Monday, December 24, 2012

Season's Greetings

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everybody who has dropped by my blog this year. Your visits mean so much to me, and it has been such a source of delight to connect and chat with you.

If you are holidaying or celebrating at this time, I wish you safe and happy times.

We'll be celebrating Christmas tomorrow, with both my family and my husband's. Below you can see the traditional tree which my wonderful mother-in-law decorates for us, with a little help from her grandsons.

At times, the "run-up" to the festivities can seem stressful and overwhelming, and it seems that each year, most of the responsibilities fall on the same old shoulders. I'd like to thank those people in my family who make Christmas "happen" year after year. You are creating our memories, which are a treasure.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Book Art and Zine Exhibition, Melbourne

A very short post to let you know that while it may seem I've been ignoring you, I have been thinking of you all. I've been beavering away, preparing work and submissions for shows, this year and next.

First up is BAZE at Hand Held Gallery in Paramount Arcade, Bourke St, Melbourne. The opening is this Thursday - so if you are in Melbourne, I hope you can make it along.

As well as a copy of the Special Edition of Judy and the Jacaranda hand bound by Monica Oppen, I'm sending copies of my first zine, Looking for Wabi Sabi in Tokyo. I've also made two new wabi sabi zines based on photos I took in Paris. A few sneak peaks follow.




The rest of my time is spent wrestling with my Book*Art*Object contribution, A Day Just Like Any Other , due to be posted off before New Year! Yikes! My main difficulty: too many ideas and not enough time to sit with them so that the best can percolate to the top.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Visiting The Studio West End

On Tuesday I met up with three other Brisbane members of Book*Art*Object for a bit of a pre-Christmas get-together. Robin Foster, Helen Malone, Jack Oudyn and I decided to check out the end of year exhibition at The Studio West End, before lunch.

The Studio is the domain of Adele Outteridge and Wim de Vos, and is where I learned to do coptic, celtic and other bindings in 2009. Adele and Wim offer classes and on-going support to their students, including opportunities like the exhibition we went to see, Bookplates Unbound and Artists Books.

Adele and Wim welcomed us warmly and Del was kind enough to allow me to take some photos of the show to share with you.

The bookplates showed great variety and there were some beautiful prints amongst them.

The artists books explored a range of media and structures. I recognized some Impress Printmakers' members names amongst the participants, including the very talented Glenda Orr.

This work by Susan Bowers, Standing Stories 4,5 (Bush women) is a lovely example of pushing the definition of a book.

Wim de Vos showed his current obsession, perspex tunnel books. This one is inspired by the Chrysler Building, and offers an interior view that I had not seen before.

Adele shared examples of book bindings that students can make in her classes. These lovely ones in the lower left which combine coptic, celtic, the icicle and the caterpillar are exemplars completed in a single workshop, to allow students to try all these different bindings in one go. What a great idea! Reminds me of something......

We all enjoyed the exhibition and our visit to the studio, and I enjoyed the chance to see Del and Wim again. If you'd like to see more of the Studio West End exhibition, Del tells me there will be more photos going up on their website soon.

Friday, November 23, 2012

To week-end or not

It's been head down, tail up for me these past weeks. As you know I've been working on a wedding album for a friend in small chunks of time, almost every day.

The end is close now but I've noticed how slogging away at something with a deadline really drains a lot of the pleasure from tasks I would normally enjoy.

Annoyingly I have set myself up to finish this year (and probably start the next too) with a number of things like this, projects with deadlines.

Of course, the truth is that all of these are self-imposed and only half are things where I have actually made a commitment. It may be that I will be forced by time and energy to drop the others. In the mean time, I want to relax a little about them, so I can enjoy them more.

Just this past couple of weeks I have been having a week-end, and it feels so good! As I am free to organize my own schedule, and low energy times have no respect for the day of the week, I have not really bothered with week-ends as such for a long time, maybe even years. I would spend Saturday and Sunday as any other day, working in my studio if I was able, and rarely actually nominating any day as "off-duty".

Taking week-ends, I found some time to potter with my garden, tiny as it is. I have planted some seeds of Australian Indigo, my first plant specifically for dyeing.

