More book geek fun logoAs I discussed in my last post, I am a book geek. I love books about bookbinding and I have no cause for shame. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to buy all of the books I want, so I have had to become more resourceful in expanding my library.

I found a website called where you can trade your unwanted books, CDs, DVDs, or video games with other folks at no cost to you, other than shipping. You add your items to your “Have List” and your “Want List” and wait for the magic to happen. can set you up in a trade with one person or configure a three-way trade. I won’t bore you with all of the details – you can read them on their FAQ page if you’re interested in learning more.

So, if you do a search on bookbinding, you will come up with 244 items. Or at least I did when I just did the search. A search on papercrafts brings up 1,816 items. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a copy of all of those books available, but you can add all of them to your wish list and hope for the best. Maybe someone has a copy of one of them sitting around and you have just what they want. Then you just need to pay for media mail shipping and you get a new book.

I’m on my 8th trade now and haven’t run into problems with any of them. Sadly, none of them were bookbinding books. I did, however, come thisclose to getting The Century Of Artists’ Books, but then the person who had it on their “Have List” took it off. Meh. Maybe next time.

Oh, and if you have any bookbinding books hanging around that you don’t want, please oh please put them on Me wanting.

I am such a book geek. No, I mean it.

Not only do I love to make books, but I love to buy books about making books.

In general, I’m really not a big reader but when it comes to bookbinding books, I have a serious problem. Even though many of the books I have don’t actually teach me anything new, I just like looking at the completed works. It’s very inspiring. And I have to make them mine.

As I showed you in this post, I have a lot of books. Books that are causing shelf sag in my studio. It’s very satisfying. And I’ve only purchased more books since I wrote that post. In fact I’m already planning on buying Carol Barton’s new book, The Pocket Paper Engineer, Volume 2 Platforms and Props, very soon. But at least there’s a reason for that besides my just wanting it. I’ll talk about that another time.

Anyway, so I’ve been trying to figure out how to list all of the books I have without actually typing them up. So you can be a witness to my bookbinding book affliction.

I found a nifty little website called Shelfari. On their homepage, it says “Shelfari is the premier social network for people who love books.” Well that suits me just fine. The feature I like the most is that you can build a virtual bookshelf to share with others. You can show what’s on your bookshelf, what you’ve read, or what you’re wishing for – and like other social networks, you can meet others with interests similar to yours.

You are supposed to be able to put code on your blog that will display your bookshelf. Somehow, I seem to be unable to get it to work. Meh. You can, however, go directly to the Shelfari website to see my bookshelf. I have almost 60 books on there – and I still have more to add. So satisfying.

I’m considering using more of the vertical space in my studio…

Inspiration in coffee cup sleeves

There’s a local coffee house that uses these really cool cork coffee cup sleeves when you get coffee to go. I had never seen these before. Using cork for the sleeves has several advantages:

  • It insulates better than paper.
  • It is both recyclable and biodegradable.
  • It can be harvested without killing the tree.

There’s another reason – they look really cool. I had been admiring the sleeves for a while before I realized what I was attracted to – I wanted to use them as a material in my work. Luckily, I found a steady source for the sleeves. I have a reusable coffee mug, so I can’t just buy coffee in paper cups for the sleeves. I get them from a fellow coffee-drinker, sans mug, so I feel no guilt. They’d just get thrown away, right? I decided to try making some cards.

The first thing I learned is that the cork is thin enough to get an 1/8″ eyelet through it. That’s pretty much the most important thing to me when I’m making cards – will the eyelet get through?

I attached skeleton leaves to the cork using eyelets and I was pretty happy with how it looked. When setting eyelets through cork, be careful when you push the eyelet through the hole – they tear easily.

Thin pieces of cork with skeleton leaves

Next I layered the cork/leaf piece over some wood veneer paper. The same evil paper I talked about in this post. You may not be able to glue it with PVA, but it sure likes Duck roller adhesive. Finally, that paper is good for something!

