e bond’s Bay Area studio space is full of inspo.
Because one day dedicated to e bond just isn’t enough, we’re following up her Tuesday edition release (did you see this beaut?!) with a studio visit. bond’s sunny studio is jam packed with inspiring words and images. It’s pretty clear from the photos that this artist is a multidisciplinary maker: you can see how her versatile workspace is well-suited to all sorts of artistic exploits. In her 20x200 collection alone, you’ll find everything from hangable paper sculptures, to two limited-edition prints, to handmade, one-of-a-kind notebooks. Apparently her ambidextrousness also applies to letterpress printing—we thought we spotted her beaming visage in the mix at Amos Kennedy’s recent workshop at Oakland’s Compound Gallery! (Two amazing 20x200 artists artmaking together is almost too much for us.)
Many of us would cap out at artist, bookbinder, designer, and writer, but bond’s also a seasoned educator—taking a class with her should be on your bucket list. She has two upcoming workshops at El Cerrito’s Handcraft Studio School: Bookbinding for Beginners and All About Accordion Books. (Our team will be insanely jealous if you’re able to attend, but please send pics anyway.) If, like us, you can’t be in the Bay Area at the right time, you can still get in on the action. Take bond’s class on Creativebug, a journey into mixed media map making. She talks a bit about the 31-day series in this Facebook Live video, during which you can also watch bond and Creativebug’s contributing editor make scrap maps using the art marks left over on the protective paper laid down for previous projects. That upcycling technique is something bond reflexively reaches for, including in the creation of her most recent 20x200 edition, remainder. Read all about that here.
More e bond workshops, please! In the meantime, follow her on Insta for updates, and to get a taste of her tremendous warmth. (She is the nicest.) — Team 20x200
Where's your studio?
My studio space is actually the living room of my apartment. It’s the most sun-filled room, so it was a no-brainer to make it the studio. There has definitely been a slight shift in how I work since I moved to the west coast because I can’t afford large or separate studio space in the Bay Area the way I could back East. But I’ve always lived in houses where we never used rooms in the ‘proper’ manner, so this still feels pretty normal to me. The studio part of the room has basically taken up the ‘living room’ part, with scanners, photo copiers and tables everywhere, but there is a sofa and a TV in there so it can still function like a living room at times. If I’m honest, my ‘studio’ spills over onto any table or flat surface that is empty.
What's your favorite tool in the studio?
I tend to have a ‘favorite’ of every tool in here. For instance, I have 12 pairs of scissors but I will only reach for the ones with the blue handles. Or my favorite bone folder is the one with a specific sticker marked ‘e3’. But my all-time FAVORITE, can’t-do-without tool is my scalpel. It’s sharp, smooth to the touch and fits perfectly in my hand. It was a gift from my friend, Muther, and I’ve never been able to find another one exactly like it.
What do you wear when working in the studio?
I have a pair of really old, painted on, baggy jeans that are so big & comfy they barely stay up anymore. And there’s a pair of newer denim overalls that also make the cut, if I’m not in those jeans. Then, just add my favorite Nike Mid Blazers or a pair of very well loved blue Dansko clogs, my favorite threadbare Jean-Michel Basquiat black tee and we’re all set.
What's on your in-studio playlist?
Lots of podcasts, audio books & music depending on the task at hand: For podcasts, I love The Slowdown Show with Tracy K. Smith in the morning, then lots of Keep Calm and Cook On with Julia Turshen. It’s a podcast about food but it always ends up being about life and creating too, which I love. OnBeing is a big favorite although I get distracted a lot when I listen to that one & less work gets done, lol. In terms of music, lately I’m noticing I get into crazy loops, like listening to the same thing over and over … Right now it’s Alice Smith & Snoh Aalegra all day long. Other favorites are Donny Hathaway, Patty Griffin, Brandi Carlile, Glenn Gould, H.E.R. and Erykah Badu. Oh, also any & all 90s hip hop.
What's the first thing you do when you arrive at your studio?
I stare a lot, then drink some tea and turn on The Slowdown Show. I am usually pretty confused in the morning, so that first poem podcast is the attempt to focus. Then I look at THE LIST, which is my weekly list of things to accomplish, & get going with any of the tasks for the day.
