Thursday, April 30, 2009

My Resource Library

My love of books does not only encompass making them ... I also collect books about making books, books about books that have already been made, you get the picture. If I visit a bookstore, I seldom leave empty handed. Did I mention that Chicago has over 350 bookstores? When amazon announced they had located one of their distribution centers in little Munster, Indiana where I live, there was dancing in the streets. My art buddy Leslie Cefali, who also lives in northwest Indiana, and I are plotting to show up at the dock and see if there are any free samples, or maybe a big dumpster out back to dive into. 

My very first book on bookbinding was Hand Bookbinding, A Manual of Instruction by Aldren A. Watson from Bell Publishing Company, printed in 1963. As a calligraphy student my first year at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, we had to make a hand lettered, bound book for the last project of the semester; Watson's book was our text for the course. I adored Watson's book. It had black and white illustrations throughout, no photographs, and included such side topics as how to letter labels and make your own tools and equipment. There was even a drawing to show you how to organize the work bench for making books! 

So I made my book, lettering some lengthy poem by an author I can no longer recall, but the binding is still crystal clear in my mind. It was a case-bound, classic codex, about 6 signatures, with the case covered in a hot pink geometric mod fabric that was way cool for 1968. Because I am left handed, I had to letter the pages upside down and backwards to prevent dragging my hand through the wet ink, so little wonder that I can't recall today what it said.  Maybe this is why I now make so many books without any content ... I am really all about the binding, not so much the words. Unreadable books.

In the years that followed, as a continuing student, I moved many times and both my handmade book and my beloved textbook disappeared. I mourned the loss, but I was busy with other things in my life and did not get back to making books again until the mid 1990's.  In 1999, I attended Ed Hutchins' Book Arts Jamboree in upstate New York, a fantastic week long workshop that included many fun events in addition to making books. One evening there was a silent auction of artists' books and book related items. There on the auction table was a copy of Hand Bookbinding! I think I claimed it for about ten bucks; I can't tell you how happy I was to have it in my possession again! It still holds that same enchantment for me, even forty years later. Dover Publications reprinted this book in soft cover in the 1990's and it is still widely available from the usual suspects. 

My resource library today has several hundred titles, and is organized into general categories. Top shelf across, fabric related books; second shelf, book binding books; third shelf, paper related crafts (surface decoration, origami, collage, and the like) and fourth shelf, miscellaneous crafts such as metal work, jewelry and polymer clay. The bottom shelf holds periodicals, organized first by publication and then by year. Not exactly the Dewey system, but it allows me to find what I need quickly. 

The bookshelves and wooden magazine files are all from Ikea. A campaign desk that I bought as a college student miraculously survived my son's entire childhood and serves as a research desk. New acquisitions usually land here first for several weeks so they can be explored before joining the collection. Nearby, there is a slipcovered sofa for reading and a coffee maker. Life is good!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fun Weekend Project

Even though I'm a big fan of intricate sewn bindings, sometimes you just want to make something that is simple and fast. 

I recently made a fun little collection of books following directions I found through Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord's website Making Books. These miniature cuties --  12 in all, one for each month -- are housed in a custom box made from your favorite cereal carton. Susan designed this project as a Word A Day Journal, but you could also use it for any journaling thread where you want to capture just a little something each day. 

Susan provides a pdf document for you with a box pattern and nameplates for the spine and cover title boxes, as well as a blank grid to create your own titles. I chose a cereal box (Kashi U, my current favorite) that was too small to accommodate the base pattern, so I cut one of the box side panels from the back side of the carton and then attached it with some decorative paper. My book pages are made of Astrobrite copy paper in a variety of wild colors, to match the graphics on my box.

You can watch Susan make this project on her YouTube video, Word A Day Journal. If you've been away from making books for awhile, this sweet thing could get you kick started again. It takes a few hours to complete, and you can work on it in five minute increments if time is short.

