Book Arts Improv Book #1: Clayton’s Big Problem

Well, I did it. I successfully completed my first week of the Book Arts Improv. There were many moments this week where I seriously questioned my sanity, but I pushed through. Phew!

Just to remind you, here are the themes I was working with this week:

  • Bad Habit: Paper addiction
  • Popular Tourist Spot: Taj Mahal
  • Article of Clothing: Girdle

Here’s the finished product – a miniature book entitled Clayton’s Big Problem:

Handmade artist book by Elissa Campbell - "Clayton's Big Problem"

Obviously, I used the Taj Mahal as the shape of my book. Carving the book board covers took a long time.

For those who are wondering about the weird tail at the bottom of the book, that relates to the girdle theme. Believe it or not, there exists such a thing as a girdle book. The structure was used between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, primarily by religious figures. The book’s knotted tail could be tucked into one’s girdle or belt for easy transport.

Because I worked in miniature, I chose to use suede cloth instead of leather. Tying the knot was surprisingly difficult. Rather than envelop the entire book with the fabric, I decided to integrate the tail into the cover. I also used the suede cloth in the binding.

Close up of handmade artist book by Elissa Campbell - "Clayton's Big Problem"

The covers were collaged with handmade paper from India. Coincidentally, the winner of this week’s drawing is the one who gave me this paper after she returned from a trip to India.

I drew in the details on the cover using a black permanent marker. I was inspired to do this after I did a rough drawing of how I wanted to block out the colors. I think like the sketch more than the finished book cover.

Sketch of Taj Mahal

This book is part of an edition of three (shhh…I haven’t started the other two yet). I printed the text pages using Book Antiqua on Strathmore Writing paper.

Handmade artist book by Elissa Campbell - "Clayton's Big Problem"

I decided to create a book with content, something I don’t do very often. Now you’ll see how the paper addiction theme is brought in:

Clayton’s Big Problem

Clayton Lybrand had a problem.

He had an addiction. And it wasn’t any ordinary addiction.

He was addicted to paper. And it wasn’t any ordinary paper addiction.

He was addicted to piles of paper. Whenever he saw a pile of paper, he had to put it in his mouth and eat it.

This greatly distressed him.

He was particularly susceptible to the influence of paper by Crane & Co. The watermarks were hypnotic.

One day, he was down to his last dollar – definitely not enough to continue feeding his addiction.

He decided to go to Las Vegas and try his luck. The Trump Taj Mahal had always brought him luck.

Clayton loved playing craps because whenever he heard the word “crap”, it made him laugh.

He sat down at a table. It was his lucky day. He won big.

He had to use the bottom of his shirt to carry all of the chips to the cashier.

The cashier smiled at him. He was ecstatic.

She asked him how he wanted it. Without hesitation, he asked for small bills.

She reached into her drawer and started counting out bills. When she finished, she pushed the stack of bills towards Clayton.

He quickly shoved the pile of cash into his mouth and started chewing.

Crap. [giggle]

Handmade artist book by Elissa Campbell - "Clayton's Big Problem"

This is my very first edition! I was excited to write a colophon at the end of a book for the first time.

I’d like to thank the Fake Name Generator for giving me the protagonist’s name. You too can generate your own random names using the gender and/or obscurity factor of your choice!

I’ll be posting the new Improv themes tomorrow, so be sure to come back if you’d like to enter the weekly drawing.

I look forward to next week’s challenge!

11 Responses to “Book Arts Improv Book #1: Clayton’s Big Problem

By Monica - 9 January 2011 Reply

This is too funny! I love the story and what a fun way to use the girdle structure. I imagine Clayton carrying his chips inside those flaps of suede. Congrats on finishing your first improv!

By Mame McKee - 9 January 2011 Reply

Well that is fabulous! I love the playfulness with all three categories and the finished project is wonderful! Thanks for your art in our world, Ellisa.

By Mags Bonham - 9 January 2011 Reply

Love it!!! Of course NOW I realize that one must answer all three of the themes to be considered….DUH

By liz - 9 January 2011 Reply

Hi Elissa,Happy New Year! This is FAB!

By velma - 9 January 2011 Reply

oh, what fun! and not a wasted stack of paper in sight.

By Jill A. - 11 January 2011 Reply

I Love, Love, Love, Love the book!!!!!!!! Thank you so much for taking my somewhat randomly generated ideas and integrating them into a wonderfully creative and beautifully crafted book. I admit I was hoping you’d make a book in the shape of the Taj Mahal, but I love that you chose the Taj Mahal Casino in Las Vegas rather than the mausoleum in Agra, India. And the serendipity of the story is that my brother-in-law’s name is Clayton, and I have a closet full of Crane’s paper. (Now I know to lock it up the next time he and my sister visit!

What else can I say, except YOU ROCK!

By Elissa - 17 January 2011 Reply

Jill –

Serendipity it is. 🙂


By Elissa - 17 January 2011 Reply

I’m so glad that everyone likes the book. Now I just have to finish the other two in the edition.

🙂 Elissa

By Carol - 18 January 2011 Reply

Somehow I’m really slow to see all this but your books are delightful.

By Eta - 28 February 2011 Reply

Wow!!! The book is awesome. So original and personal. I’m so glad I found your post!

By Elissa - 1 March 2011 Reply

Eta –

Glad you like it! 🙂


So what do you think? I'd love to know!

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