Sunday, September 29, 2013

Instructions: Tips for the Brush Book

The beauty of the Brush Book is that almost all of the folding patterns are the same: the pages are folded in half; the binding strip is folded in half, and then has several repeated steps; and the final locking strip continues in the same manner. The Brush Book, listed on page 44 in Making Handmade Books: 100+ Bindings, Structures & Forms, has elicited some questions over the years. The instructions are correct in Unique Handmade Books, which you may still be able to find, but it is out of print. The materials list in the first edition of MHB was corrected in subsequent editions, but if you have an older copy, here are some tips.

One strip of paper, 2" x 11" is all that is needed for the binding strip, however, I found that the strip should really be 2" x 9 3/4" for a better fit. Pages are 2" high, can be any width. Locking square is 2".

Fold long strip in half.

Open. Fold ends in to center fold.

Fold in half, lengthwise.

Fold in half, widthwise.

Fold ends in to center fold.

Wrap one end around left side of single signature.
Wrap the other end around right side of signature.

Too long! It sticks out. So I took it out and trimmed it to 9 3/4".

Fold the 2" square in half and fold the ends in to the center fold.

Apply glue to the flaps, then to the outer folded areas.

Slip this locking slip into the binding strip, left and right.

Pinch into place.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Save This Bag at the University of Iowa

I've been lucky to have a standing order with the Special Collections Department at the University of Iowa Library, and they have a copy of all of my editioned books (about one hundred). In 2009,  the College Book Art Association conference was held there so I got to see the library itself. It is large and has nice displays and has a terrific book lab for repair and boxmaking and conservation then headed by Gary Frost (now conservator emeritus), who also gave a talk (that's him, below). I have to admit, though, that my warmest memory was how, in January, when the thermometer said 6º, the library was an inviting refuge from the cold.

Recently, I got an email from Colleen Theisen, Outreach and Instructional Librarian. She wrote:
At the University of Iowa Special Collections & University Archives we have been making a video series called Staxpeditions where we take suggested call number ranges and explore one item in that range. Our latest call number range led us to feature Save This Bag from our collection. I hope you enjoy this Staxpedition! 
I did! It's a really fun video! To answer two issues that were brought up: the glassine was used as packing material and was meant to be removed, and my name is pronounced A-lee-sa. More info about the book is at my website here. This video is the third in a new series: a kind of treasure hunt. What a surprise! 

Here is a picture of Save This Bag installed at the Richmond Art Center in 2005. When I made the piece, I had been reading about the tradition of cordel in Brazil, booklets that were brought to the marketplace and hung on a cord there. Cordel literature inspired the books and their installation, although mine were letterpress printed on painted paper with pochoir/stenciled imagery instead of woodcuts. I am very fond of the Brazilian cordel artist José Francisco Borges; his woodcuts may also be seen accompanying surreal stories in the book Walking Words by Eduardo Galeano.

And here is a picture of the bags I made in 2005, watched over at the time by our dear neighbor cat Maggie (RIP: 1996- June 2013). I'm sure her Staxpeditions call number request would have been SF446.5.

Addendum: blogback! U of IA Library responded to this post with their own post and showed some of their cordel collection.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Family Book Lab in Berkeley

I finally caught up with Coriander (a.k.a. Cory) Reisbord, my longtime colleague in the book arts world (and at California College of the Arts). She told me that she had the opportunity to teach at Cazadero Performing Arts Family Camp this summer, a place I know in its incarnation as Cazadero Music Camp. I visited Cory at her year-and-a-half-old studio storefront in Berkeley, CA called Family Book Lab. It's a sweet little space a few doors down from the city's beloved toy store Mr. Mopp's. She teaches an adult letterpress class there as well as hosting project-oriented children's birthday parties. Come on in!

She was just holding the onion skin paper up to the light to show me.

Doing book repair work at her desk. Wonderful book cloth rack!

View looking out to the street.

