Ich wollte nur mal wieder ein Lebenszeichen von mir geben. Ein Blog-Artikel über meine Tuschestifte (technical pens) und Reissfedern (ruling pens) ist in der Mache – ich komme nur gerade so wenig zum bloggen. – Warum? – Weil ich in der wenigen Zeit, die mir ja sowieso zum freien Arbeiten bleibt, mit Drucken beschäftigt bin. Im etwa eine Autostunde entferten Leicester (gesprochen “Lester”) gibt es eine Druckwerkstatt, bei dem man dann später auch Mitglied werden kann, und dann Zugang zu Druckpressen und Equipment aller Art hat (hört ihr mich vor Glück seufzen?). Da hoffe ich, demnächst auch mal mehr machen zu können. Jedenfalls habe ich bei denen einen Grundkurs gebucht, die dritte von sechs Wochen ist gerade abgeschlossen. Ein bisschen bin ich enttäuscht über das Niveau – ist wirklich alles ganz elementar, und ist bislang nicht über das hinaus gegangen, was ich hier auch so mache. Ein paar nützliche Tricks und clevere Ideen schnappt man natürlich trotzdem immer mal auf… Ich hoffe, ich werde demnächst mehr davon berichten können. 

Einen Newsletter will auch eigentlich auch schon seit Monaten schreiben, alle die schon darauf warten und sich fragen, ob sie tatsächlich auf der Liste stehen seien beruhigt: noch nichts ist rausgegangen, sollte aber bald kommen. Noch ein wenig Geduld…

I just wanted to let you all know that I am still alive and well, and my post about technical pens and ruling pens is not forgotten. I just couldn’t find the time yet to set up a blog post. In the limited time I have at my disposal, I have mainly been preparing for the printmaking class that I am currently taking in Leicester. It is a lot of fun using the big presses, and talking with like-minded people. But more about that, when I have more than 5 minutes left to pick up my kids from nursery. :-) A newsletter should also come out some time soon, so if you have been waiting and wondering whether I took you off that list: no, I just have to get around to actually write it and send it off.

Thanks for your patience!

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Drafting, New Tools, and Arithmetic for the Visually Inclined

mark making H. Kurzke

mark making H. Kurzke using a plastic nip on a compass and different inks

Those of you who follow me on Facebook know that in the past weeks I have been having a love affair with drafting tools. In a way it started when I read that blog post about dividers that went kind of viral in the bookbinding community a couple of months ago. After having read about dividers, I went to find my box of drafting tools that I used in school. It is an interesting box with a variety of tool that I never used. In school we used the compass whith the lead tip attached and were told once in Geography how it could be used together with the scale on a map to measure distances – but we never used them, instead we would use our rulers for measuring. The box, however, contains a few additional items:

old school set

My School Drafting Set

Some things are easy to identify: There is the pair of dividers, a compass with a screw in the middle and a lead attached. There is a small round box with a screw top which contains spare leads (it still does), an eraser, a sharpener for the lead – which is really neat. One of the arms of the compass lets you attach different things. For example, the lead could be exchanged for the needle which then gives you two dividers. At least I guess that this is what the needle is for. – Curiously it is different from the other needles already attached and doesn’t have the characteristic slot that goes over the screw in the arm.

If this is what the needle is for, then this leaves only these two black plastic things to identify: The one in the middle in the photo with the screw can also be attached to the compass. It is the tip of a ruling pen, which then allows you to draw circles in ink. I can’t remember when I learned about that. I guess I already asked in school, or maybe I read about it when I first learned a bit calligraphy. Searching the internet for the right word to use for this kind of nip I came across a considerable amount of entries where people guessed it was some kind of tweezers that would allow to hold another lead or something else.

