Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Gramma's Things

While going through my late Grandmother's things, my mother found a lot of handiwork that Gramma had done, or partially done. After hearing about 23 Sandy Gallery's recent Uncommon Threads call, I used one of Gramma's unfinished crocheted pieces to make this book (although it isn't part of the exhibit, it was that call for entries that prompted me to it).

The 'pages' of my book are made of book board, covered with the pages of one of her old Crochet & Tatting pattern books. I added a little narrative to the pages about my grandmother's things.

As you can see from these next two photos, the book structure allows it to open like a standard codex, or as an accordion.

It can be opened both ways because it is constructed like the old Jacob's Ladder toys. I even made a little video here to show the fun part, how it can be an endless ladder even though it consists of only six panels, er, pages.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Marbling Larger Papers

Until recently, I was only marbling small sheets of paper, about 9x12. People often asked if I could do larger sheets but my equipment prevented me from going bigger. Last time I was marbling, though, I found a container that I could use to try some larger sheets. I ruined several sheets immediately - switching from laying down a 9x12 piece of paper, to a 16x24 piece of paper, was not an instant transition! Suddenly it felt like I'd never done it before and I had to learn the technique all over again. After some practice, though, I did successfully produce several large sheets. These images are scans of the larger sheets - the scans show only a 9x12 area, though, since that's the size of my scanner bed.

Friday, August 26, 2011

flickr friday - RED

Another Friday, and about 85 pictures tagged with RED. Apparently it's a popular colour in my work! I do like red, actually, and this selection includes many shades of red - since, sometimes burgundy is red...etc. Follow the RED link to see them all. Or, here are a few of them, randomly selected using the Flickr badge tool:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Secret Belgian Binding -> Criss Cross Binding

As I mentioned a couple months ago, it is now known that the 'Secret Belgian binding' was invented by Anne Goy in the 1980s. It is not an obscure historical binding as many people thought. I had a little note directly from Anne after I posted here, and she says that she wants this binding to be called "Criss Cross binding" -- rather than the secret Belgian Binding. It's going to be hard to convince people to change their name for this structure, I think, but I wanted to share that information so that we can at least make an effort to call it by its proper name!

Friday, August 19, 2011

flickr friday - YELLOW

I like using the tags on Flickr. It's a great way to categorize and it's a very librarian-type-thing to do. There are about 57 photos in my Flickr photo pool right now, that I have tagged with YELLOW. Follow the YELLOW link to see them all. Or, here are a few of them, randomly selected using the Flickr badge tool:

Friday, August 12, 2011

Guest Blogger Fran Kovac, on 6th Century Coptic Binding

Fran Kovac is a bookbinder in Columbus, Ohio, and teaches basic bookbinding techniques at the Morgan Conservatory in Cleveland, Ohio. She is ridiculously camera-shy, but has allowed me to to use a picture of her fingers sewing a link-stitch endband, very much like the endband for the Coptic structure she describes here.

I first encountered Fran's work, way back in 2006, when we were both participating in a book swap through Volcano Arts. I think she ended up with the first book that I sent. Later I acquired a couple of her marvelous books through the swap. In 2008, I attended PBI for the first time and was chatting with her when suddenly I realized it was the same person, Fran Kovac! She's been at PBI every time that I've been there - and now she's kindly agreed to write about one of her 2011 PBI classes for my blog. Thanks so much, Fran!

While Rhonda was slaving away in John Townsend's Extreme Bookbinding (see her post, below), I was spending the week with a Late 6th Century Coptic structure taught by conservator and book historian Julia Miller. This is an exquisite structure that is a recreation of an extant manuscript known as "Chester Beatty Ms. 815" but also called "Codex C." The original has a parchment textblock sewn with a link stitch at three sewing stations, on papyrus boards. The book is leather covered with an inked design, with a wide wrapping band held with a bone clasp and an attached bookmark.

We began by making our papyrus boards. Pasteboard is simply a board made by laminating sheets of paper or papyrus together. Julia pointed out that there is evidence that boards were often made with fragments, scraps, inscribed sheets and bits of leather and vellum, pressed together, and in fact, we made samples with scraps left over from class. Codex C had papyrus boards, though, so for our books, we laminated papyrus until we had boards approximately 5 mm (~3/16") thick.

We used paper for our textblock, alas, parchment being rather expensive. I added one parchment end sheet to my model for the most verisimilitude I could afford. We folded and marked our textblocks for sewing. This link stitch is recessed in the original, so we carefully cut notches in our textblock to accept the thread. The sewing is rather different than that which is usually taught today: three stations, single needle, with the thread doubled inside each signature. A note about "Coptic" sewing: historically, not all link sewn books are Coptic in origin. We commonly use the terms interchangeably, but unless what's being talked about is an actual Coptic binding, such as Codex C, we should probably use the term "unsupported link stitch."

