easter dioramas

please visit celeste's blog for photos of our easter dioramas!

birth of venus
, by Celeste


mary peepins, by bid and pear


some scattered springy snowy thoughts

the last gigantic spring snow is as thrilling as the first gigantic autumn snow.
because one is the first, and the other the last.
big snow makes us move slow,
it brings the world's nuance into high relief.
white noise vanquished by white,
robins' songs bounce about in triumph.
pink plum perfume wafts
alongside this cool
the river rises to a roar
the snow persists
dropping upon our brow
a big wet farewell kiss


from the bindery: thoughts on teaching

it is difficult for me to explain to someone that i can't show them how to bind books because i don't have the time or energy. because i'm saving what time and energy i do have for my own work, which i'm only now just finally getting started on nearly one year after graduation.

it is difficult for me to explain that if i were to give some instruction beyond simple consultation on something or a couple hours of this or that, that i would need to be compensated for my time. (after all, i did spend thousands of dollars and hours myself to learn and will continue to do so over the years.)

it is difficult for people to understand that a few hours is not enough to learn and remember something very useful and that an intense interest in bookbinding is not enough either.

this is all difficult because i care deeply about responding to others' interest in this craft and in learning. i don't want to turn people away or discourage them. i want to be like the mentors i've had who are actively encouraging and responsive. it's difficult, also, to be approached as an expert when you're not. certainly i have years more experience than many who approach me, but still i'm a baby in the field. i need to continue broadening my own experience to better answer the questions and needs of those i teach. i know this will build bit by bit over time, but in the mean time it feels disingenuous to be asked to play the part.

with these thoughts in mind, it struck me the other day that i now understand the craftsman in stories, who, when approached by a motivated, energetic youth eager to learn, turns them away and says he cannot or will not teach them. in these stories, the youth must somehow demonstrate that she has the will, the drive, the energy, and the work ethic, and the ability to pay close attention to detail to make teaching her worthwhile. one wants to be sure that the time and energy that goes into teaching will be well spent--not taken for granted or thrown by the wayside.

i have been that youth and have proven myself, i think, through persistence. i would like to be that teacher. i think.

but not yet.

i recently helped a student in a bookbinding class repair a book for his father. he had very minimal binding experience and who knows if he'll remember much of what i taught him (rebacking a book was confusing to me when i first started learning it, i can only imagine what it would seem like to one with no book repair experience whatsoever). tho it was on my own time and with no monetary compensation, it was so rewarding taking those few hours to help him out. to see his enthusiasm and delight as the repair progressed, and the satisfaction with the finished product. i feel similarly as i help students in book repair. as i work with them, i draw heavily on my own experience with instructors and realize that not only did these instructors give me good instruction regarding the binding of books, but they taught me a lot about teaching. i would like to focus more on this aspect of my job and apply more of these teaching techniques.

and so i gather these experiences one by one. i acquire a skill here and a skill there. i sharpen what i already have at a much slower pace than i used to when in school (still getting used to this). and eventually, i hope, i will be able to make the time and energy to invite people in and not turn them away--to be the craftsman who welcomes instead of rejects and can offer expertise and instruction of a greater depth.


from the bindery: an homage to life

This is Joseph Cornell.
A fascinating and eccentric 20th-century artist, sculptor, and avant-garde filmmaker. He is best known as a pioneer of collage and assemblage art--art which most famously took the form of diorama-like boxes. his art was heavily influenced by his Christian Science faith, mid-20th-century surrealists, the cosmos, Emily Dickinson, and other actors and dancers of his time. Below are a few examples of his boxes

Throughout his life, Cornell struggled to find ways of capturing and reconciling his myriad interests and experiences. To poet Marianne Moore, Cornell confided his frustration. He wrote: “There seems to be such a complexity, a sort of endless ‘cross-indexing’ of detail (intoxicatingly rich) in connection with what and how I feel that I never seem to come to the point of doing anything about it.”* What he did end up doing about it was channeling that inertia into collage and assemblage art. This form of art allowed Cornell to draw those connections between the disparate elements of his life.

I was introduced to Cornell only about 18 months ago. Our final fine binding project at the North Bennet Street School was to design and execute a binding for Dickran Tashjian's Joseph Cornell: Gifts of Desire.

As I began to read the book and research more about Cornell, I exclaimed multiple times both inwardly and outwardly, "Why haven't i known about this guy sooner?!" I related to his art, ideas, philosophies, questions, and curiosities. I especially connected his drive and desire to pursue and connect them all. He was another trying to bridge gaps between a multitude experiences and interests partially through art and spirituality.

