Monday, July 28, 2014

PBI 2014: Line by Line, An Intro­duc­tion to Gold Fin­ish­ing

I've already written here about two of the three classes that I took at PBI this year. The third class was the most removed from my comfort zone. Although I work with leather a lot, I don't use leather for fine binding so everything related to that is still mostly unexplored territory.

This class was an introduction to gold tooling, taught by Samuel Feinstein. Over the course of four days, we practiced making lines on leather plaquettes. That's all, just lines. A few dots at the end if you had time! But it quickly became quite clear that all elements of gold tooling require extensive practice so I focused on the lines.

Tooling samples from the class.

We were working with real gold, I believe it was 22k. It comes in micro-thin sheets in little booklets and it is ridiculously delicate and difficult. In fact, the tooling was the easy part of the class. Manipulating the gold leaf was much harder for me! Removing the gold from the booklet, lying it flat and slicing it, etc was painful - and expensive if sheets of gold are constantly being ruined. Every breath, every air current would lift the gold leaf off the cushion or flap a corner of it around and leave it torn or a mess of wrinkles. Thanks to Sam for constantly fixing my gold throughout the classes!

There are several methods of tooling lines and Sam taught us one way of doing it. We began by blind tooling with a cold line pallet tool. Then we re-tooled the same line with a heated tool. Third, we added moisture and blind tooled again with a cold tool. We added moisture again and blind tooled with a heated tool. Those four steps just create the blind impression. The impression is then coated with glaire. When the glaire is dry, then finally the gold is added. The gold is picked up with the heated line pallet and then applied to the line, adding enough layers to cover the impression so there are no breaks in the line.

Working the gold into the impression with the line pallet.

The following picture shows my practice work from the first couple days of this class. If you view this image full-size, you can see that the lines are covered unevenly and there are little breaks in the gold lines.

The next image shows my second plaquette - which was supposed to be our finished project, more refined and polished. I did get better results, but don't look too closely. I am still surprised at the amount of work that was required to produce these seemingly "simple" designs.

Someday, I really would like to do some gold tooling in my own studio. But it will have to wait until I can get all the tools. Then I can practice, practice, practice...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

PBI 2014: Impress me, An Artist’s Approach to Emboss­ing Leather for Books

At Paper and Book Intensive this year, one of the classes I took was taught by Bonnie Stahlecker who showed us creative ways to emboss leather for bookbinding. Bonnie is an amazing artist who incorporates book elements into her work and you can see some of her work and learn more about her on her website at

Books that I made in Bonnie's class.

In this class, we embossed leather using an etching press. A design on a printing plate is impressed into dampened leather when they are passed through the press. We started by trying various methods of creating plates and doing test prints to see how the different techniques would look. Here are some of the test prints that I did:

A crocheted square.

A snake lino cut.

Modelling paste.

And drawing with puff-paint (unpuffed).

Other people in the class tried different techniques as well, using a variety of found objects, cardboard cutouts, string, leaves and ferns, etc. Once we had a chance to play with the various techniques, we created a printing plate for our first book. I did this lino cut, shown here, followed by the embossed leather.

Bonnie also had us try some different ways of embellishing the leather after it was printed using paints and polishes. Here is the same embossed leather after applying some dark blue shoe polish.

And the finished book.

I also made a puff-paint printing plate for another book. I'm not entirely sure what puff-paint is supposed to be used for, but we just used it to draw on fabric. Once the paint was entirely dry, it could be put through the press. It was more durable than expected, and could withstand multiple printings. This photo shows the fabric plate along with the brown printed leather, which was printed with too much pressure and damaged the leather. I printed it again with less pressure onto the red leather, with more success.

The binding technique that we used in this class, is one that Bonnie has developed and it combines different techniques. The covers are semi-stiff, there is no bookboard, just a paper lining in the covers. The primary binding of the textblock is a French link stitch. The textblock is attached to the cover with a secondary sewing using tackets. The result is a nice lightweight leather book. She also showed us a lovely little headband that is quick but also very effective. We used leather to make a false endbands and stuck them on with pva. Then with just a simple oversewing, it creates a really nice endband.