Nothing to see yet, but hopefully in a couple more weeks! If you'd like to see what we're waiting for, go here.

I found that even when I just do the things that people with 9-5 jobs have to do on their week-ends, like catching up around the house, it feels a lot more relaxing than cramming things in while thinking "I just want to get into the studio."

So I'm wondering, do you have a "proper" week-end? Or do you treat everyday the same? How does this work for you? Do you find it's easy to get/take enough time to relax?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Testing book structures for "A Day"

My deadline for the wedding album is now very close, so that has had all my attention. That was until last week when the reaching of a significant birthday milestone demanded some celebration time and subsequently even more recovery-time....

However, before that I finished binding the album and I am very pleased. It is both lovely and sturdy. Result!
Now I have about 100 photos to print and insert into the album, as well as some decorative finishing to complete in the next 10 days or so. (In case you are confused, yes the wedding has been and gone, and I am aiming for an anniversary finishing date.)

As promised, in this post I will share some photos of structures I tested for my Book Art Object edition, and I'll also just talk a bit about my general approach to the title. However, I won't talk too much specifically about the decisions or thoughts coming from the test structures, as that could make quite an essay!

My title is "A Day Just Like Any Other", which like everyone else's this round is one of the one hundred short stories written by Sarah Bodman and buried in a Danish forest, after Kurt Johannessen's Exercises. You can read more here.

Although this title sounds very like the beginning of a story, along the lines of "Once Upon a Time...", I don't work with narratives very comfortably, and I selected the title so that I could explore the idea of a day.

I'm really interested in time, and when I hear the word "day", my first thought is about a day as a chunk of time.

A day is a particularly interesting amount of time to me. Often a day can absolutely fly, but at other times it seems to stretch out, seeming like eternity itself.

A day also offers us a refreshing beginning. A chance to start over that comes around comfortingly quickly.

A day is the amount of time we choose when we want to honour or remember an event, a person, or even a moment, whether good or bad.

And of course, there is day's mate: night. Or is it really day's nemisis?

Centuries ago, we developed ways to demark our days, and now we can gather them together in bundles of varying size according to our need (weeks, months, seasons, years, generations, and so on). It wasn't easy to wrestle the days into our rigid structures, with our desperate obsession with whole numbers. Some might say that the leap year we slot in every fourth year is a sign that we didn't really win that one!

So you see I've been reading about what we mean by "day", about the planetary movements, the development of various calendars going back through history, and all the while thinking about the elasticity of time.

For the book, I had an idea to use one or some of the photos of sunrise that I took last year while flying home from Paris. You might remember one from this post. I wasn't sure what structure would work best to convey my thoughts, and so I tried making some maquettes (or models). Below you can see some photos of the experiments. Promising beginnings!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Part 2: Binding Practice

The online course I was taking, Extending Embellishment, finished long ago, and although I hadn't completed all the tasks, I had to set it aside for now if I am to meet my bookish deadlines.

So since mid-September I've been working on two book projects simultaneously, with a slight leaning towards the wedding album I am making for my friend, as the deadline for it is sooner. When the album is finished, I will blog about it in greater detail, but I thought you might enjoy seeing my practice-run of the binding.

Initially I had planned to make a porcelain covers, and to use a combined coptic and celtic binding, which the bride had seen on some of my other books and loved. However, photo albums are largish and heavy, so I scrapped the porcelain covers.

A little more research convinced me that a coptic/celtic binding might not be sufficient for a decent sized wedding album. The problem is that these are across-the-spine bindings, and especially after my time bookbinding in Paris, I now understand the greater strength that binding along the spine imparts to a book.

I spent some time reading Keith Smith's volume, Exposed Spine Sewings, and was pleased to find what seems a very happy compromise. Smith suggests a mixed binding, part across the spine, and part along it. Perfect! (Hopefully!)

In the end I have opted for a combination of a celtic binding and the icicle. The former is a binding with which I am quite familiar, while the icicle is new to me. It has packed raised cords combined with spine stitches and is very attractive, while providing good, firm spine support.

