Happy Preservation Week!

Preservation Week logo

Hey everyone – it’s Preservation Week! This annual event, presented by the American Library Association (ALA), is going on now through April 30th.

Here’s what the ALA has to say about the event:

Memories and treasures should last a lifetime and be passed on to future generations. Sponsored by the ALA’s Association of Library Collections and Services and partner organizations, Preservation Week inspires actions to preserve personal, family, and community collections in addition to library, museum, and archive collections. It also raises awareness of the role libraries and other cultural institutions play in providing ongoing preservation education and information.

I have a keen interest in the concept of preservation – it’s one of the reasons why I make books. People should tell their stories and be able share them with future generations.

So what can you do to honor this week? Here are some ideas:

  1. Check out the resources on how to properly care for collections of books and paper.
  2. Watch a webinar about preserving scrapbooks.
  3. Teach a child about the importance of preservation.
  4. Confirm that your photo albums are archival and acid free.
  5. Make a book and share your story!

Tell me what you’re up to this week – I’d love to hear about it!

Top secret custom order in progress…

I just completed the covers for the super-secret custom project that I mentioned back in January. All of the contributor pages are in, so I’m good to go!

I started by determining the placement for an inset book title, which will be letterpressed by the fabulous May Day Studio.

Bookboard with gridlines drawn on it

I used my X-Acto knife to cut the outside lines, taking three passes on each line. It’s easier to do it that way than to try making a deep cut on one pass.

Bookboard is evil in that layers don’t peel off in consistent, large pieces. They like to be all random and, well, evil. When I have to carve a large inset, I usually make a grid of cuts so that I can just peel off small pieces. It’s much more satisfying.

Bookboard with gridlines cut with an X-Acto knife

Hey look – I peeled off a bunch of board!

Carved bookboard

Here’s the pile of peels to prove it!

Pile of bookboard pieces

After the inset is cut as evenly as possible, I burnish it with a bone folder. This helps tame the fuzzies and makes the surface smoother. I love using my Jim Croft bone folder for this task as it has an awesome pointy flatness that’s great for getting into the corners.

Carved bookboard burnished with a bone folder

Time for gluing! For this book, I’m using a beautiful Duo bookcloth I got from Colophon – it’s two colors, with red being the dominant color and green being the secondary color. It’s like a traffic light, with both a red light and a green light in the same cloth. The manufacturer calls the color peperoni, but Colophon calls it chili.

I work the cloth into the inset before I do any burnishing on the rest of the cover. I want to make sure that the bookcloth sinks all the way in there and conforms to the shape of the inset. I use a teflon bone folder for this task – it’s softer and has less risk of tearing through the cloth.

Covering bookboard with red bookcloth

Here’s a close-up of the inset:

Closeup of handmade book cover inset

My customer wanted a pocket on the inside of the back cover, so I created one using the same paper I used for the book pages.

Book cover with pocket end page

These are the completed covers:

Red handmade book covers with inset

The covers are going to sit in the press until I’m ready to start binding the book. The project seems much more real now that the covers are done and the pages are here. I took pictures of all of the pages and I’ll be sharing them in a later post (after the gift is given).

I can’t wait to start binding the pages into the book!

Paper cutting with Tyvek

As I mentioned in this post, I’m working on creating a portrait of someone using painted sheets of Tyvek. 

Have I done a paper cut using Tyvek before? Nope. Do I have a deadline that is forcing me to get really good at it ASAP? Yep.

I decided to do a test run before I started working on the actual piece. My biggest concern was how I was going to mount the piece once it was finished. I did some research by consulting my copy of Cut Up This Book! by Emily Hogarth.

She offers several suggestions for selecting the right adhesive for your project, including glue sticks, double-sided tape, and spray adhesive. I knew that my piece was going to have many teeny cuts so glue stick and tape wouldn’t fit the bill. And spray adhesive is just too darn icky.

I settled on using something that I already had in the studio – CODA cold-mount double release adhesive. It’s basically like a big sheet of pH neutral, double-sided tape. I was first introduced to the product by book artist Randi Parkhurst at the Focus on Book Arts conference.

