Two Jade Buttons

The book is done!

I haven’t even had time to list it on the 2017 Book Art page, but it’s up on SaatchiArt now:

Here’s a teaser. Yes, those are detachable cufflinks in Burmese jade and buffalo bone, on the lower right panel.

And the covers:

Earrings and other conundrums

Artisans make bread-n-butter pieces: smaller, simpler objects that feed the bank account. But they also need room for the big or complicated gonzo works that feed their joy and skill.

I don’t have pierced ears, I don’t intend to ever have pierced ears, and clip-on earrings tend to hurt me after about an hour. So when I design jewelry I tend not even consider making earrings. (I’m all about ear cuffs, however, which are usually absurd and overblown.)

For 2018, I’m trying more earring designs. They’re small and generally less tricky to do than a big necklace project. They make a good test of new stitches and bead types. Because they take less time and material, they can be more affordable for both artist and buyer.

I love painting on matte-finished shell, but I need more practice to get my knack back. Hence: earrings.

A few of my beading friends make the bulk of their show and Etsy income from earrings. For various reasons I need to follow in their footsteps this year.

But earrings (and beaded amulet bags, bracelets, barrettes, and other small projects) have a hidden cost: the time and material spent making them is lost from bigger, more ambitious projects. There can be a strong temptation to *only* make earrings to sell. This same tendency befalls many Etsy artisans and artists attempting to load juried festival booths with cheaper buy-sell goods. Cheap and fast = lots of small sales. Especially in a recession.

What do artists lose when they focus solely upon easy sales targets? They can’t build up stocks of larger and/or involved gallery-and-museum-worthy pieces. That robs them of the opportunity to enter career-advancing contests, or apply for single-person gallery retrospectives. Unless those artists run across an earring-only gallery, they’re out of luck. Without museum-worthy pieces, artists cannot reach the one market that has so far thrived in this era: the wealthy private collector or corporate collector.

Artists who do have the luxury of building and storing stocks of finished pieces, can take advantage of those opportunities. That usually means they’re either selling enough work to make it a fulltime job…or they’re being subsidized somehow. Sometimes this can occur through family ties or marriage, sometimes through thrifty budgeting or a great non-art job.

I know an artist who is one of the finest realistic painters I’ve ever met. She’s rarely sold work, and almost never shows her pieces. I only know about her because I met her while I worked in an art supply store. She paints because she loves it, she’s damn good at it, and she’s got enough outside resources to ensure she’ll never need to rely on her art for a living.

I know a fiber artist who lives in an upperclass environment in a country and culture where servants are the norm. This artist can afford to spend months on single pieces, and keep them just for fun. Her work has a density, exuberance, and purity that a more sales-driven artist might give up as inefficient.

Art myth: many artists pride themselves on being scrappy and socially edgy, thriving on the rough and impoverished margins. Art truth: supplies are expensive, poverty is terrible for creativity, and most prolific and ‘successful’ artists have well-planned revenue streams.

I’m faced with some changes in my art sales this year: two venues are on hiatus, while several more are ramping up. That means I need a balance of over-the-top jewelry and book art pieces…and earrings.



Crane Designs Book Art


Many of my book art sculptures are represented in the US and internationally by the wonderful folks at Vamp & Tramp Booksellers.

A large catalog of works can be seen by scrolling down the pages on the right side of this blog. Look for Book Arts & Text Based Art, for pieces from specific years.

Most of these pieces are one-of-a-kind, with a few limited small-run editions.

I go more into my book art process and philosophy here.


Help keep the power on so I can keep blathering about art, jewelry, writing, and politics! I’ve joined Amazon Affiliates and Rakuten Marketing, so your click on the link below will give a micropayment.

Taschen is one of my favorite publishers of beautiful, thought-provoking books in fine art, photography, culture, and the humanities.

TASCHEN - Beautiful Books

Artist’s Invocation

All glories I have wrought by hand and gift of seeing,

All dreams I have brought from dreamscape into being,

All mysteries I’ve taught, however fast or fleeting,

Mingle toward the truth I’ve sought: streams at the Sea completing.

Spirit of Probability, Spirit of the Single Path, I have sought you. You are not here. You are nowhere, but in me.

Spirit of Possibility, Spirit of the Branching Path, I have sought you. You are not here. You are nowhere, but in me.

Spirit of Serenity, Spirit of the Still Pool, I have sought you. You are not here. You are nowhere, but in me.

Spirit of Change, Spirit of the Fountain, I have sought you. You are not here. You are nowhere, but in me.

(A little secular prayer I began in 1985, and tend to say before every major undertaking. It helps me focus on what I want out of that particular project. I’ve always intended to make it into a book art project, and might yet.)

Book Art Jewelry: Enlightenment

A teaser for a piece called ‘Enlightenment’, which I describe in more detail here.

I love book art. It’s one of my default settings after 20 years. ‘Can I make it into a book?’ is a question I now apply to everything from spam emails to a set of cocktail swords found in a thrift store. (The short answer is ‘Yes, that can probably become part of a book’.) I have more project ideas in notebooks than I’ll probably have life to make…and I’m fine with that.

