, and 300 parent sheets of handmade lokta paper. It's been such a rewarding process, conceptualizing this project and seeing it come alive after months of work.

The Book is the Body: Mills College MFA in Book Art & Creative Writing Thesis Show

To celebrate the first official graduating class for Mills College's MFA in Book Art & Creative Writing, I was interviewed for their newspaper, The Campanil. Here's the full interview I did:

How would you describe the upcoming exhibit, and your project for it?

The upcoming exhibition is the culmination of two and a half years of intense work and study by myself and the other three graduates. It's a celebration of what we've learned, as well as a hint as to where we see ourselves heading creatively after graduate school. My thesis project is called Cornered and is essentially a human sized tunnel book made up of 10 large scale, hand-embroidered paper quilts, that the viewer can walk between. I wanted the viewer's interaction with the piece to inform its meaning.

What was the inspiration behind your project?

By using history as a lens to examine the female body, I'm able to explore the charged awareness of my own identity. The inspiration behind my project was the Brontë sisters. They wrote wildly imaginative stories, while their real lives were restricted and controlled by their father. My project interrogates woman's relationship to the domestic space, themes of the gothic, and the haunting dependence that some women have with the home, historically and even in the present. Many aspects of the self are buried in this landscape. I'm interested in excavating these sites, to uncover what is obstructed behind the façade, to remove the myth of an idealized home, and examine what lingers.

How did you get into book arts?

I got in to book arts when I was a senior at Brandeis University working towards my Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing. My advising professor who was supervising my thesis in Poetry, encouraged me to think about how the book I made to hold my thesis could reflect and enhance the content. Thinking about my writing in a visual way, inspired me to also think sculpturally and texturally about my work, and lead me to explore the world of book art.

What attracted you to the program at Mills?

I was attracted to the program at Mills because it is the only masters program that offers a curriculum that bridges the creative writing department and the book art department. I view myself as both a writer and an artist, and was drawn to Mills because it acknowledges how these practices can meet in book art. I also loved the location, as an East Coaster I had always wanted to see what it was like to live in the Bay Area.

What has been the best or most rewarding experience throughout this program?

The most rewarding experience throughout this program has been how I have grown as an artist and a writer, in addition to the discipline I have gained through practice that will position me to embark on a career in this unique field. The relationships with my professors have also been immensely rewarding. I've learned so much from them, and am grateful that they pushed me when I needed to be challenged.

Are you nervous about the upcoming exhibit?

I'm mostly excited about the upcoming exhibit, I've worked so hard on my thesis project and it's been a long time in the making. I'm at the point where I can't wait to see it installed and celebrate with my colleagues, friends and family.

To buy a copy of the book for my Thesis Show, check it out at Blurb.com

Settling in to my Studio by Kat Howard

The last couple of weeks, I've been busy getting intimately acquainted with my studio at Kala. There's a balance to making an empty white room yours. You want it to feel homey, but not too comfortable so that you aren't overstimulated. You want to keep it open and uncluttered, so that your ideas can flow freely, but you also want it to be fully functional. There's also the matter of impermanence with this space; I'm fortunate enough to be in residence until the beginning of December when I'm moving back to NYC, but having a space for a limited amount of time has made me measure my decisions in settling in to the studio. Nevertheless, I've strived for balance in my studio space, and so far I've created 10 of the paper quilts for my thesis project, a test version of which you can see in the slideshow below. Little touches, like additional lighting, hanging the work I've completed so far, and creating a window of inspiration that I glance up at whenever I get stuck in my 'thinking place', have helped transform it. It feels like quite an accomplishment and so I'm celebrating with a little homage to the workspace that made it happen. I'm not sure I would have been so productive if I had just been working at home, or if it hadn't felt so private. As a result, I'm ready for the next step: to line and hem the quilts, then embroider them with text. Onward, ho!

