Happy World Photo Day!

World Photo Day logoI just found out that today is World Photo Day and I simply can’t resist a good random holiday. Korske Ara, an adventure and landscape photographer based in Canberra, Australia, started the World Photo Day project in 2009.

He had the following to say about the craft:

Photography has the power to tell stories, freeze memories, inspire generations and initiate change.

That really does sum it all up, doesn’t it?

So why is World Photo Day celebrated on August 19th?

It was on that day in 1839 that the French government announced the development of the daguerreotype process. Not only was this the first publicized photographic process, but it was also considered the first practical photographic process. We have the following to thank for their most awesome invention – Joseph Nicéphore Niépce and Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (for whom the process was named).

Let’s hear it for Joe and Louis!

So what can you do to celebrate today? Here are a few ideas:

Take some pictures

It’s time to share your story. Get up. Go outside. Go back inside when you realize that you forgot your camera. Go outside again. Start snapping and let people see your world.

Actually look at the pictures on your phone

I came across an interesting study commissioned by Shutterfly, a producer of personalized photo books. Researchers found that more than half of new photos aren’t shared after being taken. 

Does this feel familiar? Do you look at your pictures right after taking them and then never visit them again? 

Fairfield University professor Dr. Linda Henkel said the following about this:

Looking back at a photo helps to reactivate and consolidate the memory, making it more accessible later and training the brain to remember the story behind the picture.

You took those pictures for a reason, so hit Memory Lane and relive those warm fuzzies.

Put your photos in an album

The Shutterfly study also found that 50% of survey respondents hadn’t looked at a photo older than 10 years in the past month. Think of it – all of those weddings, graduations, birthdays, vacations, dog parties – it’s like they don’t exist anymore.

You can bring those photos back into your life by putting them into photo albums. They help you tell the story behind the photos, which adds depth and meaning to the experience. And the feel of a book in your hands is just so wonderful – it’s personal and intimate. 

[start shameless self-plug]

Perhaps you didn’t know that I hand-bind photo albums that are great for preserving your memories and stories…yep, it’s true. You can find a selection of my work for sale on both my website and on Etsy. Can’t find what you’re looking for? I love doing custom work – contact me and let’s talk.

Handmade photo album by Elissa Campbell of Blue Roof Designs

[end shameless self-plug]

There’s also a dizzying array of online self-publishing options. Most offer templates to aid you in the design process and you can upload photos right from your phone. While I haven’t tried these myself, here’s a small selection of what’s out there (in no particular order): MixbookBlurbArtifact UprisingPinhole Press, and Snapfish.

Do you have any photo-related stories to share? Have you used any of the photo book services on my list? Taking a stab at the daguerreotype?

Let me know about it – I’m all ears!

Leather Binding Fundamentals with Karen Hanmer – Day 5

I can’t believe that it’s the last day of my Leather Binding Fundamentals class at the Wells College Book Arts Summer Institute. This week just zipped by!

Wait…don’t do anything stupid! The first time you open up a freshly-covered leather book, you could tear the leather. To prevent this from happening, wet down the joint on the outside and open the book gently. When applying water, feather it out with your brush. Once the book is open, wet down the inside of the joint at the turn-ins. Gently flex the covers back and forth to work the joint.

With that taken care of, our first task of the day was to remove the thin 2-ply mat board spacers that were added to the spine edge of our cover boards. Before doing this, we built up a platform of wood boards and sheets of bookboard to support the opened cover.

Karen recommended that we use a microspatula for this procedure. Using a knife, for obvious reasons, is a really bad option. I can’t believe how much time I spent scraping off small bits of mat board and the many glue boogers that had formed. It was very satisfying, however, to see the book go from this…
Inside cover edge of handbound leather book

…to this. So much cleaner.

Inside cover edge of handbound leather book

We then took off the plastic wrap from our text blocks (gasp). This was followed by removal of the tipped in sheets of waste paper. My text block was feeling very vulnerable at this point.

Inside cover edge of handbound leather book

The cambric hinges were trimmed to accommodate the turn-ins on each cover. Those awesome strips of cambric help to smooth out the insides of the joints when glued down. You apply PVA to both the inside of the joint and the cambric, then work it over the joint using a bone folder.

Karen gave a demonstration of how to fill in the inside of our covers. In a nutshell, you trim the fill and turn-ins at the same time. This idea is super-genius

Karen Hanmer doing a bookbinding demonstration

You start by preparing the fill, using a material that is the same thickness as your turn-ins. We used Stonehenge paper for our fill. Take dividers and measure the narrowest part of your turn-ins. You want to trim off as little of the turn-ins as you can.

Lay the fill on top of the inside of your cover, making sure that it creates an even margin on all of the edges. You should also back off a smidge from the spine edge of the book – this allows for any stretching of the fill.

When you’re ready to start trimming, place your book (and its support) on a piece of felt or flannel to protect the leather. Move the whole shebang to a board and plop a weight on top of the fill to keep it from moving.

Transfer the turn-in measurement from your dividers to the fill. Trim the fill and the leather at the same time, cutting through both layers with a knife. Don’t force the knife in an attempt to get it done in one cut – taking several shallow passes is a better strategy. And don’t contort your body as you trim – simply rotate the board lazy Susan-style to work on each side of the book.

