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.


Friday, September 07, 2012

Book arts news

I've been forced into taking things rather quietly lately. The winters in Brisbane are generally pretty mild, but this one has been quite cold. In fact, we've had a very bad flu season, much worse than in the colder cities of Sydney and Melbourne. And I can tell you it's not really a good idea to arrive back after three months away, right into the thick of it! But luckily there's been quite a bit going on in the realm of books without my doing anything much.

Self (States of Change) detail by Amanda Watson-Will

First up, I received word on Monday that my porcelain book Self (States of Change) has been selected for a book arts exhibition in my home town! Well almost. It's actually at Bribie Island Seaside Museum, about 80 kms north of Brisbane. Still, book arts opportunities around Brisbane are rare, and I haven't exhibited any work closer to home than Noosa since 2007. So I am really delighted to be selected for Cover to Cover in October. 

Then, I sold a copy of The Great Library of  Alexandria. Selling work obviously isn't a major reason that I make art. I don't make a huge amount of work, and in the past much of it was ephemeral, so exhibitions and competitions have been my focus. As a consequence, I don't have that much to sell. In truth, selling my work to individuals is something I've never found that comfortable. I worry they won't be happy with their purchase, and for some reason, I feel more confident when an instituion is the buyer. I suspect this is entirely illogical, but feelings often are. Anyway, this week I made a sale, to another book artist whose work I admire greatly. For privacy reasons, I won't say who, but you know who you are, and I say a heartfelt thank-you!

Finally, as if these little successes weren't enough, the letterbox has been supplying me with book art delights, day after day. 

First to arrive, this book, "arbre brume" (misty tree) with its beautiful, atmospheric black and white photos by friend and talented artist Renaud Allirand from France. Some of the photos were also available as prints in his studio/gallery in the Marais when we visited, but the book meant we didn't have to argue over which one to choose!

You may remember that I mentioned meeting Renaud in Paris last year and shared a little book by him here (scroll to the bottom of the post).  

This year I was looking forward to seeing what Renaud had been working on since our last visit. As well as photography, he has been working in ink and had work selected for a prestigious art competition. We were lucky that the exhibition opening was during our visit and Renaud invited us along. Below you can see me standing with him in front of his work. If you'd like to see more of Renaud's work, follow this link.

Renaud Allirand and I, in front of work by Renaud.

I'm participating in Edition 4 of Book*Art*Object (see more here) this year and two books by other artists have arrived already.

Detail from "Dust" by Bertie can der Meij [click on the photo to read the text]

First is Dust, a humorous, serious, clever and beautiful book by Bertie van der Meij. Letterpress printed on handmade paper, bound in a vacuum cleaner bag(!) Bertie deals with the detritus of life and death with great sensitivity and honesty. I love this book more and more every time I pick it up. You can see what Bertie wrote about the book on the BAO blog here and visit her website here.

Gail Stiffe's Pulp Fiction

Next to arrive was Gail Stiffe's Pulp Fiction. This book plays wonderfully with Sarah Bodman's title (Pulp Fiction) literally pulping some pulp fiction to create beautiful thin sheets of paper. A reknowned and talented papermaker, Gail's handmade paper is wonderfully tactile, with pages that are embossed, watermarked and overlaid with coloured pulps and then stitched back into the covers. I love it when craft and concept come together this well in an artwork. You can see more about Gail's work on her website.

Ce que j'ai fait pendant mes vacances by Jac Balmer

Finally, a real surprise! Jac Balmer (another BAO participant) in Lancashire received one of my Wabi Sabi zines earlier in the year and has kindly returned the favour by sending me a copy of her new zine. It's entitled Ce que j'ai fait pendant mes vacances (What I did on my holidays) and is pretty perfect for me, I think! It seems that Jac visited France for her holidays too, and the zine takes the reader on a wonderfully evocative walk through a very French garden. The front cover is a great reproduction of a spiral bound school book and the little book structure is filled with Jac's soft, romantic sketches in (I think) pen, coloured pencil and watercolour. It's quite beautiful, and even though they're not my sketches, it works as a lovely memento of my time in France too. You can see more about Jac's work on her blog.

What a lovely week!