Type cabinet, slug cutter, knives, inks.

Letterpress printed calendar and tools.

And the letterpress with a linoleum block locked up.

If you live in the area and want to take a class, contact her!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Star 82 Review 1.3 Is Live!

The third issue of Star 82 Review is now live online and you can read it! Star 82 (*82) is the art and literary magazine I began last March. I receive between 100-300 submissions per month and choose the strongest 25-35 pieces to feature.

Many of the pieces in issue 1.3 comment on the person who may feel displaced, unsure, or uneasy. Sometimes the character finds community or a new path, occasionally s/he does not. For a few examples: we find a boy contemplating contrasting fathers and morality during a fishing trip; a young gay man longs for love like that of his favorite superhero; participating in a cancer walk, a woman is conflicted about her role as a survivor; a daughter writes a poem about her special father.

We find lyrical work by Maxine Chernoff, Jaime Robles, and Alastair Johnston, among others, including a mirrored piece in Portuguese and English by Desirée Jung. We are featuring art by Shelton Walsmith, who created terrific covers for books by Italo Calvino (mentioned at the end of this post), as well as wonderful work by many, many talented folks.

All are thoughtful, some are playful, a balance of humor and seriousness, humility and confidence. This issue is meant to delight you with "lively, beautiful and buoyant tales" (Robert Louis Stevenson) and imagery that will light your way.

Contributors to *82 Review 1.3
Daniel Aristi
Glen Armstrong
Aleithia Burgess
Maxine Chernoff
Belinda Chlouber
Sharyl Collin
Mira Desai
Howie Good
Clinton Van Inman
Alastair Johnston
Nick D'Annunzio Jones
Desirée Jung
Nicola Lane
Erica Lemley
Margarita Meklina
Richard Olsen
John Palen
Jaime Robles
Luz Marina Ruiz
Susan Rukeyser
Miriam Sagan
Holly Simonsen
V.A. Smith
Bekah Steimel
Charles Theilman
Nikki Thompson
Christine Tierney
Eric Tran
Shelton Walsmith
MM Wittle

Read online:

Order a print copy and support the venture (it's really nice, I promise!):

Like us online:

Friday, September 13, 2013

Make a Paper Address Booklet from iPhone/iPad App

A new app has just been released that can format your iPhone or iPad contacts list into an address booklet to print out and bind. Even though I have a contacts list in my phone and on my computer I still like having instant access to a book I can flip through and that doesn't need recharging. The beauty of the app is that I can update the info and print it out again in a few minutes. I am having fun with the app, never mind that it was designed by someone I know well: my in-house tech support, otherwise known as my spouse.

You have a choice of three styles: a double-sided booklet, which is a pamphlet-style codex; a single-sided booklet, which is an accordion; and a stack of cards that you can shuffle and assemble with a mini binder clip or use PVA and perfect-bind it. Additionally, any of these can be made as the larger pocket-sized, which is about the size of half a small postcard; or the smaller, wallet-sized, which is approximately the size of a credit card.

The app is straightforward, streamlined, and easy to use, and I did not get any coaching from the in-house coach on this, either. You read some basic instructions, check boxes to indicate which contacts to include and decide if you want phone numbers, addresses, emails, birthdays, and/or notes printed out. You could make a little library: a birthday book, phone book, address book, or gossip book.

Once you choose what you want in the booklet, you choose the size and style and a window lets you send an email to yourself that contains a zipped file of the formatted pages plus the instructions. It works best if you have a laserwriter that prints on both sides.

Bold lines indicate where to cut, dotted lines where to fold. I used a lightweight Fiskars 12 Inch Classic Rotary Paper Trimmer to cut the whole stack on the bold lines. The cutter has a replaceable rolling blade and can cut sharply through 5-10 pages of 20 lb. copy paper. The pages are numbered for quick assembly. (If you teach workshops, this is lightweight enough to carry with you!)

