Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year, New Goals

As the new year approaches, I've been thinking about what goals I want to set for my work in the coming year (I'm going to avoid the depressing subject of personal goals, that ever-receding horizon filled with good intentions :) .

At the end of each year I like to take an afternoon and go out for a cup of coffee and just sit and think a bit about what I'd like to do in the coming year. I take my notebook and make notes and drawings, not always with the intent of accomplishing specific goals, but to spend some time daydreaming and thinking about possibilities.

Two things I'm already thinking about--

Leather. I really like making those leather journal/sketchbooks that I do for my Etsy store, so this year I'm going to have fun making more moon journals, and I just got a new book on medieval leather bindings, so I'm looking forward to working on a few new medieval-style designs.

Wood. One thing I really want to do this year is to set aside some time to make experimental books, just to explore the possibilities for book making. I'm intrigued by the idea of making books that don't have conventional texts, where instead the book itself is the text. I recently bought a couple of nice pieces of mahogany, a book on how to stitch Coptic headbands, and a severely falling-apart early nineteenth-century book of Jesuit writings in Latin. Somehow, I want to combine those things. We'll see what happens.

To all of the wonderful new friends I've met through this blog, I wish you a very happy New Year! Do you have any daydreams for the coming year?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Writers' Rooms

The Guardian Online has an ongoing series called Writers' Rooms. A simple concept, but interesting--a photo of the featured writer's workspace, plus a short essay by the writer about the room. They've featured contemporary writers, such as Martin Amis and Ian Rankin, and writers who have not used their workspaces in quite a long time, such as Charles Darwin and Jane Austen.

This is writer Marina Warner's space. The untidiness of her workspace looks all to familiar to me, I'm afraid. Although I like to think of it as organized chaos.

One thing that struck me about the rooms featured was how many of them have white walls. Don't know whether the writers find white to be less distracting, or whether they just can't be bothered to think about paint colors....

Monday, December 8, 2008

If you have 100,000 euros to spare.....

.....(and who doesn't?) you might want to pick up a copy of this book of photos of Michelangelos' art, called “Michelangelo: La Dotta Mano” (“Michelangelo: The Wise Hand”). It's a 46 lb. (20.8 kg.) limited edition handbound book that comes in it's own special storage case. The cover is a hand-sculpted reproduction in marble of the Michelangelo's “Madonna della Scala” (“Madonna of the Steps”). It's enough to made a book lover's heart melt....

If you'd like to daydream further about owning a copy, there is a short video about this book here: http://www.fmronline.it/,

Friday, December 5, 2008

Emily Dickinson leather journal

Here is another of my "moon" journals that I've been making for my Etsy shop (see my previous post for more about these). This one has a quote by Emily Dickinson:

"The moon upon her fluent route defiant of a road --"

Here's what it looks like:

I used turquoise moroccan goatskin for the cover. The reverse side of the leather has a lovely mottled look. I had decided to use a 19th century Japanese print of the moon to go along with the quote, and when I was rummaging around in my leather collection, I realized that the colors of this leather matched the print. I was unreasonably excited to discover this :) To me, the colours of the leather, together with the print and quote, create a sort of otherworldly effect that I think Emily would approve of...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

New Handbound Leather Journals

Got a few new journals finished and posted in my Etsy shop. I've been working on some leather journals with quotes about the moon--only seemed natural, since my business name is Moon Bindery! :) Here are photos of a couple of them:

The first one has a quote by Oscar Wilde:

"Beauty is a form of genius - is higher, indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation. It is of the great facts in the world like sunlight, or springtime, or the reflection in dark water of that silver shell we call the moon."

And here is a black elkskin journal with a quote by Albert Einstein:

"I like to think that the moon is there, even if I am not looking at it."

Had a lot of fun designing these. In non-moon news, here is a commemorative leather journal with a quote by Barack Obama:
"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. "

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Busy, busy, busy

Did two craft shows recently--the one I just got back from was my first big show (Art Market in Calgary, Alberta). It lasted four days, and went really well (yay!).

It was a real challenge setting up my booth, as the curtains were black and the organizers turned the overhead lights down--apparently that's supposed to create a cozy atmosphere, but mostly I saw a lot of craftspeople (including myself) wobbling around on step stools, struggling to clamp an assortment of lights onto the flimsy pipe and drape walls of their booths (while trying not to go end over teakettle into their neighbour's booth!), all to keep customers from feeling like they were being invited into a bear's cave!

