Sunday, February 28, 2010

Looking around the blogosphere...

.....this past week it seems that a lot of people have been experiencing some tough times recently. I'm in that club too, and although I would happily share what's been happening, it all feels a bit confusing and hard to explain just now.

Instead I've decided to post a couple of things I've found on two of the Buddhist blogs I follow. The first is from American Buddhist Perspective, a blog which discusses life from a philosophical perspective, mostly Buddhist. Earlier in the week he posted an old Taoist story here. It was quite timely for me, and made me pull up with a start and realize that I don't know what the outcome of current events will be, so I may as well just deal with the present and let the future look after itself.

The second blog is called Monkey Mind and is written by James Ford, who is both a Soto Zen priest and a Unitarian Universalist minister. "Monkey Mind" is a term used in Zen, that refers to the way the mind is always active, jumping from one thing to the next and back again, "chattering" like a monkey. Whether you've ever done any meditation or looked into Buddhism at all, I think we're all familiar with this experience - thoughts just coming at you from "nowhere" and never shutting-up!!

Yesterday James posted this cartoon, and it struck such a chord with me that I just felt that I had to share it.

So I'm off to spend some time updating my blogs and links in the sidebar. I haven't changed these since I first set up this blog and there's a lot more that may be of interest that I could share. And if you are interested in seeing how those beautiful paper-cuts are done by laser, check out the latest post on Book*Art*Object, which has a link to an interesting post by an English student, documenting the making of a lasercut book.

P.S. Don't worry, I have been making some nice progress with my "editioning" and am about to start working on my own cut-out pages, unfortunately not with the assistance of a laser...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Progress: a bound artists proof at last

This week I managed to complete an artists proof including the binding of my book for the Learning Absences project over on Book*Art*Object.

Woo!hoo! I must say it's a good feeling! I've been working on this as my major project since August, and it's a satisfying feeling to see all the bits and pieces coming together. There are a few tweeks to be done, mostly to account for the loss of a little page space due to the binding. Also I have decided to have a different cover, but basically I am ready to start printing off the pages in multiples now. This will be the biggest edition I have done so far, and I am aiming for 15. This will include pigment inkjet printing, embossing and screenprinting using a screen generated with the gocco printer.

This afternoon I dragged the "light tent" down from the shelf and took some photos of the spreads now that they are bound. I've posted some below, but avoided too much that is new really, just to keep the surprise for those who will be receiving a copy (eventually) as part of the Book*Art*Object exchange. Once everyone has their copy I plan to put a slideshow of the book up online, but till then, here's just a little taster to whet the appetite.

I've included a photo of the colophon for those who are interested in this detail. If you click on it, you'll be able to read the text. I made the decision to put my colophon at the front of the book, rather than the back, as is probably more usual. I thought it interfered with the conclusion of the book a little when placed at the back.

Friday, February 12, 2010

More on Japanese Stab Bindings

I'm a little later with this post than I had hoped because I had a sleep study this week and have been catching up on my sleep! Nothing much to report on the results yet - I see the specialist this week, so I'll let you know if there's any good news!

I had hoped to be able to show you an artists proof of the stab binding of my new book by now, but I decided I need mauve thread, and I have to wait for that to arrive from interstate. In the meantime I've been doing a little online research about Japanese bindings, and I thought I'd share some of these links with you.

The most informative site that I have found is one set up by Graeme Dawes, who researched the topic while studying bookbinding at the University of Brighton. He provides some introductory history on the development of the book and then goes into accordian and sewn bindings in some detail, exploring variations and applications. This site is a fantastic resource and if this is an area of interest to you, I recommend you pop over there.

If you'd like to look at some beautiful historic examples (which are actually available for purchase) you can visit Shukado Japanese Fine This is the website of a gallery in Tokyo which specializes in antique Japanese fine arts and modern paintings. There are a number of books available dating from the Edo period, which you can see here. They seem to be somewhat like early graphic novels, and for the most part are printed in black ink only, but they do have a small number of colour spreads, like the one below:

This image is from "The Story of Shiranui" and you can see more pictures and read more about it here. (Apologies to Shukado for using their imagery - but I really wanted you to see how beautiful it is).

"This sort of illustrated book is known as a "sazoshi" and apparently we use the same term in English, but I haven't come across it before. One aspect I found particularly interesting was that the work is handed from author to author in order for the story to be written, and the illustrations are completed in the same way.I also loved the precis of the story:

"a woman called herself the dominator of mountain (in fact, a spider monster incarnate) and a girl named Suzushiro (later the princess Wakana). The woman teaches the girl a diabolism. "

I don't know whether anyone reading is a fan of Father Ted, but it made me think of the "spider-baby" (if you haven't watched Father Ted, you'll just think I'm mad!)

Another site with images of a number of Japanese bindings (also for sale) is Richard Ukiyo-e. These books are also all stab bindings from the Edo period and I've included images of two to further demonstrate my point about the book opening fully.

With the book below, you can see the way the artist actually uses a painted frame as a device which emphasizes the continuity of the image across the open spread. This contrasts with the image above, which flows uninterrupted across the seam.