Writer's Groups: The Importance of Being Earnest by Kat Howard

Coming out of an intensive MFA program, you'd think I would have gotten all of my best feedback as a result of workshops. Well, that's only partially true. Towards the end of my first year, my writing advisor suggested that I form a writer's group with some of my peers to sustain us through out the summer, and keep the conversation going that we'd started in class. Luckily, I found two other women who were in The Craft of Poetry with me, and we decided to start up some informal gatherings. In our meetings we always:

-bring around 3 poems to share -present any books or collections that have inspired us recently -share publications we'd sent our work out to -discuss upcoming readings we can attend together -announce any relevant contests or prizes; opportunities in the field -vent about our poetic processes -tackle stumbling blocks in our writing -catch up on our real lives

Even though my writing group is small, the support and trust that I've developed with the other women has helped me find the strength to push through my projects, or leave them for the time being, and move on to something else. They help me figure out what it is I'm really trying to say, on the page, and in general, the feedback I get in our writer's group often is channeled in to my visual art, too.

The inspiration I gather from my fellow poets always sparks a creative awakening in me, even when I've gone in to the session not as prepared as I would have liked, or when I'm stuck within a poem, and I leave each meeting ready to dive back in. It reminds me each time why I write, and make art, like Anaïs Nin said:

We write to heighten our own awareness of life. We write to lure and enchant and console others. We write to serenade our lovers. We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection. We write, like Proust, to render all of it eternal, and to persuade ourselves that it is eternal. We write to be able to transcend our life, to reach beyond it. We write to teach ourselves to speak with others, to record the journey into the labyrinth. We write to expand our world when we feel strangled, or constricted, or lonely. When I don’t write, I feel my world shrinking. I feel I am in prison. I feel I lose my fire and my color. It should be a necessity, as the sea needs to heave, and I call it breathing.

I think the key to a successful writer's group, isn't its size, or how regulated it is, it's finding other writers or artists who really see what you're trying to do with your work. By surrounding yourself with people like this, they'll only help you to jolt yourself awake and see more clearly, through your writing, and if they're particularly good, they'll remind you each time why the page calls to you.

Wildness & Process by Unai San Martin by Kat Howard

While perusing the artists who have pieces in the collection at the Kala Art Institute, I came upon the work of Unai San Martin. Martin is a Bay Area artist who hails from the Basque region of Spain, who focuses his practice on the photogravure technique. It is a 19th century process that creates a highly detailed intaglio print, which emulates the same continuous tone and exactness of a photograph. The result is a haunting image that straddles the line between an etching and a photograph, at once eerily precise while maintaining a soft, rich focus. I was particularly struck by his landscape series that depict paths through various stretches of wilderness. They seem meditative on the act of traveling, as if to remind the viewer to focus on the road instead of the horizon line. Living in Northern California, I feel like I'm constantly trying to capture fog through the lens of my digital SLR, only to find it slip through my fingers (pun intended).

The fact that Martin manages to articulate these atmospheric ghosts in his prints, makes his images, and the craft of photogravure, that much more astonishing. His work makes me think about how else an artist can capture imprints of fleeting experiences, and make casts of moments in time.

Miwok Trail by Unai San Martin

Camino al Vacio by Unai San Martin

Eucalyptus Path by Unai San Martin

Starting an Artist Residency at Kala Art Institute by Kat Howard

Kala Art Institute & Gallery After a summer of whirlwind traveling and two intense years taking classes and teaching as part of the MFA in Book Art & Creative Writing at Mills College, I'm thrilled to be embarking on the next step in earning my degree. This Fall I'll be an Artist-in-Residence at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley. I have a dedicated studio space there to work on my thesis: Cornered, which involves poetry, the Brontë Sisters, a sewing machine, handmade paper, and thousands of tiny threads.

I'm really looking forward to having a room that can act as a blank canvas for this project. I've been lucky in that we have a second bedroom/office space in our little house that I've been able to use in the planning stages, as well as a writing room, Etsy workshop and artist studio, but there's something really magical about letting a space act as a sort of sanctuary, or lab for a specific creative project. I'll be documenting the studio and the process of making Cornered over the coming weeks and months. Wish me luck!

