Back to the studio

After having sufficiently recovered from my Paris paper trauma, I am now back to work on the journal that my friend Jason is oh-so-patiently waiting for.

He chose a medium-toned gray bookcloth for the cover. It’s a good choice for this journal because he plans to carry it in his laptop bag and the bookcloth will be much more durable.

I was concerned about how the gray would look with the paper he had chosen for the inside of the covers, but I really like the combination. I love when people make choices that I wouldn’t otherwise consider. I tend to stick with what suits me and I make what I like. It’s nice to have someone rock your design world once in a while.

Buddha Japanese paper

So I glued the bookcloth and the paper on to the covers today. If you look closely at the paper in the photo you’ll see images of Buddhas on flying carpets. Some are right-side-up and some are upside-down. I find it really funny.

The paper used for the pages is called Frostone, a paper made by French Paper. Frostone paper has inclusions of freeze-dried paper that have been broken up and embedded in the sheet. It has a nice subtle sparkle to it.

Just as I was getting the link to French Paper, I read that the Frostone line is being discontinued. Meh. Looks like Jason’s book is guaranteed to be one-of-a-kind.

When the covers have dried and pressed, I will begin the binding process. I’ll be using a combination of the double-needle coptic and the caterpillar bindings.

Elissa’s Super Happy Paper Fix

Oh baby, I finally got my paper fix. I have been craving paper for weeks and sadly, haven’t acted on it until today.

Earlier this afternoon, I took a trip out to East Topsham, VT to visit Langdell Paper. Driving out to Richard Langdell’s studio is quite tricky and my usual route proved to be quite a challenge. Initially I thought I’d be 10-15 minutes early, but then I hit the dirt road portion of my journey.

I know that this is going to sound overly dramatic, but I’m telling you, Willey Hill Road tried to kill me today.

If you’ve never been on a dirt road in Vermont during mud season, it is not for the faint of heart. Lumpy, rut-riddled, and gooey are only a few of the words I can use to describe this drive.

But it was so worth the drive.

Handmade papers by Richard Langdell

Richard has been making paper for about a gazillion years. I first became aware of his paper when I worked at Paper Source in Cambridge, MA. His paper is sold throughout the country and is used by many artists, designers, and other paper artisans. I consider him a paper rock star.

When I moved to Vermont and found out that his studio was here, I couldn’t believe it. Richard makes every studio visit worthwhile – he clearly has a passion for his craft and it shows in his paper.

So I came out of today’s visit with 28 sheets of paper, 17 of which will be used for a custom invitation order. I’ve been buying Langdell paper for a number of years, so I decided to go into my paper drawers to see how big my stash is.

I have 96 sheets of his paper, not including what I bought today. I can’t tell if I should consider this an accomplishment or be embarrassed that I haven’t used it all yet.

This brings me to the following confession: I love piles of things. As you can see from my choice of photos, I love how things look when there are multiples of them, organized in neat stacks.

Handmade papers by Richard Langdell

I wish I could say that I am the queen of organized stacks in my studio. More often than not, I implement use of the disorganized traveling pile (a highly-specialized pile that gets moved every time you need to make room for something else).

Geez, just look at those piles of paper, sitting in the sun all happy and pile-y. Yum.

Papers by Richard Langdell

Richard told me that he’s hoping to sell his papermaking business. I wish him the best. I hope that the person who takes on this adventure will run it will as much love as Richard does.

And it will make this bookbinder happiest if it is kept in Vermont, even happier if it’s in Montpelier.

Ode to flat files

I figured that it’s time for me to show you a bit of my studio.

I love love love my flat files. I refuse to go back to a life where I didn’t have them in my life.

Paper flat files

When I first became serious with my bookbinding, I would buy paper and keep it rolled up, as it was when I bought it. Then I had enough paper that I couldn’t really keep it rolled (plus it curled the paper), so I started storing it between layers of cardboard under my bed.

Then I had so much paper under the bed that I started getting nervous. I just didn’t have an appropriate spot in my studio to keep it.

Chris surprised me with my first flat file for a birthday gift – it’s the gray one in the photo. He bought it from eBay and I was so thrilled.

One day, Chris had a meeting at an office in Burlington. He told me that the office was moving and they had 4 flat files that they were giving away for free. I told him that I wanted all of them.

Now you should know that these things are BIG (the stack of three files in the photo is 54″ wide x 46″ tall x 41″ deep). These are not easy to transport nor easy to find space for in a room.

After reality set in, I settled for the two blue ones (to this day I still mourn the loss of the other two). We borrowed a trailer from Chris’ parents and hauled them home.

Unryu papers

These flat files rule my life and I let them. We have an understanding.

My bookbinding studio is located on the ground floor of my house, which we built in 2004. We designed the size and shape of my studio based on the size and shape of my flat files.

I’ve often thought that after I die, the drawers can be removed and I can buried inside the shell…I might need to be rolled up a bit, but I think I can fit in there.

RIP: Pretty wood paper from Paris

My husband and I went to Paris in the summer of 2001. It was during this trip that I started the tradition of buying paper whenever possible on our vacations.