Here is how my booth turned out--in spite of my determined clamping of lights, it still was dark, but on the plus side, it made the colors of my books stand out:

One of the challenges of doing craft shows is that you never know exactly what conditions you will be working in (in terms of lighting, space, temperature, etc.). There are invariably surprises. One of the first Christmas craft shows I ever did was, as it turned out, set up in a hockey rink, with only a thin layer of plywood put down to cover the ice. I almost froze to death--ah, the glamorous life of the artisan! :)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Italian Addiction

I must confess, I'm a bit addicted to Italian bookbinding papers--so elegantly beautiful. Problem is, I buy them, but then I tend to just want to keep them :) . I've finally started to dip into my stash (although there are still a few I got in Venice a while back that I can't quite bring myself to use yet). Here are a couple of perpetual diaries I made using a combination of Italian papers and Italian bookcloth:

And here is a wine journal made with some brown and gold Italian paper:

Friday, November 7, 2008

Big handbound journal

I've been getting some requests for larger leather journals. I have some really nice, soft, thick Napa leather on hand, so I came up with this:

It's 15.24 cm x 22.86 cm (6" x 9"), with 240 pages of sketch paper. Plenty of room for big ideas :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

New Designs

As I have mentioned before, I've been busy coming up with some new book designs. Here is one of them, a happy orange book with a yellow spine:

I've been wanting to create a book that has the medieval binding stitch on the spine that I love and use for my leather books, but expands the possibilites for this kind of binding.

I decided to make a book that was non-leather (for my vegetarian and vegan friends out there :) and that had at least partially recycled materials. I'm really happy with how these books turned out. They still have sketch paper for the pages, and the covers are made of a really thick, sturdy handmade paper that is made from recycled cotton cloth.

I handbraided the wrap-around strap. Haven't done this much braiding since I was a kid--I used to spend hours in the barn on my father's ranch, braiding twine for jump ropes, bridles, etc.

The inside covers of these books have turn-ins, and endpapers made from handmade paper. Part of my inspiration for these books came from looking at photos of books with similar designs made in Estonia in the 1500s.

Here is a photo of the inside of the orange book:

I have some other colors in my Etsy store, and will be adding more in the days ahead.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Eccentric Library

For all of you who dream of being able to buy all the beautiful books you ever wanted, Wired recently featured a private library of a guy named Jay Walker who made his money in technology, then started collecting rare and beautiful books.

Here, you can leaf through a Kelmscott Press edition of Chaucer's works, reading by the light of a chandelier formerly used in a James Bond film, or browse the stacks as a Sputnik satellite and other shiny items dangle overhead. Would LOVE to see this place....

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Alcuin Society

Just wanted to give a little shout out (in the parlance of our times) to the Alcuin Society. Based in Vancouver, BC, this society, according to their website, is for people who "care about the past, present and future of fine books."

I joined the Alcuin Society last year, and they sent me beautifully printed materials about the society, which has a really interesting history, and about book arts in general. I always look forward to the journal, Amphora, because each issue comes with an original letterpress print (which is worth the price of subscribing by itself). I have one of the letterpress prints hanging in my dining room, and here is a photo of another that arrived recently (it looks crooked in the photo, but isn't in real life):

This print has a picture of a book, surrounded by illustrations of all the things that are bad news for books (rain, bugs, floods, and fire), and the words "tuere me" (take care of me). I will be hanging this one in my bookbinding studio.

This print was designed and created by Gary Sim of Entropy Press. You can find more of his artwork on his website http://www.sim-publishing.com/.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Medieval Help Desk

I recently saw a comedy skit, first shown on Norwegian television, that really made me laugh. It's set in the days when the book, not the computer, was the new technology.

You can find the video here on YouTube


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Pictorial Bookbindings

Oh, dear, my blog has been sadly neglected lately. I have been spending the last few weeks working out new designs for journals, and also for some artist books I have in mind to make. Now I just have to find the time to make it all.... I have a couple of Christmas craft shows looming on the horizon, so the journals and other things I sell at shows will take priority right now.

