I mentioned in a each one of my blogposts in January that I was working on a book for a swap in Jackie’s Book Arts Forum. Now finally is the time to show off some pictures and talk about the book in more than just obscure side notes.
The topic for this winter swap was: Limp Binding. The task was to choose any limp binding and have a go. I challenged everyone to pick a binding they have not tried before. For my book I chose as a model the book with signature Stamp Pal V 1075 described in Monica Langwe Berg’s Limp Bindings From the Vatican Library. It looked like a buttonhole binding without a hole but with a link stitch headband to me. Since I know how to make a buttonhole binding and Coptic headbands, I thought it would be easy. It turned out to be more difficult than expected, but I’ll come back later to that.
The lot determined that I send my book to Cathryn, a book artist whose work I very much admire. So that was a good reason to give it the best I can do, and that for me means adding content. Those of you who are friends on facebook have seen some of the process. It started with pulling out old exercises that I made as a young student, more than 15 years ago.
Back then people thought I was a little eccentric, if not crazy, spending so much time on constructing these images. They are series of the same picture with very slight variations, drawn on parchment paper, so that I could see how the construction behaved under small disturbances. They looked so beautiful. Ever since I started with them, and found it was just too time consuming to draw everything I would have liked to, I wanted to revisit them.
So that was the beginning for my “meditations with straight edge and pencil”. I ended up drawing not the ellipses that you see on the constructions above. The new pictures share the spirit with those old experiments, though. Most are part of one series or another, of constructions with slight variations that end up throwing a part of the image to infinity and then let them “come back” from there, – mostly unharmed, yet often a little twisted. In between those pictures I made some exercises in perspective, that are probably familiar to many. No editing took place, everything that came to mind, pencil and paper is still there, all trials that did not lead to anything useful, badly chosen examples, mistakes, outcrossings, frustrated comments, curious questions, it is all still there right beside notes about doubts whether I am doing it right. I wanted it to be more like a journal than like a finished publication, the result of an active meditation.
And – this probably is a surprise and seems unrelated – I discovered Amanda Palmer during this meditation. I bought An Evening With Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer as entertainment during drawing, because I like Neil Gaiman’s writing and his voice reading his own stories. There are three CDs contained in the set. One is Neil, one is a joined one and the third is Amanda. I bought it for the Gaiman. I can’t explain why but for some reason I thought I wouldn’t like Amanda’s music. It turns out I do! And I took a special fancy in her ukulele anthem. I liked it so much that I decided to write this paragraph so that I have a reason to link to it:
In the end I listened too intently to Amanda singing, and read too much of her blog, and my time ran out without filling all the pages that I had intended to. So I included a couple of blank pages and left the rest of my program as an exercise for Cathryn. I am curious to whether she will pick up the pencil I threw at her feet.
The binding then turned out more of a challenge than expected. I had intended to make a mock-up first. That is always a good idea. But time was running out, and so I started with Cathryn’s book right away.
In a first trial it looked like the paper that I had chosen for a cover couldn’t take the pull of the binding thread, and so I included (real) parchment guards both on the inside and the outside of the spine. That made it extremely fiddly to put the needle through three holes in three layers that were not glued to each other. Other than that it is very close to the original. Top and tail edges are simply turned in, not fastened, the front cover cut flush with the text blog, the back cover left long to wrap around the text block and tug under the front flap. No closure.
I found the stitching of what looks like a headbands in the spirit of a Coptic headband awkward in that it was done very differently. I thought I could make it better if I did it my way, and thus gathered all the material that was intended for the mock up and made another book.
This time I changed the structure a little further: I liked how the flap wrapped around the Cathryn’s book and so made both flaps longer here. The front flap wraps around and tugs under the back flap, and for the flap I added a leather band to serve as a closure. That made a couple more changes necessary, but all rather straight forward. Again I added parchment guards for all stitches that went through the paper.
This time I limited myself to one strip of parchment on the spine which made sewing so much easier, and I honestly believe one is enough. When it came to binding the book and making the headband like stitches, I realized that this – for me – awkward way is really the only way to do it.
This second trial turned out less wonky than the first but still not as nice and even as it could be. I found it much trickier to hold a good tension than with a buttonhole binding. Doubly so, since the same problem of loops that might slip before they can be secured by the next stitch occurs on the head and the sewing station. Maybe I’ll train this specific binding a little more. The perfectionist in me wants me to make a couple each day until I am satisfied. The artist tells me to rather finish the other two books (soul song and ruled worlds) that still wait for completion. – And I have not completed much beside messages in bottles for a year now. Time to go back to work…
If you would like to see more images of the books and the contents of Cathryn’s book, head over to ipernity and have a look at this album. Thank you for your interest!