Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Book Art: Chocolate

Last century, I drew and rubberstamped a story called A Sad Story about Chocolate. It was a fictitious, political history of chocolate, and it truly was sad. I turned it into a small book that is perfect bound with silver cardstock covers, a black spine piece, and a printed linoleum cut in brown ink in place of the rubber stamp I had carved. The spine has a silver rubberstamped title.

Recently, I've been revisiting some of my old stories, wondering how they hold up, and remaking them. As I read A Sad Story with both new and older eyes, I was struck by both the humor and the angst, and also how eerily close it was to the current adjunct professor situation I'm in. I remade A Sad Story about Chocolate as A Fight for Chocolate, keeping nearly all of the original amusing text, but with a new, hopeful ending.

It is laserprinted on bristol, and each folded page is in sequence across the fold. The chocolate bar shows up in black, an image of the original rubber stamp. It has a new title page, several new pages at the back, and a new colophon.

It is perfect bound: glued at the folded spine.

But it is also glued at the open fore edges, like an album accordion.

And it has a letterpress printed, painted paper cover that is glued front and back, like a softcover drum leaf binding or a children's board book. The extra fold at the back allows the spine to move so the book can open flat. That section is exactly the same depth as the spine. You don't put glue on either the spine or the section next to it. This binding of chocolate, even with its soft cover, is sturdier than its cousin.

I still have about four copies of the original. Both chocolates, A Sad Story about Chocolate and A Fight for Chocolate are now available at nevermindtheart

Friday, June 17, 2016

Instructions: Zen or Grunge Journal

Over the years I've had to make many teaching models, and I've ended up with maybe a dozen or so. Yet I'm not using them. Some take as long as six hours to make. Others just aren't quite right. And whenever I go on vacation I have to make a custom one for the occasion. In class, sometimes the students use them, sometimes they are afraid to write in them. As I'm preparing to teach a summer course called Letter by Letter: Letterpress Printing and Handwritten Text, I think I've come up with a quick and dirty journal that can be used without guilt to take notes, tack in examples with glue stick, and practice drawing letters. Since it isn't a bookmaking course, I wanted something that still felt the most traditionally booklike but was also easy to make. I also decided not to be bothered by glue, excess holes, uneven pages, and all the things I obsess about. I call it a Grunge Journal, but maybe it is really a Zen Journal. I felt calm making it.

If you purchase a pad of 60 lb. drawing paper, 100 sheets, 14x17, you can make TEN of these, which comes to under $2 each. I used some Stonehenge printmaking paper scraps for the covers, but you could use other found, thick paper. Even cereal boxes, if you so desire.

It is a hybrid of a multiple signature binding with five signatures (page 147 in Making Handmade Books: 100+ Bindings, Structures & Forms), a perfect binding (page 61), and a drum leaf softcover binding. The cover is also like a children's board book cover. It takes under an hour to make, depending on your weather, and includes glue drying.

I made two. One with Strathmore drawing paper, which turned out to be grained long, and one with Blick drawing paper, which turned out to be grained short. So, if you want a vertically oriented book, use the Strathmore. If you want a longer, horizontally oriented book, use the Blick. Whatever you do, please check the grain before you start. You'll need 10 pieces.

So here's the Blick drawing paper. Notice the buckling happen as I try to fold it: that means that I am folding against the grain. We start with a binder's fold. With this size paper and journal, you will first fold against the grain. The last fold ends with the grain so it will be parallel to the spine. (We could make a smaller book if we started with the grain and ended with the grain.)

Then make a slit along the fold, just past the center. This is a letter opener. A butter knife will work, too.

Fold in half again, this time with the grain. Put it aside for the moment and repeat the steps for the remaining nine sheets.

Pair and nest the sections so that you have five signatures.

Using a center-finding ruler or zero center ruler, mark for six holes in one section. Leave approximately 1/2" - 1" at head and tail. Looks like I have 1 1/2".