I've also been reading more books on bookbinding. The one I'm reading right now is Pictorial Bookbindings, by Mirjam Foot. It's an interesting little book. It briefly covers a variety of bindings that have (as you might guess) pictures on the covers. Has lots of photos of different bindings, which is good, and illustrations of a variety of ways bookbinders have decorated bindings--pen and ink drawings, paintings, leather inlays, carved ivory, and hammered metal, to name a few. One of my favourite sections is on embroidered bindings--here you can see an example on the front cover of an embroidered book cover created in 1633:

The spine is even embroidered with flowers and bees, and the book had its own storage bag, which was also lavishly embroidered. Wish I had time to make such wonderfully intricate covers, but not in this lifetime, alas... however, I am working on a design for an artist's book that involves embroidery, although not in quite the same way. But more on that later...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Beautiful Books

Went on a quick trip to the coast this past weekend, and in Bellingham, Washington (one of my very favorite cities) at Village Books (one of my very favorite independent bookstores) I picked up a copy of 500 Handmade Books, published by Lark Books.

Loads of inspiration here--I spent a happy evening just drinking tea and leafing through the pages, looking at all the beautiful work by other bookmakers.

Award Season

What riches! Dana, over at Calico Cat Press has awarded me the Arte Y Pico award. Since I recently recieved this award from Judith Heartsong, I won't pass it along again, but many thanks, Dana! This award is much appreciated.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Love Those Rigid German Spines

Well, the bookbinding workshop I attended in Seattle was just fabulous! Elsi, the instructor, was really great, and so very knowledgeable.

Wish I had taken a photo of the class, but I was too working out stitch patterns!

We focused on making northern European medieval-style bindings, which have more rigid supports on the spine area than the medieval Italian-style bindings I have been making. Elsi gave us about ten patterns to choose from for the decorative stitching on the spine. I made this book in class, which is based on a 14th century German account binding:

I used a heavyweight paper for the cover, and made the spine more rigid by adding a piece of thin wood. Traditionally, bookbinders would use leather, wood, or horn for the rigid spine supports. To get the spine design to work out, you have to sew the signitures (groups of pages) to the spine in the proper order, or else you end up with quite a mess.

After I got home, I made a second book, shown here:

A while back I picked up some gorgeous heavyweight Canal paper (made right here in Canada, in Montreal, Quebec). I didn't know what I would use it for at the time, but couldn't resist it. Turned out to be just the thing for this style of book. This time, for the spine I used the same basic stitch, but instead of tying together groups of stitches, I wove groups of stitches together.

Here is another view:
Just to compare, here is a photo of some actual medieval books:

Not the best photo, but if you look carefully at the book on the left, you can see where the stitches have been woven together. It actually took a fearfully long time to do all that weaving, so I think I'll keep my woven book to use for demonstrations (sometimes I get asked to do a little bookbinding "show & tell" for various groups/classes). I am, however, beavering away on my own particular variation of these books, which will appear soon in my Etsy store.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Off to a Workshop

Hurray, hurray, later this week I'm off to attend my first-ever bookbinding workshop! It's at the Seattle Center for Book Arts, and the instructor is Elsi Vassdal Ellis.

The workshop will cover German long and link stitch limp covers (limp covers are the soft, wrap-around leather covers, like the journal from my Etsy shop pictured here:

As Elsi says in the workshop description: "There are two distinct styles of limp structures: the Italian with a more relaxed approach to the stitching and the northern with structured designs employing more rigid supports." I got my ideas for making soft-cover leather journals when I was in Venice, Italy, a few years ago, so my journals are mostly in the "relaxed Italian" style. I'm looking forward to making more northern-style bindings in this workshop.

Also, I have to say, I'm very excited at the prospect of having other bookbinders to talk to! I've actually been quite happy working out how to make books on my own, but sometimes it does feel a bit isolated out here in the wilds of the British Columbia interior. Very beautiful here, but not a lot going on bookbinding-wise.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Arte y Pico Award

So there I was, having a rather lumpish day, when I got word from JudithHeartSong that she was giving me the Arte y Pico award--thanks, Judith!
The rules for this award are:

1) You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award for, creativity, design, interesting material, and also contributing to the blogger community, no matter what language.
2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.
3) Each award-winner, has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.
4) Award-winners and the one who has given the prize should to show the link to the "Arte y pico"blog , so everyone will know the origin of this award.
5) To show these rules.