When you’re done with the cuts, remove the weight and the fill. Gently peel away the excess leather from the turn-ins, pulling towards the outside edges of the book. Voila! Perfect fill. Be sure to mark the fill so that you remember how it all fits together.

Open handbound leather book

We used PVA to attach the fill to counteract the pull of the leather on the covers. Place the fill starting at the outside corners – you can always sand off excess fill at the spine edge of the board. In fact, that’s what I need to do.

So here’s what my book looks like now – it’s kinda sproingy and the covers clearly need to mellow:

Handmade leather bound book

And I still have to fix these problems:

Inside cover of handbound leather book

Tail end of a handbound leather book

I asked Karen what to do about these issues and here’s what she recommended:

  1. For the gouge on the inside cover, I can make spackle (leather shavings + PVA) and cram it in there. Afterwards, I can cover up the area with an onlay.
  2. The tear near the cover joint is probably in the world’s worst location. I can use an onlay to cover it, but I can’t let it interfere with the joint. The fact is that a bit of that hole is going to show. Poo.

Karen made some super-thin onlays for me, which was awesome. I’ll show you how it all turns out when I’m done playing book doctor.

That’s all the work we did on our books today, other than putting them under weight. Karen said that we needed to wait until our covers settled down before we could attach the end papers. It looks like I’ll have more work to do when I get home!

Hand-sewn leather-bound book under weight

By the way, I haven’t yet mentioned that the text block we bound included actual text – it was from The Art of Bookbinding: A Practical Treatise by Joseph William Zaehnsdorf. The book was originally published in 1890 and it’s now in the public domain.

Karen’s hubby printed copies of the text for us to bind – what a nice guy! If you’d like to do this yourself, you can download a copy of the book here.

Open handbound leather book with text

But the day wasn’t over yet – did I mention that there were plaquettes? We worked on these a bit earlier in the week, but there wasn’t much to talk about…until today. Today was Let Your Plaquette Have It Day.

Note: Our cover leather came to us pre-populated with an onlay that was not back-pared. I missed the whole story, but I did learn that this was due to the occurrence of the Leather-Spokeshave Incident of 2016. 

Karen showed us different decorative techniques for spicing up our plaquettes. The first technique I tried was inlaid lines. It all started with scoring a line in the leather using a bone folder. Easy enough.

Leather plaquette

Then you cut a super-thin strip of pared leather (0.3 mm thick) the same width as your scored line. Brush paste on the back of the strip.

Thin strip of leather

Brush some PVA on a piece of mylar and drag the leather strip through it, making sure to cover the back evenly. Lay the strip in the scored line and trim as needed. Cover the area with mylar and rub it down with a bone folder. If you get oozing PVA, just wipe it off with a wet sponge.

Next, I decided to try a simple onlay. I had some wicked-thin leather scraps left over from another workshop, so I didn’t have to do any paring. I just cut out a small shape, pasted it out, then attached it to the cover with PVA.

Last came tooling, which is essentially a controlled scorching of leather. I was really worried about burning myself. I hadn’t yet cut myself during the week, so I figured that an injury was on its way. Thankfully, I escaped unscathed.

After heating up shaped metal tools, you apply the hot tips to the leather to create marks. Well look at that, I made another line.

Leather plaquette

And then a little swirl on my onlay. What a cutie!

Closeup of leather plaquette

And that’s the very last thing I did, so that brings this class to a close. Sadness.

Many thanks to you, my short-term worktable. You were good to me, with your large surface and storage below. I have no love for you, stool. You had no lower rungs where I could prop my feet. Boo.

Clean worktable

If you’re on the fence about taking one of Karen’s classes, don’t be. I’m a repeat customer for a reason – actually several reasons. Karen is a skilled, kind, and patient teacher. And damn funny.

And speaking of funny, I’m so very sad to report that today is the final day of Karen quotes. Enjoy these last nuggets:

I yakety-yak so much.


It’s not me. It’s the skin.


Another ship in the armada that has sailed.


I don’t know what I want and I’m not making good decisions.

Leather Binding Fundamentals with Karen Hanmer – Day 4

Day four of my Leather Binding Fundamentals class at the Wells College Book Arts Summer Institute has come and gone. I can see the finish line – and there’s actual finishing there!

We started off the morning with Karen’s demonstration of how to cover our books in the leather we had prepared. There were many steps. Thankfully, the class would be split in half so that Karen could supervise the process – the first group would work with her before lunch and the rest of us would work post-chow.

Since I was in group two, I had time to work on my leather some more – now that I had rested, I was ready to give it another go.

Pared goat leather with Japanese tissue patches

Karen advised me to patch up my torn leather with pieces of Japanese tissue. I didn’t really care how the leather looked at this point – I just wanted to stabilize it so I could continue working. There was no way I was starting over.

I had a list of things to get done before I’d be ready to start covering my book. As I crossed these tasks off my list, I was reminded of how random it was that this Arches watermark ended up where it did on my inner cover lining. I showed it to Karen, who simply said no. This made sense – you don’t want to introduce anything to your cover that has variations in it. You want everything to be awesomely smooth.