Kala Art Institute

New Emily Dickinson Portrait Depicts a Confident Poet by Kat Howard

Emily Dickinson (left) and Kate Scott Turner,1859. Photograph: Amherst College Archives Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) remains one of the most powerful yet elusive poets of the 19th century. A new portrait has recently been discovered that could be only the second authenticated photograph of the writer. To prove that the image is 'the real McCoy', experts have been brought in to compare samples from Amherst College's textile collection with the dress of the sitter, in addition to an ophthmalogical report comparing the teenage Dickinson (below) with the older woman.

Emily Dickinson, 1847

One hitch in the theory is the unfashionable dress that Dickinson is wearing in the photograph. It is apparently greatly outdated for the period, however, the poet herself wrote to friends on occasion stating that, "I'm so old fashioned, Darling, that all your friends would stare." If it is genuine, this image of a self-assured woman with the slight hint of a smirk on her face, who seems to radiate confidence and self-possession, may help dispel some of the lingering notions that Dickinson was a wilting lily, caught up in her own imagination. She may have been reclusive in her later years, as well as deeply private, but that doesn't mean she was crazy. The woman in this newly uncovered photograph looks intelligent and mature. I can perfectly picture this Emily laughing at the world who thought she simply wrote about flowers, without examining the subtext of her haunting poetry.

In an exciting twist that seems straight out of the pages of a mystery novel, Amherst has released the photo to the press in the hopes that anyone with additional information will come forward.

Exploring the Stories of Ordinary Objects: Christien Meinderstma by Kat Howard

Christien Meindertsma Flying every few weeks this summer, in order to keep things interesting in yet another airport, I've been indulging in some glossy therapy. On a recent trip I scooped up the latest issue of Dwell Magazine. I was thrilled to see it focused on women designers. One interview particularly stood out to me, as a designer and an artist: Christien Meindertsma.

Meinderstma, a Dutch artist, is fascinated with the stories of how things are made in a day and age when this knowledge is typically withheld from us. Central to her process is in-depth research about an object's history. Subtle yet evocative, her pieces draw the eye in to examine the details of an object, contemplating how and why they came to be.

'Wild Bone China' by Christien Meinderstma

One of Meinderstma's most compelling projects, 'Wild Bone China' is a piece in which the artist explored the morbid history behind the British invention that uses the dust of real bones from slaughterhouses to create a powder white porcelain meant for tea services and high end dining. She scavenged the Dutch countryside and used bones from roadkill to make china that was suggestive of the landscape where the bones were harvested. Meinderstma's work ranges from examinations of products made from pig parts, to the history and diminishing trade of flax craftsmen. Her art inspires me to look closer at what can be hidden in plain sight, and to delve deeper in to my own processes. For more information on Christien Meinderstma, check out her interview with Dwell Magazine.

Scavenging Bones for 'Wild Bone China'

What's in a Press Name? by Kat Howard

First Book Meat Press Broadside, August 2010 The first letterpress class I ever took was at the Center for the Book in San Francisco.

I'd dabbled in letterpress prior to the weeklong super-intensive workshop, but I wanted to get some more practice under my belt before I embarked on the MFA. There were about 8 people in the class total, and one of the greatest things was the wide range of characters that were gathered in to one group.

There were two undergrad BFFs who were obsessed with polymer, even though it was a class focusing on setting type by hand, a wealthy Dowager with a diamond the size of a donut hole that blinded me every time it caught the light, a wizened geography professor, a made up and manicured princess who wanted to start her own wedding planning company on the side, a serial workshopper (a lady who'd already taken every other class and was a self-professed expert), and a whacky art grad guy, who only showed up for half of the classes.

