books, paper, mixed media


October 2022

 Monday 9-26-2022

Hard to believe we have all been here over a full week now. Time is passing too quickly. In Carol’s class the day began with a pop! We learned about non-adhesive props, which as the name implies are supports which do not require glue or tape because they are cut from the base layer of paper. I was careful to take good notes because the measurements for this type of pop-up are tricky.

In the afternoon with Denise, we began working on a more modern binding. We started by sewing the text block and attaching the end papers, then we used a guillotine to cut the edges perfectly sharp and square. I would like to add a guillotine cutter to my studio when I return home, I loved the clean edges of this book. Towards the end of the class we chose papers for the spine and covers. I picked out a green color palette using some of the papers I marbled last week. 

The guillotine cutter

Detail of my hand marbled paper

Window hanging made using Thai Unryu paper embedded with string

Tuesday 9-27-2022

We used Thai Unryu paper today in Helen’s class to make bendable papers by embedding copper wire and string between two layers. One of the projects I made using this bendable paper was a window hanging. You can see it above my head in this picture. The sunlight coming through the paper makes the jewel tones vibrant. Our group had so many ideas for bendable paper. There were table runners, lanterns, bowls, etc. Terry had a wonderful idea to embed LED lights between the papers for her table runner. I think I might try that for a special Christmas window hanging when I get back to my studio. 

Two lanterns and a bowl I made with bendable paper

While my group was upstairs in Helen’s class, the other group was busy downstairs with Amanda making a giant sheet of handmade paper. David built the custom mold because he wanted this paper for a painting he was planning. 

My birds eye view for watching Amanda’s team make a giant sheet of paper

Clockwise from top left in the photo is Amanda (dark blue sweater) Ron, David, Carol (taking photos), Suzanne, Terry, and Denise (with the cute hat).

Amanda prepares to pour the first bucket of pulp into the mold as David and the others look on waiting to help

After lunch, when my group went to work with Amanda, we were busy applying dyes and gelatin to the dry papers we had made. We also began planning pages for the sample book containing all the various papers we had made, both Eastern and Western.

Denise worked with Amanda to design this project because Denise felt it was important for us to learn this method, another old-world binding technique. A long cover sheet was folded into thirds, the center panel was a common back for both parts of the book, Eastern on one side, Western on the other.  Four holes were then stabbed through the cover and pages of the book. Then they were laced with wet goat leather and wrapped. As the leather dried, the binding tightened and made the book strong.  The book was flipped,  and this process repeated on the other side.

Wednesday 9-28-2022

Today we had our final classes with Carol and Denise. Carol gave us patterns to use for making three-dimensional pop-up structures, a pyramid, a box, a tent, and a cylinder. She showed us examples of commercial pop-ups, then gave us creative time to experiment with the forms we had learned. Then we prepared our work for the community show that would happen tomorrow (Thursday) night. David told us the Monte Castello community was quite supportive of the school, and they were interested in what we had accomplished.

I combined a floating platform with a spiral to make this comic-book like pop

Three of my completed books ready to show

After lunch Denise held a special session to teach us how to make folded paper wallets. We used Tyvek for this because it is more durable than most other papers. There are nine different pockets to hide things in this simple wallet, business cards, credit cards, tickets, ID, or other small paperwork. I will definitely make more of these in my studio to use as gift-card holders at Christmas. When the wallet making session wrapped up we used our class time with Denise to place covers on the more modern binding. I am happy with the way all my books turned out.

It was heart-warming that so many people turned out to see our showcase.

A Note About the People

The setting for this experience was beautiful and inspirational, but what made this time in Monte Castello most memorable was the people. I always feel like I am with my tribe when I’m with paper and book enthusiasts, but this group was extra special. They were cheerleaders for one another, they made careful observations and thoughtful suggestions. They took time to listen before responding. They had an intrinsic caring nature which was so refreshing to be a part of. I am going to miss the camaraderie of this outstanding group. I was in Group A

Ron Shaull, Group A

Beth Stockdell, Group A

Amanda Martin, Group A. (photo credit: Beth Stockdell)

Terry Engelhart, Group A

Lore Spivey, Group A (me)

Daria Wilber, Group B

Judy Bennett, Group B

Susan Maki, Group B

June Burden, Group B

Suzanne Solis, Group B

The Art of Paper Students and Instructors, September 19 – October 3, 2022, International Center for the Arts, Monte Castello di Vibio

BACK ROW L to R Judy Bennett, Susan Maki, Suzanne Solis, June Burden, Daria Wilber, Ron Shaull, Lore Spivey, Amanda Martin, Terry Engelhart, Kyle Carbone (Denise’s son) FRONT ROW L to R Beth Stockdell, Amanda Degener, Carol Barton, Helen Hiebert, Denise Carbone              (Photo Credit: Beth Stockdell)

Our interpreter, Victoria and our tech support, Gabrielle

Friday 9-30-2022

Today began with an early morning bus trip to Florence! Many of my friends were planning to go to the Uffizi gallery to see Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, or to the Accademia Gallery  to see Michelangelo’s David, but I was going to Agostino Dessi’s Mask Studio!    We got off the bus beside the Arno River where other tour busses were dropping people off. It was raining, so I took out my umbrella and realized it was broken. It mostly still covered me but one side of it was flopping down making it hard to see. I was careful to go to Google Maps on my phone and drop a pin so I could find my way back to the bus when the day was done. I joined Carol, Helen, and Susan and we walked to the Basilica of Santa Croce together. The rain stopped as we approached the church. Inside I saw the tombs of Galileo and Michelangelo most notably, but many famous people were buried there. 