As it was completely new to me, and I had to teach myself from Smith's book, I thought it was advisable to have a trial run. It was certainly worth it, as I was a bit over-zealous with my cords, pulling them a little too tightly, and as a result the cover pops open.

Icicle binding and coptic headband

Nevertheless, I was encouraged and am now in the middle of binding the actual album. It looks good so far, but there is still a way to go.

Next time, I have some photos of  tests for my Book*Art*Object work to show you.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mid-Spring: thinking and doing

 Part 1: Mostly thinking

I've been managing an hour or so most days in the studio, and this allows me to keep things ticking over mentally, and a little practical progress to be made.

In contrast, I have occasionally cast my mind back to a happy time when I was preparing for my ceramics graduation exhibition, and I worked in part at the dining table in our open-plan unit. My clay buildings surrounded me, and were one of the first things I saw when I opened my eyes. The intensity of full immersion in the creative flow was such a pleasure, and I'm sure that the work benefited.

These days I am aiming for a different type of flow. I'm doing my best to appreciate what I do achieve (both in the studio and beyond) and the days do feel more spacious and less pressured (mostly!)

This year for the first time, I'm noticing the rhythm of my days and being more aware of how I structure my time. It's a schedule of sorts, but it has developed quite organically, rather than by my imposition.

As a result, I'm feeling more content despite not really having as much energy as I would like to have. The way I feel during the day "leads" me, and after observing this for a while, I can see that there is an internal pattern happening.

When I push to fit in more, whether in the studio or elsewhere, there is a tiny bit of give, but one step too far and I find myself in a crabby mood, my mind filled with negative thoughts and hopelessness lurking not far away.

The first iris of the year, and two frisky goldfish
Living in a subtropical city, it is quite possible for the seasons to cycle past with minimal impact. I've been trying to be more in step with the seasons over the last two or three years. Taking the time to pay more attention to the changes that do happen has surprised me with the amount of daily pleasure it gives.

I've started a project where each season I will gather some representative plant material and use it to make natural dyes and ecoprinted paper. This was kicked off by the pansies which my lovely house-sitting friend Louise planted for us, as a welcome home from our trip in winter. The dark purple pansies have been flowering madly and I have been snipping them off after a couple of days, and putting them to freeze until the plants are spent.

Meanwhile, I've been progressing with binding the wedding album I am making for a friend, and in my breaks from that, testing different materials and structures for my next BAO edition. So next post I'll share some of that.

Through the Blind

Monday, October 08, 2012

Atelier du Marais: Part 3

There are two finishing steps that I learned in the bookbinding studio in Paris and I'd like to share them with you in this post.

Lining the inside boards

Have you ever made a book and when you glue the papers to the insides of your covers, you discover there is an annoying ridge where the fold-ins from your covering material end? Sometimes it isn't a problem, especially if your lining papers are fairly heavy, but with a lighter paper, like the japanese one in the photo above, the ridges can detract from your nice neat finish.

The answer is very simple, but it wasn't something I had seen before. You line the insides of the cover boards using thin card.

From my notebook, May 2012

To glue, we used a generous coat of wheat paste. The cards are then put aside for at least 10 minutes, to allow the paper fibres to expand and contract.

The cards are placed into (a) and (b), fitting closely and accurately to the spine. Trimming will be necessary because the card will have expanded and this is more easily done over the leather.

To trim, you first score your line creating a gutter. The Stanley knife can then be run lightly along the gutter to remove the excess without cutting the leather.

Finally, put the book block inside the cover boards and place the whole thing in the press while the paste dries.

Books in the press. Note the protective red and pink cards, which stop unwanted glue reaching the book blocks.

Making rolled leather headbands

I saw some of the other students make beautiful, woven headbands with different coloured threads for the books they were binding. Sadly my time ran out before I had the chance to try that for myself, but I did learn to make rolled leather headbands for both my books.

I've scanned the notes I made so that hopefully my sketches will help to clarify the steps.