There are so many lovely, creative blogs out there--how can you even choose? Here are five blogs that inspire me:

Milkmoon: creative in her art and in her life (she also has a blog about "an adventure in childhood", called Dandelion Songs

Sweetwater Designs: The most beautiful handmade beads

Little Paper Bird: A fellow book arts addict :)

Barnacle Goose Paperworks: beautiful paper creations, plus great posts about her life "down under"

Rima: her blog is a work of art in itself, plus all that lovely artwork she makes

There are many other blogs that I love to read, but didn't include because they already have the Arte y Pico award (not surprisingly!): Acornmoon, Middle of Nowhere, Waterrose, Calico Cat Press, and on and on...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Nice, fat journals!

Some of my customers have been asking me to make leather journals with lots of pages, so I did! Here are a couple that I just added to my Etsy store. This one has 320 pages of 50 lb writing/sketch paper:

And this one, with a grey suede cover, has 336 pages of 50 lb writing/sketch paper:

Enough, I think, for a good, solid year's worth of journaling, accounting, of course, for those few odd days when you don't get anything, including journaling, done at all....

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Exhibition of Cuban Books & Prints

A while back I did a couple of posts on handprinted books I picked up on a trip to Cuba. (You can see the posts here and here.)

Recently the Gallery at Zea Mays Printmaking in Florence, Massachusetts, did an exhibition of Cuban books and Prints. If you'd like to see more, check out this link for some photos from the exhibition. Wonderful stuff, especially when you consider the conditions in which the artists are doing their work (well, they do have rum and cigars, which maybe is all you need to get inspired :)


Thursday, July 10, 2008

The View From Here

A big rainstorm came through today, which was wonderful and refreshing. Here is a view of it arriving, taken from an upstairs window.
The Thompson and North Thompson Rivers come together here, and we can see rainy weather heading our way down the North Thompson river valley. It's been hot here, so I wanted to go outside and stand in the rain when it got here, but some lighting decided to come, too, so I stayed inside and watched all the CRACK and swoooosh of it from a window...

Monday, July 7, 2008

Buddha Whirlwind Book

I've started making whirlwind books, and I can't stop! :)

This one (see my previous post for more info about the whirlwind book) has two quotes from the Buddha:

"If we could see
the miracle of a single
flower clearly
our whole life would change."


"Your work
is to discover your work
and then with all your heart
to give yourself to it."

I've started to put my whirlwind books up on my wall in a very willy-nilly fashion, wherever there is a nail:

I'll show the rest of them in more detail in upcoming posts.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Henry & David Whirlwind Book

Been feeling a bit gloomy lately-- several of the older members of my family have died recently. It's part of life, and they all lived long, industrious, humor-filled lives, but still. Sigh. To try cheer myself up, yesterday I started digging in my vast collection of paper left from earlier projects and decided to make a whirlwind book.

I've been reading about them--apparently the whirlwind book (xuanfeng zhuang) was invented in China. Not a lot is known about this binding structure, but it may have been used for rhyming dictionaries in the Tang Dynasty (CE 618-907). It seems to have been a transitional binding between the scroll and more modern book structures.

Basically, a whirlwind binding consisted of several sheets of paper stacked together and clamped on one side between two halves of a piece of bamboo that had been split lengthwise. The book could be rolled up like a scroll for storage, or unrolled to be read.

I decided to make my own loose interpretation of the whirlwind book. Here it is, rolled up and tied in a little scroll:

And here it is unrolled:

I wanted it to have creativity as a theme, so I included two quotes. Here is a photo of the first one, by Henry David Thoreau:

The quote isn't very readable in this photo, but it says "The world is but a canvas the the imagination."
The second quote, shown here is by William Wordsworth: "Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart":

The reason it's called a whirlwind book (I think) is because the papers curl when it is open. Here is a photo of the book when it is open flat:

I had thought I'd put this little book in my Etsy shop, but I've gotten quite attached to it. I might put it in the store in a few days. Or maybe I'll make another one, and keep this one.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Crafting Your Business: Start & Run a Craft Business

Time for another book review! This time, I'm reviewing Start and Run a Craft Business, by William G. Haynes (published by Self-Counsel Press, 2001).