What's your work style? Late nights? Intense creative bursts? Slow and steady wins the race?
It’s changed a lot over the years, as time, energy and money have allowed, but lately, for at least the last 8 or so years, I’m residing in the camp of ‘slow and steady’. I find doing a little of ‘something’ each day keeps my head in the game. A dedicated practice of making each day allows for a more balanced ‘me’ on all levels. The bursts don’t seem to work for me artistically and the late nights don’t work for me physically anymore.
Book art is one of the cornerstones of your creative expression—how did you get into it in the first place, and how does it inform your approach to the other art forms you explore?
I got into making books right out of undergrad. I‘d just graduated with a degree in Graphic Design and Art History and was trying to figure out a way to keep an art practice going as I was beginning to figure out real life outside of school. My good friend kept signing up for art workshops just so she could continue to make art, and a few of them were book art classes. I started to go with her and immediately became hooked. It was like a missing piece to the puzzle was found that I didn’t know was missing.
So many of my interests revolve around the written word & how we communicate with each other. Within graphic design, that desire is built into the fabric of the discipline, and in my non-work life, I tend to read and write a lot, A LOT. So making book forms was the final frontier, whereas now the idea of ‘form’ was being added into the mix. Up until this time, I had only been concerned with content. Making books also allowed me the skill to start to control the form for the content I was writing, drawing and designing. It started to make me consider the vessel in ways I never had before as an artist/designer. That was the biggest breakthrough that still serves all the work I make. I never really understood the phrase, ‘form follows function’ until I started to physically build forms. It’s something I try to get students to understand. You have to physically make what you are designing or creating. You can’t just imagine it. You need to make it over and over, not just at the end of the project, but throughout the whole ideation process. Then, the content becomes real to you in such different ways.
What's your favorite way to procrastinate in the studio?
Procrastination usually looks like me listening to something interesting in the studio, like a podcast or an audio book. I’m working and listening and it’s all going fine until one thought catches my attention from something someone says, and then I start down a rabbit hole. Next thing I know, I’m sitting at the computer instead of working, researching some obscure topic about dendrology or which of the Queer Eye guys are married … Ugh, it’s not a good way for work to be made. Anyway, I try to combat this by taking handwritten notes on pieces of scrap paper if something catches my interest, and then I just stack them at the edge of the table until the end of the day. If it’s still that important after the day is over, then I can sit and Google to my heart’s content later on the sofa.
Whens, Hows & Whys
When did you first realize you wanted to become an artist and how’d you get there?
Hmm, this question is always hard for me, because I suspect I’m one of those humans who never really ‘realized it’ because it didn’t occur to me that there was any other choice. I just wanted to be someone who made things every day—that’s all I knew. But I was lucky enough to grow up in a house where art was all around me. It’s what people did, it was talked about and it was simply an option to consider, like any other trade or profession. That visibility helped & because of that I never felt odd for wanting to follow my instincts. There were and are many struggles around being a working artist in America, but luckily for me, there were no struggles in the initial choice to become one.
I think finding my way to the specific disciplines that were right for me has been a big bunch of trial and error, failure and leaps of faith. And the making part of art, like I suspect most other things, is really all practice. Just work. People want to convince you it’s mostly about all these other things: profound gifts, magic, talent, etc… And I know there is a lot of that involved too. I am a huge believer in magic, but I am also a huge believer in work. For me, it all comes down to lots of practice and persistence, lots of listening, & a huge willingness to fail.
How do you get over creative blocks?
At this point in my practice I am better at knowing how and where I have a tendency to get stuck, which is super helpful. For instance, I find beginnings of processes crazy hard, therefore mornings are tough for me to get going. So I try to leave something out the night before that is half-finished & has a very obvious next step waiting to be picked up the next day. So basically nighttime m(e) gives daytime m(e) the cue of where to begin because I know I won’t be able to figure it out in that moment. I do this kind of thing, i.e. leave myself notes or clues, in many different ways, because it helps me stay on track. Nothing works 100% of the time, but it certainly helps, and once I get my hands moving, usually momentum and muscle memory start to take over. I think the thing to remember about blocks in general is the motion thing. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you are making as long as you ARE making. It’s easier to enter into the deeper creative space we all want to reside in from the initial space of making, instead of from inertia, at least for me. You know that whole ‘bodies in motion, stay in motion’ thing? Well it’s the same with art (& actually everything else) for me.