Using the marked section as a template, take an awl and poke the six holes in each signature. (I refold it so the marks are on the inside to make it easier.)

Sew a running stitch, as for multiple signatures. Use a bone folder to tighten the folds before you make any knots. Square knot after you've sewn two signatures, kettle stitch at the end of three, four, and five. (Details in MHB).

Clamp and glue on the fold. For a fancier book we would reinforce the spine with mull/super and mulberry paper.

When dry, slit open the rest of the uncut areas of the pages.

The cover needs to be [(2width of the book) + (depth of the spine) + (1/4")] x [height of the book + 1/4"]. For this horizontal book the book block was 8 1/2"w x 7"h x 3/8" d so the overall size should be 8 1/2 + 8 1/2 + 3/8 + 1/4= 17 5/8 x 7 1/4".  Mine was 17 1/2 x 7 1/4". Because numbers.

Mark the cover top and bottom for the spine: 3/8" in the center, and 3/8" adjacent to it on one side. This measurement will be different for different inner papers, different amount of signatures, etc. Always measure first. Align the ruler and connect each set of marks by scoring with the bone folder.

Fold up: valley, valley, mountain.

Apply glue to the back cover at the edges, taking care to stay away from the folded sections. The spine and adjacent section need to remain free to move. Better (see gluing the front, below): measure 3/8" in on the back page and apply glue to the book block, then fit it into the cover.

Press the book block into place. Smooth out with a bone folder. Sandwich wax paper between the cover and the book block. 

Open to the front. Put a waste sheet between the first page and the book block. Apply glue to three edges on the front: head, fore edge, tail (I feel a song coming on).

Remove the waste sheet, put waxed paper there instead. Press the cover down to the book block. Smooth out with a bone folder. Put under a heavy book to dry. Because of this paper, the pages still may buckle a little or be slightly wavy if they got damp. 

 This is the horizontal journal.

  This is the vertical one, complete. I've already started using it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Patience & Writer's Hubris

I am often afflicted with what I call "Writer's Hubris," and from what I've read I think other writers are, too. It causes writers to send their work out to be considered for publication too soon. It might be a universal affliction; I don't know if it's catching. "Foolish pride?" "Dangerous overconfidence?" The concept of hubris comes from the myth where Icarus, against his father's advice, flies with wax wings too close to the sun. Luckily, this kind of hubris is not physically dangerous, it's just a case of infatuation with whatever the writer has just written. The exclamation, "This is the best piece, ever!" follows the writing. The writer is convinced that this is it, they've landed. This is the piece that will get published, win awards, get optioned by Meryl Streep. Then the adrenalin drops. Or maybe a month goes by. The writer returns and reads. Sometimes— often—almost always—this is an embarrassing moment. The work is okay. Maybe not so good. But one day it isn't. Because this time it's really true. It's great. It has a magical quality. The writer might not even remember writing it. How will you know? How do you know? You must wait. But while you are waiting you must also read and continue to write. Eventually, you will land.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Book Art: Mrs. White Has Tea (again!)

I wrote and illustrated Mrs. White Has Tea way back in the last century. It's a little story of friendship, all the colors of the rainbow, and tea. My daughter, then two years old, asked me to read it several times a day. I had initially envisioned it as a coloring book, but it took a different turn. In any case, it proved to be popular for all ages at various Open Studios, so much so that after the first edition of 50 copies (laserprinted text, letterpress and rubber-stamped cover), 

I printed another 50 copies, 

then made a brighter version of 50 color copies. 

They've all sold out. Until now.

By popular demand, Mrs. White is back! I've revisited her, created a new cover, but kept the original story and drawings intact (although I did have to scan them and retype the text). This time she wanted to be on milky tea colored paper. For the cover I used tea and acrylic and walnut inks on Stonehenge and letterpress printed a linoleum block from my files. Found some sparkly multicolored metallic embroidery thread to bind the book. Same Onyx titling from handset type.

You can find this edition, another 50 copies of Mrs. White Has Tea, on Etsy at nevermindtheart.