1) cut some leather cord to the width of the spine
2) bevel both ends

3) cut a rectangle of thin leather so that the short sides are a bit longer than your cord
4) apply PVA to a bit more than half of the rectangle
5) put the cord in the centre, at the bottom of the glued area
6) fold the leather down over the cord and press it down, shaping over the cord

7) when the folded leather is holding in place, make cuts down either side of the cord and across at right angles, as shown on the left. The area which remains is the rolled head, which will be visible in the closed book.
8) next, carefully remove only the top layer of leather in the areas marked with red stripes
9) apply PVA to the "spotted area", ready to glue the headband onto the book block
10) the final sketch shows the "wings" created in step 8, which are used to position the headband and allow you to pull it in close and flat, ensuring a nice tight fit.

Above you can see the wings have been removed now, and the head sits in tightly over the spine.

That's all I'm planning to post about my time at the Atelier du Marais, but if anything is unclear or you have any questions at all about it, please drop me a line in the comments.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Atelier du Marais: Bookbinding Part 2

In today's post I'm going to show you the method I used for making of the covers of both the books I made in Paris. Some of this was new to me, and some was familiar. Hopefully you may see something helpful.

First off, I'm continuing with the book with watercolour paper and a linen cover, started in the last post.

Before going any further with the book block, the card which will form the spine
of the covers is cut to size. Below you can see the formula used, and above you can see that height of the card is not a concern at this point.

 The spine edges (in grey) are folded to create a nice, sharp edge prior to glueing to the boards .

The boards are cut to size and their orientation is marked (VH= verso haut=back top; RH=recto haut=front top) before sanding the spine-side edge. The goal is to create a very thin edge, (~1mm) with the board gently curving back to its full thickness within a couple of inches.  Above you can see the boards and spine after glueing with PVA.

For glueing the fabric to the book boards, I first marked the outline of the book onto the fabric, and then generously applied PVA to the outlined area. To position the boards accurately, place the top and bottom left corners of the front board into the left side of your outline. Then carefully "roll" the boards into position from left to right, taking care with the placement of the right corners. Use your hands to press the boards and fabric together, taking special care with the spine area. Now you can trim your corners, as you see above. (Actually, this isn't trimmed closely enough, but go slowly - you can always cut more off, but you can't stick it back on).
It's a simple step to apply PVA to the bare fabric with an appropriately sized brush. I started with the shorter sides, folding them in carefully, followed by the longer ones. You use your thumbnail to fold the sliver of fabric over the corner of the board, making a lovely neat corner (if all goes well!)

Here you can see the boards with their full fabric covering (please disregard the ruler - it isn't there for any good reason). 

Making Leather Covers

As I've already mentioned, the other book I made was covered with leather. The book boards were made in the same way outlined above, however the way the leather is applied is rather different. I'm afraid I was so engrossed in the process that it didn't cross my mind to take any photos. Nevertheless, there were a couple of aspects that were really new and surprising to me, which I'd like to share with you.

1) The Glueing
 Both wheat paste and PVA were used, but rather than mixing the two before application, each was applied in turn. First, I had to apply a generous coat of wheat paste. (And I mean generously. I thought I was being generous, but when Madame Malouvier saw what I was doing, she up-ended jar of glue, creating a pool of paste on the leather for me to distribute!!)

The brush is used to work the paste into the surface and remove the excess. (You shouldn't be left with any pools of glue.)

Next a moderate coat of PVA is applied over the top of the wheat paste, and you're ready to place the covers onto the leather.

2) Working the Leather
I had hoped that I would learn how to prepare the leather for covers, but it turned out that nobody does that themselves at Atelier du Marais. Each person cuts the leather to size and then it is "sent out" to a leather specialist a few streets away. My leather was shaved perfectly for me for the princely sum of three euros. I imagine that it is organised this way so that Mme Malouvier doesn't have to deal with any thumbs or fingers being chopped off in the Atelier.

The students do bevel the angled corners of their leather, prior to glueing. This experience was enough for me to realize that it was just as well my leather had been "sent out".

However, once prepared I was surprised  how easy the leather was to manipulate. It is quite an elastic material and can be not only stretched, but contracted (by gently pushing it back with the fingers) to a surprising degree. As a result, it is actually much easier to create a beautiful, neat corner than it is when using fabric or paper covered boards. 

Look at that neat corner!

