Friday, December 22, 2017

Handmade Books: dying leather

This past fall I decided it was time to start using the natural vegetable tanned leather I bought a few years ago to make books.   The veg tan leather would need to be cut, dyed and sealed before I could use it to make books.  All of the leather books I previously made used pre-tanned and dyed leather.  I had been hesitant to use the leather until I understood how to dye it.  I read several articles on dying leather and watched several videos tool.  In the end I decided to pick some dyes and give them a try.

Leather is often finished using a tan, brown or black oil or alcohol based dye.  I started by using Fiebing’s Tan Dye.  It took a few coats to cover the leather evenly, but I liked the final color and look of the finished leather.  Fiebing’s site has instructions on how to use their dye

I also tried Eco-Flo Dye Pack colors.  These are water based dyes that can be mixed to create a variety of different colors.  I mixed water with the red, blue and green to create lighter shades; and mixed the red and blue to make several different violet and purples.  The resulting leather was colorful but still soft.  The finished books were very well received.

All of the books I made this fall have found new homes!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Handmade Books: stamping

Vegetable tanned leather is perfect for stamping and impressing images.  However, this needs to be done before the leather is dyed and sealed.

Let the leather soak in warm water until it is spongy.  Wipe off the excess water and let the leather sit for a few minutes, until the surface is no longer looks wet.

I have a celtic stamp set with several heads that snap onto a handle.  I photo shows a regular hammer, but you should use a hammer or maul designed for leather working.  Steel hammers will damage the tools.  Hold the design part of the stamp in place to reduce chatter (multiple impressions because the stamp moved).  Hit the handle hard several times.  You want to make sure the whole stamp image is impressed into the leather.

Let the leather dry completely before dying.  

Wipe the dye over the leather except for the stamped area.  Once the color is even, lightly wipe the dye over the stamped area.  The image stands out best if the impressed area is either lighter or darker then the rest of the leather.  The more you work it the more even the stamped area's color will be.  For more precise control, use a Testors micro sponge hobby brush to touch up and darken small area around the stamped image.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Sketching in Maine

In the Spring we made plans for a fishing trip to Montana.  We would be staying in a National Forest Service cabin in the back woods near a favorite creek.  Then the fires came.  We watched the fire and weather reports as the wildfires drew nearer and nearer to the area we were planning to stay.  People were evacuated and roads were closing as the wild fires raged.  Fire fighters were fighting fires all throughout the west.  Smoke from the fires we effecting the air quality throughout the west.  We would not be going to Montana.

Instead we went to Maine.  We stayed at a lovely cottage on Little Deer Isl.  We could see the water from the cottage, and ate several dinners on the porch watching fiery sunsets.

Sunrises and sunsets like these call out to be painted.  Capturing the constantly changing colors and deep shadows before they vanish is a challenge.  Luckily I was given several opportunities to try.

Maine's rocky coast is filled with bays, inlets and small islands.  It was a perfect place to spend time exploring and hunting for lighthouses.  We visited Stonington on nearby Deer Island several times, enjoying local good seafood.  We also took a cruise from Stonington out to the Isle au Haut to see the unique Robinson Point Light house.  We spent a day at Acadia National Park; hiking Cadillac mountain, driving along the park loop road and eating seafood in Bar Harbor.  We traveled along the coast north to West Quoddy Head Lighthouse.  This is the easternmost point of land in the continental United States, and around the equinoxes it is the first place sunlight touches.

I have many photos from this trip that someday will be used as references for paintings.  I did finish three watercolor sketches while we were in Maine.  Besides the sunset above, I sketched some garden flowers and a also a beach scene.