Tag Archives: bookbinding

Making: January

Every year, instead of making a resolution, I choose a word and let that word infuse my whole year.  This concept came to me from Ali Edwards.  She’s the creator of the on-line class One Little Word.  You can read for days about this project here.  I’ve had a word for the past five years: focus, unruffled, dare, effort, and one I cannot remember because I didn’t document it at all.  This year my word is: MAKE.  It is an action-packed, externally-focused, see-results kind of word (unlike focus, unruffled, and dare).  It is an extension of 2014: effort.  I really tried to find a word that embodied the create-more-than-I-consume mantra.  Make is just simpler.  So, I intend to make something creative or make progress on something artful every day, including a weekly prize-type thing.  “Thing” is a vague description, I know, but I want these prizes to be varied.  I also plan to make nutritious meals.  I cook now, but I want to include new foods that we haven’t tried.  I want to USE my cookbooks (or pass them on if they don’t inspire).  I want to make gorgeous salads for myself at lunch, and I think the key to this is Sunday preparation and a heavy-duty mandolin.  This year, I also want to make connections with other makers.  By nature, I am introspective, and thrive on solitude.  As a result of all my making things, I plan to share them here, and on Instagram (which is instant gratification for all).  I hope I can strike up more on-line conversations and inspiration.

IMG_4506

In a dual effort to create & connect, I am taking an on-line art class called Sketchbookery. Sketchbookery, taught by Mary Ann Moss, is a class about cannon-balling into a set of watercolors.  It’s a class about looking at the things that surround us all.  It’s a class about making spectacular mistakes—for me, anyhow, I won’t speak for the group.  Mary Ann guides you though the building of a sketchbook or two, and the filling of those sketchbooks with watercolor drawings of a wild variety of things, all at one’s own pace.  I made my sketchbook from an old Good Housekeeping Cookbook.  I gutted the book, and will use the book block in another project.  The three folios are made up of heavy watercolor paper and illustration board, and stitched to the reconfigured spine.

folios

inner cover

I covered the frontispiece with decorative feather paper, and drew a graphic frame for the introduction page.  It was the first time in many months that I water-colored anything, and it should have been easier.  I simply didn’t make enough of the color, and while I was mixing and testing a new batch, it dried splotchy.   I blotted a puddle with a paper towel, and it left an impression that I liked.  But in all, it needs something.  More color, perhaps.

Then I dove in to the prompts and drawing portion of the class.   The frame, truth be told, was painted first even though the starting prompts were blind contour focused.  I needed to *just start* somewhere, thus a frame was born.  Then I drew and painted an old Smith Corona typewriter that I use all the time.  I always think of that Williams Morris adage: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”  This old typewrite nails both categories.  I even had a pan of silver paint in a vintage set so the chrome bits are done up right.  Mary Ann often titles and/or journals on her pages, and her fonts and journaling was what initially drew me to her style.  Besides, I think in words first, so everything needs a bit of text on it.  I will forever journal on the page, since the story behind the Useful Thing is as much a treat as the painting of it.

typewriter

Mary Ann’s class is chock full of videos with demonstrations and live-action sketch-painting.  There are special guests (cats, Pam Garrison, mid-century chairs).  But I’m going to be vague about the assignments because I think you should take the class, if it interests you. (Take a peek at the class trailer here).  But do not feel like you must be a competent sketch artist; you’ll have great fun even in the trying, and to paraphrase Mary Ann, “Perfection is no fun.”

Letting go of perfection is hard work, though!  And it’s probably my chief struggle with any art form.  Since I love to create, I muster along.  My sketchbook challenges thus far include shadows.  Shadows are such a simple thing, in theory.  They lend gravity to each fork, each leaf, each old car.  I used neutral tint grey to establish the shadow under the pin cushion below.  I have a Faber Castell brush pen in grey that works for shadowing.  Mary Ann uses blue grey paint, which lends a virtuous shadow.  My real problem is when I start a drawing, and then move locations or wait till later, shadows (and glares) have moved. Ah, the passage of time, and the call of children…  Part of my real challenge is letting go of making it perfect, and/or rapid-capture of the shadow and highlight.  Yet, part of the joy is really looking, and noticing the curves and soft edges of a mid-day shadow.

pincushion

I also struggle with replicating symmetry.  What my hand did on the left curve of a fork is not what it mirrored on the right, even after drawing nine forks!  I woe the day when I challenge myself to draw a vase, or a set of curvy hips, (or—dare I even suggest it– a portrait!!).