Lastly, I attached the whole collaged piece to a folded piece of card stock.

Handmade cards by Blue Roof Designs

I’m pretty happy with how they turned out. They’re different from my usual collaged cards, which are much more girly. I like that they look more natural and textural. I definitely plan to use the cork again. I just need to wait for my friend to drink more coffee.

Book fixin’ continued…

Grrr…I missed my monthly meeting of the Book Arts Guild of Vermont today. Stupid rain. I was on my way up to Burlington when it started raining so hard that I couldn’t see. I decided to skip the drippy drive and went home. Then, of course, it stopped raining.

Did I mention stupid rain?

I used my newfound free time and continued working on the book repair I talked about in this post. I thought that gluing the book block into the spine would be an easy job. Apply glue to the spine, push the block into the cover, rub down the spine with a bone folder to facilitate adhesion.

Unfortunately, the owner of the book had covered it with a clear, stiff laminate to protect the cover. This made it impossible for me to work the spine with my bone folder because it had no give. I had to figure out a way to put constant pressure on the glued spine while it dried or it wouldn’t take.

Enter the chopstick.

Book repair by Elissa Campbell

Last night I took one of my pressing boards and lined up a couple of chopsticks next to it. I pushed the spine up to the chopsticks so it received constant pressure. Then I clamped both the pressing board and the book to my work table so they wouldn’t move. I crossed my fingers and let it sit overnight.

Today I took apart the setup and discovered that my chopstick improvisation worked. It hit the spine in just the right spot, giving it the pressure and adhesion it needed. Happy day! I learned that chopsticks are not just useful for decorating journals, but are also good for fixing them.

Fixing me a book

For the past few days I’ve been working on a book repair. The original binding wasn’t sewn and had only adhesive on the spine. The book has a soft cover and the spine cracked, so many of the pages were falling out of it.

A friend brought the book to me on behalf of someone else and asked me if I could fix it. I have not been trained in the art (yes, it’s an art) of book repair and conservation. I do not want to represent myself as having skills that I simply don’t have. I explained to my friend that if this book had any monetary or sentimental value, then I did not want to put my hands on it. I have limited ability in repair and did not want to do anything that would damage the book’s value. She spoke to her friend and apparently this was okay with him.

Go figure. I get a learning opportunity.

Two books that I have been referring to during the process are The Practical Guide to Book Repair and Conservation by Arthur Johnson and In-House Book Binding and Repair by Sharon McQueen. McQueen’s book had diagrams, which made me happy, so I went with her process on repairing adhesive bound books.

I removed all of the old adhesive from the spine and cleaned up the edges of the pages. I gathered them up and clamped them together to keep them from sliding around. I clamped in a sandwich of wax paper and press boards, as you can see in the image below.

Spine repair on book

Using a knife, I then cut thin channels into the spine that were deep enough to sink a cord. A file can be used to do this as well (and it’s probably much easier, but I don’t have one). I coated the spine with a layer of glue and sunk in the cords. I have since added 7 more coats of glue. McQueen’s book doesn’t specify how many layers of glue to use, but I feel like it needs at least a couple more. When that’s finished, I’ll glue it back into the cover and reinforce the hinges with coordinating bookcloth.

In addition to referring to books in my library, I also did quite a bit of online research on book repair. Universities and libraries have a lot to offer on this topic.

Here are a few of the resources I found:

If you have any other resources for folks to use in book repair (especially free ones), let me know and I’ll add them to the list.

Touched by the spirit of collaboration

My hubby and I saw The Police in concert last night in Saratoga, NY.

I had waited over 25 years for my chance to see them live (giving some age hints here) and it was so much fun. The place was mobbed. We grabbed our tiny patch of grass and joined the masses as we sang along to the familiar tunes.

