“Seeing from Both Sides” is a little black and white book that started with the Beltane bonfire. In a rare moment of clarity, I remembered that I wanted to try to make handmade Vine Charcoal. So I cut up some grape vine clippings, put them in a tin can and under the coals of the huge brush pile bonfire that included our Christmas tree, needles for incense, and ice storm branches.

Vine Charcoal Bonfire

Vine Charcoal Bonfire

Vine Charcoal

Vine Charcoal

Vine Charcoal drawing by Kathleen O'Brien

Vine Charcoal drawing by Kathleen O’Brien

Greg and I kept bees for a few years. My favorite pastime was catching swarms, only because they always chose to swarm on a low branch. The hive was rubbed with fresh Melissa and placed under the swarm, branch shaken, in they went after the queen. Fascinating.

beekeepers

beekeepers

Sadly, we lost our hives to beetles, and admitted that it was a lot of work, easier to buy honey! Meanwhile we had a lot of beeswax from the foundations. That got me remembering an art friend, Morrison Polkinghorne’s video about making crayons. The one difference in his instructions was that he was using Lotus blossom ash, I ground up the vine charcoal.

Vine Charcoal and our beeswax

Vine Charcoal and our beeswax

Grinding the charcoal was a good excuse to try a Neolithic pestle.

Vine Charcoal ground with Neolithic pestle

Vine Charcoal ground with Neolithic pestle

grating our beeswax

grating our beeswax

He suggested pouring the mix of melted wax and powder into parchment paper, open it when cool. Mine looked like a boat, just like his did! The fragrance of beeswax is still present.

Beeswax Crayon

Beeswax Crayon

Beeswax Crayon

Beeswax Crayon

I first tried it out on an encaustic collage with poppy petals and feather shapes torn from Japaneses paper, the color sticking to the raised areas.

drawing with the Beeswax Crayon on an encaustic collage

drawing with the Beeswax Crayon on an encaustic collage

Then on the back side of the charcoal drawing used the crayon to do a frotage of the collage.

Frotage of the encaustic collage with the Beeswax Crayon

Frotage of the encaustic collage with the Beeswax Crayon

Frotage of the encaustic collage with the Beeswax Crayon

Writing, marks and frotage of the encaustic collage with the Beeswax Crayon

I drew over certain areas of the charcoal drawing using different sides of the crayon.

Front side of "Seeing Both Sides" before tearing, showing Vine Charcoal drawing with beeswax crayon by Kathleen O'Brien

Front side of “Seeing Both Sides” before tearing, showing Vine Charcoal drawing with beeswax crayon by Kathleen O’Brien

back side of "Seeing Both Sides" before tearing, showing drawings with beeswax crayon, pens, pencils by Kathleen O'Brien

back side of “Seeing Both Sides” before tearing, showing drawings with beeswax crayon, pens, pencils by Kathleen O’Brien

When both sides were complete, I tore the sheet and folded them into signatures and finally sewed them into a sixteen page book, “Seeing Both Sides”.

back side of "Seeing Both Sides" after tearing, showing drawings with beeswax crayon, pens, pencils by Kathleen O'Brien

back side of “Seeing Both Sides” after tearing, showing drawings with beeswax crayon, pens, pencils by Kathleen O’Brien

"Seeing Both Sides" with Vine Charcoal , beeswax crayon, pens, pencils by Kathleen O'Brien

“Seeing Both Sides” with Vine Charcoal , beeswax crayon, pens, pencils by Kathleen O’Brien

It’s really fun to arrange the pages before binding, and interesting to see the interplay of the two styles. It was only after I titled it that I remembered when I first started making collages in 2001 they were two sided. They were very difficult to display, so I gave it up after a while. With bookmaking, I can achieve that inclination.

pages from "Seeing Both Sides" by Kathleen O'Brien

pages from “Seeing Both Sides” by Kathleen O’Brien

pages from "Seeing Both Sides" by Kathleen O'Brien

pages from “Seeing Both Sides” by Kathleen O’Brien

 

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