forks in progress

Lastly, I wish I had made the entire book out of watercolor paper.  Since I’m just learning and playing, it doesn’t matter much, but it would be one less variable if the paper were uniform.  You’ll note that I’m not fretting here about my drawing skills.  They are representational, they are my style, and they may–or may not—improve with practice.  No matter, because I absolutely love getting lost in a drawing.

forks

I’m finding small successes, too.  I adore being able to sketch nearly anything, nearly anywhere.  The portability of it allows for me to be creative on the go:  from an airplane seat!  from my driver’s seat!  to a park bench!  I like the effect of drawing with a black 0.3 pen, then coloring in with paint.  And I appreciate Mary Ann’s suggestion of fancy alphabets to title and label one’s sketches.  I will continue to MAKE brave and daring representations (or spectacular mistakes) of Beautiful & Useful Things.

pineapple

PS: at time of press, I just finished this pineapple.  Said pineapple was drawn and painted whilst supervising a homework session with my 5th and 3rd grade boys.  Also while enjoying a mug of green tea…into which I accidently dipped my paintbrush!  Oh, the perils of watercolor painting at the dining room table!

 

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Books for Your Back Pocket.

jotters cls

jotters suitable for gifting. (featuring Poppy’s paintbrushes).

I have a fondness for books. I love the structure, and the variety.  I like that they can hold secrets or daily-ness.  They can contain personal wishes or public proclamations.  They can house technique-testing or sketches or big ideas.  I make books for all seasons, and just as a creative exercise.  I also make small, pocket-sized jotters for lists.  Lists of art supplies and groceries and to do’s.  It began as a way to use up small scraps of ledger and patterned paper.  I bind these jotters with waxed linen in a pamphlet stitch.  Simple, and purposeful.  I have, on occasion, gifted these jotters as opposed to a card, and I affix a greeting with washi tape.  And I often collage or otherwise embellish the front—you know, for fun.

McCafferty, Kathleen.making mini books
Making Mini Books:
Big Ideas for 30+ Little Projects.
Illustrated. 144pp.  Lark Crafts, 2011. $19.95
ISBN-10:1454702001
ISBN-13:978-1454702009
686.3—M1235m

Making Mini Books, edited by Kathleen McCafferty, is arranged from the simplest matchbook projects to the more elaborately sewn accordion books, and includes an appendix to help guide you through an assortment of sewn bindings.  It features the work of 22 book designers, and 30+ projects in total.  Any level of book-maker can leap into this volume and find a do-able project without needing any elaborate supplies.

My journey through Making Mini Books made my art room look like a recycling tornado swept through.  Vintage papers, maps, patterned scraps—everywhere.  The tail ends of waxed linen thread, scattered buttons, and leather snippets.  The books may be tiny, but I made a huge mess.  I wish I took before and after pictures.

First, I made the simple matchbooks, designed by Leslie Werner. I had some 3X3 inch scraps. Leslie’s matchbooks are smaller, so I adjusted accordingly.  I used double-sided scrapbook patterned paper, so when opened, the matchbook would reveal a wholly different color.  I stapled with the tiny attacher; I like the smaller staples.  I also tamped down on the back side of the staple with a flat tool so the sharp legs were embedded and would not snag.  These portable little books would be fine for lists and favors.  But I made one exclusively for dinner-time hang man.  My husband and I recently discovered that our boys (almost 10 & almost 8) love this game, and it is great entertainment while waiting at restaurants or while traveling.

DSC_4727

matchbooks for grocery lists, and hang man games.

I also made the equally simple, sewing machine-bound beveled books, designed by Stephanie Morison. Again, I worked with scrap papers.  (I was given a ream of old company letterhead.  The paper is a crisp, heavy white stock, and once I trim the left margin with out-dated company information, I’m left with a 5½X8½ inch block).  The instructions recommend testing out 14 sheets to see if your machine can handle the bulk; mine needed some manual assistance, so next time, I’ll reduce sheets.  These petite books will make useful jotters for all notes: garden seed varieties, sticker collections and wedding shower gift-listing (who gave what for the Thank You notes).

small jotters

palm-sized jotters for keep-able list-making. (I love hyphens).

Since I had a scrap of leather, I made the petite fold journal, designed by Marie “Wee” Calogerro.  More scrap paper, waxed linen thread, and two old buttons.  I had attempted the French stitch binding, and I had success with the instructions, but I feared that if I pulled too hard to keep the binding tight, I might ruin the holes I punched into the leather.  So I went with a straight stitch.  If you’ve never sewn together multiple signatures before, you may want to find a video tutorial to see the process in action.  I found that the tutorials took a broader approach, and I can see how a beginner might be flummoxed.  I’m happy with how this book turned out.  It’s a good size at ­­­­5½X4 inches (which is larger than the book sample), and it lies relatively flat when opened. Only one of my buttons is functional, the distressed brass one is sewn on, but solely decorative.