If you can believe it, Elvis Costello was the opening act for the show. He’s pretty fabulous in his own right. During his performance of Alison, out walks Sting who joins him for a duet. This is one of the reasons I love live music – you are given wonderful moments like this that you could never make up in your head.

This got me thinking about collaboration. I’ve often thought about working on a creative project with another artist. Maybe someone who doesn’t make books, but someone who works in another medium. Maybe a woodworker or metalsmith? I’ve done collaboration in classroom situations and have always enjoyed it.

I don’t even know how you approach someone to see if they’ll work with you. “Hi. I like your stuff. Wanna play with me?” Do you come up with the idea first and approach someone or do you talk to someone and work on the concept together? Or do you already have a relationship with the person before you talk to them?

I’m open to all suggestions and/or tips on how such a collaboration might work. I’d also love to hear about your experiences of working with other artists on joint projects. Pictures would be great too!

Writer’s Block Soaps by Soapylove

Sometimes I see something and it just clicks with my book-making brain. I found these fabulous soaps by Soapylove, a.k.a. Debbie Chialtas.

Writer's Block Soaps by Soapylove

Debbie explains on her blog, The Soap Lab, that her Writer’s Block Soap is “handmade with a unique graphic design on the surface which is reminiscent of old typewriters and scrawled notes on napkins.” I have no idea how she did that on soap. And I don’t want to know. I want it to stay magical. They are just so lovely!

Her soaps are like open-faced books. The concept of soap as a book form is really intriguing to me. You create text and/or an image that gets used up/consumed. It dissolves/disintegrates/melts away. You clean/nourish/soothe yourself with it. You get to create content that isn’t meant to last/as a limited lifespan. The whole idea is rich with metaphor (there’s my inner art therapist again).

Writer's Block Soaps by Soapylove

And better yet, the soap is coffee-scented. Geez, I just wanna eat one!

Debbie hasn’t added the soaps to her Soapylove store yet, but you can purchase them on her blog. Make sure to turn up the sound on your computer when you visit her blog – she’s got Black Coffee in Bed playing in the background. You have to appreciate a sense of humor that’s based in 80’s music.

Many thanks go to Debbie for allowing me to use her wonderful photos.

UPDATE: These soaps are sold out. 🙁

Studio Place Arts exhibit – Leave a Paper Trail

Today I took a trip to Studio Place Arts (a.k.a. SPA) in Barre, VT for the last day of Leave a Paper Trail. SPA promoted the show as one “that exposes the versatile and beautiful qualities of paper.” I had intended to go much sooner than today, but, well, you know how that is.

The SPA Gallery is one of the under-appreciated jewels in central Vermont. I am certainly guilty on this count. Every time I go in there, I am not disappointed. And the shows are just the right size – not too big to digest in one visit.

One artist who stopped me in my tracks was Nancy Cook. Nancy had several wall pieces in the show made of incredibly detailed cut paper arrangements. One landscape was so lovely that I couldn’t believe that it was made of paper. I’m not sure what I thought it was made of, but I couldn’t process that it was paper. She also had floral arrangements made from cut paper that were so detailed that I was convinced that they were made of fabric.

I did a Google search on Nancy and found out that she has been working in paper since she was three years old (was I even potty-trained then?). She has an angel ornament in the permanent collection of the White House.

Her work has been included in Paper Art: The Complete Guide to Papercraft Techniques and Art of the Scrapbook: A Guide to Handbinding and Decorating Memory Books, Albums, and Art Journals, books by Diane Maurer-Mathison. I also found out that she’s a board member of the Guild of American Papercutters, which I didn’t know existed. I also found this biography about her online. Basically, I learned that she’s rather nifty.

I hadn’t really thought much of paper cutting before, as my exposure had been limited to the traditional Scherenschnitte, which really doesn’t appeal to me. Nancy’s work is much more free-form and sculptural than I would have expected from paper cutting. I appreciate having had the opportunity to see someone’s work and have my world opened up a little more.

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