About the remaining plastic thingie: I do remember that it baffled me as a kid. I tried to attach it to the compass which doesn’t work. I also tried to fill the riffles with ink, resulting in a big splash of ink everywhere on my desk. This all, including the smell of the ink soaked wooden desk came back to me in a flash the moment I found the box and felt this frustrated curiosity/fascination for that thing in my box again. Only now it was pretty obvious what it is: It is a handle! It can hold either the ruling nip or the lead which is helpful especially for the nip (instead of a lead it is really just easier to use a pencil) and turns it into a ruling pen. Really useful and neat. I already ordered a selection of more ruling pens, but more about that in a minute, or maybe rather in a new blogpost about ruling pens… Best you let me know in the comment section whether you would like to know more about them (and take a look at my selection) in the comment section. This blogpost is already very long, probably too long to read for most. So congratulations if you read this setence ;-)

stage 1

square, octagon, hexadecagon, circle

Playing around with different constructions, I got frustrated with my school set pretty soon: The compass is too worn out, the connection of the arms wonky, the screw too loose, and circles don’t really come out round from the tip of the arm wobbling around. So for a first batch of geometric constructions (one above, a few more on ipernity, most in the bin by now) I used another compass from M.’s set which worked well. But it didn’t allow for an ink nip to be attached.

Nevertheless I was experimenting with the one from my box, and was soon dreaming of a better nip: Considering that it is made from plastic, and has rough bits on the perimeter it works surpisingly well. But I imagined how the joy of using it would be multiplied if I had a decent smooth one. It took me just one day until I decided to buy more drafting tools.

So here are the contents of my new (grown up) drafting box:

new tools

My New Drafting Set

Oh, I love these new tools, I really do, and I feel silly and just a tad crazy for the joy I feel while looking at the photo. But look how steam-punk beautiful those compasses are! I am totally enarmoured with the one on the left in the top row. It makes rather small circles but fit perfectly in my hands, and the attachment to the arm that makes it easy to switch between a lead and a nip looks brilliant and works perfectly.
The next one, in the middle, may look a little weird. It is for to make really, really small circles, the tip of the pen(cil) and the needle can touch each other, and you can still make a perfect circle.
The rest of the box pretty much coincides with my box from back then: The thing on the top right is easily identified as a pair of dividers, and on the bottom another compass with a lead attached and an arm which makes it easy to swap the lead to the ruling pen’s nib also contained (middle top). There is another of those handles to which the nib can be attached, a box with spare leads, and on the very left there is an arm extension.

But there is more:

new pens

New Technical Pens

I also bought a box with technical pens. Now these are really interesting in itself, but I guess I rather spare that for another blog post (if you are interested at all). It just needs to be said that they are not fine liners with a felt tip, and they write with actual ink which comes in cartridges (spare ones can be seen in the picture, apparently providing spare ink and leads is an important selling point). Interesting here is the small clear plastic ring that can be seen on the bottom top of the 0.2mm pen: The pencs can be screwed into it, and the metal end goes into the arm of the compass – and then I can draw circles with ink with these technical pens. Very, very neat and gives beautiful results.

Well, so with all these tools I have been playing around. I uploaded many of my trials to an ipernity album for you to browse if you are interested. I am going to show you here a couple of different things I tried. This first one I made with the new tools and pens: Very simple, just trying different things:


trying out my ruling pen and the nib on the compass

The main question soon became: What do I want to draw, now that I have the tools? And what do I want to do with the resulting images? Two or three general things to draw immediately came to mind: Euklidian constructions (regular polygons), technical constructions, architecture. I started out with architecture. The idea was to begin with a simple structure and then add geometric elements and colours on top. Literally, because by now the tracing paper that I order had also reached me:

Layer 3, H. Kurzke

Layer 1, H. Kurzke

This are two “takes” from one of my experiments from the architectural series: On the left you see the base image, on the right three layers stacked on top. (It has been pointed out to me that the visible tape in the scans is distracting, and I agree. I cannot do much about them in these scans, but I tried to remember for other scans.)

A not very inspired very first trial at technical drawing, showing the box for 346 I am currently working on:


Box Construction for “346”, H. Kurzke

And finally – and this is the idea I currently like best, even thought the images I am going to show you are not yet as clean and perfect as I would like them: Geometric construction. I call this series “Arithmetic for the Visually Inclined”:

24polygon combined

upper left: 6=2*3, upper right: 12=2*6=4*3, lower left: 24=2*12=4*6=…, lower right 4 hexagons coloured in.

I guess I don’t have to say anything about the content of these images, but I am very happy to explain more if needed.