DSC_4716

old books, book binding, & a new-to-me matryoshka.

DSC_4711

leather-bound journal, with accompanying minis

My favorite project from Making Mini Books was the book On the Go, designed by Heather Carden.  I had an immediate need for exactly this type of book.  Many years ago, I learned how to cross-stitch and embroider, and worked my way through monogrammed bookmarks and a Holly Hobbie wall hanging.  Lately, I’m seeing great embroidery everywhere (Etsy, Pinterest, Creative Bug), and, if you’ll recall from a few posts back, I have many empty hoops.  So I’m taking it up again (and reviewing a few embroidery books in the process).  I had started with some simple linen and a line drawing. I wanted to take the project on a long flight.  But, how to remember the stitches?  Yes, simple ones are easy; it’s those fancy ones that I always jumble.  I thought I could either print and cut a stitch guide and bind it into a little book, OR make a mirror image photocopy and image transfer the stitches into a book of interesting vintage papers.

DSC_4721

on the go stitch guide! and starting a new hoop.

DSC_4725

it unclips! and fastens up!

The cover for my book On the Go features an embossed bee from an old book, and a mash-up of old pages inside.  I used a lobster claw swivel clasp to allow me to remove the book, and thumb through the pages.  The necklace portion is a length of paracord, enhanced with a portion of rhinestone chain that I simply wrapped and knotted with waxed linen thread.  The book also has a band of elastic bound with a metal eyelet on the back cover.

Aside from my initial stitch guide idea for this book, I plan to make a couple more for our big family trip later this summer.  With this little book, I can—on the fly—record things that we don’t want to forget: observations and priceless words from our kids while exploring completely foreign turf.  Further, this On the Go Book could house pictures of your beloved ones, SAT vocabulary words, knitting stitches, or twenty of your favorite quotations.  The sky’s the limit.

Thanks, Kathleen McCafferty, for rallying 22 crafty book-makers, and organizing a syllabus of simple to complex book projects that are diminutive and practical, and allowed me to up-cycle a stack of old letterhead, and carry on with my embroidery like an old pro.

 

If you enjoy making books by hand, there are many great books available.  Some of my favorites:

Making Handmade Books, by Alysa Golden.

Rebound, by Jeannine Stein.

How to Make Books, by Ester K. Smith.

And a suite of non-adhesive book-binding books by Keith Smith.

PS:  A couple weeks ago, I wrote about miniature faux taxidermy animals.  Lest you think I’m morbid, or that taxidermy isn’t cool, I spied an article in last week’s United Airlines Hemispheres Magazine featuring a UK shop that teaches taxidermy classes!  You can create your own mouse wearing a chef hat or knitting an afghan.  The accessories may be faux, but the mouse is for real.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Big Excitement about Tiny Crafts.

I never had a dollhouse.  There was a communal one that we all played with, made of tin, at my grandmother’s house.  And a grand Victorian that my grandfather made my sister when I was an age considered too old.  It occurred to me when my boys were in preschool that they could have a doll house; they had a vague interest in the giant one at our little school.  But the time came and went, and Legos entered our lives.  Legos.  We could fill a macro-sized dump truck with the Legos in our house.  The most popular series under our roof is the line of Minifigures, from generic space guys to specialized licensed characters.  We’ve got them in abundance.  My almost-ten year old has versions of himself “in Lego.”  Made his whole class “in Lego.”  Made all the Greek gods and goddesses “in Lego.”  We’ve customized some parts with Sharpie.  And I have on two occasions made miniature rolls of toilet paper for a Lego port-o-potty.  This has been the extent of micro-crafting at our house.

McGuire, Margaret.  Alicia Kachmar, Katie Hatz.microcrafts
Microcrafts:
Tiny Treasures to Make and Share.
Illustrated. 87pp.  Quirk Books, 2011. $16.95
ISBN-10:1594745218
ISBN-13:978-1594745218
745.592—M5835

I found Microcrafts while browsing the 745s at my library’s main branch.  There were thousands of books keeping this one company, but the enormous spool of thread on the cover captured me, and when I peeked inside and saw the miniature deer heads—into the book bag it went!  The microcrafts featured are very small scale versions of stuffed animals, sculptures, jewelry, books and cards.  I generally steer toward purposeful crafts, and I have to say that outside of accessorizing a doll’s house, you may have trouble imagining what you’d do with some of these little trinkets.  I suggest that most of the crafts can be glued to a magnet or clothespin, rendering them more useful.  They can also punctuate a gift, be tucked into a lunch box, or be intentionally left on a park bench to be delightfully discovered.

