Editioned books from the 2015 Book Arts Improv – done!

I have ever-so-slowly been making my way down my list of unfinished projects. I just crossed another item off my list – completing two editions from the 2015 Book Arts Improv.

I started by working on the edition of my fourth Improv book – Fabruary

Handmade books by Elissa Campbell

I’m embarrassed by just how easy it was for me to finish this one. All I had to do was print out the inserts on laser vellum, trim them, and put them into the book pockets.

Printed sheets of laser vellum

I didn’t document how I originally cut the sheets of vellum, but it was easy enough to figure out what to do – since the vellum was transparent, I just placed the trimmed inserts over the full sheets and used my ruler to get the measurements.

Printed sheets of laser vellum

Into the pockets they go…and…done!

Handmade books by Elissa Campbell

FYI – I discovered that there’s an entry for Fabruary in the Urban Dictionary.

On to the next edition, my second Improv book – Godzilla, Extreme Couponer. This was another straightforward task – all I had to do was attach the text blocks to the book covers.

Handmade books in progress by Elissa Campbell

This involved gluing down six goat leather straps for each book.

Handmade book in progress by Elissa Campbell

The thing that bugs me about this operation is that when you press down on the straps post-gluing, there’s usually glue seepage. Luckily, this is fixable. A quick swipe with the tip of an awl will get that cleaned up in no time.

Glued leather strap on handmade book

Here they are, all glued. Unfortunately, I did a tight attachment job and the covers were kinda sproingy

Handmade books by Elissa Campbell

I put them into the press overnight and they look much more relaxed now.

Handmade books by Elissa Campbell

Now that these Improv editions are finished, I have some mailing to do – Marcia, Tracy, Velma, and Marianna – you have packages coming your way!

(Sorta) top secret custom order

I am so psyched for a custom order I’m working on!

I can’t talk about the specifics yet because it’s going to be a gift for someone. I’d hate for the recipient to see the book here before receiving it.

I’ve spent the past four years trying to get Wiggum to hang out with me in my studio and it rarely happens – today, he was very interested in the paper I needed to use for the project.

Silver standard poodle next to open flat file drawer

In a vague nutshell, individual pages are being sent to 100 artists to create artwork for inclusion in the book. The artists have two months to complete their work, after which the pages will be collected and given to me for binding.

Paper was cut…

Stack of paper

…and scored. I added a 0.5″ folded flap (spacer) to the left edge of each page to accommodate any thickness caused by the artwork.

Scoring board, paper and bone folder

Messy pile of folded paper

After all 100 pages were scored and folded, I piled them neatly to see how thick the book might be. At this point, the pages create a 2.75″ thick text block.

Stack of folded paper and ruler

Add in the thickness of the cover boards and the increase in thickness due to swell during sewing – if all 100 artists participate, this book could be over 3.5″ thick!

In reality, there will probably be approximately 35 art pieces/pages in it. The book will be sewn with a coptic binding. My plan is to nest 2 folios together to create the signatures (see below).

2 folded and nested pieces of paper

One of the coolest things about the book is that not only am I binding it, but I also get to create a page for it! I have a connection to the recipient and was asked to participate.

In the future, I’ll be blogging about the art piece I’m creating for the book. It will be a while before the other pages arrive for binding, so stay tuned for updates!

Paper Nerd Club Patch

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know that I collect bookbinding/paper-artsy badges. I’m pretty sure that my obsession stems from my stint in the Girl Scouts. I still have my sash and all the badges I earned.

So you must understand how excited I was when I discovered the Paper Nerd Club Patch in the pages of Stationery Trends magazine. The badge is the brainchild of Constellation & Co. They work primarily as letterpress printers.

Check out this beauty:

Paper Nerd Club patch by Constellation & Co.

It came on a letterpressed card, announcing my achievement as a Paper Nerd. Hooray for me!

Paper Nerd Club patch and letterpressed card by Constellation & Co.

