Once upon a time.....or why I decided to make a handmade book

I loved this Mexican peasant dress - I would wear this dress right now

Once upon a time I was a wild little girl that grew up in a log home, an only child (who loved it) who had the luxury of not going to daycare and didn’t start school to until kindergarten.  These were the wild days of the 1980s when computers were for scientists, the internet hadn’t been invented by former Vice President Gore, and I was little barefoot hoyden running wild on a farm in the Kilgore Hills of Northeast Mississippi.  I was one of the lucky ones.  I had a pack of dogs to run and adventure with, cats to cuddle, horses, cows, chickens, and that one random goat to share my little world with.  I think I came into the world creative because there’s not a time I don’t remember drawing, coloring, painting, drawing, writing, or making up the tune to my own beat.  I was fearless.  I’d ride hell for leather through the woods around my home chasing black nights, help Indiana Jones, or fight off wayward pirates who had stumbled upon my shores with ill begotten treasure.  And thankfully I had wonderful parents and grandparents who loved the little wild child I was and bought paints and paper and markers and construction paper and yarn and beads and I created to my heart’s content.  What else was there to do?  There was no satellite tv, no VCR (until middle school), no internet, no smartphones, though I did have an original Nintendo but it honestly couldn’t hold a candle to a new pack of paper and some brand new markers.  Every summer I created my own world and lived and breathed it like some sort of Marlon Brando method actor.  One summer I was obsessed with Indians.  I had read a series of books in school that year and man did I wish I had dark skin and midnight hair.  I made myself a beaded fringed Indian costume out of old tee shirts and my Dad built me my very own teepee.  I know there’s pictures somewhere; I wish I had them.  I danced to my own beat, my very own wonderful funky hippy, gypsy beat.  Summer was magic.  Summer was my time.  Days on end to explore and create and imagine, and pretend.  Building forts and hunkering down with a couple of dogs, some stolen treats from the kitchen (sausage and biscuits and cheese) and planning for the attack of the gunslingers from the next town.  

I was the weird girl in high school - everyone has one.  I continued to write and draw and paint and photograph all through school.  My school didn’t have an art program - never has - I just studied on my own and competed in 4-H art competitions.  I decided to go into art in college for better or worse and though my career has taken a sharp detour away from art right now, I think that might have been the best thing to happen to me.  

I’ve continued to be creative, but I’ve fallen into a little bit of a rut.  I sew.  I make a quilt here and there.  I do a LOT of photography of course and I’ve been writing like a mad person pretty steady for almost 4 years now.  And yet I feel like I’m in a rut.  I feel like I need to work on something different to fire myself back up which is how I found myself working till 11:30 the other night cutting apart grocery bags to make the pages of a handmade book.  

Yep.  Crazy.  Just what I needed.  

I’ve been reading Judy Wise’s blog for a couple of years now http://judywise.blogspot.com.  She’s a mixed media artist and absolutely brilliant.   She had a tutorial on how to make a hand-sewn journal out of grocery bags that I pinned to Pinterest ages ago and kept telling myself “I’m gonna make that.”  I even gathered up bags and cut out some pages one time and then it sat in my studio.  

And Sat.

And Sat.

And Sat.  

I eventually got disgusted with myself and threw the whole lot away and immediately regretted it. So the other day I looked at my collection of grocery bags ( you know we all keep them), found that pin on Pinterest again the other day, and decided to do something crazy.  On 02/02/2016 I pulled out my old Masonite board from college, my x-acto knife a ruler, stuck a pencil in my bun and went to town.  I got all 24 pages cut out - three per bag- soaked in water, squeezed out, and hung to dry in my studio on a clothes drying rack.  I even cut out my cover from a cornflakes box and gessoed the first layer on one side.  I was jamming along to Periscope, lost all track of time, and was happy.  Humming a little tune, dancing in the kitchen, feeling like a wild woman happy.  
That wild woman is still there.  I just have to feed her a little.  She’s gotten skinny.  She’s gotten weak.  And if it takes cutting apart brown paper grocery bags to feed her, make her happy, shake out that wild mane and smile it’s worth every paper scrap and lost minute of sleep.  

So here’s to freeing my inner wild woman.  Here’s to finding that simple joy in life.  Here’s to creativity and art and freedom and escape from the mundane world.  Let’s play.  Let’s be creative.  Let’s discover some art this year.  It’s never too late in the year for a new resolution.  And as C.S. Lewis said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”  

I feel like dreaming some.  I feel like setting a goal.  And most importantly I feel like reaching some new goals.  

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” Mark Twain  

And it you’ll come back tomorrow I’ll share my adventure of handmade bookbinding.  


  1. "I feel like dreaming some. I feel like setting a goal. And most importantly I feel like reaching some new goals."

    Exactly. Preach.
    And also we need to find some peasant dresses like that for adults k?

    1. When I went on my honeymoon to Mexico they had those dresses in my size! I wanted one soooo bad. Still regret not impulse buying one.


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