We learned a crazy amount in just five days, and it all culminated in a broadside project where we were able to design and set our own manifesto or poster. For this final project, I was shocked at how overly serious many of my classmates were in approaching the subject matter. Many of them were choosing biblical quotes or political blurbs for their first personal letterpress projects. They were all so nervous about what each other would think about the content they chose to print; I wondered where all the creativity had gone that had surely led them to take this class in the first place.

Letterpress is a lot of work, it can take hours just to set a few lines of type, and then there's locking up the press bed and inking the press, and cleaning the press... Bottom line, you better enjoy what you're doing and find some personal connection to your work beyond what other people will think of it.

I decided to go against the norm and print a broadside that reflected my personality; it wasn't super serious, it's object wasn't to impress, I knew it was going to take hours to print and so I wanted something with a touch of humor to it. So, I decided on printing a quote by Anthony Bourdain:

"I've long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we're talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters, the humble taqueria's mystery meat, or the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head, food, for me, has always been an adventure. I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once."

It was silly and uncouth and a little outside the box, granted not something I could gift my mother or grandmother, but its quirky message kept me smiling through the hard work.

We were also tasked with coming up with a press name, and I knew that I wanted it to reflect what was most important to me about book art and the craft of the book: the book itself, its very meat and bones, which led to the name Book Meat. It's stuck ever since.

Loop Paper by Kat Howard

As a book artist who's really inspired by materials, I was thrilled when I came upon  Loop's beautiful, hand drawn, wrapping paper. I was living in New York City at the time, and on an inspiration hunt in Paper Presentation, this fantastic art supply store near Union Square, when Loop caught my eye.

It's a striking, eco-luxe, wrapping paper. With whimsical names like Eon, Em and Poliwog, the attention to detail is carried throughout the entire design of the products. The creator, Elissa Brown Barbieri, is influenced by nature and architecture resulting in intricate, hand-drawn patterns and paintings with a subtle palette and lush sensibility. You can see true evidence of the hand in her abstract designs.

Her paper even inspired my recent line of handmade notebooks for my Book Meat shop on Etsy. Loop's designs are clean, detailed and unique; a real find amongst decorative papers.

Inspired by... by Kat Howard

Yesterday, turned out to be a gorgeous day in Berkeley. I got really excited and decided the husband and I should make a trip out to the beach at Linda del Mar. It's a great surfing spot just south of San Francisco, with a lovely cove and soft sand.

However, after driving through traffic in the city, we reached the beach and the fog at the same time. Instead of letting the imaginary sound of melancholy violons drown us in sorrow, we decided to continue our plans to picnic and spend the afternoon on the ocean anyway (with hoodies and scarves).

We feasted on delicious prosciutto, cheese, and inevitably sand as it blew around our picnic blanket.

I took a walk along the beach to warm up after sitting in the fog, and was so intrigued by the haphazard patterns and designs that I encountered in the sand.

The palate was subtle and calming, and I was inspired by the combination of textures; the grit of the sand, the smooth grey of the stones and the ridged driftwood. If it had been a gloriously sunny day, I might not have noticed these details. I plan on going paper shopping this week to find some motifs that elicit this foggy afternoon, so I can attempt to capture it in book form.

Expanding to Etsy by Kat Howard

I'm thrilled to announce that Book Meat now has a store open on Etsy! It's the cumulation of many hours of hard work, sketching, musing, trial & error, models, making & unmaking, meandering, binding, printing, sewing and certainly some joy.

I loved designing the different products that are in the shop. I was able to tap in to my personal aesthetic, excavate my history, and create paper goods that I wanted to use, and that I'd be proud to share.

I'm attracted to the quirky in life, the little stories of objects, style that intrigues and holds attention. I'm obsessed with texture, bones, clean lines, sewing, new twists on historic binding and printing techniques, handmade paper, waxed linen thread, and quaint details. And I can't wait to add even more Book Meat to Etsy in the future.

