Monday, August 20, 2012

Guest Blogger Erin Sweeney, In Emulation of Books

Erin Sweeney is an artist living and working in New Hampshire. Her current work combines fibers, text, and the book form. She is interested in all forms of building, be it conceptual or physical. Making handmade objects, manipulating space, and utilizing printmaking processes in non-traditional ways are all a part of Sweeney’s vocabulary. Be sure to visit her website: I had the great fortune of meeting Erin at PBI this year and she graciously agreed to share a little report on one of her classes.

“Follow your instruction sheets!” Mindy Dubansky’s mantra to us during In Emulation of Books: The History of Objects in Book Form class at PBI this past May. I’m here to vouch for those instructions. I did this project again recently with the fine conservation department at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, and the instruction sheets were working quite well.

Jumping immediately into our Shaped Boxes, as it was imperative to have the first layers dry for the next day, there was no time for introductions or other bothersome chatting. Working from the inside of the box out, we started with marbled (or other decorative paper) and cut it to size, based on the size of our form. After wrapping our custom shaped length of 2’ x 4’ form (sanded on one side to imitate a book spine) with wax paper, we wrapped our marbled paper around, facing in. (The author struggled with paring paper edges, but that’s another story.) Next, we took strips of Bugra, made by Hahnemühle, and dampened and pasted these strips. We wrapped and wrapped our forms, slowly and carefully.

Erin's finished book-shaped container:

It was a mental mind-bender to understand we were working from the inside out, so the next steps needed to just be done and not over-analyzed—and we successfully planned where our lids would be, making jigs so we’d remember later. After adding spacer layers, more decorative paper to line the inside of the case, and the little gap that would let us know where to stop cutting later, we wrapped more Bugra around the form, for a total of 12 wraps.

After setting our forms in a hot room to dry more quickly overnight, the next morning we were ready to cut. We trimmed the tops and bottoms and cut the whole box down to that little gap that we left (gasp!), slid them off our forms, sanded, and got ready to make the tops and bottoms—very simple, it turns out, as we traced our tops and bottoms onto Museum board, cut them out, and then cut out two more small pieces to be glued on for insets. I was expecting a monumental feat of measuring with complicated tools, and was relieved to find that we were simply tracing!

Finishing these cases took the most time—and I discovered first-hand the delightful camouflaging qualities of marbled paper. More sanding, gluing on strips of leather on the spine to imitate bands, applying the leather spine over the bands, and finishing the outside and top and bottom of the case came next.

Several of the 'blooks' made in this class:

The highly finished look of this piece is marvelous, as is the delight in imagining all of the things you could wrap paper around to make your own shaped objects—when trying this again at Dartmouth, I made the Scroll Case instead of the Shaped Box. It is slightly easier to wrap, and less finicky to finish. We used heavy cardboard tubes instead of PVC pipe, and they worked well.

Mindy’s passion is “blooks”—book shaped objects and their history. Her personal collection and depth of knowledge is impressive and she was more than ready to share. Her slide show reflected well the depth and breadth of her knowledge. Additionally, Mindy’s extensive materials list, tool hints and tricks of the trade were most appreciated. Recently on the Book Arts listserv, she sent out instructions on how to make “A Successful Ball Point Water Pen, Recycled.” Perfect! She lists in succinct detail exactly how to do this. I want to make one just because she sent out the instructions, and I don’t even need a Successful Water Pen.


MyHandboundBooks said...

Thanks for taking the time to write up this article for my blog, Erin!

David Murray said...

Those book containers are fantastic. They also look like they'd be a far easier way to smuggle weapons into prisons in movies, than carving out books... Ha ha.

Mindell Dubansky said...

Hi Erin, I had so much fun in our class. The students were amazing. I just wanted you to know that I appreciate your kind words and am glad that you continued making blooks after. Your box is beautiful.