This book is another one of my favorites. It is clearly written, with lots of solid, sensible advice from the author, who has run his own craft business since 1976. This book covers a range of topics, including setting prices, doing wholesale v.s. retail sales, and record-keeping. It also includes a CD-ROM with useful forms to help you plan how to start your business and keep it running smoothly.

One of the biggest strengths of this book is that it goes into the various aspects of planning a business in much more depth than many other books on this subject. For example, one of the forms on the CD-ROM, called "Forecasting the Future," walks you through a series of questions designed to get you thinking about factors that might affect your business. For example, what if that fabulous printmaking paper you've been using, and completely depend upon, is suddenly discontinued? What if your usual supplier for that really-hard-to-get-ahold-of supply goes out of business? By thinking ahead about issues like that, you can be prepared for whatever comes up.

All in all, a very useful book for us artsy-type people who are looking for ways to get our work out into the world.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Yart Sale

Some of us over on Etsy are having a yart sale. Yup, a yart sale. It's an online yard sale with an artistic bent (yard + art = yart). I am offering 65% off on some guest books, plus 50% off on a journal. They all have small imperfections, which is why they went into my yart sale.

Through making these books, I learned two important lessons.

One, when you buy price stickers that are supposed to be removable, test them out on a piece of scrap paper. Otherwise, you will have an otherwise perfectly nice book that has a little spot of sticky residue if you take the price sticker off. :/

Two, always, always, double check that the grain of your paper is running in the right direction before gluing you book together. I made about five guest books in one go a while back, and later realized that they all had some puckering in the first couple of pages because I hadn't checked the grain.

So, my slightly-less-than-perfect creations are going into the yart sale, and hopefully off to new owners who feel that a few puckers and a price sticker on the last page that can't be removed just gives them a bit of extra character. Or something like that. :D

Monday, June 9, 2008

Women's Quote Book

Here's another quote book that I've just listed in my Etsy shop. All the quotes are by women.

This book was so much fun to design! I wanted to make a book that had a wide range of women's quotes--funny, thoughtful, crazy, inspiring... spent a lot of time going through books of quotes, and searching the internet to find them. Here are a couple of examples:

"Inside every older lady is a younger lady--wondering what the hell happened."
--Cora Harvey Armstrong

"What a wonderful life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner."

This is what it looks like on the inside:

For both this quote book and the Wise Words Quote book, I used Thai handmade paper for the cover, and bound it using a stab binding. I used a hemp cord to bind it with. The cover illustration is adapted from a 19th century illustration from Punch Magazine.

Friday, June 6, 2008

A Little Book of Quotes

I've been selling this book of quotes for a couple of years at craft markets, but have only just now gotten organized enough to post some in my Etsy store.

Took me a while to create this book, as I wanted to include lots of good quotes, so I had to hunt to find them. Here are a couple of sample quotes:

"What most people consider as
virtue, after the age of 40 is
simply a loss of energy. "

"To know you have
enough is to be rich. "

I made the cover from handmade Thai paper that has pieces of fern in it, and used a stab binding with hemp cord. The illustration on the cover is adapted from a 19th century drawing from Punch, a British humor magazine. I'm very fond of pre-20th-century illustrations (as you can probably guess from looking at my banner), so most of the books I design have something of a Victorian/Arts & Crafts vibe.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Edge of Leather

More and more lately, I've been using the natural edge of the leather hides as part of the journal/sketchbooks I make. This is one was especially fun:

Here's what it looks like when "unwrapped":

Monday, May 26, 2008

Handmade Books from Cuba, Part II

Here is the second handmade book I bought when my husband and I visited Cuba:

It's a handbound copy of a poem by Carlos Jesus Garcia called Ritual del Pez (The Fish's Ritual). The text is in Spanish and English. The cover is made from sheets of handmade paper glued at the spine, and decorated with thin pieces of wood (the "v" shaped pieces on the cover). The fish on the cover is in ink and watercolor, and the paper was embossed so the fish rises up from the paper a bit.

This is one of the inside pages:

As you can see, the illustrations are just fantastic. According to the colophon, the pages (if my Spanish doesn't fail me entirely) were printed on an 1816 Gordon and Price press.
Here is another page:

And the back cover:

Of course now I'm wishing I'd bought more books, but my travel bag was the size of a teaspoon (well, it seemed like it anyway), so I resisted temptation. Sigh.