Book Pelts & Covering Boards

Lizard's Snake Suit, 1996
I started thinking about the many effects you can get when you cover boards with different materials. By boards I am talking about either 4-ply museum board or book board (also known as Davey board or binder's board). Sometimes the covering material is too thin, in which case you use wheat paste and attach a strong and thin backing paper to it (I use mulberry paper). I backed regular cloth for Lizard's Snake Suit. Sometimes the material isn't the color you want, and so you paint it. We will look at book cloth, painted cloth, painted paper, painted Tyvek, repurposed book cloth, and re-used and flattened aluminum cans. On the way, I'll give you some links to materials.

Ram's Horns, 2001
New book cloth can be found in small pieces at art-supply stores like Blick or Paper Source. A wider selection and larger pieces needed for boxes or editions can be ordered from Campbell-Logan Bindery: they are efficient and nice and they carry the more finely woven Japanese book cloths. Another interesting selection may be found at Hiromi Paper. Using new book cloth makes your book look, well, new. The cloth has no history to it and does not show your hand, so it's up to you and your project to decide if that is the clean, traditional, and minimalist look you want. Yes, projects talk.

Spotted One Day, 2009
Paint the book cloth with acrylic paints and gesso (Ram's Horns, for example) if you want to change the color or add texture or your own mark to the cover. You can paint muslin or other cotton cloths, too, but you may need to add a backing sheet when the cloth is dry. Be aware that thick layers of acrylic paint will remain tacky forever, so use the paints sparingly, add water, or mix with gesso, which doesn't stick. (See  the Eva Hesse post for a photo of my painted cloth book.) If you need to back the cloth, please see instructions on pages 21-22 in Making Handmade Books. For a pattern or image, print linoleum blocks on the cloth (Spotted One Day). You can also piece cloth for a patchwork cover, add beadwork, machine sew, or handstitch on book cloth before you wrap the boards with it. This method definitely adds your style and hand to the project and creates a durable cover.

Shoulder Blades of Grass, 2006
If you want to paint paper to cover boards, I recommend Velin Arches, formerly called Arches Text Wove. This paper is 100% cotton and is thin enough for the turn-ins, but strong enough to withstand inks and glue. Use acrylic inks on the paper. See my book Painted Paper for a variety of painting techniques (Shoulder Blades of Grass has acrylic ink painted paper covers and a book cloth spine) Acrylic inks are liquid and come in one-ounce bottles. I use Daler-Rowney FW acrylic inks.  Australians, I recommend Matisse inks. Painting paper also adds your style and your hand to the project.

Demystifiying Art, 2011
To give your paper a marbled look without actually marbling the paper, you can use Tyvek and acrylic inks. The Tyvek is made from polyethylene fibers which takes the ink in a variegated way. You can buy Tyvek envelopes at office-supply stores like Office Depot, save envelopes that are sent to you, or buy it in a roll from Talas. Using Tyvek and ink gives the work a swirly, romantic quality, and can make it look old or like cloth. For my model Demystifying Art I used my old friend, Antelope Brown.

Book Pelts, 2011
During the workshop I taught with Lisa Kokin in July, I noticed that Carolyn Batchelor had some interesting looking cloth with her. She kept it rolled up and tied with another scrap. I guessed it was hand-dyed. When I asked her about it she said she tore off the cloth from discarded books, soaked it, then scraped off the glue and whatever cardboard was still attached. The dye will run, she said, and you can paint with it. Carolyn uses the pieces as collage material; her covers show all the edges. When I got home, since I had some old covers leftover from the workshop, I went through the soaking process with the cloth. I mentioned this to a friend who called them "book pelts." When I eventually back them and print on them, the faded cloth will give the book cover a mysterious and worldly look.

Pop Art Journals, 2011
My friend and colleague Michael Henninger of RatArt Press used aluminum cans to cover boards in 1992 for his book Beer, Girls. For the 2009 publication, Eco Books by Terry Taylor, Michael contributed the project "Six-Pack Book" (30). I adapted it for my "Pop Art Journals." Using the colorful graphics designed for everyday use is a fun way to play with color and ties you to the present moment. Each of these has a bookcloth spine, endbands, and a ribbon bookmark.

Paper bags, handmade paper, plastic bags, beeswax, felt: so many more options to explore. Underneath, all the boards are the same, but their attire influences how we view them.

For more about this subject, see the April 25, 2011 post "Materials & Hidden Meaning." 


Velma Bolyard said…
i am so much enjoying reading through your blog. thank you for much to think on!