I dislike the specific writing in these images (although I like the square pattern in the corner, I might add it randomly here or there, hihi), and the colouring in the last layer just doesn’t work. It was supposed to better show the four hexagons that make up the hexadecagon. However, the paper warps too much under the moisture, and although I thought I thinned the ink quite a bit, the colours are still too opaque and nothing really is left of the image. But I hope the idea is pleasant. I am going try some more in that direction.

If you are interested in more, you can find it in my ipernity album as mentioned several times now. And I have not forgotten that while writing this blogpost I offered more information on ruling pens and on the technical pens. It would be helpful if you let me know whether you are interested at all. And of course feedback on my trials are more than welcome.

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Boxmaking weekend

This was the first weekend in what seems like ages that I had all to myself in my studio. My major work in progress is 346, a book dealing with my 7 week stay in hospital prior to the birth of my twins in 2011. As regular readers will know, the idea was that it was going to be in the form of boxed postcards, one for each day. This specific format was closely connected to the idea that it should be a larger edition, and not handmade as such. So I designed 46 postcards, both sides, wrote the text such that it fit in that format, selected images from my journals that I kept at the time, and then ordered all that in the form of photographic prints first for a second mock-up. That mock-up was finished a couple of weeks ago, and left me disappointed. Somehow this was just not working properly. Since then I have been thinking about how to change it, and my current idea is radically different, moving from postcards in a box to a boxed scroll. But although I am thrilled by my new idea, there are still lots of problems to solve. I will be asking your help and advice at the end of this post.


sketch of my reading thing – an anlogue version of a e-reader, really

My idea is that the spools with the content are hidden in closed compartments, and the reader has to wind a handle to access the images and text. In this way, s/he could not skip repetitive parts standing for the dull routine that set in after a couple of days, and s/he wouldn’t know that end is close from the few cards left in the box. These were two major issues that made the boxed set not work for me.

Well, this reader thing is only one aspect of what I envision for the book at the moment, but I don’t want to go into too much detail about that now. I will have to make this scroll-reader-thing work first in any case. So this weekend I started to build a model for the box, and, while I was at it, made also a couple of boxes that I wanted to make for a long time: boxes to store my thread. I got a bit carried away with the other boxes, I fear…

Box making day

Saturday: A couple of trays for the would thread, and two larger boxes with compartments for 346

Boxmaking craze continued

Sunday: More boxes and trays for thread, and on the upper right, four smaller boxes that go into the compartments of the 346 boxes to hide the scrolls

End of another boxmaking day

Sunday evening: two trays with smaller boxes covered for thread. A third tray with boxes still without cover. Standing on the upper edge of my table, 346 boxes, seen from the backside.

(I rather like the simpy grey covered boxes with the patterned paper inside very much, will try something like that for the tray that is still left to cover, I guess. Since these were all paper and fabric scraps, I am not sure that I still have enough to make it work though. Well, that is not that important now…)

My current idea is to use tyvek for the scroll, as I fear that paper might not stand the strain of being pulled like that. But then, thinking while I am typing this, probably a ready made scroll like the receipt paper used for cashes should work. – How is it really called and do you know where it can be bought?
I ordered some plastic modelling stuff in hope of making dowels from it, but I am not sure that this will work. – Do any of you have made something like that before? I would appreciate any pointers and sharing of experiences: what kind of techniques and materials worked for you and which didn’t?

Thanks in advance for your help!

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simple leather kit 01 kleiner

A simple binding kit by H. Kurzke

It has been long since I wrote the last blogpost and a lot of things have piled up. Of course the longer I postponed writing, and the longer my list of topics to blog about grew, the more likely it got that the task was pushed to the end of my ever growing to-do lists.

To break free of the dilemma, I decided to give you just brief summaries and bulletpoints instead of giving full reports and posts to each item. If you are interested to hear more about a topic, let me know. I’ll be pleased. And maybe (maybe!) I will indeed write more about it later :-)