I started by removing the paper release liner on one side of the CODA sheet. I placed a piece of Tyvek on the adhesive and rubbed it down with a bone folder. Lastly, I trimmed off the excess.

Because the release liners on the adhesive sheets are full-size, I decided to lightly score the back of my piece with an X-Acto knife (not cutting the Tyvek) – I wanted to be able to remove the liner in smaller pieces when dealing with the more delicately-cut pieces of Tyvek.

White Tyvek with double-sided adhesive sheet mounted on the back

I decided to test my ability on the text part of my design. I printed it out and taped it to the Tyvek. Then I cut through all of the layers – paper template, Tyvek, and adhesive sheet. As long as the blade was sharp (changed often), I had little difficulty getting through the layers.

One of the benefits of using the CODA adhesive sheets was that they stiffened and stabilized the Tyvek, making it much easier to cut. 

Cutting letters into Tyvek through paper template

When I finished my first word, I removed the template. I was more or less satisfied with the results (cleaner corners, please).

White Tyvek with the word price cut into it

I removed the liner from the back of the Tyvek and adhered it to a dark piece of paper. It looked pretty good!

White Tyvek with the word price cut into it, mounted on grey paper

So this is the way I’m going to work on my portrait. Hopefully, the smaller details will render well.

Stay tuned for a post about the final piece!

Book Arts and Paper Arts in Japan

Kyoto forest - Book Arts and Paper Arts in Japan

There’s a 98% chance that I’ll be going to Japan for my summer vacation and I can barely contain my excitement! The 2% of uncertainty is due to the fact that we haven’t yet purchased airline tickets.

In usual me fashion, I have begun with the obsessive planning. What does that mean? It means that a spreadsheet was born.

I love spreadsheets. They make me feel like I’m in control.

My spreadsheet includes all of the book arts and paper arts sites that I’ve found during rabbit hole-type Googling – stores, museums, artist studios, and galleries among them. As of today, there are 50ish sites on the list, the majority of them paper-related.

FYI – Just because something is on the list, it doesn’t mean that I’m going there. There’s no way to see all of that during an average-length vacation. Plus I have my hubby to think about – he might want to see other things. Go figure.

If you’re interested in checking out my special brand of crazy, head on over here. And if you’re aware of something that’s not on the list – please let me know! I’m especially interested in visiting a Chiyogami studio – I haven’t had any luck finding one.

Note: I’d like to give a shout out to S.T. Leng of Bukurama Handmade Books, author of this awesome, super-helpful blog post: Let’s go: Bookbinder’s trail Tokyo (Part 1).

Thanks for sharing!



8th Blogiversary prize winner

Many thanks to everyone for offering up your best bookish quotes in response to my 8th blogiversary giveaway! For those of you who missed the quotes, you can check them out in the comments of this post.

As a quick refresher, here’s the list of goodies included in the prize:

Someone’s got some goodies coming her way and that person is…


Congrats! I’ll be contacting you for your mailing info, so keep your eyes peeled for an email from me.

A world of thank you to everyone for hanging out with me as I’ve babbled about my work and other bookish things over the past eight years.

I’ve enjoyed your company!

Tooling around with Tyvek

As I mentioned in this blog post back in January, I’m working on a custom book that will be a gift for an as-yet-unnamed someone. Blank pages were sent to 100 artists to create artwork for inclusion in the book. They have two months to complete their pages.

Since I know the intended recipient, I got to participate as an artist. I noodled the idea around in my brain for weeks before I actually got to work. I decided to do a portrait of the recipient using layers of colored Tyvek.

I’ve only painted Tyvek once before and it was about five years ago – we used it for the binding of a book with wood pages. For this project, my goal was to create Tyvek in three shades – light grey, medium grey, and black.

Coincidentally, when I recently attended the Chinese Sewing Box workshop, Erin Sweeney talked about painting Tyvek. She said that when you mix the paint, add a few drops of dish soap. Apparently the stuff acts as a dispersant. And it makes the paint smell all yummy. 