After sewing, we added link stitch end bands in colored thread, and lined the spine with linen. We made and decorated our bookmarks, wrapping band and bone clasp. The original clasp is vaguely fish shaped, with a single hole for the strap, and is undecorated except for some scratches. We used cold tooling and ink to decorate the bookmark and ink designs on the wrapping band.

We had lovely goatskin to work with to form the case with the papyrus boards. Goat, sheep, and other hides such as camel are believed to have been used in history. This is, essentially, a very early (the earliest?) case binding; the boards are not sewn to the textblock. The boards and leather were laid out pretty much as we would do today when making a case, although with extra wide turn-ins.

Inside front board showing the wrapping band attachment

The end sheets are pasted down to hold the textblock in place. Prior to putting in the textblock, however, holes are punched through the front board to accept the wrapping band and bookmark, and the tricky work of drawing the inked design began. The model of Codex C which was made shortly after its discovery served as our model for the design; it incorporated a Maltese cross, which seemed the wrong time period to me, so I incorporated a Coptic cross in its place.

My thanks to the extraordinary Julia Miller for another wonderful historic bookbinding class, and to Rhonda for the chance to talk about it!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Saturday, August 06, 2011

When Marbling Washes Away

When marbling, after a sheet of paper has been laid on the floating paint and lifted from the tank, it has to be rinsed with water to remove the excess size. Sometimes the paint on a sheet of newly marbled paper just washes down the drain. This happens when the paper isn't suitable for marbling. During my last marbling session, I tried some different paper and it became a good example of what happens when the pattern just washes off. Once I realized what was happening, I got the camera a made a little video to show you. Much effort, washed away in 20 seconds.

It's disheartening when this happens! Well, I won't try marbling on this paper again.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Guest Blogger Charles Wisseman, on Moku Hanga and Martin Vinaver

Charles Wisseman is a retired pathologist who now does mixed media art with a current emphasis on book arts and papermaking. Charles lives in Champaign, Illinois and has a website where he shares some of his work:

Charlie has been at PBI every time that I have been there and I think he's been there many times more. This year at Ox Bow, he took Martin Vinaver's class on Moku Hanga, a Japanese woodblock printing technique. He kindly agreed to share his class experience here on my blog.

Martin Vinaver was an unusual presence at PBI this year ( May in Oxbow in Saugatuck, Michigan). He is a Mexican from Vera Cruz who fell in love with Japanese woodblock printing, which led him to learn Japanese and spend several years in Japan learning this art form from remaining masters. This is a difficult and labor-intensive process which is in decline. The samples of older prints from Japan show an almost superhuman degree of fine detail and carefully drawn lines.

On returning to Mexico, he set about working with some other Mexicans and foreign artists to try to "Mexicanize" the process, because some of the Japanese materials were very expensive or unobtainable in Mexico. He gave a talk on his art center progress so far, with U-tube clips showing the making of paper from old towels discarded by local tourist hotels, lithograph stones from local quarries, locally cast metal parts for presses, local colored earths for pigments, carbon black from the local bakery, fat for lithography crayons from local sheep, etc. The website for his organization is

In the class we did not try to reach the level of the old masters. Each person tried to carve and print an original 4.5" x 6.5" block of shina plywood to learn the traditional methods of carving (including registration points), mixing pigments and printing on Japanese paper using a traditional baren. Martin brought carving sets of traditional style made locally in Mexico using steel from older quality European files. These were for sale after the class, and I liked the tools enough to buy a set. He brought powdered earthen pigments from Mexico, demonstrated traditional baren-making (which we all tried).

We were all feeling pretty good about our designs and carving, until Martin came in on the third day and said that we needed to carve our negative spaces deeper to avoid stray ink transfer. In the cold studio space this was not welcome news, but the final results were worth it. I carved a turtle design using two blocks.

Moku Hanka Woodblock Print by Charles Wisseman

Carving to have color areas contact without gaps or overlaps was harder than I expected, but we were all pleased with the results. The main challenge is to think in terms of color areas rather than lines. I have no graphic training, but found the final result pleasing.

Martin's other contribution was tai chi instruction in the open before breakfast every day. I liked his style better than other forms I have tried, but probably can't find a teacher here. What a great way to start the day, though.

Martin Vinaver leading tai chi at Ox Bow