Thursday, January 14, 2010

Artist's Books on the Play List

If you've been to my studio, you know that I like to work to all kinds of music. So what could be better than music that is also packaged like a book? Two recent CD acquisitions in my collection fit this bill, and I thought you might like to see them.

The first, Steve Martin's The Crow ( the original wild & crazy guy), is his 5-string banjo music. If you've never worked to banjo before, it is great for book making. Try Bela Fleck or Elliott Sussman (oh, shameless plug here; that's my boy). Got a deadline? Get out the banjo CDs and slide on home!

Inside The Crow's front cover, there is a wonderful 3-D pop-up construction of a stage. An extra panel with a sleeve in back contains a little book with back story on the compositions, a kind of musical colophon demystifying how and why the tunes came to be. There's no need to fill those pages with pesky lyrics when you write banjo music, no sir. The graphics throughout the package are retro cool and the whole thing is just delightful. Martin declares, "this is the most expensive banjo album in the history of the universe." Did I mention his banjo music is also very nice? Truly Wonderful and Just As Advertised.

Another example is "Draw the Line" by David Gray, a songwriter favorite and regular on the playlist here. This package is bound like a hard cover book with a french groove on the spine, and incorporates a ten page signature that includes all the words to the songs. The lyric pages are a fanciful combination of graphics and type headings that look rubber stamped, like an artist's visual journal. The limited color palette (sepia with selected photo tinting and the song titles in neon orange) gives the album a nostalgic feel, reminding me of the glory days of rubber stamping.

Music grows increasingly digital, and little gems like these will surely disappear as more of us click and buy online. For now, I love a little documentation with my music, and kudos to these two artists for creating wonderful, unexpected visual treats.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Equal Spacing; No Math!

So what if I told you there is a tool that will let you mark perfectly spaced holes for sewing stations in your handcrafted books without doing a lick of math? No more troublesome fractions like thirty-seconds and sixty-fourths to fill your head when you're trying to calculate the spacing for your hole punching template. And, the holes don't have to be readily recognized increments like half inches; they will be whatever is appropriate for whatever distance you happen to working with, and you won't have to measure a thing.

Called the SimFlex Expanding Sewing Gauge, this tool is sold as a buttonhole spacer from sewing supply companies, but it is also a great bookbinding tool. Tightly compressed, it is 3" wide and just a little over 6" tall. Fully extended, it is about 24" wide. It features 8 points, each with a notch cut into the tip for your pencil or hole poking tool to fit in exactly the right spot. At full length, it somewhat resembles the fence of a play yard for your little purse size dog; if you hung it on the wall, you could stick lots of notes and receipts into it like a high-tech bulletin board.

So how does it work? Let's say you want to make a Japanese four hole binding, and you want the holes evenly spaced between the head and tail of the book. Place the first point of the SimFlex where you want to begin the stitching, then extend it so that the fourth point falls where you want to end the stitching. (Since the SimFlex has eight points, and you only need four for this project, the unused points can simply extend past the project. Check out the above photo for an example.) Use a pencil or hole punching tool in the notch to mark the sewing stations. Viola! Perfectly spaced holes, no math needed!

You can also use this tool to mark sewing stations on a jig or template for punching signatures or sections in a hole punching cradle. Eight points will likely take care of all but your largest book projects, but if you need more than eight stations, just mark the first eight and then slide the first point of the tool to hole number 7 and then continue merrily on your way.

The SimFlex also features additional markings (in inches and quarter inches) etched into the metal, useful in lining up the tool along the spine edge. You can find this very useful item in a well stocked sewing/fabric store, or you can get it online from Nancy's Notions. Nancy's printed catalog is chock full of wonderful aids and gadgets for working with needle and thread; makes a great read on these cold winter evenings. Bet you can't order just one thing!