What do you like best about 20x200?
I’ve been inspired by 20x200 because of their sheer dedication to the idea of thinking about art through a more democratic lens. I love that an embroidered wall hanging, a letterpress print and an 18th century painting can sit alongside one another in one place. Where else can my handmade books be next to Gordon Parks’ photographs & a map painting by Paula Scher? And where else could all three be affordable to people with diverse economic backgrounds? I love being a part of a space that challenges how art is being viewed and sold. Living with art is life changing & it can be available to everyone. 20x200 gives us the chance as makers and patrons to actually make that happen.
You've got substantial teaching experience under your belt. How has teaching affected your own artistic process?
Teaching forces clarity. Of an idea, a process, a way of thinking …Teaching makes me have to get very clear—usually about something I am already wrestling with in my own practice—in order to be able to address it for and to my students. And because I have this need to discuss everything I can about process to students, (I feel like it’s not talked about enough), I really want to make whatever ideas I am trying to convey accessible & practical, so that they can decide if they want to incorporate it into their own creative process. So this practice of carving out clear methods for my students in turn is making it more accessible to myself. Teaching also forces you to look at your profession through the lens of a beginner if you are going to relate to the people you are trying to reach. I’ve found I also like living and making from this vantage point in my creative life as well. It allows for many more points of departure because you haven’t closed yourself off to the ‘proper way’ of doing things yet. Anything is still possible.
Which artists' 20x200 collections do you most covet (and why)?
Ooh now we’re talking. Well, I was a graphic designer even before I found book making, so one of Paula Scher’s map paintings would be super high on my list of covetable items. I have Scher’s book called Maps and it just blows me away every time I turn a page. Following closely behind would be some of those vintage WPA posters you reprint: the color choices, the typography, the images, I just love what people were up to during that time in American design. Next up would be some Gordon Parks & Dorothea Lange photographs, along with Hilma af Klint’s paintings thrown in for good measure. I have a book about af Klint’s sketchbooks and I’ve seen her work in NYC and Stockholm this year, and whew, those paintings are fascinating to see in person. They are so large and enveloping. For living humans closer to this era, I would love a print by Kindah Khalidy because they are joyful and I love her sense of line. And last but not least, I am and will always be a huge fan of letterpress printers, so Amos Kennedy would round out my list. I have a few of his prints from 20x200 & many others I’ve collected through the years.
Why do you think it's important to have a dedicated work space for your art? What advice would you give to artists looking to build a creative work space?
I think it’s super wonderful to have a dedicated workspace for your art but honestly since moving to California, I’ve found that I can work anywhere if I really want to. In my old house, I had an entire floor dedicated to my book business as studio space and believe me, that was pure joy. I do miss that space and what it afforded me in terms of flexibility, but I now know that I can make it work anywhere.
Here’s what a space does for you: It allows you to close the door, or walk out of the room, and enter into another part of your life for a while. It allows you to disconnect and then go connect with someone or something else. You aren’t physically living in your thoughts & projects all the time, which is important for the work and the person making it.
What I might advocate more for as opposed to a dedicated physical space is actually building a dedicated circle of humans with like-minded goals about living and being in the world. I think this might be more beneficial to creativity than anything else. Try to find odd, very different, interesting people you can talk to honestly about the spectrum of what it means to live a creative life. The choice to be an artist isn’t easy, so it’s helpful to have a safe, tight circle around you and those people. Find people who can remind you of who you are on the days when you want to throw it all away, & be diligent about doing the same for them. This has been the most beneficial to me in this long, long game.
The 411 on e bond
e bond is an artist + writer + bookbinder + educator + designer. currently, she makes digital spaces by day, handmade books by night, hangs out with ancient trees on weekends and writes something close to poems in the spaces between. under the studio name roughdrAftbooks—created in 2003—she creates artists’ books, handmade journals and mixed media pieces that blur the boundaries of art, craft, design and poetry.