Once I had all of my prep work done, I decided to tidy up my headbands. The ends of the headbands were very noticeable after having been trimmed, so I mixed up some acrylic paint and colored the ends.

Rolled leather headband

Hand-sewn headband

This is when I ate lunch. Then I came back. Time for the second group to get into some covering.

We started out by wetting down the hair side of the leather with a sponge – this helps prevent staining when pasting. We then flipped the skin over and pasted the entire surface with wheat paste. Once the paste on the leather was no longer shiny, we added a layer of paste to the book spine and one of the covers. Lastly, we added another later of paste to the leather.

Pared goat leather with brushed on wheat paste

We placed our books on our leather, making sure that the drawn guidelines matched up with the edges of the book cover. Paste was brushed onto the other cover. We then rolled the book over its spine until it landed on the leather. Again, we verified that the edges of the second cover matched up with the drawn guidelines on the leather.

Pared goat leather wrapped around hand bound text block

We rubbed the leather over the spine with the palms of our hands to help snug it up. I really enjoyed this process – it felt like I was giving my book a massage so it could work out all of the stress it had experienced during the week (dear book, I’m so sorry I cut you).

Next, we peeled back the leather on each cover, rolled it back down, and worked out the wrinkles out with our hands. Don’t use a bone folder. Using a bone folder mars the surface. There was repeated peeling back and reapplication of leather, followed by more smoothing. The paste stayed wet long enough to allow us to do this work.

Then came the series of steps that I messed up. Poo. I’m going to do my best to tell you how it was all supposed to go down, although I’m not convinced that my notes are accurate. Perhaps Karen will see this and let me know if any corrections are needed.

Inside the first cover, you trim the excess leather at the corners at a bevel. You then fold over the fore edge turn-ins. The head and tail turn-ins involve a bit of wizardry – you tuck them into the hollow at the spine. Those slits we cut in the hollow yesterday? They create the flexibility you need to finagle the leather behind the spine (very clever).

Where the turn-ins meet at the inside corner, you trim the leather as needed to create a 45 degree angle. The leather should overlap slightly with no visible gaps. You can press it with your bone folder once, but that’s it. No oversmushing, please.

Leather corner inside the book cover

Lastly, you do this cool pleating thing at the tips of the corners to neaten everything up.

Leather corner inside the book cover

Next you set your joints. Lay a piece of wood on top of the text block, against the joint. Gently push the fore edge of the cover towards you, into the board.

On to the forming of the headcaps, which is a nifty process. You start by pressing the tip of your bone folder into the joints at the head and tail, about 0.5″ up from the edge. It’s kinda like giving your joint a cleft chin. My book now has the Ben Affleck.

Karen made us a tool for working on the headcaps, but I’m saving details about that for another post. Anyway, the tool wrapped around the book, aligned with the joints. You hold it in place while manipulating the leather at the end of your book. The leather should partially cover the headband. You’re basically tucking in the headband (reading it a story is optional).

After the first headcap is done, you move on to the second cover and form your corners. At this point, you might be tempted to open up the first cover and check out your handiwork. Don’t do it. It can wreck all of the work you just did. And if Karen catches you, she’ll give you the stink eye.

The remaining headcap is formed last. Here’s what a headcap looks like when Karen helps you – it’s so very plump and juicy.

Handmade leather bound book

And here’s what a headcap looks like when you do it yourself for the first time:

Now that the book is fully covered, it’s time to clean that baby! A gentle sponge bath does the trick quite nicely. You can also brush the surface of the leather with a silver polishing brush to clean up the grain.

Handmade leather bound book

Time to press and dry – make sure that the book is square first. Glue mylar to a piece of blotter paper and slide that sandwich (mmm…sandwich) into the joint with the mylar side down. Put the book in between two pieces of blotter and press boards, then put under weight. Swap out the blotters for dry ones every now and then to help the book dry more quickly.

Handmade leather bound book with inserted blotters

And that’s the end of day four. It feels so satisfying to have something that now looks like an actual book instead of a bunch of miscellaneous parts. Whee!

If you’re interested in a more detailed blow-by-blow account of the process (with more pictures), check out this blog post by Papercut Bindery. He pretty much nails it – we just didn’t do the string wrap at the joints.

Drum roll please…here are the quotes of the day:

You will all be mindless robots doing things my way.


That’s something I wouldn’t do, but you just saw me do it.


My work here is done. If you’ll excuse me.

Leather Binding Fundamentals with Karen Hanmer – Day 3

Welcome to the third day of class at the Wells College Book Arts Summer Institute’s Leather Binding Fundamentals. So far, I’ve written a total of 13.5 pages of notes to date. Yeah, I take lots of notes.

Here’s what my book looked like at the start of the day.

Tapes laced into the cover boards and secured with Japanese tissue

The first item on our agenda – sanding. Lots of it. And when you sand, you need to go into the basement or as Karen affectionately called it, the Hellmouth. As a longstanding fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I approved of her name choice.

We had to sand down any bumps that could be felt through the inner board linings.