When the glue has dried, you can clean up your leather with a sponge dampened with a little white vinegar and water. 

I have a few more finishing touches to tell you about, but that will be in the next post. I do hope that you aren't bored! I'm enjoying going over all that I learned, and am pleased I took decent notes.

À bientôt!
(see you soon)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Atelier du Marais: Traditional Bookbinding for Beginners

Peeking through the window into Atelier du Marais
If you've been reading this blog for a few months or more, you'll remember that the highlight of my trip to Paris was attending Atelier du Marais for classes to learn some traditional bookbinding skills.

In Brisbane we are lucky to have Studio West End, run by book artist Adele Outteridge and printmaker/painter Wim de Vos, but they would be the first to say that they do not teach traditional bookbinding. There is also the Queensland Bookbinders Guild, but because their Introductory Courses are organised as two full consecutive days, I haven't been able to attend. 

You may be surprised to hear that I had never made a case-bound book before, so I was keen to gain some experience working with someone with these specialized skills. I found that Mme Malouvier was not only an experienced teacher, but passionate and fun, and despite language-challenges, the students made me feel very welcome. The best aspect was taking part in something "real", something not set up for tourists, being part of a group of like-minded Parisians.
 I feel very lucky to have discovered the Atelier.

Above you can see the two blank journals that I made under Mme Malouvier's careful guidance. My initial plan was to walk you through their making, but despite taking quite a lot of photos and even more notes, I don't think this would really be worth your while. I couldn't really put together an adequate "how to" which would be the aim. Instead, I've decided to use the photos to show you the things that I did that were new to me, and share the tips I picked up, and hopefully something will be new or different to you too.

But first, a little look around the Atelier.(Apologies for the quality of these photos. In order to be unobtrusive I used my phone).

This is the view from the door. You can see the full length of the Atelier. At the back you can see a tiled wall - that is a little bathroom with a toilet and basin. On the right at the bottom of the photo, you can just see a stool. Beyond to the right, out of shot, is the work bench which runs the length of the wall. And that is it! There is room for about six students at a time.
A closer view of the left hand wall. There are three presses in view, although the one at the left (with the blue wheel) is being used more as a bench in this shot. The lovely boxes are for students to store their spare supplies (excess leather etc)
The right hand wall of the Atelier, looking along the work bench. Most supplies and tools are conveniently stored on the wall, either hanging, in handmade boxes or as below, in cork tumblers.

Sewing signatures on the frame

For my first project I used a commercially available book block, but for the second I bought sheets of watercolour paper, which I tore to size, folded and assembled into 8 signatures. 

There was a very clever jig at the studio, which you placed your signatures onto, and it told you exactly how many sewing points were needed for your book according to its size and also where they should be placed.

My book required 5 sewing points and three tapes. This was the first time I have used a sewing frame, so while it's not extraordinary in any way, I was quite excited to give it a go.

Above you see the sewing frame, with my book block lined up to the tapes.
This is a close-up view. You tie the tapes onto the big woolly bits above (? name) and pull them as tight as you can, lining them up in the space between your sewing holes. Then you use a large nail and push it through the tape and under the wooden shelf of the frame.

In this photo you can see that a piece of wood slips into the frame, covering the nails from view and providing a smooth work surface. You can also see the sewing in progress.

I found the sewing to be quite logical - you pass waxed thread in at the top hole of the first signature, leaving a tail of about 8cm. Continue weaving the thread in and out to the bottom of the signature. NB. The thread should pass on the outside around each tape. At the bottom of the signature, ensure your thread is tight by pulling out to the side (ie in the direction you are sewing). Take your thread into the signature above and continue back to the head. Here you need to sew back into the signature below and tie off with a double knot to attach the signatures securely.  At the end, tie off securely, working back into at least one signature below.

Up close. Hmm, not very even Amanda. (But it is my first go!)
Usually when the sewing is completed, the book block is ready to be glued. However, when using a heavy paper like I was, the block needs pressing overnight before glueing. Without this, the signatures would simply spring apart.

This is the book block after a night in the press. The tapes have been trimmed and glued down.

Next are the covers and glueing the book block, but that will have to wait till next post.