A Flurry of Handmade Books

Summer is flying by, and with summer camps and classes over I’ve finally gotten the chance to learn something new myself. I have been waiting for weeks and wasn’t entirely sure I’d get the opportunity, but this past week I was one of the lucky few who got to take a new class in a new format – the bookmaking “staycation” at the Art Center.

But let’s back up a minute first. I also made a couple of new junk journals last month.

The first is my newest daily journal, which I decided to collage on the outside. I also reduced the number of sections to 2 down from 3 because I never want to finish a journal before I’m itching for a new one anyway. I figured I’d just skip the internal conflict this time and just make a shorter book.

The second journal I made was for a friend. He’s a musician and needs a place to keep track of gig info, rehearsal schedules, set lists, expenses and whatnot. This one’s an altered book – a Reader’s Digest because the size is handy and their hard covers are usually worth the effort to clean up and then distress. I told my friend to pick out one he liked from Goodwill and then I gutted it before assembling the book block from my own materials. Then I had to stamp and stencil the heck out of it because… well, it needed it, of course.

I made lots of tuck spots in this one since my friend is perpetually collecting business cards of people who like his work and want to book him for a gig later on. Having a place to put those is essential, he told me. As far as style went, I focused on simplicity with this one – neutral colors and understated details help it feel more masculine than some of my other projects.

Overall I was happy with the construction except for my lack of planning on what to do with those gold fibers once I’d pulled them all through the spine. I ended up making a poofy knotted fringe, but if I had one regret it was that I didn’t have something heavy to tie on or thread that through – some beads or metal pieces would have made a nice chunky charm in lieu of that golden frufru puff.

Let’s treat the preceding photos as sort of “before” images – my books before I took the bookmaking staycation. Because not only did I get to learn a bunch of new techniques, but the information on why to use which materials and when to use which sort of binding method was invaluable. I also got to practice doing a few things *the right way* and brainstormed about bookmaking classes I might want to teach later on. **squee**

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The first type of book we made was accordion style. For that we used a Rives BFK paper and cut the edges rather than leaving them deckled ( also made the case the exact same dimensions as the paper rather than cutting a margin so that the accordion will stand up better).

This book was really cool to make and gives me inspiration about block printing the panels to fill it with content. I think there’s a fall class in linocut I need to take for that… Ah, but I digress.

From there we made single signature and multi-signature books, both of them case bound. This gave me a chance to practice installing the book blocks and end papers as well as figure out how to line everything up properly. I also got to play around with a couple of different types of paper – decorative papers are all so different and behave differently when wet with glue!

Next up was the Japanese stab binding, which made me happy that I’d picked out some cool Japanese script paper earlier in the week. I didn’t have a use in mind for it exactly when I bought it; I just wanted to use it in making a book. Now I want to make so many more! It’s worth mentioning that I came home after class that day and made a mini-book with different paper but the same type of binding. It was a lot of fun – and easier than it looks.

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The last one we made was a leather bound soft book. That one’s still in progress though because I decided to up the level of difficulty by doing some intricate leather design work before I can even begin assembling the book. So I’ll have to show that one when it’s done.

However, I may have buried the lead here in that I was recently asked to make a baby book by a friend of a friend for her first grandchild. My first handmade book commission, and for such an occasion, too. What an honor!

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But the honor also comes with a sense of responsibility. I wanted to make sure to use all of the best materials in this one – archival quality papers, inks, and glue – so that the memories they hold will last a lifetime. The book also needed to be well constructed for the same reason. When she told me what she had in mind, I felt like I’d taken the bookmaking class just in time! It gave me confidence that my construction methods and materials are strong enough now that I can make something this special for my client without worry.

I’m planning a separate post where I talk about how I made this book in more detail – including the envelope pattern I created that allows me to construct envelopes out of any paper I like! for now, I’ll leave these images, which will give you a glimpse at the work in progress.

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