Saturday 15 June 2019

Tactile Notebooks

Last week I spent an amazing 5 days at Committed to Cloth working with Sandra Brownlee.

I had booked the workshop because Leslie Morgan (owner of C2C) assured me that it was something that I should do.  I went with some trepidation and uncertainty as I didn't really understand the description of Tactile Notebooks:

This workshop will help you to find your own living language through the creation of a vibrant notebook practice. Motivated by ‘haptic’ considerations we will use the sense of touch to stimulate and awaken perception to guide the making process, and to revive sensitivity to the way we communicate both visually and verbally. We will create tactile pages, playing with materials, techniques, and words to make concrete the vital elements of our experience. The goal is to heighten your sensory experience, expand understanding in unexpected directions, and deepen your artistic vision.

The supply list didn't give many clues as it matched in almost every particular the tools and media I would take to an art journaling workshop.

The first day started with the group gathering around the table whilst Sandra talked about many things including what the workshop was  about.  Each day started with this gathering and the setting of the timetable for the day.  Sandra shared generously from her abundant knowledge, backed up with photographs and quotes.  This photo shows just a few items from the first session.

Unusually the first day was spent making the cover for our notebooks - to make the notebooks precious.  Most folks I know make the cover when the notebook is finished.   I had taken some ice dyed fabric which I cut to fit my 6" square notebook.  I found the bit of turquoise in one of the bags of bits I had taken.


I beaded the spine.

On the second day we talked about paper and made a group list of things you can do to paper.  I had also taken a 4" square notebook with me and found I had enough  fabric to cover this to match.  I spent most of the day making a record book of the different actions from the list we had made.

One of the things that Sandra emphasised was that these notebooks were for our eyes only.  They were not for public consumption.  We did share the pages with her as she went round talking to each of us.  Her encouragement and support was limitless.

I decided that the first page needed to be a privacy notice as a reminder to me, especially as I tend to share, (some may say overshare), much of my work on this blog.

I really didn't get going in my notebook until day 3.  I had played with one or two pages, but had put all my discussion notes and quotes in a separate notebook whilst I came to terms with all the input from Sandra.  I wanted a record of everything but not necessarily in this tactile notebook.

I was very taken with the poem Love After Love by Derek Walcott

We had each been given a nightlight which sat on the foiled paper.  As I wasn't planning on lighting the candle I glued the paper into my notebook to represent the mirror in the poem.

I'm not going to show you all the pages I did.  However I will show you a sequence of pages I did after watching this video:

Sandra had described a metaphor for the workshop.  We were to imagine we were all on a barge with the banks close to the sides of the barge so that we could get off whenever we wanted to.  We could follow wherever inspiration took us.

One word written in many different ways to fill the page.

My response to one of the poems we read together.  It rained quite heavily whilst we were at the workshop.

By the end of the group session on the fifth day there was a phenomenal amount of inspiration on the walls - and notes in my notebook!

We were each given a piece of red fabric and asked to look at all the information on the walls and pin our cloth on the image or quote that meant most to us at that moment.   I chose this:

I photocopied it to put in my book and wrote about why I chose it.

We were also asked to go back through our notes and notebooks and make a list of 27 words, phrases or sentences that stood out to us as a summary of our time together.

You will see that #27 says new life.  Our granddaughter was born whilst I was on the workshop.

Over the years I have wanted to have a daily journal practice, but it just wasn't me.  I didn't enjoy the act of writing.  Strange as I love writing here.   As you know I do art journaling but that isn't daily.  I've tried writing a diary but that gets very boring - there's only so much you can say about my day - got up, had breakfast, read my emails, spent far too long on Facebook, etc, etc.

As I spent time going through the notes and my tactile notebook to gather my 27 Words, I noticed that I had picked out some things about journeys.  As you probably know I like to travel and I often make travel journals for my trips.  I realised at that moment that if I treat my tactile notebook as a travel journal - a travel journal of my life - that I would be able to find a way into keeping a journal.  Especially as having a daily notebook practice can be about mark making or stitch or gluing a picture in.  It doesn't need to be a diary with a written account everyday.

It was an inspiring and life-changing experience.  Thank you Sandra and thank you Leslie.


  1. I adore this 'notebook'. It looks like fun playing with art to me. LOVE the texture and playfulness - this is wonderful!

  2. What fun you’ve had Bernice!
    Thank you for sharing, I for one, love seeing your work.
    Please don’t stop!


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