Tag Archives: design

30 Books in 30 Days

A few weeks ago I had lunch with a friend who is a painter and she told me about a challenge she was presenting to our local Art Guild – 30 paintings in 30 days.  The object is to get into the studio every day and do a small, fast painting in just an hour or so.  Painters, like many of us, have a tendency to put off working because of the tremendous amount of creative energy and effort required for a finished work.  This challenge stimulates creativity by putting it into small, manageable bits and allows the artist to try lots of different approaches.

I was intrigued by the project, but my first reaction was I couldn’t possibly do that with books.  An hour was barely enough time to cut and fold paper or sew the endbands. This is especially true of the complex books I’ve been playing with recently – elaborate sewing structures that aren’t even seen, hand-sewn endbands, leather covers with metal inserts or tooling.

The idea clung to the back of my mind and one day I happened to move a pile of bookbinding books.  I’d been disappointed in most of these books as they focused on the flippy-floppy, origami type books or very simple structures that are primarily a vehicle for artist content.  I’m just not a content person.  I’m much more interested in the structure.  It suddenly clicked and I realized that these were just the types of structures that were perfect for the challenge and thus began my odyssey into 30 in 30.  I’m not being completely literal on this. I’ve had to take a few days off for things like repairing the pump in the well and tearing out my garden. I’ve also found that some of these books take more than one day to complete.  I have decided that those books can count as two days, because while a half-finished painting can still inspire, a half-finished book is just a pile of folded paper and odds and ends of card stock.

So here goes:  The first 5 days.

Day 1  The  X  Book,  from Golden 100 Books.

I would call this more origami than book, but it did get me started.  After folding the red book, I wasn’t happy that the edges weren’t even, so I trimmed the fore edge. That looked better, so I trimmed the head and tail forgetting that the fold at the head was what held the book together. Whoops!  On the blue piece, I felt my usual frustration at just having a folded piece of paper, not a book.  Then I realized that I could sew pages into the interior folds. These pages are not in the original instructions.  If I wanted to go even farther, I could glue the backs of the cover paper to make a more stable structure.

 

Day 2 The  X  Book with pockets

This is just a variation on Day 1.  An extra piece is folded to create a pocket and placed inside the cover paper.  One problem for me was that the pocket paper shows both sides and I used a one-sided paper.  If you look closely you can see that the pocket has a design and the back above it is plain  (the other side of the paper). So my marbled paper isn’t suitable for the pockets.

Day 3. Brush Book

This is a cute little idea for people who have content.  I just used pieces of maps that I had marbled.  It is just folded with no sewing or glue, making structure not very solid.  A stronger paper for the spine might have helped.

Day 4. Stick Binding

 

I finally got to sew on this book! Very simple structure, but cute using a twig to hold the sewing thread. I used a paper with heavy inclusions and am pleased with the result. The book does violate one of my cardinal rules that books I make must be able to be shelved without damaging themselves or the books next to them. I dislike dingle-dangles and stick-ons that are not properly inlaid.

Day 5. Pamphlet Book

This is a bit of a cheat as it is a small book that was a special order from Etsy.  I decided that it counted anyway.

 

Note: I am currently working on Day 12, but wanted to get my blog started.  I hope to update the next five books in the next few days and maybe catch up to date.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Garlic Festival and Heat

I haven’t blogged for a couple of months and am feeling that it’s about time!  Doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy, but it’s been very hot and dry and my ability to actually sit down and write is at a low ebb.  My grass is so dry that it just crunches when I go for our morning walk. I’ve been watering the garden and the tomatoes are just coming on, so I see canning in my future.  Cucumbers are a disaster, just not enough water for them.  I met a very tiny baby rabbit in my garden this morning – just the size to hold in one hand and easily pass through my fence.

Enough of that.  Last week I joined Sam Castner at the Fox Run Vineyards’ Garlic Festival. It was a very hot day, but we were fortunate enough to be in the last row of booths by the vineyard. Most of the time there was a breeze coming down the hill. Not a cool breeze, but at least air in motion.  Here are some photos of our site.

The side panels are now installed on the gates and you can see pictures of them on Sam’s Facebook page.  He’s hoping to install the entire gates within the next week.  Can’t wait to see it. You can see how dry and dead the grass is here. It’s been a severe drought for this area. We usually have great weather, but this summer has been brutal.

