Saturday, April 4, 2020

Hand Made Books On A Rainy Day

Hand made book 5.5 x 8" 
     Today this little book came into the world, filled with heavy white drawing paper pages, ready for poems or drawings or other inspirations. The spine is antique embossed leather, and the covers are illustrations from The Tempest (recognize Prospero and Caliban?) and The Legend of King Arthur.
The pictures came from a calendar that is probably over 40 years old. They were left in a drawer all that time, but when I found them they seemed magical enough to make something of them. Maybe they will inspire some magic to be created in the pages inside.

Inside cover
Embossed leather spine
Inside of book - 32 leaves or 64 pages

This book was made a couple weeks ago. One of my favorite places to shop for bargains is Oriental markets. Often there will be packages of rice paper or other papers and they are inexpensive. I'm not sure what these papers are traditionally used for, but they are excellent for wrapping small gifts and making books.
Hand made book - 5x6"

Inside, I used heavy weight white bristol-type paper. 

This book's covers are birch bark and paper trim and an antique leather spine. I had some fun
with very bright red paper from Asian Midway Foods in Madison that I made into dots.

Birch bark book 4x6"

Birch bark book
     The birch bark was collected by Michelle and Ken Workowski at The Nature of Things. Ken and Michelle helped me learn how to separate the bark layers and get along with what is a very useful, durable but particular material. 

 In this birch bark book, the red dots imagined themselves into the book after the book was finished, so they were made and added after I thought the book was done. It seemed the book had something to say about what it wanted to be. 

   How does a little book happen? There are many ways to put together some pages and wrap them up in a cover for protection and identification. A well made book of natural materials feels good to hold and look at. It is an art to make a beautiful, useable and lasting book of any kind.

   My interest in making books originated simply from my love of the feel of good papers and good leather. Most of my book experiments are sketch books rather than books to write in. A perfectly made book is not as important to me right now as exploring how books are put together and playing with textures and colors. Each book teaches me something and the next one is better in some way.

   I use whatever materials are at hand. The collection of left over mat board, wrapping paper, hand made papers, interesting old pictures, sewing odds and ends, leather scraps and more are all "too good to throw away" but for as long as they have languished in closets, they have not been used. Now is the time! They are spread out all over the studio floor, sorted and re-sorted into color and texture combinations. A special picture may start a vortex of colored papers toward the image's palette and then I start with the cover.


Tools for making books

      There are tools made specifically for book-making, such as a tool for making sharp folds and creases, and a frame for holding the paper pages while attaching them together. I don't have those tools. Most used tools are a sharp knife, ruler, scissors, glue, pencil and a cutting mat.

     Now that we are not shopping much, I've run out of some things that I'm not finding substitutes for around the house. The right size and type of cord, string, or thread is in short supply so some books may not be finished until I can go shop for those items.

     I usually start with a material or picture that will be the cover. That inspires what papers will work for pages. Then how to put it together: accordion books are simple and useful, making a more traditionally bound book is much more work but in the end is a 'real' book, and there are many variations on how to make each part of a book. Adding beautiful end papers or decorative details are all decisions to make before putting the pieces together. 

Glueing cover paper to cover boards

     The next book has a cover of thick hand made paper, a leather spine and watercolor paintings attached to both the front and back covers. The inside covers are birch bark.

Leather and hand made paper covered book with watercolor applique

Inside back cover lined with birchbark.
The pages are attached to the cover with dark green cloth ribbons that match the green paper on the covers. The pages are sewn together at the spine, then attached by gluing the ribbons to the cover and pages.

Watercolor on inside front page

     Another book using old calendar pictures on the covers. This one has a simple paper liner on the inside of the covers and the pages are heavy bristol drawing paper. The spine is the same antique embossed leather used on the book above.

St. Nicholas-back cover, the Easter Hare-front cover
inside cover and decorative edge of page

Back cover has green liner paper and decorative page edge

And now, some tiny books. These are accordion books. They have a cover on each end, and one continuous sheet of pleated paper. The paper is trimmings from paper window shades. The covers are birch bark, the inside covers are decorative papers.

Tiny Books are 1x3" and 1x4"
each is approximately 30" long

     I love beautiful papers and I love books, so it is fun to switch from drawing or painting to something completely different. It is also rewarding to see the pile of scrap papers too beautiful to throw away finally become something.

Thanks for visiting! Please share and/or comment if inclined. I appreciate a conversation.


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