It was raining outside the windows of the play room. A hard rain. The kind of hard rain the washes the scum up out of the gutters and . . .

A spread from an old project. Our assignment was to create a book based on the 5 senses, so naturally I wrote a gritty film-noir detective’s file about a missing teddy bear. Follow the image above for the whole set on my photostream.

All the illustrations are in pencil, these were some of the first rendered pencil images, and all the body type I wrote out on an antique typewriter. This piece won a 2008 Kansas City AIGA Design Award.

Western Book Structures

Along with the Japanese structures, in book making class this summer we also explored some western methods.  This is a case bound sketchbook. Follow the picture above for a few more angles.

The book block in this structure consists of a number of signatures or gatherings of pages folded in half, in this case 11 of them containing 2 sheets each.  It’s hard to find sketchbooks with thick velvety paper so I decided to go all out on this one and use a grey Rives BFK, a cotton based print making paper that feels more like cloth than paper.

The gatherings are stacked, and then sewn onto tapes—ribbon like stripes of linen which give the book its structure. This design allows the book to be strong, even with a large number of pages, and still able to open flatly.

The term “case-bound” refers to the cover, which is constructed from thick chipboard, here covered with backed fabric.  I found these great prints in a local quilting supply store.  The front side has a bright strip, this red flower pattern, while the back has some colorful stripes.

I also had the chance to hand sew the headbands for this book.  Headbands are those little stripped bits of embroidery at the head and foot of the spine, just inside the cover.  In the past they added strength to what is an often manhandled part of the book, but today they are often simply decorative items.  Usually they are machine sewn onto tapes and pasted in, but these headbands are hand stitched and extend down into the sewing stations on the spine.

Japanese Book Structures

I just finished a fascinating class on paper making and book structures, and I hope to be posting some pictures of some of my final projects over the next few days.  To begin with, here are a few glamor shots of a small Japanese 4-hole style stab bound sketchbook, along with a few of the sewing models. Follow the picture above to some other images.

Each of these sewings is based on 4 simple holes stabbed through the book block (hence the name).  In Japanese this method is called yotsume toji (四つ目綴じ).  The pattern used on the final book is called the tortoise shell.  The design is based on Kōjirō Ikegami’s book Japanese Book Binding.  Although it looks very strong, this treatment is basically decorative.  The pages themselves are held together by other means.  In fact, it is common practice for these bindings and decorative covers to be cut off of old books and replaced regularly as they wear out.  Because the covers are soft the book is fairly floppy, and this is a must because the binding is ridged, and does not allow the book to lay flat.

The pages of the book are separate leaves like in a western style book, however, they are folded at the fore-edge, making each page double thickness.  This allows a blotter sheet to be slipped between pages while writing in ink to prevent bleed through.  Clever, don’t you think?

I used basic sumi-style rice-paper for the book block, and decorative printed paper for the covers.  You’ll also notice some red coloring on the head and tail of the spine.  These are small squares of backed fabric folded over the corners for added strength.

We Made a Book—And I Helped!

It may surprise you to learn that not all books are grown in the orchards of the Publishers islands, or farmed in small local coops by teams of biology grad-students.  Nope, instead there are still people out there making books the old fashioned way, with great big clangy printing presses.

I had the opportunity last month to take a class called “The Illustrated Book”.  Over the course of the month we each designed a 2-page illustrated spread around a short bit-o-text about creativity (cue echo).  I learned how to set type, how to set up a printing press, how to carve linoleum blocks, and the fine art of appeasing the ink fairies for a prosperous press run.

our book

Here you can see the cover and my spread.  My text was borrowed from the introduction to John Hodgman’s book The Areas of My Expertise, a favorite of mine.  There are a dozen or so more photographs if you follow the image above.

Coptic Bookbinding

One of my favorite things about going to art school is being exposed to techniques I would never otherwise know how to approach. A perfect example is bookmaking. About two years ago, a project for our two-dimensional design class was to create a book.  At the time, we learned about the different parts of the book, how to make a clothbound cover, and a number of different binding techniques. In the end I designed my project after the large folio envelopes they use in our art library to collect loose leaf artwork, and so at the time I didn’t get a chance to try out any of the binding techniques, but it’s something that’s been on my mind for a while.

With some time this summer, I decided I’d give the project another go. As a gift, I wanted to make a writing journal, and so I did a little research to find out what sort of binding might be best.  I wanted something that would allow the pages of the book to lie flat so it would be easy to write or draw on them, like the spiral binding of the sketchbook, but also something that would look a little more elegant. I finally settled on a version of Coptic binding. Here you can see the results.

This being a writing journal, I found some appropriate fabric, and made the covers by wrapping two pieces of chipboard cut to size. The inner covers are treated with some simple patterned paper to give a finished edge to the fabric wrap. There are actually two sets of binding stitches here. The first is a basic Coptic stitch which runs through the two outermost holes and the center hole. For this I used some basic bookbinding thread. The second binding is a two needle affair, and runs in two sets, one above and one below the center hole.

There are quite a few tutorials of simple Coptic stitching on the internet, but the more complex two-needle work was harder to come by. The best resource I found was a series of books by Keith Smith on Non-Adhesive Book Binding.

Now that I’ve had a little practice with this technique, I’m eager to try it again. When complete the book lays very flat, and is easy to write in, so I think this may be a great candidate for a homemade sketchbook.