I made a bunch of books and notepads using stainless steel miniatures of Sam’s designs from the huge gates he is making for Fox Run. It was fun to point from the 4″ tree on my book to the 12′ version outside the tent.  Compare the jumping fox below with the one in the header.  Same design, just scaled up.  The wonders of computers and laser cutting.

Please excuse the reflections on the photos, but I had covered everything in Mylar to protect from rain, dust and sticky fingers.

One of my favorites was a large portfolio with a maple tree. I must have looked through 50 papers to find the right one for this background, but it was worth it for the result. This portfolio, along with others,  is for sale on Etsy  and others are at the Arts Center of Yates County.

I also had a lot of my Fox Boxes that I blogged about last winter.

It was a fun time, in spite of the heat and my exhaustion!

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Ten by Two: making a lot of gift notepads

Just before Thanksgiving I received a request to make some notepads for a customer to use as gifts.  She wanted ten sets of notepad covers containing a medium-size and small-size in coordinating colors. I have been making these notepads is four sizes from portfolio for an 8.5″ x 12″ pad to a mini, memo sized (1.5″ x 4″) pad. You can see all sizes here.  This request was challenging just because of the number of items, but the time frame made it even more complicated as I was planning a two-week trip to my son’s at Thanksgiving!

I rarely work on more than four or five pieces at a time just because parts tend to wander and get mixed up.  At least this time all the basic pieces would be the same size, but keeping tracking of forty different papers was a challenge!  Before leaving for vacation I was able to cut all the Davey board covers (outside) and mat board pieces (inside) and cover the inside panels.  This blog will go through many of the steps I took on this project with illustrations when I remembered the camera.

First step, and the most fun and frustrating, was choosing all the papers to be used.  The customer wanted each set to be coordinated and I didn’t want any to use the same papers.  Fortunately, the largest size I was making was for a 6″ x 9″ pad and that gave me more choices of paper.  When I make the portfolio size (8.5″x 12″) I’m very limited as the inside needs two pieces of paper that are roughly 8″ wide by 13″ tall. Since most of my hand-marbled paper is 14″x 17″, it’s tight and the sheet has to be perfect.  I don’t have any photos, but you can imagine me sorting through stacks of paper trying to find four that went together.  I was generally looking for two printed and two marbled.  To keep all my selection straight, I clipped all the matching sheets together with notes on the backs with a number 1 through 20, whether it was large or small and inside or outside.  This is much more organized than I usually am, but with 40 pieces of paper staring at me, I really needed it.  Cutting the boards took a whole day, but at least they were the same size, so didn’t have to be marked.

Stacks of cut Davey board for covers

Stacks of cut Davey board for covers

I decided to make the inside panels first so cut all that paper first before starting gluing out anything.  Once the papers were cut, I started the gluing out process using the mat board I’d already cut.

At this point I was off for Thanksgiving.  I tried to think how I could take some of the work with me, but it was just too complicated. When I came home, I had two weeks to finish everything.  I immediately started on the outside covers.  I had already cut the boards and chosen the paper, so first task was to pick the bookcloth.  This was when I realized that I’d found the element that would tie the sets together. Each set would have matching spines and I’d use each bookcloth on only one set. The bookcloth is next to all four papers, so the choice had to work with all.  By this time all four inside panels were in ten zipper bags and clipped to the larger outside papers. As I chose the bookcloth, a small piece was slipped into the bags.  Sounds easy, but I was swapping pieces in and out as I found better matches.  At times it seemed like total chaos.

All the spines were were attached to the boards a strip was glued into the center of the spine to stiffen it. Next step was to cut all the outside cover papers to size and glue them onto the covers. To finish the covers, I glued narrow strips of bookcloth to the outside edges of the boards.  This isn’t necessary, but I feel it makes a longer wearing edge than the paper alone and I want these notepads to be used and to last.

Next, adding the insides to the outsides, right? Not quite. The writing pad has to be held in place. I use a strap of heavy paper or cardstock to secure the pad and a foot pocket to keep it in place on the right side. On the left side, I make a pocket either on the side or bottom to hold a few extra sheets of paper. Placement of the pocket depends on the design of the paper, the size of the paper and my mood.  First step, as usual, is matching a heavy paper to the pieces already made. The paper is then cut and folded individually, matching the exact size and shape of its covers.