  • As mentioned in a longish post (towards the end) I made 5 testing kits for a company to decide whether they want to produce the kits. I had a lot of thoughts about whether I would want to do that in the first place. Then decided to have a go. But after fighting for several weeks to either get paid or the kits returned, they finally returned them (phew, I actually already contacted the lawyer in our family to get some legal advice and was prepared to go the next steps). To my surprise they had not even opened the box. In 8 weeks. Their interest can’t have been too keen. Well, since then I changed the instructions that go with it ever so slightly (so that this company’s name no longer is part of it), and re-did it so that it is now printed in this A5 sattle stitched version. Currently the instructions are only available in German. A photo of the finished book can be seen above.
    I am undecided whether I want to continue this kind of kit. If I do, I will also include English instructions. For now I am selling just these first kits in my Etsy-Shop.
Erased, artist book by H. Kurzke and Zoran Vodakovic

Erased, poem by H. Kurzke, binding by Zoran Vidakovic

  • Last year I was lucky to be invited to a joint project with Zoran: I sent him two copies of the poem, he bound a first copy which he exhibited as part of his travelling, collaborative show of books. He made another copy for me to keep which has reached me by now. – I really should make some photos, above you see one that he send me before sending the actual book.
Leather Binding Kit - No. 16

Leather Binding Kit by H. Kurzke

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Leather binding kit – failed experiment

  •  You probably know that I have this other series of leather binding kits that I sell. It is much more high end, and somewhere on the division line between a finished journal and a kit. I actually prefer to call it journal in single signatures, rather than a real kit. Each cover is handmade one of a kind with a lot of attention to detail. I made a couple more of them before Christmas (currently working on some more) but didn’t manage to get them photographed until a couple of days ago. On one of them, which is not for sale for reasons that will become obvious in a minute, I experimented with a magnetic closure. It looks nice and kind of sleak as magnatic closures usually do (it always feels like magic to me, using a book with a magnatic lock). But when I photographed the inside lining, I noticed a round brownish speck, and a closer inspection showed that indeed this was rust. Grrr! Fail. That’s how things go. On to a different method.
lbk fail 02 kleiner

Leather binding kit – failed experiment

  • I enlisted in a 6-week long print workshop. Very much looking forward to learning many different printing techniques in a professional setting, will start in April.
  • Bought a lot of books
  • Finished another draft of 346, like it was meant to be printed on the postcards that were meant to go into a box which would then make my first non-handmade artist book. Not sure what to think of it at this stage. I just feel so close to my heart that it is hard to judge. I gave it to read to M. who said he found it interesting and engaging – but then, he is not neutral at all either. I still have some things I would like to work on, and we both agreed that the format does not really suit the form, and some things that I thought central just don’t work. So I am back at the drafting table but at least with some clearer ideas about the project – but now with new bucket full of doubts.
  • Ordered and just got delivered some beautiful new fabrics. Oh, I really would like to make some new books with them. Who knows, maybe I might :-)
  • Working on Coptic Headbands 3.2 (digital version) that then can get sold via Etsy’s Direct Download. Other than first announced, the Simple Coptic Binding Ebook is still available because Etsy accepted responsibility for the VAT for their direct downloads. The Coptic Headbands is too large at its current state to be included, but I could break it up to up to 5 pieces which then easily should suffice their size limits. Working on that.
  • Working on Coptic Headbands 4 (print version). too.
  • Updated my Homepage. Doesn’t look much shinier than before. This is kind of frustrating: I am proud that I am able to open a text editor and write a page like that. But then, this is really old fashioned and after all the time I put into it, it doesn’t have this “ah, beautiful!” look that it ought to have after putting in so much effort. I really ought to go with a CMS…

I guess that’s it for now. Have a nice and pleasant weekend!

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More Printing

Woman with Hat 3, lino print by H. Kurzke

woman with hat 3 – a couple of prints on different papers

If you have followed this blog in the last weeks, you know that I am currently printing again. I mentioned I was working on a “more serious print”: Well, actually I decided to participate in the Bookmarks : Infiltrating the Library System Project by Sarah Bodman. And I am looking for something that I would like to print in an edition of 100. For my standards that is a rather large edition, but after the trials with woman with hat 1 and 2 I felt confident that I can do it, and I liked the idea of printing women with hats.