Once home, I fawned a bit more over the deer heads (and ordered a brick of Sculpey).  I also flagged a page featuring a book no bigger than a postage stamp.  There was even a tiny bird feeder made from a clear drinking straw!  (But seeing as how I’m well underway in killing the lemon cypress trees* on the patio, I’ll have to table that idea till I can get a bonsai to thrive).  Meanwhile, I obsessed about those deer heads for three days…

When the Sculpey arrived, I halted the presses.  I preheated the oven, rolled out some waxed paper, and dove right in.  Shaping deer heads isn’t quite so easy; I used some internet imagery to help.  Then, because I have 1 ¾ pounds of clay, I made a rabbit, a tiger, a brown bear, and some feathers.  I baked them while our dinner cooked stovetop.  My husband, the cookie fanatic, was sorely disappointed to discover a menagerie of taxidermy baking in the oven.  I made my deer heads slightly bigger by accident, so I had to size up the mounting plaques.  I should have checked them against the pattern first, because Sculpey doesn’t shrink.  I had plans to use some wood veneer for the plaques, but have you ever tried to intricately cut wood veneer with scissors?  It was like cutting a cracker.  Bits everywhere.  I recommend a cracker box, or chipboard.  Now, to find some proper antlers…

DSC_4645

Absolute magic happened when I showed the book to my almost-8 year old son.  He’s a tiger lover, a magpie, and a hoarder in training.  And green is his signature color.  I once rescued a green sequin from the gutter for this child.  He saw the mini cat project, and had to have a tiger.  Except in green. With gold stripes.  He ran for his own supply of green felt, and green yarn.  We sat and made this tiger-kitty in ten minutes, then painted his features.  He requested orange felt be added to the shopping list.

green kitty

Invigorated with the quick success of micro-tiger, I set to work on the miniature book.  I followed the instructions to the letter, since I knew the binding step would be easier if I didn’t make drastic alterations.  And I must say, if this is your first foray into book-binding, just be patient.  Follow the chart.  Give yourself time to do the sewing in one sitting.  You can hold the book with two fingers, and sew with the opposite hand, unlike a larger book that requires lots of cumbersome back and forth maneuvers.  If you are completely new to book-binding, there are great books that take you step by step through many binding varieties.  (If you fall in love with the craft, visit Dispatch from LA with Mary Ann Moss.  She makes beautiful, authentically-Mary Ann books, and teaches online classes.  Actually, you should just visit her site regardless.  She makes good stuff).  Midway through the process, I chose petite anchor-printed endpapers, and found a snippet of text about fair winds and sailing for the cover paper.  At this point, I also had a recipient in mind, and I spent the rest of the evening building a book that will house a years’ worth of thank yous from a great class of fourth graders.  The miniature book instructions in Microcrafts yielded a fetching little book.  I added endbands made from a piece of ribbon, and also affixed a jump ring so it can be worn as a necklace.

minibook

I order my bookbinding supplies from Volcano Arts (Japanese screw punch bits, endband, needles) and Etsy for waxed linen thread.  A quick search of “miniature” on Etsy or Pinterest produces thousands of small things, perfect for terrariums, doll houses, and curios.  But I think some of them may also have potential for one of my favorite things—water globes.

This book is for all levels of crafter, especially one who likes to sew tiny felt animals or assemble micro-scraps of fabric and paper.  It is light on prose, but is brimming with great photography and descriptive instructions.  Many projects feature a little magnified snippet with a tip on managing such a small pieces.  There is a reference section in the back focused especially on the miniature scale.  (Hint: toothpicks, nail art brushes, and HO-scale railroad people are recommended).  Also, there is a section for modifying Microcrafts, plus a list of shopping resources.

You can read more at: www.quirkbooks.com/microcrafts.  Margaret posts on Pinterest.  Alicia’s Etsy shop is: eternalsunshine.etsy.com.  Katie’s Etsy shop is: katiehatz.etsy.com.  The contributor’s section of the book hosts fourteen more artists, and their respective online spots.

Thanks, Margaret McGuire, Alicia Kachmar, Katie Hatz, and Co., for compiling a book that surprised and delighted all members of my family, helped us use 3 dozen toothpicks, and compelled me to buy a rainbow of felt.

*I welcome all advice on the pair of dwarf lemon cypresses that I happen to think were failing when I purchased them.  They should be bright chartreuse.  They are crispy and brown, and—I fear—done for.

 

Tagged , , , , , ,