I covered my worktable with paper to keep the surface clean and afterwards, started preparing the black paint. There was no science to how I mixed the paint – I just added water to it until it felt “done”. Then I added the dish soap (because Erin is the boss of me).

Bowl of paint and piece of Tyvek

I used a rag to apply the paint on both sides of the Tyvek, rubbing it into the surface until it looked like it wouldn’t absorb any more.

Black painted Tyvek

The patterning on the Tyvek is so cool – it’s all veiny and marbled.

Black painted Tyvek

After the Tyvek dried, I rubbed in two more layers of paint until I felt it was dark enough. I added more water and some white paint to the leftover black mixture to create the medium grey. I applied three layers of the the medium grey paint. Lastly, I added more water and white paint to the grey mixture to create the light grey. I only applied one layer of the lighter paint.

Here are the final products:

Three sheets of painted Tyvek

I’m pretty happy with how they turned out – they’re a good match for my project.

If you’re interested in playing around with Tyvek, here are some resources to get you started:

Happy 8th Blogiversary!

Today is the eighth anniversary of the day I started this blog!

Out of curiosity, I looked up the traditional and modern anniversary gifts for year eight. Here’s what I found:

  • Traditional: Pottery/Bronze
  • Modern: Linens/Lace

In order to satisfy both the traditional and modern themes, I have no choice but to buy myself some Bronze Momi and Ogura Lace papers – right?

Over the years, I’ve attended many events that offer swag to attendees – it’s like getting bookbinder goody bags. I love bags of stuff – don’t you? On top of that, I’ve collected duplicates of printed promotions that come with supply orders.

In honor of my blogiversary, I’ve decided to share the love. I’m having a giveaway!

So what does the prize look like? Well, it’s about 2.5 pounds of goodness:

2 issues of Bound and Lettered and 1 issue of the Guild of Book Workers Newsletter

Printed promotions from the French Paper Company

  • Paper sample books of the Construction and Smart White lines from the French Paper Company and the publication Hidden Treasures: The History and Technique of Fore-edge Painting by Jeanne Bennett:

Paper sample books of the Construction and Smart White lines from the French Paper Company and the publication Hidden Treasures: The History and Technique of Fore-edge Painting by Jeanne Bennett:

4 metal stencils from Dreamweaver Stencils and a border mold by Ten Seconds Studio:

  • A marbled bookmark from Chena River Marblers, a small roll of bookcloth, a pack of bookplates, a leather key chain from Harmatan Leather, a tape measure key chain from Harmatan Leather,  a small bag of beads, and other randomness:

A marbled bookmark from Chena River Marblers, a small roll of bookcloth, a pack of bookplates, a leather key chain from Harmatan Leather, a tape measure key chain from Harmatan Leather,  a small bag of beads

Three rulers from Green Heron Book Arts, a batch of paper samples from Legion Paper, two paper bookmarks, a postcard, and a card from the Artist’s Book Ideation Cards by Barbara Tetenbaum and Julie Chen

So how do you enter? It’s easy – just comment on this post with your favorite quote or joke about books by midnight on April 10th. I’ll announce the winner (chosen at random) on April 11th.

Need inspiration? Here’s a quote to get you started:

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read. – Groucho Marx

Chinese Sewing Box – the sequel

In my last post, I talked about the Chinese Sewing Box workshop I attended with Erin Sweeney. I decided to take another run at the structure on my own. Luckily, we were given a mini kit to take home after the workshop – thanks Erin!

Chinese sewing box kit

I tackled the square Masu boxes without any difficulty. Hooray! Then came the thread containers. Oy.

I reviewed my template (with its written instructions). I started folding the paper and quickly came to the realization that I had no idea what the heck I was doing.

I opened the template. I closed the template. I tried to do the same thing with my new paper – I could not get the dang thing to collapse correctly. Could you hear me swearing from wherever you are?

Victorian puzzle purse in progress

There was no way I was giving up on this thing. I decided to refer to Alice Simpson’s tutorial that I linked to in my last post. Best. Idea. Ever. Alice’s detailed instructions and clear photos were invaluable in the regaining of my sanity.