I spend quite a lot of time with the block for woman with hat 3. I didn’t want to rush into things, and decided to make a lot of proofs on different papers, to decide what would work best.

preparations for more 01

different papers and parchment waiting to be printed upon

I decided to go for oil based Sakura relief printing colour for this one. It turned out that this is not a smart solution if you have an unheated studio in wintery England. – It took them a little over two weeks to dry. While there are a lot of prints with which I am satisfied per se, there is none that I find ultimately convincing. It turns out I find my own block a little too boring to be bothered to make more than I have now. Right on top you can see a scan of some of the prints that I found interesting in one way or another. I like how the red dots on the paste paper on the very right make it look like she is holding a bouquet. – A lucky coincidence that I would have no chance to replicate intentionally. The second from left is parchment, and to my relief the paint indeed dried eventually, and I was not sure at all that it would.

Well, the prints had to move out of the way sooner than they dried, for me to experiment with something else instead, and so I tied some thread to the railing at my stair and hung the prints there. That makes them hang just above the height of a hand-railing as you can see. But  everyone who wants to enter my studio has to take the last steps crawling anyway, to underneath and through my working table, so this made the situation not much worse.

prints drying on the line

prints drying on the line

Once the (seemingly not) drying prints were out from under my feet – quite literally – I was free to try something else. Being bored with that print, and therefore, so I thought, with women with hats, I turned to an old favorite: fish and feathers. (I printed a lot of these two years ago, for example feathers here, more feathers here, some fish here, or other fish here I printed many more fish than these, though. For some reason I just draw and print a lot of fish, …). I figured, that the bookmarks would be some kind of business card, and therefore maybe should be something that is typical for my work. Therefore returning to an old favorite seemed like a sensible idea.

preparations for more: Fish and Feathers

two plates

bookmark scan 04 kleiner

Fish and Feather 1


I made two plates: a drypoint in rhenalon and a drypoint in lino. It was clear that the rhenalon wouldn’t do for an edition of 100. Typically one can get about 10 prints before it gets too blurry. But it was a quick warming up exercise.

The results are mixed. I am neither totally happy not totally unhappy with the prints. Some came out sharper than others, none crisp but that is to be expected with drypoint. I struggled with wiping, as you can see here: There are some regions that are clearly too faint, there is some additional dirt with the fish on the very bottom. Many details didn’t come out like I owould have wanted them to come out. But, well, it was just an exercise.

The frames marking three panels are a relict from an earlier stage in my sketchbook from when I still thought I would be making three independing plates. While scratching I wanted to try how I could translate the frames to the rhenalon (i.e. trying out whether I could do thicker lines). While that worked o.k., the boxes themselves are rather wonky, with the third one being significantly smaller than the first.

Well, and after that I gave the lino a go. This mix-technique is something I tried last year, and it doesn’t seem wide spread. I know of no-one using it.

Fish and Feather 2 - First Proof

Fish and Feather 2 – First Proof

Feathers and Fish 2 xth proof

feathers and Fish 2, trying again the next week xth proof no good

The first trial with the lino-drypoint looked promising (see above on the left). There was a lot of dirt visible in the print, and there were minor things I wanted to change, but I was actually quite happy with the outcome. The plan was to make more of these the next weekend. – Maybe even to go for the 100.  My next weekend therefore started with cutting more pieces of the watercolour paper to size that I was planning to use, and then water and press a first batch. Making a print takes quite a lot of work like that: First rub in and wipe the first colour in all three panels. Then clean the parts that should not print extra carefully. Then add printing colour to the lino on the three plates very carefully and in a very thin layer. Clean the plate once more, then print. – And every single one was dissappointing. (See teh white spots and lines above on the right.) The upper fish seemed to do o.k., but not great. The lower fish and even the feather didn’t show much of the first colour. Instead the parts that should be black just printed not at all. It took me far too long to realize what was going on. I thinned the black paint in hope it would more easily be rubbed into the scratches, I made the scratches a little deeper. Nothing seemed to work. Only then I realized: – The paint I was using for the drypoint was not made for intaglio but for relief. Switching to a paint made for etchings made all the difference. Well, that understood, after just one good print, I got rid of the frames:

Fish and Feathers 3

Fish and Feathers 3

I printed a couple of these images which came out o.k., now that I was using the right kind of paint only wiping remained an issue. It is hard to keep the prints consitent, though. Making an edition of 100 would be hard, hard work. I spend about 4 hours printing and got 20 prints out of it.