Completed notepads! All finished and delivered on time.

This entire project was really fun, although frustrating at times. It was a challenge to find just the right papers, but in the end I’m very pleased with the results.

I always have notebooks and portfolios for sale on Etsy. If you need different colors or amounts than are available, just send a message: 

or leave a comment here.

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Fox Boxes

About a month ago I was working with Sam Castner on his Etsy page and found that we couldn’t list his stainless steel fox ring because there had been a glitch in production. These foxes and Sam’s other candle holders are part of his design for a spectacular set of gates for the Fox Run Vineyards as seen on his FaceBook page.    This is the steel version of the fox ring.Fox (1) I asked Sam what he was going to do with the unusable rings and he wasn’t sure.  Three days later I suddenly realized that the foxes were just the right size for some of my boxes and books, so I asked Sam if he were willing to snip some off and let me play with them.  He did and this is the rest of the story.

I started with some lidded boxes.  These boxes are constructed  in two parts, a bottom tray and a top. The top has a plinth attached that fits exactly into the mouth of the bottom tray.  It’s a faster and easier construction than the clamshell preservation box.  I had made the five bottoms before I started taking photos, but that process is straightforward and is just like the clamshell bottom tray shown in the second group of photos.

Design work is always fun and I tried to find pieces of my marbled paper that felt a bit like fox habitat, had lines that would flow with the shape of the fox and colors that showed off the stainless steel. After choosing the materials, I decided to make all these boxes the same size, which I rarely do, but it does make cutting easier.  I don’t like things that are just stuck on the top of boxes, so I carved down into the binders’ board to recess the fox pieces.  They aren’t quite flush with the top, but rest about half way in.  The exception is the light green box where I made a frame the same thickness as the fox.  I tried different shapes for the insert and found it didn’t matter much since there was so much pattern in the paper under the fox. The wooden lion was added in, as it was something I had been meaning to try for a while.  Seemed like a good time.  The plinths under the tops were covered with a variety of decorative papers that complimented the marbled paper and the bottom trays were lined with black velvet.

I was pleased enough with these results to move on and make some clamshell boxes. The design is based on the preservation box used by archives, rare book libraries and museums.  When I was working as an archivist, I made hundreds of these, not as artistic and not nearly as much fun!

First step is always design – choosing size, shape, colors, and materials. I never make it through in one go!  This time it was the dark brown bookcloth. It was perfect, until I discovered that I was down to my last piece and it was an inch too short for the box I wanted!  This was an easier problem to solve than when it’s my marbled paper that is in short supply.  Bookcloth can be ordered, my paper can’t be reproduced, even by me!

There are three separate components in a clamshell box: the inner or bottom tray, the outer or top tray and the case.  When making a box for a specific item, the inner box must exactly fit the item. I didn’t make these boxes for any specific measure.  The square boxes are almost the same size, but because I misread some numbers, the two long boxes are different sizes. The inner box is made first, then the outer box and finally, the case. The case is constructed just like the covers of a book with two boards joined together with a spine strip.  The inner tray is mounted on the inside of one cover and the outer tray on the other. I have to be careful that they are aligned correctly and the outer tray fits snugly right over the inner tray.

No matter how carefully I cut, there are always some pieces of board that aren’t quite right.  Sometimes they are too short or too long, but most frequently, they are not exactly square.  At least that used to be the problem.  I have three cutters that I use all the time: one I use to cut the big sheets of Davey board into manageable size, the new fancy one is for most of the paper, especially when I need 30 or 40 sheets cut the same size, and the last is an ancient Milton Bradley school cutter that I use for small to medium pieces of board.  I have known the Milton Bradley since the early 1950s and I’m pretty sure it’s at least ten years older than that. I was about to get rid of it when I realized it was the only cutter I had that could cut board exactly square and it was especially good on board that was under two inches wide.  So three cutters and I need them all!

After making and covering the trays, I move on to the case. When I am using an insert, the first thing is to decide on how it will be mounted. With these boxes, I cut down about half the thickness of the board and excavated an area for the fox. The case is then covered with bookcloth or paper and the trays attached to the inside. The final steps are mounting the fox on the top cover and lining the bottom tray with black velvet.

My fox boxes will be available in my Etsy shop and at ACYC very soon.

You can read more about Sam Castner’s metalworking and the future gates for the Fox Run Vineyards on his FaceBook page.