After that, there were four rectangular Masu boxes, two collapsed on the short sides and two on the long sides.

Rectangular Masu boxes

Annnndddd…this is when I tore my large Masu box template…phooey. Enter Washi tape.

Repaired Masu box template

Thankfully, I was able to fold the new box without incident.

Rectangular Masu box

I took pictures of the assembly, as I could glue in my own sweet time. I hope my descriptions make sense – if not, let me know where I lost you and I’ll try to clarify it better.

You start by taking two small rectangular boxes (collapsed on the long sides) and glue them to the top sides of the large rectangular box.

Chinese sewing box - assembly in progress

Two small rectangular boxes (collapsed on the short sides) are then glued to the top of the previous rectangular box, only applying glue to the top sides that are closest to the edges of the large box on the bottom.

Chinese sewing box - assembly in progress

Next, four small square boxes are glued to the top sides of the previous rectangular box. Admission – I oriented my square boxes incorrectly when I glued them. I’ve decided to refer to this as an “improvised feature”.

Chinese sewing box - assembly in progress

The last gluing step is to attach the four thread containers to the top sides of the square boxes. My thread containers flare out towards the sides of the structure, rather than towards the top and bottom (which is how it was supposed to go – oh well).

Chinese sewing box - assembly in progress

All done with the gluing! The very last step is to fold the belt. This was definitely easier this time around.

Folded origami paper belt

And it’s time for the icing on the cake! Well, for the belt on the book, anyway. Ta-da!

Chinese sewing box

The spine of the structure was a bit stiff, so I rolled it around the handle of my glue brush – this created a soft curve and the spine is much happier now.

I am definitely digging this structure. My plan is to make the next one with Reversible Unryu. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Chinese Sewing Box workshop with Erin Sweeney

This past weekend I had the distinct pleasure of attending a Chinese Sewing Box workshop with the talented (and adorable) Erin Sweeney. I met Erin at the Paper and Book Intensive several years ago and liked her instantly. She’s got great energy and a wonderful creative mind. Taking a workshop with her was an easy sell.

So about that Chinese Sewing Box – if you’ve never seen one before, here’s one for your viewing pleasure:

Chinese sewing box

I was recently directed to the structure’s origin by Rhonda Miller. Although the design of the book we made in the workshop was created by Hedi Kyle, it was inspired by the Zhen Xian Bao, also known as the Chinese Thread Book. The structure was developed by minority groups in southwestern China out of need – these three-dimensional, folded containers held needlework supplies such as thread, needles, patterns, and other paper ephemera (anything flat).

Ruth Smith did quite a bit of research on the structure and included her findings in the book A Little Known Chinese Folk Art: Zhen Xian Bao (WANT). If the book is a out of your budget, you can opt to read her article that was published by the British Origami Society. There’s good stuff in there.

If you’ve never met (or seen) Erin, here she is in all of her pink scarf glory:

I love making kits for workshops, but I love getting them even more. Our kit included all materials for the project, along with extras to make templates for future reference.

Chinese sewing box workshop kit

Erin recommended using a machine-made Momigami paper for the book. If you look at the first image in this post, you’ll see the paper in use. It’s a nice soft crinkled paper, which likely makes it very forgiving while folding.

The papers we used included Mohawk and Kraft-Tone. Erin told us that we could crumple up the paper if we wished to add some texture to our books. I did it for some of the components – I didn’t have time to do it for everything, which I would have preferred. I had to remind myself that this was my learning book and that the next one could be just as I wanted.

We started by learning how to make the core unit of the structure – the Masu box (you can find a tutorial here). The first one we made was a small square. These fold down flat when you push in the sides.

Masu boxes

Then we moved on to making the thread container, which was essentially a Victorian Puzzle Purse. Erin had us write the directions on our template, which was a great idea. Yes, step one says crazy measuring trick.