Well, I won’t be using this plate for my edition in any case. Too many things that I still dislike about it. Even if I decided to go for fish and feathers, I would make a new plate.

I still have a couple more ideas to try, and I still have until June to make my bookmarks. Until then I’ll number and sign and mark all my trials. I’ll end up with A LOT of bookmarks. Anyone in for a swap?

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Another Print – Woman with Hat 2

woman with hat 2 by H. Kurzke, making of

page in my big sketchbook

Printing is a little bit like a drug. Once started, there are just so many thing to do and try and it is hard to find a way out. You think you could focus on other things (like on to finish a book with title 346), then you make just one little print, and you are hooked again. – After the fun of making the quick softlino print “woman with hat” the other day, I just had to go on. As I told you in my last post, the woman that could be seen in that print was made in strong resemblance to a sketch I found elsewhere. I liked her hat, so I thought I’d try some other hats. You see a page in my big sketchbook up there. Different hairdoes, all of the models facing to the right in just the same way as the original lady. I tried to like reproduce what I liked about her.

All except one. – Ideas can be so funny, I have no clue why I drew her like that. I was more like a subconscious doodle. But it was pretty clear right from the start that she was who I had been searching.

woman with hat 2 by H. Kurzke

woman with hat 2, in my regular sketchbook, the printing block and once of the prints I made

But I still wanted her to face to the right in the print. So I copied her (mirrored) into my regular sketchbook. She was a little too big, so I had to make her smaller. – And that’s it, really.

I am also working on some more serious prints. I hope I’ll have to show you something more after the weekend. I also hope that the fun I currently have with printing isn’t the end of 346!

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New Print – Woman with Hat

print 03 kleiner

Women with Hat, Linocut by H. Kurzke

Like always I am burried deep in things that need doing. My homepage needs updating, a new newsletter needs to be written, books reviewed that I bought and received during the festive season, … Yesterday evening I finished the first complete draft (on my computer) for 346, the book I am going to get printed. I’ll have to read and correct a couple more times until I am going to order a first proof. So I should be editing that, too.

But this morning I entered my studio and decided to just not care about all the work that needs doing. I figured I earned myself a carefree studio day. – And it was great! So what did I do? Well, not much. Mostly I sorted through stuff while listing to loud music. I finished finally a box that I started four years ago. I also tried a new idea for a printing plate which didn’t work. So in the end, to have something to show for, I made this small print, just about 5cm x 8cm in size. I guess I am going to put one in a bottle. Maybe I’ll make bookmarks from others. I don’t know yet.

The image is inspired by a drawing I found in Women’s Work by  Elizabeth W Barber. The sketches in my sketchbook are more or less copies of what I saw there.

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drawings in my sketchbook and finished printing block

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My desk during printing action. – Few space, but luckily it is a small print

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some finished prints

What I liked in the original, and which I tried to stress in my version is the subbornly lifted chin. – This woman sure is not to be messed with. I think I like the print on pink. And I think I will like to add more of her body. I like the indicated nudeness without giving much away; the simplicily of the composition and the lines; and its overall strangeness. Will have to work on how to translate that into print. But for now I am quite pleased with this outcome and the day.

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Good News!

11 kleinerI am back at my desk after a Christmas break. Currently I am working through overflowing virtual mailboxes. One of them had a great message: Absences will be part of the Artist Book Cornucopia IV at the Abecedarian Gallery in Denver, USA.

I have re-opened the Büchertiger Studio & Press shop on Etsy after the winter break where you can order a copy for yourself. It will take a little longer until I will re-open the Büchertiger Supplies shop, but you can choose to have an email send out to you when I do, just follow the link. What is keeping me from opening the shop after my break is – among other things – a new legislation in the EU with regards to ebooks, and I’ll have to make sure I can still lawfully sell them. – And I need time for making my annual list of inventory.

alle 4I am going to make a new order of lin cable and gruschwitz thread when I am done. As usual I am offering special conditions for those who want to pre-order thread (any of the  30 colours produced, any thickness, also lin retors, linen bookbinding thread, gros bis, or even silk thread). If you are interested, drop me a line so that I can fill you in on the details. (You will find my contact data on my homepage. You can also leave a public comment if you prefer, and I’ll get back to you via email.)

