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.