Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Fairy Tale

Long ago, in a land far to the north, there lived a gentle and generous Queen. The Queen loved her people and showered them with many kindnesses, including the annual gathering and renewal of the artists. It so empowered the people that the Queen declared it would be called the Art Continuum, a powerful force that would always be there to sustain and inspire her subjects.

For many years, the artists celebrated their annual convergence for one week each year, and creativity fluorished and it was good. Art was made and altered, bought and sold, auctioned and traded; friendships were cemented, 'zines went forth, book deals were done, and everyone was happy.

Alas, the day arrived when the good Queen had to depart for new lands, to claim her King and apply her deft hand to remodeling yet another castle. The Art Continuum vanished overnight, and though the people cried and wrung their hands, and the artists withered, the Queen could not be persuaded to return to the north lands. Like the four winds, the artists dissipated and scattered over the world, some never to return, some lying in wait, hoping for the return of a better day.

Like so many twists of fate, while the Queen labored mightily in the west, the art gods were busy making other plans for her. The King retired from his subjects and heard a strange calling from the east: words like snow and golf and fishing filled his dreams, and he longed to live in a land where the sun did not shine every day. Together, they explored many great cities and the countryside, seeking the most perfect spot in the entire world to live. The exhaustive search continued until one day, when they realized they already knew where they should go, and returned speedily to the north land of the Queen.

The people in the land rejoiced, for surely this signaled the return of their beloved Art Continuum as well. They called and wrote and tweeted the Queen, but alas, time had taken its toll on her reclaimed kingdom. No suitable location could now be found to host the event, yet the Queen believed in her heart that it must be found so that the people could be restored and renewed once again.

And the day finally came when a location was found, although it was much less grand than the Queen would have liked, and certainly not able to accommodate all the artists at one time. But the Queen did not despair, instead, she had a flash of royal brilliance: why not spread the spirit of the Art Continuum throughout the year, and celebrate the arts each month instead of only during one week?

So this is how it came to pass that Ginny Carter Smallenburg will begin hosting her Small Studio Workshop series next year, and I am so honored to be a part of it. Details will be forthcoming in late January, but you already know you want to be there!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Making Your Mark

Do you sign the books that you make? My bookbinding teacher, the late Shereen LaPlantz, taught us how to compose a colophon at the end of our artist's books, giving the reader information about how the book was made, what materials were used in its construction, and other pertinent details such as the names of the typefaces or fonts used in the text. At the bottom of the statement, you'll typically find the number of books produced and the specific number of the book in hand, along with the date it was created and the artist's signature.

This is all well and good if you are making books with content, but what about your unreadable books? Those blank journals and class models into which you've poured many, many hours of labor, don't they deserve your signature as well? As a producer of mostly books without words, I like to think that all work deserves the final mark of the artist's hand. Of course, you can simply pick up your favorite pen or marker and sign your name, but here are a few ways you can add your signature without lifting a pen to give your books a spiffy, if not official-looking, finish.

Rubber stamps. Some of you are accomplished eraser carvers, so you'll have no trouble creating your own design, and you'll have the finished product to work with as soon as you're done carving! If this isn't your cup of tea, go ahead and splurge on your own custom rubber stamp. Every small print shop and office supply store makes these; just create your art in the size you wish and take it in for an estimate, or choose from their stock template designs. If you decide to have a stamp made, it usually takes just a few days. Order it as a stand alone stamp, as opposed to a self-inker, so you can play with lots of different stamp pad colors when you stamp your books.

A company called Expressionary offers a fabulous line of pre-inked round or square rubber stamps with cool designs and type faces. I recently had several of these made, not only for my "signature" stamp but in address stamps for the studio and my summer workshop logo. The service was fast (about a week) and the stamps produce very clean, sharp images.

A friend of mine visited China a few years back, and brought home chops (Chinese signature blocks) for several of us. They are carved into stone, with amazing handles ... little works of art on their own. I love to use these on my Asian-inspired binding projects. If your city has a Chinatown, poke around the shops and you'll probably find a supplier who can make a chop for you.

You can also consider having an embossed image created with your logo. These look great pressed onto the first or last page of a book (I like to use them on gift journals), and you can also use them in conjunction with metallic seals to create fabulous packaging for your books, or to seal wrapping paper around journals given as gifts. Williams-Sonoma, the kitchen shop/catalog, offers a nice range of embossers that you can personalize with one of their graphic elements as well as a good color selection of seals.

If you make fabric books or other cloth creations, why not have some cloth signature labels made to complete these works? Of course, you could make your own with a personal labeling machine that takes iron-on tape, or you can custom design your label with companies that offer lots of sizes and design options for tags and labels. You can find ads for label suppliers in the back of any good quilting magazine; Sterling Label made the labels shown here. Delivery takes a little longer for these products, but it is a very exciting moment when your personal label shows up in the mail.

Enjoy branding your books with your personal marker!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stalking the Elusive Cigar Box

About six months ago, my friend Jan gave me a cigar box that was an often seen brand, but in an unusual size: the lid was only 3 1/2 x 5, roughly the same as a standard index card. Many of you know that I have taught classes using cigar box lids as book covers, requiring 2 identically sized book covers for the project. I was so thrilled with this petite gift that I immediately set off in quest of a second identical box.

Apparently I live in a heavy smoking area, for there are no less than a dozen cigar & smoke shops within a ten minute drive from my home. A year or so after moving here, I made two field trips just making the rounds of all the possible sources, noting which shops had the cooler brands, which ones had the most gorgeous wood boxes, and what they charged for them. (Why is it that the shops with the highest priced boxes put the money directly in their pockets instead of the cash register? Hmmm..... ) This helped narrow the list to about 5 or 6 shops that are now my regular haunts when I need to build stash.

After scoping out the usual suspects, I found only one carried the cigar brand and size I was seeking and, alas, they did not have any more empty boxes. They had a full box, but it was securely shelved in the walk-in humidor, and I was assured it wasn't going anywhere until all the cigars in it were sold. So, yes, I did the math -- 10 cigars at more than $10. a pop -- and decided not to make the book with the hundred dollar covers at this time. Thus began my new adventures in stalking.

This is a slow moving cigar, folks. I popped in every two weeks in the beginning, and never found more than one cigar gone from my target box. After a few months, when there were five left in the box, I stepped up my visits to weekly. No trouble to visit often. This particular store always has a wonderful collection of the all-wood boxes, which they price at a dollar or two each, so my supply shelves are currently filled to capacity with beautiful all-wood boxes. When we got down to two cigars, I started going in every other day. The day arrived when only one cigar remained. I could not stand the drama any longer and purchased it along with the box. Success at last, after five months of stalking! Now, does anyone out there want a nice cigar?

So, now I am working on this book and it is nearly ready to be prepped for sewing. I added some collage elements to the covers on both sides, and decided to use a multitude of checkerboard and stripe papers as signature wraps because I love the way they create patterns on the exposed spne binding. Stay tuned for the finished product!