Non-Adhesive Covers
August 25, 2013
On and Off the Page begins at Exeter Academy
September 8, 2013
Show all

Making sketchbooks

I made my first sketchbook in a printmaking class in college at the Cleveland Institute of Art. Off and on for the next ten years I did some make-shift sketchbook making and then poof, I started making books based on that structure from interesting corrugated boxes that were going into the recycle. I would comb the piles of boxes slated for the transfer station, looking for interesting fruit and veggie boxes. Friends would save boxes for me, and recently my sister even brought back Hello Kitty pizza boxes from Germany for me.


In the early part of the 21st century I made close to 300 of these books that I sold in Art-o-Mat machines all over the country. (Art-o-Mat puts cigarette package sized art into refurbished old cigarette machines.) My little books were even sold in the machine that was at the Whitney Museum in NYC for awhile. I’ve taught the structure to oodles of people and continue to make them today, but now only when I get a really interesting box, and/or I am teaching it to students. It’s a great reuse/upcycle project. Here’s the handout that I give to my students that supplements the in-class demo. The hardest part is the sewing. It’s a little tricky ending and starting new signatures. Suggestions on the directions are most welcome.

These directions can be adjusted to any size.

Cardboard Box Side one






Rejuvenated Book side twoAnd why Hello Kitty? I fell in love with her as a little girl of the 1970’s when she first emerged on the “silly things for westerners to buy” circuit. She made me want a cat more than anything. (Which I got 35 year later…)

One of my very first memories was having to return miniature Hello Kitty pencils to Higbee’s, a department store in Cleveland. I was like five or six years old, didn’t have any money but somehow the pencils came home with me. My mom found out and made me return them to the store. I even had to apologize to the clerk for my bad deed.

Now, I don’t have any vintage Hello Kitty paraphernalia, and I have very few Hello Kitty things–and I don’t want anymore, but these sketchbooks remind me of being a kid. Of screwing up, learning lessons and figuring out how to be a good citizen. And these are the kinds of things I record in these sketchbooks…in visual and written form.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *