About robertalavadour

Creates artists books and bindings using the Mission Creek Press or Desultory Press imprints.

Featured Artists from the Pine Meadow Ranch Center for Art and Agriculture Residency at PCA


It’s not very often that my book life and my day-job life intersect, but this month I have an artist’s book included in an exhibit at the Pendleton Center for the Arts because I was also a resident at Pine Meadow Ranch.

Past, 2022 began when I found a child’s toy drum at the thrift store during a trip into Sisters, Oregon, about two miles from the ranch. The vellum drum heads were so beautiful – clearly well played, probably to the chagrin of parents and neighbors. Once the center sections were removed to create a pair of limp vellum bindings, the remaining sections cried out to be included in the piece, hence the boat-like sleeves. Of course, building a housing for little gems like this is one of the facet of book arts that I love the best. The painting was inspired by our trip at PMRCAA with Pam, the farm manager, to see fields of cover crops they were experimenting with. The interior storage structure uses magnets to allow the boats to be securely nestled below deck when stored. When displayed the boats can take on any configuration. Available for sale ($650), email robertalavadour (at) gmail for more information. (Enclosure dimensions 13.75 x 11.75 x 4.5″)

Perfect Turn-ins Every Time


I was browsing my Instagram feed the other day when an image of a Solander box scrolled up, and all I could see was the edge of a clunky turn-in that peeked out from under the paste-down. I know that there’s often not ‘one right way’ to do things, but I really do think this is a great way to avoid that issue. I came to this style on my own, and in all the book arts workshops I’ve taken, I’ve never seen it taught this way. I love it. I hope you find it helpful. (Side note: I was getting over a cold when I did the voice over, so forgive the gravelly tone.)

Love, Punky (2022)


My earliest memory is of walking to church on a maple-leaf stained sidewalk in Bremen, Indiana, my Aunt Marie berating my Uncle Dewey for the black grease still embedded under his short fingernails and in the creases of his hands. Dewey was a diesel mechanic, and owned Balsley’s Garage, the name spray-painted in cursive on the doors of his tow truck. He could never get his hands clean enough for church, according to Marie.

My Aunt and Uncle were in their mid to late 40s, their own three children out of the house and the oldest almost through medical school, when my recently widowed father dumped me, an infant at the time, and my 6 year old sister on them. If you’re also from a family tree that features multiple marriages and some tangled branches, you know that inter-family classism can run deep. Adults often make it clear when children are a burden.

Uncle Dewey was the one person who always had a sincere twinkle in his eye and made me feel happy. Even a toddler recognizes and remembers small kindnesses. In their home I was Punky, a nickname that was never used after we were returned to my dad and his new wife.

Love, Punky is a one-of-a-kind artist’s book that began during a residency at Pine Meadow Ranch Center for Art and Agriculture as I was exploring the possibilities of the Sewn Board Binding. The combination of the graphite-grimed pages and the cathedral-like architecture of the form feels like the perfect homage.

…and WHY the blocky stubs, you might ask? Balance.

Holiday Cheer


Here’s a peek at some of the journals that went home with shoppers at this year’s Art of the Gift event at PCA. I’ll be teaching this basic structure as a “Book in a Day” class at the 2022 Focus on Book Arts conference this summer. These photos show examples of the ways the tiny canvases that make up the structure can be exploited to creative ends. Check out all the classes I’m teaching this summer HERE.

Adding a Twist to the Sewn Board Binding


Pushing the limits of different structures is always on my mind, and the sewn board binding affords several opportunities for exploration. I learned Gary Frost’s adaptation of this binding from Barb Tetenbaum in the mid-90’s at the summer book arts program at Whitman College, and have made hundreds of books using it since. This piece was made for the ranch hands and staff at Pine Meadow Ranch Center for Art and Agriculture during my fall 2021 residency there

The flex at the connection of the floating spine to the cover material creates a fun spot for a wide range of pop-ups–this book used it to reveal some relief prints of field grass seed heads.

If you’ve made this structure before, the following images will make sense. Instead of separate spine bookcloth and cover material, both are formed from one sheet of strong paper. The book pictured is made with monotype printed Rives BFK 250 gsm paper.

Shapes can come with associations that can be hard to shake. When I first started experimenting, the basic bird mouth idea was hard to ignore, then diamond tuck and roll from the 70s came to mind, then a friend mentioned punk leather gear. So, perhaps the applications might be broader than I’m imagining. If you do something interesting with it, send me a photo!

If you’re not well-versed in the sewn board binding, I’ll be teaching a quick version at the Focus on Book Arts conference in July in Forest Grove, Oregon. Join us.

Democracy Discarded


I typically don’t donate artwork to organizations outside my community, but I made an exception for the Altered Book Fundraiser at the MarinMOCA for a few of reasons. First, even though my work is varied, to say the least, altered books are a bit outside my typical thing. Second, I wanted this piece to be in the world in this particular time we’re experiencing. Third, this museum is in the California city where my grandparents lived, near to where my mother lived all of her short 39 years and where her family goes back generations. The family members and location loom large in my story, but that I’ve never had any direct connection to them.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This primer to teach children about democracy was published in the mid 1940’s. It typifies the way I was taught about our system of government, using analogies that kids could relate to, like making a family decision. It talks about why we don’t have a king, and why equality and one person, one vote is so essential. It is almost comical in its naiveté, given the way our system has been hijacked by special interests and shady actors. I’ve used Fusion 4000 to overlay colored transparency collages over a selection of the pages.

I made an extra set of hand-held viewers in light of COVID-19. The ‘reader’ may view the book through their chosen lens. An interesting, unintended result…the red viewers allow you to only see red, but the blue viewers allow you to read the text in its entirety.

You can bid on the book at the link above. All proceeds to go the institution. (If you see the exhibit in person, send me a photo of the installation. I’m curious to know how they’re displaying it, given the current political climate.)

Happy, Happy Birthday, Baby


Other people’s birthdays, retirements and special events are a gift to ME, as I get to experiment with materials and techniques outside of my typical studio work. Often, these experiments inform future work and they always help to hone my bench skills. So THANKS to my pals for letting me make you something fun.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Summer Day, 2019



Introducing Summer Day, a piece inspired by long days spend outdoors, examining the component parts of plants, having those materials in hand and seeing and feeling how the sun had transformed them and prepared them to reproduce. A trail from a solitary bee makes an appearance too. (I’ve always wanted to market a line of solitary bee houses called The Solitary Bee B&B…)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The papers were all made from fibers harvested near my former studio on Mission Creek. Papers from wheat stalk, sedge, tule (bull rush), iris and day lily form the bulk of the piece, with accents of pulp painting with pigment dyed abaca/recycled cotton. Stitching methods include the basics – back stitch, running stitch, chain stitch, along with some couched, spun tule paper. Threads include waxed linen, cotton thread and hand-spun milkweed from a crop of volunteer flowers next to the porch at my new house/studio.