What is called the cover page for the booklet is simply a blank first page, so I immediately looked around for a more protective cover. By folding a picture postcard in half I had an instant glossy cover for the pocket-sized booklet. Old membership cards are perfect to glue front and back of the wallet-sized accordion. I printed the cards single-sided on cardstock (check your printer for specific instructions on handling thicker paper), glued the tail (cards are printed portrait), and added a decorative spine strip to make a perfect-bound book (page --- MHB). I printed the cards double-sided on thin paper and fastened with a binder clip. 

All would look nice if you used a slightly heavier 24 lb. paper, possibly 32 lb., cotton resumé paper or business stationery, or various other papers. Some American examples are: Southworth Resume Paper, Cotton Fiber, 24 lb; Neenah Royal Cotton Fine Business Stationery; Southworth Colors + Textures Fine Parchment Paper, 24#. Southworth brand tends to have watermarks, which you may or may not like.

Although the instructions show tape and staples, I sewed a three-hole pamphlet (page 95 in MHB and at this post), and used permanent glue stick on the accordion tabs for the wallet-sized and for the pocket-sized booklets. All the accordions need the cover page since they start with a mountain fold. Really, for 99 cents, this is too fun. I'd be happy making these all day. And I'm not just saying that.

The book doesn't stop there! You can make an alphabet book or dictionary by creating a new contact (or more) for each letter. I made A-Act to Z-Zephyr by checking the "company" box and putting my word as the company. Then, in the notes section I typed my text, leaving all other fields blank. When I went back to the app I unchecked all boxes except my words, and then I chose my format, sent my email, printed out the pages, and sewed an instant booklet. The text was made by gleaning words from each definition in order and creating a found poem. I was so pleased with the project that I letterpress printed a cover from wood type to top it off. In celebration, I'll send a copy of  A-Act to Z-Zephyr to the first three people who request one in the comment section (and send your paper mail address to the email shown in the right column).

Oh, and the app is called Address Booklet or Cards (Booklet) and may be found here.
The handy notetaking app Nota Plex, also from our household, is also available.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Earth Without Art Is Just…

My dad sent me this. The sign is posted on the door to an art room at a school in Los Angeles. I like the reference to both art and language through word play.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Sgraffito Across Media

Techniques can cross genres. You can do sgraffito (scratching through layers) in a variety of  media. For one, with acrylic inks and gesso. See pages 67-69 in Painted Paper for instructions. I usually use it for texture, occasionally for words.

You can use sgraffito in monotypes. I put a layer of white on the plate, let dry, then drew with a skewer and added more ink on top of the white for the top dog. This is actually a collage of a variety of monotypes made in 2001.

You can do a kind of sgraffito with felt. Really, you are making layers of color, then instead of scratching, you are using a scissors to cut down to a different color/layer (see the silhouette on the right). In this case, I used a sewing machine to outline where I had cut. This is one of my first felted books, probably from somewhere around 2005-06. It has lots of unintentional holes in it, too.

And you can do sgraffito with ceramics. Here is the Sheep Shuffle birthday bowl I mentioned before. I also wrote a story about my experience with the kids in the studio here. I painted three coats of black (Black Lab), then three coats of light tan (Golden Retriever), and carved into it with a needle tool, blowing away and brushing away the crumbs.

This carving feels very familiar to my printmaker hands. Rather like carving linoleum, only you get to do it right-reading instead of backwards.