So, finish off that box of breakfast cereal before the weekend and save it to make something fun!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Studio Visitors

Today I had a group of six visitors from the Chicago area who are associated with the local Calligraphy Collective. All very talented calligraphers, they came to see the studio and I surprised them with a fun book project to make that required no sewing and no glue. This structure binds single sheets together with woven paper strips, making it a good choice for calligraphers who often have loose page projects. Designed by Elizabeth Steiner and found in her book Woven and Interlocking Book Structures (with Claire Van Vliet) as Gioia, for teaching purposes I renamed it My Checkered Past in reference to the pattern of the woven strips. If you love books that feature incredibly clever feats of paper engineering, I highly recommend this one. 

My visitors chose their papers for the project, cut them to size, and then used the templates I had prepared to make the necessary cuts and folds in the pages and covers. For the weaving strips, we used Elephant Hide (no actual elephants were harmed in the making of the paper, however) and some chose to use Yupo, a synthetic paper that is very strong and smooth, making it a great surface for calligraphy, painting, stamping, and the like. Be aware that some media dry very slowly on Yupo, so do this well in advance of making the project.

Everyone seemed very pleased with their finished projects. Dancing broke out in the studio, lunch was served, and a good time was had by all! 

I will be teaching a two day, two project workshop for the Chicago Calligraphy Collective the last weekend in May, one of the few assignments I've accepted this year as I am taking a short sabbatical from teaching in 2009. We'll be doing a Japanese trio of books with custom slipcase, and a buttonhole book with a cut-out cover. I acquired some fabulous Japanese fabrics at the recent quilt show in Chicago and can't wait to turn them into bookcloth for the class kits!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Papers from Paris

A few weeks ago, I joined my husband on his business trip to Paris where I did my best to help the French economy recover. My mission was to buy as much beautiful paper as I could stuff in the suitcase in one week, and perhaps take in a few sights as well. 

First stop was the fabulous bookbinding supply store, Relma, where you enter into a room that is brimming with hand marbled papers, stack after stack, all neatly organized so you don't have to hunt too long for a particular pattern or color. Here are just a few of the sheets that I chose; it was hard to decide, for I loved them all . . . but in the end, I narrowed it down to about 10 sheets. After all, this was only the first stop! 

Thanks to a more favorable exchange rate with the euro, these beauties cost about the same as a nice sheet of hand marbled paper at Hollanders or Paper Source. Loving these papers is an expensive habit.  Learning how to make marbled paper is definitely on my "to do" list this year, and I am hoping to take a class to kick-start my quest.

Another stop on the paper quest in Paris was an unexpected find: the Japanese Cultural Center, near the Eiffel Tower. The ground floor of the center features a shop with all things Japanese, including screened papers, origami paper and supplies,, and many traditional craft items. When I visited the center, I had already had two days of speaking French under my belt, and felt strangely empowered to buy an origami book printed in French, but with lots of illustrations, of course. Most of the origami books there were printed in Japanese,  so the French version seemed the safer choice. Here, I acquired several enormous sheets of screen printed paper and some packages of origami sheets that I have not seen in the U. S.

Two small shops yielded more finds: Marie Papier, and l'Art du Papier. Most of the papers I purchased at these places were screen printed loktas, Indian prints -- patterns that appealed to me visually, and that I had not seen at any of my U. S. stores. At the end of the week, I had about 35 new sheets to bring home. 

Here's a tip for bringing back paper from your travels. Take an empty, large (3" to 4" diameter) chipboard tube with you for the return trip. I was able to roll about 30 sheets to go inside the tube; the rest were wrapped around the outside of the tube, then placed in a plastic bag. Extra large sheets can be folded in half and then rolled into the tube. Even many sheets weigh very little; I carried the tube on the plane because I could not bear the thought of it being lost if the luggage went astray. When you get home, unroll the paper on a large table or other flat surface, and apply weights (I used book cloth covered bricks) to the edges to help the paper relax.

There were other adventures in Paris, to be continued in later posts.

Welcome to my book arts blog

Greetings, fans of the book and paper arts. In response to many requests from my students, I am creating this blog to share ideas, techniques, and observations about making handcrafted books. This is my first blog, so please bear with me as the site develops over time into a useful resource. My focus will be, first and foremost, information about making books; other topics I'll be covering will include paper arts, studio tips and organization for book artists, listings and reviews of books about making books, happenings in my studio, and excursions outside the studio to book-related adventures. You'll also find photos of my work, my studio, my teaching schedule, and more. Your comments are welcome and encouraged.