Each new book art sculpture is a learning point.

I have a favor to ask of you, dear readers. To offset web hosting costs, I’ve joined Amazon Affiliates and Rakuten Marketing. I’ll gradually work paid buy links into the Amazon links I’ve already provided for other authors’ books. And on some blog posts I’ll include paid buy links (usually in discreet text) to some other companies and services I like. If you click on these links and buy something on the other side, the tiny amounts I earn will add up to keep this blog (and my power) running.

Taschen is one of my favorite publishers of fine art, photography, culture, and the humanities.
TASCHEN - Beautiful Books

BREATHE covers

Typically, it’s April and I only just starting to upload 2017’s book arts pieces!

Here are the roughly 1.5x3x.25″ faux-inlay covers (outside and inside) for BREATHE. I showed a first look at the pages last year. They’re a gathering of Latin mottos I thought were particularly appropriate for the current state of the world:

Dum Spiro Spero. Dum Spero Amo. Dum Amo Vivo. Dum Vivo Prosum.

While I breathe, I hope. While I hope, I love. While I love, I live. While I live, I do good.

The covers give rough English translations, along with the title, colophon, my sigil and date made.

I chose poplar because it’s a fairly hard, very fine-grained wood that takes well to woodburning. When properly varnished, good poplar feels and ‘pings’ almost like porcelain or bone.

Text and designs are burned in with a pyrography pen. You can’t see it in these scans, but I did scrollwork on every edge. It came out yummy.

I sanded and scrubbed away the burn resins (otherwise the paint won’t stick!), then filled the channels with a thickened tinted acrylic (in this case, Indigo and Titanium White). When that dried, I sanded it again until most of the wood was clean, and most of the burned channels were still filled with a paint ‘inlay’ with a fine dark brown outline. It’s not an exact artform: you can see where I sanded out the paint on the word ‘breathe’ on the lower right image.

Alert readers will have seen me try this out here. I’ve been farting around with this technique for over ten years, but this and the blood orange wand are the first times I’ve been mostly happy with the look. Hint: fine-grained wood is the key. Wengewood, purpleheart, and oak have too much open grain that collects the paint and obscures the drawing (see where I messed up on CONTINENTAL DIVIDE and CITY AT NIGHT).

When sealed with a UV resistant lacquer varnish, the silky grain of the poplar shows up in a figured pattern, with a lot of surface translucence that offsets the opaque paint.

The beaded accents are from the 30-Year Stash: blue and white porcelain inside the cover holes, with matte green/red striped ‘onyx’ glass and pale gray-purple matte seed beads. I thought these picked up the dark blue, lavender, buttercreme, and ice-blue colorways and floral theme of the fabric pages.

Thread is Navy Blue waxed polyester from Maine Thread Co.

And now on to join pages and covers! More on the finished piece here.


Votive Bone Rings

I recently wrote about the materials and inspiration for a series of Dia de los Muertos-themed rings.

I decided to do only an edition of three books in this group, because I have different ideas for the next three.crane-book-dia-book-detail

To recap: Dia de los Muertos votive bone rings. On a platform of carved bone rings, I’ve stacked miniature linen pages embroidered with rainbow ribbons. Bone and leather pin closure, Coptic-bound spine, glass and bone-accented red tassels. Edition of 3, each slightly different.

Here they are closed.crane-books-dia-books-closed

And here they are open.crane-books-dia-books-open

Material: carved water buffalo bone, leather, rainbow-embroidered tan linen, poly-cotton ribbon, glass, waxed red polyester cord.

Ring sizes: variable.

Dimensions: approximately 1″ x 6″ x 1.5″.

Note added 7-17-2017: these are getting rebuilt, because I’m not happy with them.


Six Bone Rings…

…On their way to being art.

Fire Mountain Gems had a closeout sale recently, during which I got some great  items that will all make incredible book or jewelry art. Eventually.

The first such transformation will be these six carved bone rings, originally from China & dyed with dark brown bands and peace symbols. For around $1 each, I thought they’d make perfect mini-platforms for altered art. They vary in ring size, and the raised (peace symbol) portion is no more than .75″ across. I did a preliminary clean on the one on the far left.


The brown dye was so fugitive it rubbed off on my hands! That had to go, via about an hour with a tub of water, a cordless Dremel, and some graduating grades of sandpaper. While I hated taking away another artisan’s hard work, I have to admit that the cleaned rings look so much better.


Then I made some ‘pages’ from strips of machine-embroidered linen and cotton bias tape. Drilled some holes in one of the newly-cleaned rings. Cut, embossed, and painted some leather strips. Carved out two more bone shapes, to go with the ring. I have to find or order boxes to fit them, because they’ll need some kind of storage/presentation case.

With luck, I’ll be showing off the first of six bone mini-book rings in a week or so. My target wholesale price will be around $85 to $100 each. I’m reasonably sure the edition will sell out within a year of delivery to my art agent.

Not a bad investment in art supplies and a little time.