Saturday, January 26, 2008

Winter's Tale Book

Just joined the TJBookarts weekly challenge over on Flickr:

Every week, a new theme is posted, and anyone who wants to take part (whether you are an expert bookbinder/book artist, or an enthusiastic amatur, or somewhere in between) makes a book that in some way reflects that theme. Cool, eh?

This week' s theme is "Winter." I dipped into my "Drawer of Mysteries" (the place where I keep bits of paper I love but haven't found a use for yet), and used some of the contents to make this book. The covers are made from a maroon Canal paper, and a paper I made myself from moss and tiger lilies. The inside paper is a snowy-white mulberry paper. The binding is hemp cord. The title of the book is "A Winter's Tale" typed on mulberry paper with my trusty old (early 1900s) Remington portable typewriter. I called it that, because the book (to me) represents an entire winter--the first page (with the moss and flowers on a white background) is the beginning of winter, when things are first beginning to be covered by snow; the middle section, pure white paper, is the rest of winter; and the last page (moss and flowers again) is the beginning of spring, when the snow melts and reveals what was underneath.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

French Twist Leather Journal

Just posted a couple of new mini leather journals in my Etsy store. I called them French Twist books, cause I used a modified version of a french stitch to bind it with. I used four needles to do the binding, which is always a bit of a challenge, as thread seems to just naturally want to tangle :/

It was actually a lot of fun doing these bindings, once I got the threads sorted out. I like the drama of the black and white journal, and the ooh, la, la quality of the red one. Will definitely make more french twists!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

New Leather

Yesterday, I drove out to the country in a snowstorm to visit a bookbinder who is retiring. He had called me to ask if I wanted to look at, and possibly buy, some of his equipment or supplies. I didn't know what to expect, and as I was navigating slippery corners, taking wrong turns, and backtracking to find his place, I did wonder whether it was going to be worth it. Well it was! He is a lovely person, and very knowledgeable.
He spent quite a bit of time showing me his workshop and giving me advice on bookbinding. There aren't any other bookbinders (that I know of, anyway) near where I live, so it was great to have someone to chat with about it. He also sold me all of his bookbinding leather, mostly goat and also some calfskin in all sorts of colours. It's so pretty! Here are a couple of pictures, one of all the leather in a pile, and another of my worktable with some leather and also some of the handmade paper I just bought to use for book covers. Now I just have to get busy and make some books...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Leather Journal

So, for my first project from Keith Smith's Non-Adhesive Bindings, Vol.1, I made a pocket-sized (31/2" x 4 3/4") longstitch journal. I used a lovely, velvety, thin brown deerskin for the cover, and some 80 lb Mohawk Via paper. In Smith's book, it's called a "Longstitch Through Slotted Wrapper Cover, but as you can see in this picture, I used pierced holes instead of slots. I'd like to try making one with slots some day, but I was in a piercing mood, not a slot-cutting mood when I made it, so that's what happened :)

I used a butterscotch coloured waxed linen thread to sew it with, which is very pretty. I've been making a lot of case bound (hardcover) books lately, and it's nice to get back to doing a mix of bookbinding styles. Keeps things fresh, going back and forth.
Gluing a book together (which is what I do with case bound books) is a very different experience than doing a sewn binding. I use pva glue for my case-bound books, and it dries very quickly, so I have to work fast before the glue dries. When I first started making case-bound books, I was in a total panic, trying to remember to do all the million-and-one steps in making the book (gluing the book cloth, and sticking the cloth and paper to the binders board, and cutting the corners of the paper, and folding corners, etc., etc.) in the right order before the glue dried out (I could and did reapply the glue, but hate having to do that too much). After making my bazillionth case-bound book, though, I'm pretty much on auto-pilot when I do it these days, which is a relief after those early, sweaty-palmed days. That said, there still is a certain zesty feeling to getting all those pieces assembled before the glue dries up.

Making stitched-spine books requires focus, but is a bit more relaxed, as there aren't any glue issues to deal with. Sort of green tea bookbinding, as opposed to double-shot-of-espresso case-bound bookbinding...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Books that are cut to pieces

Ran across another artist who literally deconstructs books (as well as music scores and other printed matter). Her name is Georgia Russell, and she uses a scalpel to cut books into new forms. It's interesting to see books that are "liberated" from their original form. I have mixed feelings--as someone who creates books, it feels a bit weird to see books cut to pieces, but she does such a beautiful job and the results are quite stunning. I'm guessing that she doesn't use books that are particularly valuable in themselves, and I like the idea of taking a book that would otherwise moulder away on a shelf somewhere (or get tossed into the garbage), and turning it into something that transcends its original form and content.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Paper for Book Covers

Just got back from Vancouver, where I picked up some more handmade paper to use for the covers of some of my books. I love browsing through the paper stores, thinking about combinations I might use (I usually use two layers of handmade papers for the covers, so I'm always thinking about how papers might work together). Plus, I always come away with some paper that doesn't obviously go with anything else, but is just too beautiful, or cool, or weird to resist!

That's how I came up with my bird's nest book (I call it that because the hemp paper I use for the top layer makes me think of a bird's nest). I had the hemp paper for a while, just thinking about how I might use it. I also had some paper that had long strands of grass embedded in it--I loved how it looked, but it was kind of delicate, so I didn't want to use it for a top layer. Then it occurred to me to combine the hemp paper with the grass paper. The hemp paper make a perfect top layer--it's tough, and wonderfully textured, and the holes in it would let the grass show through. I loved the effect, but did wonder if anyone else would :) Turned out to be one of my most popular books--every time I make one, it sells quickly.

Unfortunately, I'm running low on the grass paper, and my usual stores have stopped carrying it. So for the time being I'm going to have to try some other combinations with the hemp paper, which will be fun. Can't wait to get started...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Paper for Books

It's time once again to order text paper for my books, so I've spent time online in my unending quest for paper that is beautiful AND economical. Not an easy task. Paper is a major part of the expense of making my books, so even though I'm constantly tempted by yummy art papers, I have to restrain myself, so as to not make books that no-one can afford :(

Still, there are some lovely papers to be had: Arches Text Wove, Mohawk Superfine, Frankfurt..... Now, I just have to narrow down my choices and send off the order. The best part is when that lovely paper comes in the mail. I live in a somewhat remote part of British Columbia, so I do most of my shopping by mail, bookbinding supplies being pretty much impossible to come by here in town. Love opening the packages when they arrive....

Friday, January 4, 2008


Over on the Book Arts Web listserv, a couple of people have mentioned a book called Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers . It sounds really interesting, and I think I'll use some of my Christmas money to buy a copy.

According to the jacket cover, "wabi-sabi is the quintessential Japanese aesthetic. It is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. it is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional..."

Although I realize how difficult it is for westerners like myself to really comprehend concepts like zen, and wabi-sabi, and Buddhist thought in general, I find myself drawn to read Buddhist writings (particularly the Dalai Lama's books), and I think that has had an influence on how I work. For instance, I started out using straight-edged handmade paper covers for my books, but over time I've started using more and more hand-torn paper for covers. I love the impreciseness of it (you never know what paper will do when you tear it) . The result isn't "perfect," if you measure perfection in terms of control and straight lines, but the paper tears as its nature intends it to tear, so there is a beautiful imperfection in the hand-torn edges that the straight edged paper (however nice) doesn't have. Through taking a "less control" approach, I've found a peacefulness in the process of making books that hopefully becomes part of the character of each book.