Sanding down bumps on the inside of the front cover

Next we had to sand even, gradual bevels on the outside of the covers at the fore edge, head, and tail. The bevels started approximately 0.5″ away from the edges of the board. After the sanding was complete (with masks on, of course), we escaped the Hellmouth and returned to our classroom.

We cut back corners next. I totally can’t remember if I’ve done this before. If I’ve taken other workshops with Karen, then I probably have done this before. Anyway, this involved cutting a thin sliver off the inside of the covers at the spine edge, approximately 0.75″ high and a 1/2 board thickness deep. I don’t know why, but I found this task very satisfying.

Cutting the back corners of the covers

Hollow time! Yes folks, it’s time to fold up a tube of paper that gets stuck on the spine of the text block – this assists with the opening of the book and allows for the addition of tooling. When you make a hollow, you want to use a paper that doesn’t cockle when it gets wet – we used Arches text weight paper.

We cut 1″ slits along the top and bottom sides of the hollow to give us space to tuck in our leather headcaps (you’ll learn more about that tomorrow).

Hollow for the spine

Here’s the hollow stuck onto the spine of the text block. It looks rather happy there.

Hollow attached to the spine

Since the inner board lining was so much fun, of course we did the same to the outside of the boards. The paper used for the outer lining is based on the thickness of your shoulder – you want the board and spine surfaces to have a smooth transition (no ridges). We used PVA to glue on the linings instead of paste so that it wouldn’t exert a strong pull.

I’d like to mention that at this point in the day, Karen told me that I don’t have a beefy shoulder. Poor, wimpy shoulder. 🙁

Book with outer board lining applied

Once the lining was dry, we sanded down any bumps, just like we did with the inner board linings.

Here begins the leather portion of our program.

Things got demo heavy today as Karen showed us how to prepare our leather for binding. We started by creating paper templates to mark off how far our turn-ins would extend beyond the edges of our book covers. We were basically creating a map for leather paring. Notice how I kept getting confused about which end was up.

Paper template for covering leather

Once the template was done, we transferred the lines on to our skins. It’s getting real now.

Marked up cover leather

Then we got to watch a series of three paring demonstrations. Yes, three. We would be using three different tools for paring – a Schärf-Fix, a spokeshave, and a paring knife.

The Schärf-Fix would be used to pare down the leather on the outside edges of the skin (turn-ins). The spokeshave would be used to pare the leather at the spine of the book. Lastly, a paring knife would be used to pare the leather at both the headcaps (just above/below the ends of the spine) and the corners of the skin.

Karen showed us how it was done and of course, she made it look easy. It was not easy.

Karen Hanmer doing a paring demonstration

This is a Schärf-Fix:

Paring leather on the Scharf-fix

It scares the crap out of me. I cut myself on one once and I bled like crazy. In addition, I have a history as a leather shredder. To say that I was anxious using it is an understatement.

Paring leather on the Scharf-fix

But you know what? It was totally fine. It took a while for me to get the hang of it, but you know what they say about slow and steady. A few things I realized while using it:

  1. If your blade gets caught, slide the leather out and reposition it. Pretty much every time I did this, I was able to continue with no further issues.
  2. I had the greatest control when I pulled a little bit of the leather through, then repositioned my grip on it. I also found that the leather stretched less when I frequently moved my grip.
  3. Seriously, don’t be lazy. Just change the dang blade.

Spokeshave time! I had never used one of these before. Start off by securing your leather on a stone with blue tape to keep it from shifting (and creating problems). Gently push the device forward over the surface of the leather to shave off little bits. Remove the tape, rotate your leather, and repeat the process in the other direction. When the blade gets dull, run it over a strop.

I found using the spokeshave to be very relaxing. And I thought I was doing a pretty good job until I removed my tape and found this in one spot…

Torn leather

…and this in another. Didn’t I say something about problems?

Torn leather

It seems that I rolled the spokeshave over the tape, which bunched up – that’s when the leather got cut. Boo. It looks like I have some consultation with Karen in my future.

At this point I was feeling discouraged, but I pressed on – I used a paring knife to work on the headcaps and the corners. Thankfully, there was no drama there.

Pared goat leather

And that’s when I called it quits for the evening. It was after 9:00 p.m., which is my witching hour. It’s my gluing cut-off time and it definitely wouldn’t be any good for bladey things. To better understand where I’m coming from, please refer to Ted Mosby’s Nothing Good Happens After 2:00 a.m.

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for – Bits of Wisdom with Karen Hanmer:

Scrapey, scrapey, scrapey.


You’re damn lucky you’re studying with me.


So this kinda blows.

Leather Binding Fundamentals with Karen Hanmer – Day 2

Day two of Leather Binding Fundamentals at the Wells College Book Arts Summer Institute has come to a close. I think I’m finally settling into the routine here. I’m especially digging the coffee break at 3:00 p.m.

The first thing we did was trim our cover boards. The boards were originally oversized so we could customize them based on the resulting dimensions of our text block.

Hand-sewn text block with covers

Next came headbands. I love sewing headbands. Actually, I love sewing in general, but headbands are especially fun. The beginning is a bit tough, as things can be loosey-goosey. It gets easier as you go along and the stitches eventually get snuggly with the text block.