Well, and with that, I am back to sorting through my mailbox. – After all I have to make sure I am done in time so that I can mail off a copy of abences in time for the exhibition. I hope you had a similarly good start into the new year!

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Merry Christmas, and a good start into the New Year – we’ll talk in January

jule our cat

Julchen a little more than four years ago

The last couple of weeks have not been nice here, to say the least. Little boy, hubby and I all have been sick on and off all the time. I am worst off, with just 2 days feeling well in the past two and a half weeks. Miraculously little girl is still holding up and has not skipped a single day in nursery since it started.

Because I – and the others – felt so off, everything that usually would have to get done in this time of the year got delayed: we bought a Christmas tree on Thursday (with me still being sick, but I managed not to throw up in the B&Q) for a last-minute-discount: not bad as such, and I was so late writing Christmas cards that only a few will actually make it for Christmas (mostly done now, but a few are still unwritten). I posted the birthday present for my youngest sister (birthday yesterday) two days ago. They told me it will not even be in time for Christmas.

Yesterday and today I spend mostly in the kitchen, making up for the time lost and cooking 6 different types of biscuits and sweets. These are for our neighbours:


Schweineöhrchen for the neighbours

Well, all this means of course that also Büchertiger’s Studio has been vacant for weeks. During that time a friendly inspector from British Gas helped figure out a problem with our heating, and needed access to parts of the system through my studio. Boxes needed to be moved and never went back to their place, some toppled. I looked for paper and fabric for wrapping some gifts, found them beneath a pile of other stuff which got scattered around during the process. If you could have a look now, you wouldn’t believe it is a studio. It looks like that small room at the end of the corridor into which all the little things that have nowhere to go get thrown for years.

I had hoped to clean that up before Christmas, but I am not sure I am going to make it.

To top off our weeks of sickness, last week our cat Jule died of old age. I remember well seeing her for the first time. My mother, my sisters and I selected her from a litter of cats who were born on a farm near to where we live. When we arrived, we could see a large dog and the mother of the kittens carrying them jointly, side by side to the dog’s basket where they continued to sleep. We selected the kitten, and it almost broke our heart to take her from that basket, and separate her from her brothers and sisters. She was already 3 months old and had learned from her mother to use the litter box. Cats shouldn’t be separated on purpose from their mums earlier than that, pet shops usually do because their baby faces sell better. – Really a shame, but this is a different matter.

Despite being able to use the litter box, Jule chose to rather use our beds for the next couple of months. – She was just so lonely. Just when we were about to give up, she finally accepted us as our new family.

A couple of days after she arrived at my parent’s house, I left for studying in Göttingen. But I saw a lot of her when I went back home (still frequently at the time), and I used to cat-sit the house for a couple of weeks in the summer, when the rest of my family went for vacation.

She was a kind and patient cat, especially with her family. My youngest sister used to put her into her doll’s pram and walk her around. But she also fierce and independent, partially fed herself through hunting outside, and would not come in for days if we had visitors.
When she got older, she got more easily annoyed, and more demanding of the humans around her. She was becoming a lovely grumpy old lady…

I was not very close to Jule, I never lived with her. But I loved her very much, and she never failed to recognize me, even when she got older and older.
When I brough M. home to introduce him to my family, he didn’t see her for the first couple of times he visited. But in the evenings she would find me when I was on my own and curl up beside me for the exchange of some caresses.

It will be very strange to find her gone when I go there again.

Well, this all kind of spilled out of under my fingers, while I was just going to say Merry Christmas, and Talk to you in the Next Year!
I hope you will find inspiration in this time, whether it be busy, noisy and full of people, or calm and serene and/or lonely. If you celebrate it, I wish you a very merry Christmas. If you don’t, I hope you’ll have something nice to do during these days anyway. And I wish you all a good start into the new year 2015!

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The new kit that I mentioned in the last blogpost contains an awl (so that the leather as well as the paper for the signatures can be punched). And so I ordered and tested a couple to find what I like. This is a selection of what I found this morning in my drawers, old and new.

