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.

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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.


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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…)

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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.


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Tis the Season

Some of my favorites pieces began as gifts for friends. When I’m trying to surprise someone with a special treat, I seem to be at my most unself-conscious. And the results often surprise me – the objects seem to have come into existence as if by magic, not any labor or planning of my own. ‘Tis the Season (2018) is just such a project. This tunnel book started as a gift and has been re-imagined into an editioned artist’s book. This sculptural work features five relief prints hinged with Arches Cover Black and bound in a simple case with bone clasp closure. See all the details, along with a video of the innards, at the Books for Sale page.




There are some estate sale finds that I ruminate on for a long time, taking them out once every couple of years then tucking them back into a box in the closet. I can’t part with them  because I just KNOW that at some point an idea is going to bubble up. This summer was the time for the 40-some booklets of “green” stamps that I’d bought about a decade ago. There were all sorts – green stamps, blue chip stamps, and lots of brands that I’d never seen before.


Each of the books was dismembered, then the stamps were soaked off the acidic pages and adhered to Kitakata with wheat paste. Luckily, many of the stamps were still intact in perforated but un-torn blocks, but many floated up loose, or in strips of four or five stamps. 26″ x 20″ sheets of the Japanese paper were filled over the course of several weeks.

planningIt’s rare that I plot out a book and follow my own sketches. My usual m.o. is to make drastic changes as one idea doesn’t work out, bobbing and weaving my way to something that feels satisfying and resolved. This time, however, things went pretty much according to plan, although I did print the prose twice, being unhappy with my registration on the first try.


Six of the seven copies are now available for sale. See the details here. 


The Kindness of Strangers



Another small edition completed! While the finished piece has a fairly simple look, the construction was a bit more elaborate. The theme for this year’s Guild of Book Workers call for entries was ‘Formation,’ and I started thinking about how we’re formed – the things we pick up and discard, both in terms of physical objects in our lives and in terms of the traits we see in others and either adopt or reject. I was thinking specifically of Virginia Lindberg, a lovely woman who made an off-hand comment to me once that I’m sure didn’t even register with her, but which has stayed with me and helped me to see what true kindness is.

I wanted the book to be made from scraps and formed into something larger. I started with narrow strips of Rives Heavyweight left over from another project, folding them into what I call an ‘infinity fold,’ which is basically a figure 8. You can watch a quick tutorial on how to make the panels below.


The finished panels were then sewn together with pamphlet stitches, then small patches of Fusion 4000 were sneaked underneath some of the folds so that the resulting accordion could be relief-printed using acetate masks to keep the panels discrete.


The plates were made from pressing heated closed-cell neoprene onto remnants and an old book that I’d found at thrift stores and estate sales, with one carved piece in the mix.

The text was impressed into stripes of Rives Heavyweight with a label maker, the texture playing into the quilted theme of the piece. The words that weave through the piece read,

Pulled apart
Picked Up
Stitched In
Passed Down.

interiorinsideDetail last page

The finished book is just smaller than the size of my hand, and the folded, printed pages provide a nice weight and texture. In the end, the piece wasn’t accepted into the exhibit, but I’m happy with it all the same. Details available here.

Watch a quick tutorial on how the folded panels are made:



Proud to have Origins (2018) in Denver this month at the Dayton Memorial Library, Regis University as part of The Printed Page III, and coming up soon in the 31st Annual McNeese National Works on Paper Exhibition, Abercrobie Gallery, McNeese State University, Lake Charles, LA

Origins (2018) was printed and bound in a edition of 7 copies, five in black/white Duo bookcloth and two in red/blue Duo bookcloth. Pressure prints from collagraph plate with vintage carbon paper, porchoir, and silk screen.
Original text by the artist.  $335.

Purchase information HERE.

R-Lavadour-Origins-5R-Lavadour-Origins-3Origins 8R-Lavadour-Origins-4

The Crab Claw Box: A Quick Tutorial


I designed this protective box during the 2004 Paper and Book Intensive so that the students in my Breathing New Life into Dead Media class would have a place to collect their class samples. It’s so simple that I’m guessing it isn’t new, but it’s been a good little structure, and I wanted to share. One nice feature is that the finished box, if it is wide enough, provides a perfect 90-degree-angle cradle for displaying the book.

The instructions were hand-written late at night in my dorm room – forgive the illustration; there may have been some alcohol involved. The initial structure was designed to have a strap that was woven into the edge, providing a simple tab closure. (If you were in my class you may notice a bit of image editing since the original photocopies.) I’ve found since then that if the box is sized properly, it stays snugly shut on its own, and that straps and slots rarely stand up well to frequent handling.

The original one from class, pictured above, has held up well after more than a decade of being handled many times over the years by students of all ages.

So, here’s a quick how-to video. If you have questions or comments, feel free to email me, robertalavadour (at) gmail.