The headband core was made of a sandwich of leather and vellum. We cut a piece of core to be a smidge shorter than the size of our squares. The type of headband we made was a single core with a front bead.

Headband sewing in progress

Looking okay from the back…

Headband sewing in progress

My beads were a bit inconsistent, but I was able to adjust them by finagling with a microspatula. Mmm…stripey.

Hand-sewn headband

After trimming off the excess core, we secured our stitches to the spine with Japanese tissue.

We made a different type of headband on the other end of our books – a rolled leather headband. This one took much less time to put together. I think I might have trimmed the ends a bit too short.

Rolled leather headband

Rolled leather headband

Our next task was to carve channels in our covers to allow the text block tapes to lie flush with the surface of the board. Channels were also carved into the inside spine edge of the covers. I’m not sure why, but I love seeing a bunch of penciled scribble on the cover of a book in progress.

Carved out channels on book covers

We added thin strips of 2-ply mat board to the spine edge of our boards, in between the cut channels and at the head and tail. This was to help counteract the anticipated shrinking of our covering leather.

Spacers on the spine edge of the cover boards

Karen taught us a nifty trick for lacing in our tapes. We wrapped the tips of each one in blue tape and cut them off at an angle on each side to create a needle. It really helped with getting the tapes through the cover slots.

Using blue tape to create needles for lacing in tapes

See? I told you it worked.

Tapes laced into the cover boards

We loosened our tapes and brushed PVA into the carved channels. We also glued both sides of our tapes so that when we pulled them through the slots, adhesive would get on the inside, helping to secure them. After the tapes were pulled taut and glued into position, we hammered them down. The ends of the tapes were then trimmed. On the outside of the covers, we added a layer of Japanese tissue over the recessed areas.

Tapes laced into the cover boards and secured with Japanese tissue

At this point, we had to put our books into the nipping press. If you were everyone else, you put styrene sheets in between the covers and the text block. If you were me, you spaced on this detail and used mylar instead. Thankfully, it came out of the press just fine.

Hand-sewn book in the nipping press

Arches text weight paper was used for the inner board lining. We used paste for this step because it creates a pull to counteract the opposing pull of the leather covering material. It will be interesting to see how the covers eventually balance out.

After pasting down the linings, we wrapped our text blocks in saran wrap (capping up) and let our covers dry overnight (and get their dangle on).

Text block and covers drying overnight

That’s the end of another fun and full day! Tomorrow we start leather work…oh boy…

I leave you with today’s gems from Karen:

Don’t do that. Be better than me.


Your text block is a wonderful blotter that you may never use.


This will be my last retreat to my seat of shame.

Leather Binding Fundamentals with Karen Hanmer – Day 1

I just finished my first of five days at the Wells College Book Arts Summer Institute. Coming here is on my Book Arts Bucket List and I’m psyched to be able to cross it off. I’m taking Leather Binding Fundamentals, which is pretty much what it sounds like – we’re going to complete a full leather binding and experiment with different decorative techniques.

I’ve taken a handful of workshops on how to work with leather, but for whatever reason, I don’t feel like it’s sticking. My brain gets it, but I’m just not feeling it in my hands. I know it takes lots of practice, so I need to be patient. I’m not very good at that.

Thankfully, I’ve got an awesome instructor – Karen Hanmer. That’s right, folks – the location may be different, but the instructor is the same (this is my 4th workshop with Karen). She may very well be tired of looking at my face. It’s her own fault though – she’s got skills and she’s a fun teacher.

Here’s where I’ll be spending most of my time this week:

Morgan Hall at Wells College

When you go in the front door of the building, you’re greeted by this friendly sign:

Broadside on the front door of Morgan Hall at Wells College

Our classroom is up on the third floor. I’m getting quite a workout with all of the up and down I’ve done today.

Ah, how I love to sit down to a neat work space and the possibilities of fresh supplies. And a scary to-do list. But good scary.

Leather binding workshop materials

Most of the day was spent working on our text blocks. We started by tipping in cloth hinges on our end pages, which were made from Bugra paper. This was followed by the punching of the holes.

Text block with punched holes

We got to watch Karen do a demonstration of the sewing on a really huge sewing frame. She’s back there – trust me.

Karen Hanmer doing a text block sewing demonstration

Since I had previous experience using a sewing frame, I got to use a special one that had been MacGyvered from two ratcheting bar clamps and a dowel. If you give this setup a try, leave additional room on the sides of your text block – I had a hell of a time completing my kettle stitches.

Improvised sewing frame

Karen advised us to not look inside the signatures while we were sewing – we should be able to feel where the holes are from the inside by using the tip of our needle. She stressed that there was nothing to see in there, so just.don’

I humbly admit that I peeked (I tried to be cool about it). I mostly did so because I repeatedly stabbed myself with the needle and I was convinced that I was bleeding all over the pages. And then I think I did it a few times just because she told us not to.

14 signatures (and a couple of hours) later, I was done. And on top of that, I wasn’t the last one finished. Yay! In case you’re wondering, we only linked stitches on the first 2 and last 2 signatures due to time constraints. If we had more time, we would have linked all of the stitches.