In a post at the end of September: the process in glaze, step-by-step. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Last Car Over…Peter Orner's New Book of Stories

I drifted about the house after finishing Peter Orner's latest book Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge mulling over the stories, and Joni Mitchell songs started playing in my head from the album Court and Spark (1973).  "All the people at this party / They've got a lot of style /They've got stamps of many countries / They've got passport smiles" (from "People's Parties"). "Passport smiles" is such a great image. You know how they are put on. Another image, in the song "Down to You," shows vulnerability: "…Clutching the night to you like a fig leaf." and in "Just Like This Train," the narrator says, "I used to count lovers like railroad cars." She perfectly captures longing, the feeling of being an observer, the feeling of searching for something. The link with Peter's book? Those are some of his themes as well, and like Joni Mitchell, he can give you the mood, feeling, and image with a vivid phrase, or a couple of sentences. Here's one from "Pampkin's Lament" (p. 53):
The knock was mousy but insistent. I first heard it in my restless dreams, as if someone were tapping on my skull with a pencil.
That image continues to tap inside my brain, along with the song. The tentative, but pleading knock. The hollow sound of the pencil is also reminiscent of taking a test and not knowing the answer, but trying to think of it while the clock is ticking.

From "The Vac-Haul" (p. 100):
Rudimentary biceps were beginning to rise between my shoulders and elbows like small loaves.
And a little spongy, too? A mixed kind of pride; maybe he's going to make something of himself, after all. Potential.
From "Occidental Hotel" (p. 8):
One of his hands lay across her stomach like a plump fish.
We can understand how she feels about this encounter just by the choice of imagery. He doesn't have to explain her disdain.
From "Harold Washington Walks at Midnight" (p. 176):
"…And his shoulders were stooped—bony, really," Martha said. "His trench coat looked like it was hanging off two doorknobs."
We've seen clothes hanging on doorknobs, but perhaps never in this context. Perfect.

Then there are the stories themselves. I had to read the first fifty pages lying down; they just knocked me over. You can't run away from death, here, but the stories are written about it from a different angle. These are not the mainstream hard-bitten reality stories that are most common in novels today. They have a little humor in the middle, such as the kids' game mentioned that has the funny, unwieldy name, "Kill the Guy with the Ball." 

The emotions are real, often heartbreaking, but in a good way. Most of the stories contain a character that is trying to muddle through, knowing there is something he needs to understand, but not quite knowing what it is, sometimes not even knowing there is a problem: one or other of the orders of ignorance. Oftentimes, there is a point to the story, but not a plot, exactly. In almost every occasion you are left with a surprising or beautiful last image to hold up to the light. My favorite story, only a paragraph long, has no title, it is on page 51 and is dated at the end "Chicago, 1969." It begins with an imagined retelling of an event that happened to the narrator as a baby, and winds up with a powerful comment by the now grown-up child. A fascinating structure as well as a moving story.

I think the fifty-two stories overall relate to this sentence from "Shhhhhh, Arthur's Sleeping" (p. 194): "Before I put on my other sock, I've doubted the entire day." Inevitably, each character will put on his or her other sock; they are often uncomfortable, vulnerable, but they are hopeful. And hate is tamped down, tempered often with love. Even when they do bad things they are not villains. And many seem to keep "wandering in circles" ("The Moors of Chicago" p. 187) even after the story is over.

The book is divided into four parts: Survivors, The Normal, In Moscow Everything Will Be Different, and Country of US, but for me the groupings are unimportant. I remember them as: memory stories; the Jewish relatives stories that rival the essays in Daniel Pinkwater's books (Chicago Days/Hoboken Nights and Fish Whistle); ones based on news or history; and fanciful ones. The book is quite a mix. Many stories are rooted in the Chicago area, and I slipped into these easily since they are related to the stories in his novel Love and Shame and Love and his first collection, Esther Stories (now rereleased with an intro by Marilynne Robinson, author of Gilead). Several take place in Massachusetts and a majority are written in first person. As I read them, they felt so real that I had the uncanny feeling they were absolutely true.

Fiction. Nonfiction. Creative Nonfiction. Poems. Short stories. Flash. Microfiction. In a Creative Nonfiction class I took from Peter in 2011 at San Francisco State University, he said he didn't like categories. That it doesn't matter if it is fiction or nonfiction. That using labels like Flash Fiction doesn't help anything. That they are all simply stories.

If you are lucky, stories from Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge, may continue to circle and hum in your head, even when they have finished on the page.