Tomb of Galileo inside the Church of Santa Croce

After visiting Santa Croce I set out on my own towards Alice Masks. I had found this magical little place back in 2008 when I was last in Florence. I have never been anywhere else like it in the world, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to visit again. I had emailed Agostino’s daughter, Alice a few weeks back to check store hours and let her know I was planning to drop by. I come from a theatre background. I majored in theatre at University of North Carolina, Asheville, and received my masters at University of North Carolina, Greensboro. I taught theatre and communications for 17 years, and each year I would make masks with my students. The masks began as simple paper creations, and transformed into papier mache, and eventually plaster casts of the students’ actual faces. Agostino makes his masks from a variety of materials including leather, metal, and of course paper. If you have seen the 2006 film V for Vendetta, Agostino made those masks!  

I was allowed to take pictures, but as good as these photos are they don’t convey the otherworldly atmosphere of the space. Surrounded by characters like Pinocchio,  nature fairies, and even steampunk rabbits, it is easy to get lost in imagination. 

Duomo, Florence, Italy

Door to Agostino Dessi’s shop, Alice Masks

Alice ad Agostino in their studio/shop

Thousands of these masks line the walls of the small shop. If you ever have the chance to go to this place, I highly recommend it. There is so much to look at it is almost overwhelming. I was in the shop for a long while just taking it all in. I bought a mask for my daughter, Morgan and one for myself. Agostino kindly signed both. This was the highlight of my day!

Leaving Alice Masks, I stopped in a little shop to get a new umbrella and dispose of my broken one. Then, I headed to the Florentine Market. David, and his son, Eli had told our group this was the best place in Florence to purchase fresh foods, or to have a meal. The market had many unusual fruits and vegetables not easily found elsewhere, especially in the US. I bought some truffles, truffle oil, and balsamic vinegar. My mouth watered as I thought about a freshly baked loaf of bread dipped in the olive oil from Fangoli, and this balsamic vinegar. After the market, I found a pizzeria and had lunch.  Just as I went inside the rain started again, and it was heavier than before. I was happy I had a new umbrella because it didn’t stop raining for hours. 

After lunch I went in several bookstores, paper stores, and leather goods stores. I bought a red rolling suitcase to carry my olive oil and chocolates back home.  The rest of the afternoon I wandered the ancient streets of the city, until an hour before it was time to meet back at the bus. I took out my phone and pulled up the pin I had dropped when I got off the bus this morning. It said I was 45 minutes away. I didn’t think I had walked that far, but the pin was beside the river so I thought maybe I had just lost track of my distance. I began walking toward the pin following the directions Google Maps was giving me. I walked, and walked, and walked, and nothing looked familiar. I was getting outside of the city. I sensed something was wrong, but this pin was all I had to go on to find my way back. When I finally arrived at the place where this pin was, I found myself under a large graffiti covered bridge. Remember, as I walked all this distance I was holding my umbrella and pulling my new red suitcase along with me – and the rain did not stop. I was a pitiful sight I’m sure. I walked underneath the bridge and around an industrial looking building to see if maybe I was just on the wrong side of the river? But I didn’t remember ever crossing the river in the first place. It is now 5:20 and I am supposed to be back at the bus by 5:30. I searched Google Maps for the Duomo because I remembered it was near the bus lot. The search told me that I was 4.2 miles away from where I was supposed to be! So, there I stood, soaking wet, lost, and thousands of miles and an ocean away from home. Don’t panic, I told myself- but I was starting to panic. It was now 5:28 pm. I knew I was supposed to be at the bus in two minutes, but I didn’t know where I was.

NOT where I was supposed to be at 5:30 pm

I only knew I had been walking for over an hour in the rain, and that I couldn’t trust Google Maps. Technology was my usual friend, that friend I can never rely on. Oh, the battery on my phone was going dead too. I realized that if my battery died I wouldn’t even be able to call for help. Then it occurred to me I did not have a number for anyone in my group anyway. I was truly alone. I didn’t even speak the language of this foreign country. There was no sign of the rain stopping. It didn’t really matter because I was drenched anyway. I wondered if the bus would leave me? I had money so I could get a taxi to the train station and return to Monte Castello that way. I wondered if my friends would be upset with me for making us all late to our dinner reservation? I wondered how I was going to get myself out of this mess? Call a cab? Keep walking? Then I spotted a restaurant with a glowing green sign. I had an idea. It was a long shot, but I thought I would give it a try. I ran towards the restaurant juggling my umbrella, my suitcase, and my cell phone. At 10%  cell battery I frantically typed into the translation app: “I need help. I am lost. I need to get to the place where the busses drop off the tourists.” Just then a lady and her daughter came out of the restaurant. I showed them the translation on my screen, and they showed me mercy. The daughter began typing something on her cell phone. She held up the screen for me and written in English it read: “We are going that direction. We can give you a ride to a point but you will still have to walk a short distance.” Should I get into a car with a stranger? I have been taught all my life never to do that, but these women seemed kind. Besides, I didn’t have time to worry about all the things that might happen to me, I could only wonder what would happen if I missed the bus- which I was now five minutes late for. Doing something at this point was definitely better than doing nothing. I said “grazie” and the daughter helped me load my suitcase and umbrella into the back of the car. 