We glued up our spines and entered rounding and backing territory. This is one of those not-in-my-hands things I was talking about earlier. I hold on to the hammer too tightly because I get tense. Then I’m too tender with the text block – I’m a tentative whacker.

This text block came out better than ones I’ve done previously, so I guess that’s progress.

Rounded and backed spine

Next came the spine linings. I got to use a very, very long finishing press.

Once I got my text block in the press, I noticed that my rounded spine got a bit wacky – it was like the middle of it sank down. Boo. It’s still roundish, so I’ll count that as a victory.

Rounded and backed spine

We used Cambric (a.k.a. Jaconet) for our spine linings. It was added to the areas between our stitches and at the head and tail of the text block. We used PVA to adhere each lining, then brushed paste on top of them to help with adhesion. It worked like a charm.

Sewn text block with spine lining in finishing press

That was the last thing we did today. I know it doesn’t look like much in this post, but by the end of the day I was exhausted. I’m glad that we didn’t have any homework for tomorrow.

By the way, I forgot to mention that when you take a workshop at Wells, you get swag – behold, the apron!

Wells College Book Arts Summer Institute apron

I close this workshop post in my usual fashion of let’s document what the instructor says that is useful and/or embarrassing – as long as I’m amused, that’s all that matters.

Here we go:

I’m going to show you what I would do if you weren’t here.


She sucks. This is perfect.


I kinda like being able to make people do stuff.

T.W. Wood Art Camp

I was honored to be asked to speak to the campers at the T.W. Wood Art Camp yesterday. The camp is held every year at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, VT and lasts for two weeks.

This was my second visit to the camp – I talked to the campers about my work back in 2011.

T.W. Wood Art Camp sign

My visit had two purposes – to talk about my work in the book arts and discuss my recent trip to Japan. I brought a selection of books to share, including artist’s books and models of Japanese bindings. I also brought several sheets of paper that I purchased in Japan – my intention was to teach them about washi and its creative applications (Chiyogami, Shibori, Katazome-shi, etc.).

I set up my display and waited for the kids to arrive…

Display of handmade books and paper at T.W. Wood Art Camp

Display of handmade books and paper at T.W. Wood Art Camp

…and then they were there!

I really value the opportunity to educate others about the book arts and to me, it’s especially meaningful to talk to children. It’s so important for them to understand the value of the arts and I appreciate that I get to play a small part in that learning experience.

I started by talking about the first book I ever made when I was in the 2nd grade – The Dog Who Couldn’t Bark. I’m not sure why, but the kids latched on to the story and kept asking if I would read the book to them. At the end of my talk, I held an impromptu story time.

Elissa Campbell talking about handmade books at T.W. Wood Art Camp

The kids asked lots of questions, which I loved. They just don’t hold back, like adults often do. I invited the kids to come up to my display and get a closer look at my work. They quickly swarmed around me and the table – it was a total mob scene, but in a good way.

When they left, here’s what was left of my display:

Display of handmade books and paper at T.W. Wood Art Camp

It may not look like it, but the kids were very respectful of my work when handling it.

Many thanks to the very awesome Martha Fitch for inviting me to speak. Not only is she the T.W. Wood Art Camp Director, but she’s also the Executive Director of the Vermont Crafts Council. The woman is a rock star.

Book and Bed Tokyo

One of the many things I love about Japan is how it skillfully blends the traditional, the modern, and the whimsical. When I researched lodging options in Japan, I decided that I’d do my best to find a range of places to stay that touched on all of these qualities.

When I discovered Book and Bed Tokyo, I knew that it just had to happen.

From their website:

Book And Bed is “an accommodation bookshop”. The perfect setting for a good nights sleep is something you will not find here. There are no comfortable mattresses, fluffy pillows nor lightweight and warm down duvets. What we do offer is an experience while reading a book (or comic book).

Screw a restful night’s sleep – I’m going to Book and Bed Tokyo!

The hostel is tucked away on the 7th floor of the building. After exiting the elevator, we were deposited into a wicked small check-in room. Even though we saw the door shown below, we somehow weren’t convinced that we were in the right place. 

Entry at Book and Bed Tokyo

Obviously, we were in the right place. After ringing the bell, someone opened the door to assist us.

Please note that if you arrive before the established check-in time (4:00 p.m.) as we did, they won’t let you inside. They will, however, let you leave your bags while you’re out and about (this was much appreciated). After dinner, we returned to the hostel to retire for the evening. We were in!

Check out this awesomeness:

Book and Bed Tokyo

One side of the room is lined with a massive bookcase. Those ladders you see are for accessing the top bunks, which are behind the bookshelves. Oh yes, we slept in the bookcase.

If you’re a couple, you have to split up – one person to a bed, please. They were kind enough to situate us in the same area – I had the top bunk and Chris slept below.

Book and Bed Tokyo

Here’s what the bed looks like:

Bed at Book and Bed Tokyo

As they admitted, there was no lush bedding here. But that’s not the point. The point is that you’re sleeping in a bookcase.

They had a really cool light fixture made of books (sorry for the quality of the photo – the room was on the dark side).