So this piece of folded paper…

Victorian puzzle purse in progress

…somehow folds down into this:

Victorian puzzle purse in progress

I’m not entirely sure how that happens. We did it five times and I still don’t get it. My workshop neighbor walked me through it (thanks Becky!). I remember nothing. I’m going to have to repeat this – a lot.

So that paper pinwheel folds down into a square after you tuck in all of the points (thankfully, I understood this step).

Victorian puzzle purses

After that, we made more Masu boxes, this time they were rectangular and in assorted sizes.

It wasn’t long before my workspace became a pile of crazy. I tried really hard to keep it together and not creep into Becky’s space. I have a tendency to expand into nearby spaces – I’m like an amorphous gas.

Messy worktable with Masu boxes

The next step was to create a closure for the book – we made a nifty folded belt that Hedi designed. The “buckle” opened up and you could slide the end of the belt through it. This enabled you to tighten or loosen the belt around the book as needed – it was so cool.

The belt was not easy to make. Erin had belts in various states of completion so we could see each step as we worked. Everyone was crowded around the table, folding and cursing under their breath (okay, that was just me).

Folded origami paper belt in various stages

If you’re interested in making one yourself, you can find a pictorial tutorial (page 14) on the Guild of Book Workers website – unfortunately, there are no accompanying written directions. And I couldn’t write up the directions if I tried. Sorry.

Once all of the components were completed, it was time for assembly. I didn’t take pictures during the gluing process, mostly because I am a very focused gluer – I just shut the world out and glue.

After gluing, all of this…

Masu boxes

…turns into this. Check out that belt!

Chinese sewing box

Here’s what happens when you open it up:

Chinese sewing box

The first layer you encounter is the thread container.

Chinese sewing box

The thread container is attached the side of a square Masu box.

Chinese sewing box

The square Masu box is attached to the side of a rectangular Masu box.

Chinese sewing box

And the thing just keeps on going like the Energizer Bunny of books – the rectangular Masu box is attached to another similarly-sized, rectangular Masu box. Then that rectangular Masu box is attached to the side of a larger rectangular Masu box which acts as the cover.

I love this thing. I want to make more. Lots more. I’m thinking of trying it with reversible Unryu – the combination of colors and texture would be interesting.

In my tradition of saving quotes of awesomeness from workshops, here’s a gem from Erin:

There’s no trick to this. That’s a lie.

Join the Fold workshop

Last week I taught a fun class at Studio Place Arts on origami books titled Join the Fold. Here’s the description:

We’ll be playing in the intersection between origami and bookmaking, creating folded books that require no adhesive. Many of the forms can be created from a single sheet of paper. One of the pieces we’ll be making can be used as either a book cover or as a signature in a sewn book, and other pieces include hidden pockets. Structures include the Blizzard Book, Crown Binding, and the Turkish Map Fold.

I wrote that description long before I began my planning and since this was a new class for me, I had to develop it from scratch. I start with making a bunch of models so I can determine the sizes of materials and the resulting book sizes. This involves a lot of trial and error – it isn’t long before my worktable looks like this…

Messy studio worktable

…and I end up with lots of book fails like this one (there was a lot of recycling that day):

Thankfully, I was able to sort everything out (that class wasn’t going to teach itself). One of my favorite things about teaching is that I get to make kits for everyone – they include precut materials and a resource booklet with recommended books, lists of suppliers, and links to online tutorials. I like to set up everyone’s workstations like they’re sitting down to a meal of bookbinding.

Workshop table setup at Studio Place Arts

Then that moment comes when people start showing up and you realize, “Oh, I guess this is actually happening!” I’m always so nervous before my classes start – or more specifically it’s a mix of nervousness, anticipation, and excitement. And since this was a new class, I was a special kind of wingnut.

Bookbinding workshop at Studio Place Arts

Everyone dove right in and amazing folds happened right before my eyes. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but seriously – I have the best students.

Handmade origami books

Handmade origami books

Blizzard Book

Handmade origami books

I plan to develop a sequel to this workshop – there’s still so many folded books to explore (I’m looking at you, Fishbone binding). Stay tuned for details on when and where the class will be held!

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