I can’t help myself.

When went to Washington D.C. in 2005, I made a stop at the Paper Source in Georgetown. In 2006, when we went to New Mexico, it was Papers! and Papergami in Albuquerque. Last year it was an amazing overnight stay and studio tour with Peggy Skycraft in Oregon (I have idolized her for years and her paper does not disappoint).

So back to Paris. It was our last day and we spent some time shopping in a department store. I turned a corner and saw a rack of wrapping papers. There I spotted the most lovely wood veneer paper – very subtle and light-grained.

I had to have it.

I picked out two sheets and had them wrapped up. I immediately realized how stupid this was, because now I had to get it home safely without a protective tube to carry it in.

I have never walked so defensively in my life – I held the paper close to my body with my elbows pointed out in case anyone bumped into me. I was really a freak. I did, however, manage to get it home without any damage.

I put it in storage for the day when I would use it for a journal or photo album – who cared? It was just so fabulous. So it sat in storage…for 6 1/2 years. I was afraid to use it. I would open my paper files and look at it lovingly, then close the drawer and work with something else. I could not bring myself to use this precious find.

Until recently.

A friend commissioned me to make him a sketch book and chose the wood veneer paper for the cover. I actually felt okay about it. So I cut up the paper and started to glue it to a piece of bookboard.

Let me tell you – this paper does not like glue.

It bubbled up like a bad sunburn. I swore a lot. A lot.

I waited 6 1/2 years for this?

Grrrrrrr….so I peeled the paper off and sanded down my bookboard, ready to give up. Then I waited a couple of weeks and decided to try Yes! Stikflat glue. I hate this stuff. It’s like working with a blend of Vaseline and snot. Somehow it always makes me dizzy when I use it. It claims to not wrinkle papers, so I figured why not?

So I gave it a shot.

Needless to say, I’m here on the computer and not in my studio.

The glue sorta worked, but the paper doesn’t like to be bent either. It cracked and peeled.

Grrrrrrr….fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice….whatever, I give up. I’ll use it to make some collaged cards.

Boxed In

Sea Green Floral Bridal Suite by Blue Roof DesignsToday I spent some time in the studio working on a hinged lid box.

To show you an example, the Bridal Suite at right includes a large hinged lid box that fits all of the contents shown.

The one that I was working on tonight is much smaller – just the right size for papers that you have hanging around, but don’t know what to do with.

The hardest part about making a box cutting out the pieces. It is really difficult to get the pieces square. I do all of my cutting by hand, so there’s always a chance for a small error. Usually these can be corrected with some sandpaper after gluing the pieces together.

Lucky for me, the box I was working on was from a kit so the pieces were already cut.

What a joy!

Today I glued the sides to the base of the box. I’m letting this dry overnight before I proceed to the next step.

Handmade box construction

You can catch a glimpse of my very green cutting mat that I have on my work table. I love the color, but it quickly gets grungy. I hope to kill this one off soon so I can replace it with a darker version.

My customer, who is my web designer Heather Boissoneau, picked out a lovely blue patterned Japanese paper from Paper Source.

Handmade paper and bookcloth

I worked at the Paper Source in Cambridge, MA while I was in graduate school. Back then, they only had 2 stores – they have over 20 now.

Paper Source is the reason for both my paper addiction and my love of bookbinding. They have so many drool-worthy papers…in case you can’t tell, I’m desperately in need of a paper fix.

Taking stock…well, pictures of stock

It’s that time of year – the time when I act extra nice towards my husband because I need his help in making a postcard for the upcoming Open Studio Weekend put on by the Vermont Crafts Council.

He is such a fabulous photographer. He took all of the images of my work on my website.

So we set up a photography studio in an extra bedroom, taking advantage of the afternoon light.

Photographing handmade books

He took some really great pictures today. Then he went into the office and not only designed my postcard, but he created both a banner for this blog and one for my not-yet-ready Etsy shop.

He just went above and beyond. Thanks sweetie!

We are very high-tech when it comes to our setup. We have a graduated background (Varitone #9) that we attach to the wall using blue painter’s tape. I love that stuff. We propped up the books using a jar of rocks that I collected on a beach.

Varitone background setup

After a day of shooting, I now have images of my newest work. I hope to add the images to my website in the next few days. There are some new styles of both photo albums and journals.


Orange Oak Leaf jumbo photo album

So I’ve never been good at starting things…whenever I have a new project in mind, it takes me forever to get started. I get obsessed over doing it the right way and then I just never do it.

The same is true of this blog.

For the longest time, I have wanted to start a blog about my bookbinding adventures. I worried endlessly about what I’d say in my first post…how to introduce myself, what tone to use, etc.

So I decided that I’m not going to start at the beginning. I’m going to just jump into the middle and add the intro stuff as I go along. I always used to do my school papers this way. It’s easier for me to look back at what’s been than to look forward to an ambiguous future.

As of now, this blog has no geeked-out graphics, layout, or functionality.

Welcome to my middle.

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