Light fixture at Book and Bed Tokyo

The hostel is less than one year old, having opened in November of 2015. It was designed by Makoto Tanijiri and Ai Yoshida of Suppose Design Office. As of their opening date, the bookcases contained approximately 1,700 books (in both Japanese and English) that had been supplied by Shibuya Publishing & Booksellers. I imagine that the book count is higher now.

Before going to sleep, we made a point of spending time on the couches, reading whatever caught our fancy. I found a book that was a guide to doing everything (I can’t remember the title) and funny enough, it had a section on bookbinding. I just can’t escape this stuff.

I can’t say I had a restful night’s sleep – it was a Princess and the Pea thing, but with a futon. But I don’t care. And why? Because I got to sleep in a bookcase.

When you leave, the exit offers you a sweet send-off:

The current nightly rate for a bookshelf bed at Book and Bed Tokyo varies depending on when you stay – we paid about $44.50 per night, per bunk (including taxes). If you’d like to save some money, you can stay in the “bunk room”, which offers basic capsule accommodations without a bookcase. But seriously, the whole point is to sleep in a bookcase.

This video offers a quick tour of the place:

If you’d like to check out Book and Bed Tokyo for yourself, here’s how to get there:

  • Address: 1-17-7, Lumiere building 7th floor, Nishi Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo (Google Map)
  • Phone: 03-6914-2914
  • Public Transportation: 5 minute walk from Ikebukuro Station (West Exit)

Total sheets of paper purchased to date: 29

Trip to Isetatsu, Tokyo

Isetatsu was our last paper-related stop in Tokyo, which was good because day three was so.very.long. And I’m pretty sure that my husband was over it. We found the petite shop nestled on a small street – if you didn’t know it was there, you would totally walk by it.

Exterior of Isetatsu, Tokyo

I wanted to know more about Isetatsu, so I got my Nancy Drew on. I discovered that it was established during the Edo period, approximately 150 years ago (wowza). The owners are fifth generation printmakers and they are the only folks still making Edo-style Chiyogami, which is woodblock-printed.

Before today, I’m not sure if I knew that Chiyogami papers were originally block printed. Chiyogami, as I knew it, was screen printed. World = rocked.

The papers in the store were really beautiful and I had never seen ones like these before. I found a section of the store that had smaller sheets and I just fell in love with them. The sign by these papers said that they were machine-printed, but they didn’t look that way. After some back and forth communication with the sales clerk (with translation help from both of our devices), we simultaneously realized that the machine in question was a letterpress. 

I’ve never considered a letterpress as a machine. I’ve always seen it as a mechanical extension of the artist’s hand. Is that weird?

After some deliberation, I picked nine sheets to take home with me. I didn’t know it at the time, but all of those papers were created by the artists at Isetatsu. I came to that conclusion after I found this book: Isetatsu Collection: Traditional Patterns on Japanese Wood-Print Paper by Kaori Saito (ISBN: 4894447703). The book includes images of papers that are among the ones I purchased.

The colors are really vibrant and I love the patterns. The base paper doesn’t feel like any washi I’ve encountered, it’s really smooth. The sheets all measure 10.625″ x 15.5″ (grain long). This size is known as oonishiki-han (27 cm x 38 cm) and is the most common size of Chiyogami.

Blue letterpressed paper with flowers

Pink letterpressed paper with pink flowers and folded cranes

Peach letterpressed paper with red flowers

Green letterpressed paper with white flowers and polka dots

Red letterpressed paper with silver flowers

Blue letterpressed paper with white and yellow flowers

Purple letterpressed paper with white and pink flowers

Green letterpressed paper with flowers

Orange letterpressed paper with flowers

Each sheet has text on its edge – I’m wondering if it establishes Isetatsu as the maker and/or identifies the design.

Orange letterpressed paper with flowers with Japanese writing on the edge

Unfortunately, the sales clerk wouldn’t let me take pictures inside the store (I always ask first). Flickr to the rescue! Check out these pictures by hanakisoi to see the inside of Isetatsu:

To learn more about Isetatsu, read this article from The Japan Times by Yuko Naito: Block-printed Paper Beauty.

If you’re itching to see the shop for yourself, here’s how to get there:

  • Address: 2-18-9 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo (Google Map)
  • Phone: 03-3823-1453
  • Public Transportation: Sendagi Station (Chiyoda line), exit 1

Total sheets of paper purchased to date: 29

Trip to Masumi, Tokyo

It all started with this Instagram post by Steph Rue, a book artist and former Fulbright Junior Researcher. She visited Masumi, a conservation and restoration shop in Tokyo and posted a picture from her visit.

She had me at “Rows of beautiful silk textiles…”

That one post inspired our trek to Masumi on our third day in Tokyo (yes, I’m still on my third day).

Before leaving for Japan, I printed out a picture of the storefront, so I knew exactly what we were looking for. Except that we couldn’t find it. We wandered up and down several quiet, narrow streets, looking for a store that just didn’t seem to exist. Did I mention that we were using Google Maps (and had the address) at the time? Fail.

We were walking on one street for what must have been the third time when we passed a building that caught Chris’ eye. It did not look like my picture, but he said that he thought it was the place. To me, it looked like a residence with a long driveway. It definitely did not look like a business. Nevertheless, I agreed to take to take a look.