The thing is huge, measuring three inches across. It is much bigger than a standard scouting badge.

Paper Nerd Club patch by Constellation & Co. and other badges

I am in love with it! I can’t wait to get it on my work apron. While I’m at it, I can finally sew on the two PBI badges that have been neglected for the past few years.

FYI – Constellation & Co. also makes a Type Geek Club Patch – I probably should have bought that one too. Next time!

Islamic binding – actually done!

I received the best email ever this week from my friend Stephanie Wolff.

In this blog post, I talked about my attempt to complete an Islamic binding that I started at PBI. I managed to trim the pages successfully, but found that the book didn’t close properly.

Or so I thought.

Stephanie alerted me to the fact that in an Islamic binding, the fore edge flap goes down before the front cover is closed. So there you have it – my book didn’t close due to user error.

What this means is that my book is really done! Here it is, in its properly-closed glory:

Islamic binding

Islamic binding

By the way, there’s really no excuse for my forgetting how to close the book. Back in 2011, I traveled to Boston to attend the Guild of Book Workers Seminar on Standards of Excellence in Hand Bookbinding – while I was there, I attended Katherine Beaty’s presentation on Islamic Bookbinding.

You’d think that more of what I had learned would have stuck!

If you’re interested in learning more about Islamic bookbinding, check out Katherine’s excellent handout from Standards.

Many thanks to Stephanie for helping me to get closure with my Islamic binding!

Wells Book Arts Summer Institute 2016

Wells College Book Arts logo

The Wells Book Arts Center recently announced their 2016 Summer Institute

Here’s their fantastic lineup:

Week 1 – July 17-23:

Week 2 – July 24-30:

I’ve decided to forgo PBI this year, so going to Wells would be a nice alternative. Not only are the courses drool-worthy and the instructors top-notch, but I also wouldn’t have to fly to get there (only 6ish hours of driving). And if I go to Wells, I’d be able to finally cross something off my Book Arts Bucket List.

I’m very tempted to take Karen’s leather course. Not only because I desperately need to work on my leather skills, but also because Karen is a really fun instructor. Here’s the full description:

The basic structure of a fine leather binding has changed little over the past 300 years. The text block is sewn onto supports, the spine carefully shaped, and the boards laced on. The book is covered in leather that has been precision-pared for protection, flexibility, and a sumptuous presentation. Students will build a solid foundation in fundamental binding and leather-working skills including sewing, rounding, backing, paring, and covering and will also develop the connoisseurship required to evaluate their own work for continued independent study. The course is also a valuable refresher for more advanced students who would like feedback on their technique. Students will complete one leather binding with sewn endbands, and experiment with tooling and multiple onlay techniques. Additional luxury features will be discussed, along with the evolution of the craft from Medieval to contemporary methods.

I could go the letterpress route instead – it would be great for me to increase my comfort level enough to actually use my Kelsey. Besides, who can resist something called Daredevil Letterpress?

Students will focus on typesetting and printing techniques that move beyond straight lines and right angles to set type that curves, angles and bounces. We’ll begin by exploring historic methods and tools for handset typographic composition including circular and angle quads. Because these tools have become increasingly difficult to find, we’ll adapt materials from art supply and hardware stores for manipulating type and creating dynamic lock ups on both platen and cylinder presses. We will also experiment with Daredevil Furniture, sets of lasercut furniture designed for type composition. While our focus is daredevil typesetting, we’ll cover innovative approaches to ink, paper, and production too. Students will create a collaborative book and a set of editioned prints to exchange. This workshop is appropriate for those with some letterpress printing experience who want to expand their approach to typesetting and printing.

So I’ve got some thinking to do.

Registration is open now – maybe I’ll see you in New York!

Many thanks to the Wells Book Arts Summer Institute for granting permission for use of their lovely logo!

Islamic binding – sorta done!

Today I tackled another project that I’ve been putting off – fixing an Islamic binding from a workshop with Yasmeen Kahn at the 2013 Paper and Book Intensive. I did complete another, more traditional-looking binding during the workshop – you can read about it in this post.