Direct link to Etsy shop

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A Tale of Boxes: Wedding box, Guest Book & Portfolio

It’s Labor Day and summer is over.  My black walnuts are beginning to drop their leaves. They are always the last to leaf out and the first to fall. My summer was busier than usual with a bit of Folk School, a bit of family a bit of garden, a bit of travel, and too much teeth.  I’ve been composing blogs in my head all summer, but never quite enough time or energy to actually write them out.  This blog is really left over from last winter and spring.

As most know, last winter was too cold, too snowy and much too long.  I had several special orders that kept me sane, especially through February.  Special orders usually present challenges and learning opportunities, as they are never quite what I would choose to do if left on my own.

My first customer wanted a guest book in her wedding colors with a small metal plaque on the cover.  After talking, well actually messaging, about it, she decided that a clamshell box made to fit the book with a matching  insert on  its cover would be perfect.  We chatted some more about other wedding memorabilia she would have that might also fit in the box or that might be better in a matching portfolio.  The first idea was to use the invitation as a frontispiece for the book, but it was the wrong size and orientation. The outcome of our discussions was that she sent me the selection of materials and mock-ups of items that hadn’t been printed, like the menu.  As soon as I saw them, I knew what I had to do.  It’s amazing how talking, and even sharing pictures, isn’t anything like having the stuff in your hands.

The answer was to put a drawer in the box under the book.  Since the ephemera was slightly larger than the book, I was able to add a small box for a pen next to the book. I was very pleased with the result, especially since it has been years since I have built a box with a shelf or drawer.  I had my trusty Library of Congress manual right at hand during the entire process.  Lots of pictures:

This was a long process since I had to make all the paper first. After the pieces for this project were used, I had a lot of purple paper to sell on Etsy.  Fortunately, purple is popular! This customer was  a delight to work with and there were many other custom touches to the book that are not shown.

My next special order was challenging in a totally different way.  A student was presenting her fashion portfolio her professors and wanted a clamshell box that reflected her vision and her creations. Working to complement someone else’s artistic creativity is not easy. To make matters worse, she was working under a tight deadline.  Sending actual samples of papers or materials back and forth was out of the question, so we took to messaging images and descriptions back and forth, sometimes five or six times a day.  Of course colors vary according to cameras or monitors.  Fortunately, her palette was black, white, gray and a bit of red.  I don’t know what I would have done if it had been green!  I’m never able to get a good match for greens with my camera and monitor.  The actual construction was straight-forward, but all the decisions leading up to it were hair-pulling at times.  It was fun working with another artist and we were both pleased with the final result.

Her portfolio was selected to be submitted to a competition!  I hope my box helped.

The last box was the most fun.  I was working with friends for a surprise for another friend, best of all worlds.  Everyone was nearby so we could all see the materials and the process and no second guessing.  The gift was being made to someone who was retiring from the board of a local non-profit. She had been instrumental in the creation, organization and managing a concert series in local venues.  She is also very active in local winery and grape growing organizations, so music, grapes and wines were the themes. It was decided that a boxed guest book would be the perfect gift.  I’ve been working with metal artist Sam Castner a lot recently and he was delighted to be able to help another good friend celebrate.  He created two stunning brass plaques for the book and box. I was inspired by his work and had fun choosing just the right materials for the set. Taking a note from the wedding box I had made previously, I left room for a pen in this box and the Board added a hand-crafted pen by a local woodworker. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of the pen.

Unfortunately, for my best box set, the photos are the worst, especially on the true colors.  Since everyone could see the work in progress, I didn’t have to send photos and hence don’t have a good record.  I need to remember this and take lots of photos when I work on anything really special.

I hope to get my next blog up soon.  It’s all in my head!  I also have new pictures to update my How to Marble blog.

If you are interested in working with me on a special box or book or set, leave a comment here or contact me on Etsy, Losing Her Marbles.

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Minimalist Marbling

When I marble I usually have a dozen or more colors going by the third day.  I love color and I just keep adding another shade of blue or an accent of yellow.  For my last marbling session, I decided to try something completely different.  I had done some monochrome marbling before, but I had used four or five different variations – cobalt blue, Prussian blue, cyan, ultramarine blue etc. This time I used just one color plus black and white, or in a few cases, brown and white. I cheated a bit with the blue and used Cerulean blue, deep and Cerulean blue, chrome, but otherwise there was just one color.