We walked toward the building and it was then that I noticed what looked like conservation-ish supplies in a glassed-in room. Hrm…maybe this was the place. I approached a man and told him that I was a bookbinder looking for supplies. He went inside and brought out another man who thankfully, spoke English. He told us that he’d take us over to the shop. Victory!

It turned out that our own personal Superman was none other than Yasushi Yokoo, owner of Masumi.

After an embarrassingly short walk, we were in front of the shop…and it looked just like my picture.

Exterior of Masumi, Tokyo

Holy crap, that place is fantastic!

In one part of the store was a small section packed with conservation tools and supplies. I am sooo kicking myself for not buying a whale bone folder that Yasushi showed to me. It was flexible and felt like plastic. At the very least, I should have taken a picture of it.

There were floor to ceiling wooden shelves containing dozens of types of handmade washi. Want.

Paper shelves at Masumi, Tokyo

Yasushi brought out several types of washi for me to look at, each one amazing for different reasons. One type of washi was no longer being made because no one had learned the papermaker’s methods before he passed – this paper’s tradition and history was basically lost. He said that this was all too common – the younger generation wasn’t interested in the “old way”.

He showed me the thinnest washi I’d ever seen. It was more delicate than onion skin – super floaty. It almost wasn’t there. I can’t believe that he let me touch it. I can still feel it between my fingers.

I also got to see paper that was made specifically for constructing traditional Japanese hanging scrolls. These sheets weren’t the same size as what I’m used to seeing – these were narrow and much longer. I can’t even imagine the size of the papermaking mold that was used to create it. The paper arrives packaged in a beautiful handmade paper wrapper – there’s just so much respect for this art in Japan.
Sheets of handmade paper at Masumi, Tokyo

One side of the store was lined with rolls of gorgeous silks and brocades. I didn’t get a shot of that wall (so many picture fails), but you can see some of the rolls in the upper right-hand corner of the photo above. You can also see some pictures of the fabrics on Masumi’s website. Fabric manufactured specifically for scroll work is called kireji.

I knew that paper-backed fabrics were used in the construction of scrolls, so I assumed that all of the rolls were essentially bookcloth. In reality, the majority of them were not paper-backed at all. Yasushi backs fabric by hand on an as-needed basis when he has to perform scroll work. He typically adds three layers of paper to the back of a piece of fabric. 

I learned that there’s more paste to meets the eye (or nose). For scroll work, Yasushi uses paste that is aged. I had never heard of this before. I found this article from the Journal of the Institute of Conservation that talks about it – it’s called furunori. This wheat starch paste is stored for a period of 8-10 years and as a result, it becomes more malleable. The softness of the paste helps to keep the scroll soft. I totally have a new respect for paste.

Yasushi told me a bit about his work, which includes commissions from a number of museums (several in the United States). He said that he could reproduce any design, on either paper or fabric, provided that he had a big enough sample to work from. He also crafts custom boxes and the rods (jikugi) used to roll/unroll scrolls from the bottom. He can basically do anything – he’s kinda magical.

He spoke about the value of tradition, of doing things the way they had always been done. You could trust it. Things lasted for so many years because they did it in a specific way and continued doing it that way. Why stop doing what works? He showed such love and compassion for his craft – it was very inspiring.

Here’s a picture I did get – it’s me and Mr. Nicest Guy Ever:
Yasushi Yokoo and Elissa Campbell

Towards the end of our visit, he told us that he was hosting an exhibit of cut paper art by Japanese artist Atsumi Yukihiro. Would we be interested in checking it out? Um, hell yeah!

We ascended the stairs, not knowing what to expect. We were not disappointed. Atsumi uses washi for all of her pieces and boy, is she good at it. We were told that she uses a super teeny knife – something like this X-Acto swivel knife.

I couldn’t avoid getting my reflection in the glass when I took these pictures – sorry about that.

Cut paper art by Atsumi Yukihiro


This piece simply blew my mind.

Cut paper art by Atsumi Yukihiro

Cut paper art by Atsumi Yukihiro

Cut paper art by Atsumi Yukihiro

Cut paper art by Atsumi Yukihiro

Cut paper art by Atsumi Yukihiro

Cut paper art by Atsumi Yukihiro

Cut paper art by Atsumi Yukihiro

Cut paper art by Atsumi Yukihiro

This piece incorporated cut magazine pages.

Cut paper art by Atsumi Yukihiro

Cut paper art by Atsumi Yukihiro

When we finished viewing the exhibit, we went back downstairs and if you can believe it, the exhibiting artist arrived! I gushed like a total fan girl, telling her how wonderful her work was.

No paper was bought at Masumi, but I did get 2 meters of bookcloth. Check out this lovely pale bluish-green:

Roll of Japanese bookcloth

In a nutshell, our trip to Masumi was wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! Yasushi was just too good to be true. Our visit with him was definitely one of the highlights of our time spent in Japan.

If you’d like to check out the shop for yourself, here’s how to get there:

  • Address: 4-5-2 Sugamo, Toshima-ku Tokyo (Google Map)
  • Phone: 03-3918-5401
  • Public Transportation: 7 minute walk from Otsuka Station (Yamanote Line)

Total sheets of paper purchased to date: 20

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