This second binding has a funky onlay of a piece of a dictionary page – the focus entry is ooze.

Islamic binding

So what needed to be fixed on this book? The text block is too wide for the binding. Check it out – the damn thing doesn’t close properly.

Islamic binding - closed

The pages were more than 3/8″ too wide and needed to be trimmed.

Islamic binding with ruler

I’ve been reluctant to do the trimming because I was afraid that I couldn’t keep a straightedge from slipping during cutting.

I realized that I needed to make a cutting guide that was the same width as my target measurement. I cut a piece of bookboard the target width of the text block and subtracted 2″ from it – then I attached a 2″ brass rule to it with packing tape. I taped it on both side and it was well-secured.

Bookboard and brass rule guide for trimming pages

My cutting guide was perfect – it nestled right into the inside of the book and enabled me to get a consistent trim right where I wanted it.

Bookboard and brass rule guide for trimming pages

A sharp blade is a must.

Trimming book pages - in progress

Trimming book pages - in progress

The trimming was done in no time. The cover now fit around the text block, which was awesome.

Islamic binding - closed

But…I discovered that the book would now only stay closed if I held it shut. So even though the text block is now perfect, the book still won’t stay shut because the wraparound part of the cover is a bit too small/tight. 


Islamic binding

So now what? I think the answer is to somehow stretch the leather in the wraparound part so that it will fit properly. I have no idea how to do that.

If anyone has any suggestions or references to recommend, please please please let me know.

In the meantime, it’s off to the Google!

Book sewn on cords – done!

Today I attacked my first unfinished project – a book sewn on cords from a workshop with Patty Grass at the 2007 Focus on Book Arts conference. This one has long plagued me – eight and a half years of unfinished-ness.

The book’s time had come – I opened up the bag of materials and found the following:

The thing that’s interesting about this binding is that we sewed it without using a sewing frame, as is traditionally done with books sewn on cords. Instead, we impregnated the cords with PVA to stiffen them up. Since the cords stuck up, it was as if they were being held in place by a sewing frame. We could proceed with our sewing unencumbered by equipment.

I had a vague recollection about what needed to be done, but I checked my work journal to see if I had made any notes. I found nothing specific to this book. I just had to go for it.

Each cover consisted of two boards and the cords were to be sandwiched between them. I started by covering the interior and exterior boards.

Covering boards with paper

I had to mold the paper to the channels that had been carved into the board – that’s where the ends of the cords would be attached.

Paper wrapped cover boards with carved channels

I love the cover paper we used for this book. It was made in India and has a wonderful embossed texture. It’s a tough paper to work with in that you have to make sure not to flatten the texture when adhering the paper to a board. No heavy-handed bone folder work on this paper!

The combination of PVA and the cover paper produced a lovely green glue while I worked.

Covering boards with paper and folding corners

I was concerned about how the cover paper would conform to the shape of the carved channels, but it worked like a champ.

Paper wrapped cover boards with carved channels

I trimmed the ends of the cords so that they fit in the channels. I then unraveled the cord strands so that I could fan them out for gluing.

Text block sewn on cords and inside cover with carved channels

Glue was applied and cords were smushed into place on the interior boards.

Text block sewn on cords with frayed ends in carved channels

Lastly, the exterior boards were attached. I pressed the covers one at a time to help with adhesion – the boards were a bit stubborn and did not like sticking together.

Pressing handmade book under weight

After pressing, the book was done – woot!

Handmade book sewn on cords

No more guilt for you – I officially cross you off my list!

Unplanning the planned

Book Arts Improv logo - on hiatusFor the past five years, I’ve spent the month of January engaged in my Book Arts Improv. It has been an adventure, a truly fun and inspiring project. It has taken me to creative places I would have never been otherwise and I love the books I’ve made.

The project is also a big commitment, unfortunately both time-consuming and (sometimes) brain-achy.

