If I have a favorite studio item, it is my sketchbooks. They are filled with ideas, creative rumblings of things realized, or things only half-formed. Ways of remembering, of re-thinking old ideas through the lens of many more years of learning until the old becomes new. Though they will never win awards for beauty, in my eyes, they are beautiful beyond description.
So many are ones I made-- and these seem to be the most fun to work in, the ones I fill and over-fill with little drawings, maps, glued, stapled, stitched or taped bits of paper or color chips, fabric and thread; punched holes in the sides of pages for collecting thread or yarn or fabric strips-- These are the brightest part of the bookshelf.
Recently, I went through the excruciating week-long exercise of organizing the bookcases in the studio. Half way through, there was no daylight in this tunnel, but I am glad I kept at it and chose not to simply shove the books back in place. I would like to say it was such a beneficial bit of work that I will do it once a year . . . However, I think my cue will be when I KNOW I have something on those shelves, but CANNOT find it! To safeguard the most important things, all the sketchbooks are on one place, now. Or, in two cases and spilling into the third.
I do not mean to disparage the commercially made sketchbooks because they have their place-- actually, many places-- on the bookshelf. They are often immensely practical because of their spiral binding, but are sometimes not so interesting from the outside, especially if the covers are hard book boards that do not want to bend as they are packed full of ephemera. This packing process leads to their morphing into wedge-shaped books that resemble over-filled laundry bins. Fitting them on the bookshelf is like trying to close the suitcase that is packed for a month of travelling when it was only designed to hold a weekend of clothes. A future project, maybe for a week of snow or sub-freezing temperatures, would be to go through them and make them less cumbersome, divide up the contents into several smaller . . .
All of this book talk is leading up to the point that the Knoxville FreeStylers and the Atlanta SWAT (Stitching With A Twist) group are taking up sketchbooking in 2017, and we have been making our own books, for starters. That way the pages are whatever paper we desire, any size, shape, have soft, malleable covers with pockets for stuffing with interesting notes or found objects, or even for the mundane task of holding pens or pencils . . . To this end, we are customizing our sketchbooks. Mine range from the elegant, soft-covered single-signatures in pouches made of embroidered silk or linen, to the basic workhorses, with soft covers made from fabric-covered pellon or stiff hand-made paper, both with varying kinds of closures. The pouch books are purse-sized travelling companions, especially nice because the pouches are refillable as the sketchbooks are used, and the filled books go on the studio shelf for future reference.
The volumes are home to ideas spilled through numbers of books that I think of as places to muse on paper, a collection of wonderings. I go through them when I'm in need of inspiration, and that is when the old ideas start to arrange themselves into new books on a single subject. The major collecting starts with the single-subject-book, thread samples, cloth, colored sketches, dimensions that will or won't work, stitch sampling . . . Oh, my goodness, but what fun the gathering-in process becomes! Ursula Le Guin says it best: "When action grows unprofitable, gather information; when information grows unprofitable, sleep."