On the top right are two awls with a wooden handle marked as “leather awls”, and there is another one in the middle , lying below the “Pricknadel”. They all have a long tapered point and a straight shaft. The one with the largest bulb was the most expensive that I bought from a leather supplier but it turns out this is the one I really never use because it is the thickest and I don’t like the feeling of the large handle in my hand. The one beside it with the more slender handle – it might be that I bought it as a bookbinding awl, not as a leather awl, I don’t remember clearly. It is one of the first I bought. The form of the handle is good for me, but the needle comes out at an angle from the handle which makes the whole thing quite awkward to use.

My favorite needle for pre-punching holes in leather for sewing is the “Pricknadel”. Apparently “prickeln” is something that German children do, but not English children. At least I cannot find an appropriate English translation. It works like that: You need a pricking needle, and a piece of a pricking felt which is thick and rather firm. There are pricking stencils being sold a lot, paper pieces with dotted lines on it. You place the paper on the pricking felt and then punch a lot of holes along the lines with your pricking needle. Depening on the template you can use this perforated line as a breaking point for pricking out shapes (like cutting out, just that you used the needle instead) but foremost it is used to created a pattern when seen against a light source. A common technique for lampshades and lanterns. Both, the pricking felt and the pricking needle can be useful for bookbinding.

Pricking needles are cheap and short, I can easily hold the end of the endle against the palm of my hand while holding the tip of the needle between index finger and thumb. This gives very good control over the needle, and I like that!

It is too thick for pre-punching holes in paper, especially if you want to do an exposed binding where blown out holes just don’t look that nice. What I like best for punching holes in signatures is a rig-up that I got to know through Nina Judin in her workshop: Take a screw handle of a paper knife (I used a martor boy handle) and put in a bookbinding needle. – Perfect! There is just nothing more to say about it than that. Perfect in every way. Just make sure you take a quality needle so that it doesn’t bend too easily. (See post about needles.)

The “paper awl” is one of the awls I bought recently while testing material for the kit. It has a short needle at the tip, The handle doubles as needle holder, and the screw off end holds an aid to thread a needle. Strangely, the needles inside all look like sewing needles, and the tip is completely blunt. I guess it is rather a sewing awl than a paper awl. But might be extremely useful as such.

I bought the small leather awl as well for testing and am very pleased with it. I like its size, and it is decently sharp. However, the needle again comes out at a slight angle from the handle which I find annoying.

The engraver’s needle looked very promising but bent on the first trial and wouldn’t punch through paper. – Not suitable.

The beading awl is what I ended up with for the kits for now. One of them is less than a pound. It is not very sharp, but has a sturdy shaft which should work well enough for a couple of holes and paper, although I wouldn’t want to use it to pre-punch a hole pattern for embroidering leather. And it is slim enough to also work for the paper.

By the way, if I want to make a real hole (not just a prick) in the leather, I am using a Japanese screw punch wich is the best I have seen for this job. I tried other hole punches, but… well, maybe that is another story that could be told another time. What kind of awl fo you use?

Oh, and while I am at it, in the last post I said I wanted to make more images of the latest book, the test piece for the kit. Here is one, and more can be seen here. (The link goes to the first photo, and then you can see the “next” by clicking on the arrow that appears when overing to the right of the window.) Still not completely satisfied…
simple leather kit 01 kleiner

Other than that, things are progressing slowly, slowly, slowly. There are some news with the project message in a bottle. I am going to update the blog there when I am done here.

I am still almost finished with 346, and slowly progressing. As you might know by now the book consists of 44 postcards (plus minus one or two, not quite decided yet), one for each day I spent lying flat on my back in hospital three years ago, expecting my twins. While I am working on it, I am seeing connections everywhere. I read “When Women Were Birds” by Terry Tempest Williams and now finished Amanda Palmer’s “The Art of Asking”, and although I do not know yet how and where exactly, probably will have references to both in my finished book. Both just changed my view on this piece and my story too much not to be mentioned. But there is also this announcement by NASA that I found the other week, linked to on facebook. – Interesting. I can tell you how lying in a reclined bed for 42 days feels like. And as I mentioned on facebook: Eating in this position is not as easy as you might think, especially when the food it positioned on a tray above your head so that you have to go try your luck getting it on your fork because you cannot actually see it very well. In the end I even learned to eat soup that way (in the beginning I had it in a beaker cup). But I can tell you, all these are acquired skills.

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