They demonstrate that the binding, when executed with the appropriate materials, need not impinge on the ability to open the book fully. I think this is really interesting to see in relation to Tara O' Brien's comment and the point we've been discussing about the stab binding. One thing that puzzles me though, is that as Angela says in her comment, "Its well known that its a binding that can't be opened flat" and yet, these books clearly can be opened flat. Is this because they are old, and the paper has aged? Or is it actually something we think we know, because as Westerners we've only seen examples made from paper that is really too thick and stiff for the binding? If there is anyone out there who knows for sure, it would be great to hear from you.

Finally, if you're interested in picture books in general, I found a wonderful site, the Digital Gallery of World Picture Books. It has a range of picture books including Early American, Modernist, Jugenstil, English and Japanese Edo Picture Books documented in full online. If you like this sort of thing, I recommend you make yourself a cup of tea and set aside an hour or more to take your time savouring books by the likes of Walter Crane, Kate Greenaway, Alexander Pushkin, El Lissitsky, Kurt Schwitters. ( You have to download Shockwave to view the books if you don't have it already, , but it's easy don't let that put you off). Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

In Print in IMPRINT

I am lucky that the Brisbane City Council library subscribes to Imprint, the quarterly journal of the Print Council of Australia. It saves me some money, but it does mean that I am often a month or so behind in getting my hands on the latest issue.

Over the week-end I picked up the summer 09 edition and was interested when I stumbled across an article by Doug Spowart on the SCU Acquisitive Artists' Book Award. You may remember my surprise and delight when I discovered that Like Weather had been acquired for the SCU collection. So, despite the mis-spelling of my name (dig!dig!) I was absolutely thrilled to see that a good-sized photo of my book appeared with the write-up. It was completely unexpected and the first time I can remember unexpectedly stumbling across my own work.

I found the discussion of the award and the acquisitions made most enlightening too. This is an area in which I am a complete novice, so the mention of the impact of the budget, the dreaded bottom-line, created somewhat of an "ah-ha" moment for me. In a pool of "name" book artists, I can now understand how my humble flag book made it past the post. Spowart points out that fine press and large scale books are necessarily overlooked, in order not to blow the whole budget on a single work.

I'm not saying my book should not have been acquired - clearly it had to meet certain criteria of conceptual integrity and craftsmanship to gain selection, but obviously "the price was right" too. As an artist submitting work for future awards, this is worth understanding. It's a wonderful forum in which to attain some recognition if your work falls in this category.

In addition, I don't think this will necessarily impact negatively on the SCU collection in the long term. The direction of the collection will reflect the budget certainly, but the acquisition of works by artists early in their careers, or artists who produce works by means other than fine press, can still result in the selection of high quality artist books.

I was not able to attend the announcement of the selections, so I was very interested in the reportage of the commentary made by the judge, Tara O'Brien. In particular, O'Brien had issue with the use of stab stitch, or perhaps more accurately, what she viewed as "over-use" of the binding. Practical difficulties in opening the book fully combine with the historical connection to Oriental book forms, leading O'Brien to conclude that the stab binding is often employed in Western bookmaking when another binding would be a better choice.

This comment has set me thinking ever since I read it. Yes, you guessed it - I've been planning to bind my next book using a stab stitch. I've thought about the "opening fully" issue quite a bit. The comment took me by surprise really, because I have been taught that only the coptic actually opens fully, but maybe I've got that wrong. [Certainly, a perfect binding with a soft cover does not open fully either (e.g. a paperback) not that this stops an awful lot of people from doing precisely that, but don't get me started on that!]

Being able to open a spread fully is often extremely important to a book. Certainly any sort of journal or workbook needs to open fully; also very often a book with a lot of imagery, and I think very small books and larger books can be difficult to handle and really "see", if the spread cannot be opened out flat.

While mulling this over, I came across this picture of an eighteenth century guide to Kyoto by Rito Akisato (you can pick this up for a mere US$38,500 if you feel inclined). On the right you see one of numerous open spreads depicted on the website where it is for sale. And yes, the spreads lie open beautifully. From looking at this picture, the trick seems mostly to lie in the soft thin oriental paper, which almost "drapes" over the mound of the spine. I think, also, looking at the picture of the outside of this lovely old book, that the stitching looks quite close to the spine, around only 1 cm in. From a quick look around the internet with google images, I noticed that more often the stitching is placed further in, probably around 1.5 - 2cms from the edge. This would create a much larger ridge, resulting in the book being more difficult to lie in the open position. A quick check with my Keith Smith reveals his direction that the "sewing stations are 3/8" from the spine edge"1, and 3/8" is almost exactly 1cm!

So I've decided to test this theory and go ahead and bind the first copy of my book with a stab binding. Most of the pages are vellum, and given the relationship of this book to the Japanese theme of seasons, I am hoping the binding will "work" in a practical sense. With a bit of luck, I may have this first binding ready to show you next week.

If you have thoughts about the use of stab stitch or some of the other points raised by Tara O'Brien last year, you might like to hop over to Book*Art*Object for some more discussion there.

1. Smith, Keith A. 1999. Vol1 Non-Adhesive Binding: Books Without Paste or Glue. New York: Keith Smith Books, p. 110.