It’s easy to get lots of shades in marbling because the paint spreads across the surface of the carrageenan and the more it spreads, the lighter it is.  As more and more paint is dropped, it spreads less and less. The first paint dropped gets compressed and so gets darker.

Some pictures of my fun time:

Cleaning up is much easier when I only use three colors!

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Paper, leather, wood and metal

These books have it all!

Just finished a great week at the John C. Campbell Folk School creating a book sewn over double cords, laced onto wooden boards with a metal clasp.  It was very intensive work as we used only hand tools and I’m not very skilled in either woodwork or metal crafting. Our instructor, Jim Croft, and his assistant, Brien Beidler, guided the class with great skill and wonderful patience.

As usual, I forgot to take my camera the first day and didn’t completely document some of the processes. I hope there are enough pictures that you can follow along on the path from raw materials to finished book.  The first day was spent folding, sewing, and finishing the textblock; choosing wood for the boards and designing the book.  My textblock had very little swell, so I decided to use a Romanesque/Carolingian structure which has a flat spine rather than the Gothic style (round spine) used by most of the rest of the class. Since this was a structure I had never made before, I was glad it turned out that way.

The textblock is Strathmore drawing paper which was sewn over double cords with a hand-spun linen thread. The ends of the cords were then thinned, coated with wheat paste and twisted together into points.  This made it easy to lace and unlace the boards from the cords multiple times during the construction of the book.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of either shaping the boards or drilling holes, but you can see the results.  With a Romanesque binding the cords are laced directly into the spine edge of the boards. The hole is drilled at an angle so the cord exits on top of the board. A second hole is drilled through the board and the cord is laced down to end on the inside of the cover. The cords are not pasted in place until the book is almost finished.

Once I knew that the cords and the boards fit, I pasted out the spine and ploughed the head and tail edges of the textblock. The boards were then adjusted to the new size of the text.  Romanesque bindings tend to have little or no square or overhang.  I didn’t plough the fore edge, but left that with an uneven, hand-torn edge.

Next step was to move onto the metalwork phase, designing and making the fastening. Mine is full metal which is made in three pieces, the hinge and the catch, which are attached to the boards and the hasp, which closes the book. I started out drawing a paperboard pattern and scratching the pattern into a sheet of brass.  I cut the pattern area off the sheet and textured it with a simple dimpling by hitting it with various sized ball peen hammers. The patterns for the hinge and catch were cut and trimmed and the edges smoothed. An area of the top and bottom boards was chiseled out just enough so that the brass and the board were level. I made pins for both pieces and rolled the brass tabs around them.  That was the most difficult operation for me and I confess I had a lot of help to get it just right. Fitting the brass onto the boards involved a lot of filing, chiseling and frustration. Not much tolerance or leeway in any direction. I’ve forgotten the exact order, but the hinge and catch were fastened to the boards with rivets made from escutcheon pins and the hasp was added.  After all the fiddling, I was very pleased when everything came together and the book actually closed properly and the latch worked! Because my book was short, I had only one clasp, but most people in the class had taller books and used two clasps.

After the clasp was fitted and riveted, the boards were laced on for the final time. I pasted the cords into the grooves and then pegged the cords.  Making the pegs took longer than inserting them.  I am so not a whittler! The pegs are forced into the holes with the cords, pasted and trimmed. My pegs should have been a little thinner in the middle so they would have gone farther into the holes.

The last step is putting on the leather spine.  The leather is carefully trimmed to shape and size.  For my book, it was curved to fit the pattern on the boards and had a wide, straight-sided tab that would fold over the head and tail of the spine.  Unfortunately, I took very few pictures of the leather work. The leather is first pared, head and tail so that it will fold easily. The curved edge should fit exactly into the carved groove. After pasting it out and letting the moisture penetrate the piece, I put the leather on the book, tugging  and stretching it into place. Pasted leather is very easy to work with as it can be positioned and re-positioned many times until it is just right.  It does stretch when damp, so I had to trim it a bit. That’s the tricky part and I did get a little too much off one edge.  Before putting the leather on, I wrapped the textblock in craft paper to protect it as you can see in the photos.

Quick look at the other books made this week.

These books take a lot of time and skill to make, so I’m not sure if I’ll ever make another one, but some of what I learned will be very useful in the future.

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