Book Crush: Susan Howe by Kat Howard

Susan Howe is a true trailblazer in the poetry world. Her work can be classified as belonging to the language poets; she constantly bends the rules of poetry, playing with new and unusual formats, and patterns of sound. Her most recent book, "That This" is a great testament to her craft. She really uses the space of the page to enact her poems, and is one of the few contemporary poets to interrogate the form of the book through her poetry and its arrangement on the page.

This week I was fortunate enough to be in New York City when the Center for Book Arts was holding a reading for Susan Howe and Douglas Crase. Part of the Center's Broadside series, Susan read from "That This" and gave great insight into the origins of this collection. She uses different sections of the text to address the loss of her husband. I found the section entitled, 'Frolic Architecture' particularly moving. Fragments of photocopied text are layered on the page, words are cut off mid-line, and the resulting sounds appear to bear up the poet's grief.

Everyone who attended the reading was given a broadside that was hand printed by the artists in residence, and signed by the poet. The Center for Book Arts in New York holds 12 Broadside readings throughout the course of the year, with a recommended admission price of $10.

Must Have: Teflon Folder by Kat Howard

I first discovered teflon 'bone' folders, funnily enough, when I took a traditional bookbinding class at the Center for Book Arts in New York. My teacher was a disciple of the Alabama Book Arts program and a traditionalist through and through, so I was surprised when she recommended the teflon folder to us. She had a collection of bone, horn, and hand carved folders but the teflon folder had become her go to instrument because it doesn't leave shiny marks or any traces of its presence on book cloth, leather or decorative paper. With a teflon folder, there's no need for the pesky layer of newsprint between your tool and your work in progress.

I bought my first teflon folder at Talas in New York. Talas is a varied and unique source for Book Art supplies, specializing in hand bookbinding tools and resources for conservation. Even if you're not conserving 17th century manuscripts, they're still the best source in New York for tools of the trade. They sell two sizes of teflon folders, each with dual edges starting at $19.50.

Threads of Feeling by Kat Howard

I've always been obsessed with British culture, tea, history, fashion, museums, you name it, but I only just became acquainted with the Foundling Museum in London. It's a fantasticly unique institution that houses the story of the first home for abandoned children, in addition to holding an impressive collection of art and period rooms.

A friend of mine told me about an online exhibition that the Foundling Museum did called Threads of Feeling. It's a gathering of 18th century cloth and textile fragments that mothers left as identifying markers for the young children they abandoned at the home. Threads of Feeling incorporates a beautiful slideshow of the handwritten notes and fabric scraps that were symbols of the last interactions between mother and child. These materials now make up one of the most comprehensive collections of fabric from this time period, because the cloths of lower class Londoners weren't typically preserved through the ages.

From a book artist's perspective, I'm fascinated by the combination of text and textile as image. The lists of mundane items left by the mothers is haunting, as are the handmade touches evident in the stitching and collaging of fabrics in these little works of art. Each of these artifacts tells a remarkable story of the past owner, and her personality as well as giving us clues about her life in 18th century London. Kathryn Hughes wrote a compelling article for The Guardian that further examines the history of Threads of Feeling.

Masters: Book Arts by Kat Howard

I'm always on the prowl for new books to add to my collection with inspired approaches to book design, craft and innovation. Actually, let's face it, I'm a complete bibliophile so I'll find any excuse to add a new book to my poor, sagging bookshelves. So I was doubly excited to discover that Lark Crafts had published Masters: Book Arts, which chronicles 42 book artists that are paving the way in this unique field.

The artists are interviewed about their craft, conceptual approaches, careers and overall work philosophies. These profiles are paired with beautiful full color pagespreads of the artists' work making it an excellent source for inspiration. I like to sit with a cup of coffee, and a notebook and go through each page, writing down what really draws me in to the artists' pieces.

The book comes from one of my favorite little publishing companies, Lark Crafts, based in Asheville, NC. They have a great blog with tons of tips, DIYs, and are a fantastic aggregator of craft culture.