Feeling this connection to Cornell made designing a book cover based on his work incredibly fun. I designed my cover as if it were one of Cornell's boxes with compartments filled with an eclectic collection of objects representing many of my central interests and the recurring motifs in my life. These included family and ancestors, memory, land and environment, entropy and order, creation, the physical laws governing space, and ultimately spirituality, light, and God. I was pleased to discover as I read more about Cornell and looked at more of his art that many of these dovetail with motifs in his art and thoughts, particularly themes revolving around spirituality and the physical universe. While I'm not sure I possess what Donald Windham considered Cornell's "genius for sensing the connection between seemingly remote ideas, emotions and objects," the possibility of at least trying to reconcile and connect some of the "seemingly remote," elements of me was a compelling and overall delightful challenge.*

So here is what I came up with.

While part of me clamored for a more minimalist design, another part of me rejoiced in the clutter and the possibilities of being able to unite these elements through the binding craft.

As for these elements, here is a quick breakdown of each "object" in each "compartment" beginning with the back cover:

1. Thomas C. Thomas, my dark-eyed, mustachioed Welsh great-grandfather with the same name twice: Writer of poetry, weaver, inventor, miner, fruit farmer. He planted my family, at least in part, in Utah, and one of his wild roses planted in the orchards still lives in a corner of our yard today. It seemed fitting that such a multi-faceted man, whose genes I seem to have inherited, take part in this piece.

2. A tiny collage of an apple branch using linen thread, book cloth, and leaves cut out from a Sargent painting in an art book. Apple trees are a family symbol. These trees along with many other fruit trees in our yard dominated my childhood. They represent not only work of the harvest but also many an adventure for lost orphaned girls and cops and robbers. Fruit trees are also a potent symbol of life, learning, and spiritual change, which is significant in my life.

3. A collage of excerpts from four separate journal entries. Journal keeping has been a central endeavor in my life. I've written nearly every day since 19 January 1995.

4. The Spiral Jetty. A continuing obsession of mine. It is one of the first earthworks art pieces created by Robert Smithson in 1970 in the northern part of the Great Salt Lake. The ideas behind the Spiral Jetty are tied to environment, entropy, chaos, and reclaiming industrial waste through art.

5. Sailing is one of my favorite things to do. Cornell also featured sailboats, ships, and other nautical objects prominently in his work. The sailboat is a collage of linen thread, muslin, book cloth, and a tiny clipping of water from an ocean in a Winslow Homer painting in the art book that I cut up.

On the front cover:
1. The balloon is a recurring motif in my life. I was enchanted by hot air balloons as a child and included them often in drawings and even a yarn punch picture I did in 4th grade. This particular rendition is inspired by Kari Jorgensen's hot air balloons, which appear frequently in her art. In the larger narrative of this design, the hot air balloon is me.

2. The compass is a more concrete representation of the heartbrain, which is a term I use when talking about learning and finding truth through the spirit/heart AND the mind. This is something I think about all the time. The heartbrain had to make it into the box! In one of the LDS books of scripture, the Doctrine and Convenants, Section 88:118 talks about seeking knowledge by study and by faith. Section 8 verse 2 also says how God will speak to us through the Holy Ghost to our minds and our hearts. The actual image of the heartbrain is rather like a blob--unsightly and too abstract for this book cover. So I chose the compass because it connotes clarity of direction (which one will have if one seeks truth from God through the heart and the mind). It symbolizes the whole of truth as well. I, as the hot air balloon, am in flight--ever dynamic (hopefully), never static as i progress through life, gaining more light and understanding....Which brings me to the last panel.

3. The cosmos. The cosmos motif continues onto the edge decoration of this book and the endsheets.

I share Cornell's interest in the physical and spiritual laws governing creation and the universe and all the elements in it. This cosmic compartment of my "box" represents some fairly abstract but awesome doctrinal points in Mormonism having to do with light and man's ability to become like God. The closer we draw to God, the more light (both in a literal and figurative sense) and understanding we attain, the more we become like Him.


I have mused upon the greater theme of gifts within this text while mulling over these objects. They represent experiences, ideas, and interests whose variety I sometimes feel burdened by but which are really gifts from God--gifts of curiosity and a thirst for knowledge and whole truth that draw me closer to Him and to others. Along with the bookbinding craft which I used to piece them together, they are all pieces of a much broader existence. "Just be glad, " Dad says, "that you are interested in and find satisfaction in so many things."

There's a lot more depth here, but I think I've already gone a little further than necessary. I've hesitated to flesh this out here in so much detail, wondering if it's better to just let the book speak for itself. But the fact that i was able, through bookbinding, to create a fairly satisfying, compelling representation of myself in a work of art that is also an homage to another artist who created so much of his work in homage to others is something that makes me a joyful bookbinder and not a reluctant one.

(*excerpts and ideas from pp.22-23 in Tashjian's book)