Thanks, Bonnie, for sharing all these great ideas and techniques with us!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

PBI 2014: Guest Blogger Charlie Wisseman and Printing in Relief

Charlie Wisseman is a retired pathologist who now does mixed media art with a current emphasis on book arts and papermaking. Charlie creates some rather amazing works of art, and I encourage you to visit his website and looks at some of the pictures: Charlie took a printmaking class at Paper and Book Intensive this year and agreed to share some of his thoughts about it here on my blog.

Ryan O'Malley, assistant professor at Texas A&M in Corpus Christi,Texas, taught a class in reduction relief printmaking at Paper and Book Intensive in May 2014 at Ox-Bow. As a first-time printmaker with no graphic training or drawing skill, I was a little worried going into this class, especially after seeing the amazing work that Ryan brought to show. His aesthetic is darker and more graphic-novel-like than my usual taste, but the work is dense and graphically powerful enough to pull any viewer in. I chose a graphic from a book to use as my image, and did fine.

Charlie's reduction print made in this class

Ryan taught us the basics of reduction printmaking using carved MDF panels with red and black colors on white base paper. This process is simple and cheap enough for me to play with at home, using an old etching press that a friend passed on to me. I do not aspire to have the astonishing speed and control of carving that Ryan demonstrates, but this is definitely a beginner-friendly process. Ryan was available until late every evening to help, and always willing to assist with corrective carving. By the end I was becoming almost too aggressive with the carving tools. Easy to remove material, but difficult to correct mistakes!

A few of Ryan's printing blocks.

A display of the prints made by the students in this class.

Ryan showed us a simple registration system using Ternes Burton registration pins taped to a jig, affectionately known as "Frenchy". Experience with students has taught Ryan to add some protections to prevent accidentally running Frenchy through the press. As a bonus, Ryan showed me how to print my brain image onto a tee shirt. The print I brought home looks great. My only regret is that the reduction process of carving the block between colors means that there is no going back to do any more complete prints. Only the portion of the image for the final color remains, but the block itself is worth framing.

- Charles Wisseman

Sunday, July 06, 2014

PBI 2014: Three Case Styles for Three Book­bind­ings

Over the past few years, I have been in the habit of posting here on my blog about the various classes offered at Paper and Book Intensive. Each participant at PBI takes three classes (out of 10). So I can report first-hand on the three classes that I took. I have asked a few other participants to be guest bloggers for me, so that they can share details about some of the classes that I didn't take. Since we are already into July, I really should get started with these reports. So, dear readers, you have all of this to look forward to over the summer!

One of the classes that I took was "Three Case Styles for Three Book­bind­ings" taught by Priscilla Spitler.

Three Bookbindings is a text, written by Gary Frost. It was originally written twenty years ago and at that time it was handbound in an edition at PBI, also in a class taught by Priscilla. So, twenty years later, the text was revised and a new edition was produced. In four days, we learned Priscilla's tips, tricks, and techniques for edition binding. We all made three books for ourselves, using three different case binding techniques: full cloth, quarter cloth, and half cloth with a rounded and backed spine. We also worked together to produce the edition of Gary's book, and honestly I have no idea how many books were made in total. Besides the books kepy by the students, I think there were 25 copies in each of the three binding styles - which would be 75. Added to that would be the personal copies made by each student (3 each and about 25 students), so that's another 75. So maybe there were 150 books produced in the end. I do know that we didn't finish them during class time and Priscilla finished them in her room in the evenings! Thank you Priscilla for all that work and for sharing so much knowledge with us.

Everyone in the class made their own three copies, but as time permitted we worked on the edition. Here's a small stack of sewn textblocks that I was working on. Sewn with the French link (and we did discuss how that isn't a very good name for this sewing as it doesn't seem to have any French connection really) and with endpapers attached.

Here's another stack that I was working on. Endbands attached and spines lined. We made our own false endbands, using coordinating bookcloth. A nice finishing touch on the textblocks before casing in. As Priscilla would say, you charge extra for that.

The official edition copies were all made with the same papers and cloths. These beautiful paste papers were made by Priscilla herself. Some of the students' personal copies were made with different papers, so you can see here a variety of decorative papers on some of the finished books.

So, here are the three books that I made for myself during this class. Starting on the left, my copy of the text in a quarter cloth binding, then the half cloth with a rounded spine, and the full cloth binding in dark blue.