I’ve decided to take this year off. I’ll admit that I’m bummed about it, but I think it’s the right thing to do. I’m hoping to jump back into it again in 2017.

So what does that mean for me this month?

Well, the arrival of a new year signals for me the unpleasant task of doing a studio inventory for my taxes. Blech.

As I go through all of my drawers, shelves, and boxes, I rediscover the projects that are oh-so-close to being finished, but haven’t been for one reason or another. More often than not, they’re books that were started at a workshop (raise your hand if you’ve been there).

I decided that during the month of January, I’m going to attempt to complete these projects.

So what do I have?

  • A bunch of editioned books from last year’s Book Arts Improv (oy).
  • A book sewn on cords from a workshop with Patricia Grass at the 2007 Focus on Book Arts conference.
  • An Islamic binding from a workshop with Yasmeen Kahn at the 2013 Paper and Book Intensive.
  • A Wire Edge binding from a Daniel Kelm workshop in 2012.
  • Two panels in a toroidal book created during a workshop with Ken Leslie at the 2014 Paper and Book Intensive.

And that’s not all – I’m hoping to create something new for inclusion in the upcoming Book Arts Guild of Vermont exhibit. Oh, and that exhibit is next month.

No pressure there.

Stay tuned throughout the month to see how things progress – I hope I can cross some things off my list!

Book Arts at Haystack 2016

Haystack 2016 catalogI just received the 2016 catalog of workshops from the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. Detailed workshop information won’t be posted online until January 1st, so you’re getting an early sneak peek!

There are a couple workshops of note that are bookish:

During session two (June 26 – July 8), Rebecca Goodale is teaching Artist’s Books: The Balancing Act of Concept and Form. Here’s the description:

At every turn you will discover a myriad of choices all leading the way to success. The rich complexity of the artist’s book involves rhythm, pace, and form and is driven by a desire to express an idea and/or narrative over and across the pages. In this workshop participants will develop a vocabulary of book structures and then consider appropriate concepts to use with those forms. Demonstrations, design exercises, and various book arts techniques (including binding) will engage participants at all levels.

Rebecca’s workshop is sure to be wonderful – she’s got skills. She works as the coordinator for the Kate Cheney Chappell ’83 Center for Book Arts at the University of Southern Maine (their programming is fantastic). Her creative work focuses on Maine’s endangered/threatened flora and fauna – check out her collaborative project inspired by leafcutter ants.

Although it’s categorized as a Graphics workshop, there’s another book arts-y offering during session four (July 31 – August 12) – A Letterpress, an Artist’ Book, and some text walk into a bar… (hello, best title ever) with Erin Sweeney

Here are the details on her workshop:

This intensive workshop will focus on the depth and breadth of the artists’ book. Participants will learn a variety of printmaking techniques using a Kelsey platen press and a Showcard proof press, experimenting with alternative materials, as well as type, to create imagery. Using materials we have created, we will construct several artists’ books – these structures will combine traditional techniques (folding, binding) and materials with innovative structures. We will also work with text – generated through several simple prompts – and look to house image, text, and objects in new and surprising ways. Students will also have the opportunity to collaborate, and the emphasis will be on fun and experimentation.

Erin received her MFA in Book Arts and Printmaking from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia (hello, jealous). I met Erin at the Paper and Book Intensive a few years ago. Not only is she an amazing artist, but she’s totally adorable (translate: she must be a fun teacher).

Haystack is accepting applications now through April 1st.

FYI: Workshops aren’t first come, first served – they hold all applications until the deadline, after which they review them and assign students. Be sure to put some serious thought into your application!

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays in different languages

I wish you the best during this holiday season – whether you’re having a white Christmas, a belated Chanukah, or a Full Cold Moon Friday. I hope you’re spending time with the ones you love and those who love you (here’s to you, Wiggum).

Many thanks to those who have supported me in my bookish endeavors this year – you rock!

Bring on 2016!


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