The car was black and smelled of leather. As I seated myself in the back I felt some of the tension ease. However, there are two bus stations in Florence, the main public transport depot and the tourist bus hub which some of the local busses also serviced. The daughter tried to explain this to me, and asked me which one I needed to go to. My stomach tightened. Then I remembered that Santa Croce was a short distance from the drop off point, the first place I had visited earlier in the day. “I should have stayed with Carol and Helen” I thought to myself. I took my Santa Croce entry ticket from my purse and handed it to the younger woman. There was conversation in Italian, and the older woman kept driving. She seemed to realize where it was I needed to be. We were in the wrong lane to make a necessary turn, so she beeped the horn and someone let her over. About a minute later, I SAW THE BUS! Just then my phone rang, it was David trying to find me. Everyone else was on the bus. I took out 20 euro and tried to give it to the women but they would not take it. “It is not necessary” they told me. “My bus! That is my bus!” I said. “Thank you, thank you, grazie, grazie, you saved me!” Then the tears began. I was so relieved. I looked at my watch and it was 5:45. I was only 15 minutes late, which considering my conundrum, I thought was pretty good. The daughter helped me gather my belongings. As I walked towards the bus, the black car pulled away. I don’t even know their names. I do, however, believe in angels. Visibly emotional, I stepped on to the bus. “How did you get a ride?” someone asked. “Where did you get your suitcase?” someone else asked. I quickly apologized to the group and took my seat, unable to say anything else in that moment. Then someone said, “Don’t worry, Amanda just got here too. We weren’t going to leave you.” I slowly calmed down enough to tell everyone what had happened and why I was late. 

Saturday 10- 1- 2022

Our final field trip and the day before departure. 

Bittersweet. The destination: Orvieto. Getting off the bus, I was damn determined not to get lost today! I DID NOT drop a pin on Google Maps, but I DID take pictures of my surroundings for a few blocks. I saw the office of the Carabinieri (police) as we walked by and made a mental note of it. We were free to explore the city until 5:00 pm. I planned to be back at the meeting point by 4:30 this time. 

Getting off the bus in Orvieto

Our designated meeting point in Orvieto

David had told us that Orvieto had been built on top of a defunct volcano, and the qualities of the soil had allowed ancient Etruscan civilizations to dig caves beneath the city. Since I had shopped plenty yesterday, I wanted to see the caves. I was lucky to walk up to the ticket vendor at 11:28 am just two minutes before an 11:30 cave tour was to begin. Everything in black on this map picture is above ground. Everything in red on this map picture is below ground. There is a maze of over 800 caves beneath Orvieto.  

These presses were used to produce olive oil in the caves

An Etruscan well over 80 meters deep

Archaeologists believe these small cavities in the walls were used to breed pigeons as a source of food for people living in the caves.

Entrances to some of the caves had to be blocked because they lead directly under and into basements of above ground homes of the city residents.

I did not get lost this time, and I made it back to our meeting point in plenty of time. We left Orvieto and went to Marmore Falls, the highest waterfall in Europe. I took some of my best pictures at this place, it was so beautiful. 

Marmore Falls, or Cascalla delle Marmore

View of a rainbow from top of Marmore Falls

Katia prepared us a very special dinner on our final night together. It was Daria’s birthday, and Katia even made a cake for her.  The memories of this trip, the friendships I’ve made, and the lessons I’ve learned will be forever in my heart. I do hope we stay in touch, and maybe even meet again in the future. Tomorrow will be an early start as we need to be on the bus by 5:30 am to make the two-hour drive into Rome. My flight leaves at 12:50 pm, so I will have a little time to hang out at the airport. I am a little homesick and miss my family dearly. I will miss the spectacular views, the friendly people, the narrow streets, of course the bakery, and even my little apartment in the village. I will miss the camaraderie, the stories, the adventures, the creative time, and the inspiration given to us by our teachers, our friends, and our surroundings. 

The delicious cake Katia made for Daria’s birthday

Sunday 10-2-2022

My flight went smoothly, and I arrived home at 5:50 pm local North Carolina Time. My family met me with flowers and hugs. There was a lot of catching up to do and many stories to be told from all of us. 

Time to go home to North Carolina

A final view of Monte Castello di Vibio as our bus leaves for Rome