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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The curse of almost finished

a view at my sideboard. Other than usual this time you can even zoom in to see some of what I put into the boxes if you keep clicking on that photo.

a view at my sideboard and a lot of almost finished project (not qute up to date picture). You can zoom in to see some of what I put into the boxes if you keep clicking on that photo, nightmare actually got finished in the meantime

I guess this is something we all know. – Or is that just me? I can gather up quite a force to finish a project. When I see that there is only like 20 hours necessary to finish a project, then I can add a night shift, really focus on a project going without checking email for hours,forget the time and sometimes even forget to eat, I go until I am ALMOST finished. All that is left to do is THIS tiny thing that doesn’t need extra effort. What IS left to do could be: be reading over the text one more time, adding that last image, assembling everything that I cut today, whatever.  The pattern is always the same. After an extra effort and at a moment when I am almost finished, and I feel that what is left can easily be done anytime. And that is the crux – when is “anytime”? It would be tomorrow as planned if there had not come in this urgent order of thread which I promised to post the same day. I say to myself: “It is o.k. to squeeze that extra thing in, I can finish that project anytime.” And then I have this new idea which needs a lof ot thinking and effort and is so much more interesting than performing the finishing touches of that project. And then, slowly, I realize that it has become another abandoned project. I am just not in the flow anymore. What seemed a few boring tasks at the time, a thing just needed to be done, has become a real task again, with thinking involved and getting into needed. And the worst is, when I realize the thing happening again and I still cannot stop it…

With 346 I am not quite down that road yet, and I hope I will be able to still make it. – I am almost finished now, I think, just a weekend maybe of concentrated work…I have admittedly not come any further with the writing of the Coptic binding instructions I was going to write. (My motivation to do so vaned with the recent VAT changes in European law regarding ebooks.) In the meantime, however, about 2 weeks ago, I was asked to design a D.I.Z. binding box for a small company (I’ll let you know more, when I know that the deal is on), and I decided to give it a go. – I am almost finished with 346 anyway, so I have the time now, no? I am feeling the curse of almost finished gathering force. Making the boxes in record time, including the writing of a 17 page instruction, the kids and I being sick in the last week (with antibiotics and all), is taking its toll. I am beyond tired.

But I finished the requested 5 sample boxes minutes ago. The printer is spitting out the last copy of the 5 sets of instructions, tools are bought and distributed over 5 boxes, leather cut, templates drawn, a sample book made (to include photos of the making), sketches drawn. Please keep your fingers crossed for me that those who will try it for that company will like it, and they will think their costumers would like it. – I have many more ideas for paper, print, and bookbinding related DIY boxes that I find to hard to do by hand on a 1-1 basis, but which could work great on a bigger scale. I would love to do some idea and design work for them – and they organize the production and distribution. Dreams…

Now I just got to keep the things going and really finish 346. I want to. My body wants me to rest, it says so very clearly. I do not want to go into whiny details of an old lady here. Anyway, tonight I am going to celebrate the finishing of the boxes. The photo below shows the prototype, the first blank book I made in a long while. I love that little thing. It is not fancy, but the leather is great, and it has a great, simple feel about it. Unfortunately it is already late and dark here, and photo, made with the help of flashes doesn’t do it any justice. Will have to try again in the next days.
a book

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Erased – Copy 2 made by me. Making of a parchment folder

How To Make Coptic Headbands by H. Kurzke
You might remember that I was going to post a making of the copy of erased that I bound (and maybe you are surprised by the first image you see here). Please accept my apologies for letting you wait for so long. – And yes, this is that post, it just starts with a side note. My excuse for being slow is the usual: Things have been crazy here in the last week. One of the craziest things is a new EU law that will come into effect on 1st of January 2015. It has passed parliament already a couple of years ago, but I only got aware of it in the past week. And it is absolutely crazy. I will spare you the details, in short it will make selling ebooks to EU member countries that are not my resident country (UK) so unpleasant and inefficient that at this moment I see no other way than disrupting service to these countries from next year on. So if you are somewhere in the EU but outside the UK, and you always wanted to purchase one of my ebooks, now is the time. Here is a link to my Etsy-Shop, where you can now still conveniently grap a copy. And now follows the post you have been waiting for:

Einige von euch haben vielleicht auf diesen Artikel gewartet (und sind jetzt vielleicht überrascht von dem ersten Bild, das hier auftaucht). Meine Entschuldigung dafür, dass ich mal wieder so langsam bin, ist wieder die übliche: Die Dinge haben sich in der letzten Woche mal wieder überschlagen und ich bin einfach zu nichts gekommen. Und ja, das hier ist der Artikel, auf den du gewartet hast, es gibt nur eine aktuelle Ankündigung als Vorlauf. Eines der verrücktesten Dinge der letzten Woche ist ein neues EU-Gesetz, das eigentlich schon vor Jahren beschlossen wurde, aber ich habe erst letzte Woche davon Wind bekommen. Es tritt am 1. Januar 2015 in Kraft und ist einfach total verrückt. Ich möchte dir die Details ersparen. In Kürze: Es macht den Verkauf von Ebooks in EU Mitgliedsstaten außerhalb des Landes in dem ich meinen Geschäftssitz habe (UK) so unattractive, dass ich ab 1. Januar Ebooks nur noch in UK und außerhalb der EU vertreiben werde. Wenn du also in der EU und außerhalb der UK bist, und schon länger mit dem Gedanken gespielt hast, ein ebook von mir zu kaufen ist jetzt der richtige Zeitpunkt gekommen! Hier ist ein Link zu meinen Shop, in dem du zur Zeit noch problemfrei ein Exemplar erwerben kannst. Und nun zum eigentlichen Inhalt dieses Artikels:

Erased - View of the cover

Erased by H. Kurzke

In my last post I already talked a little about the poem itself. For this copy the text was written by hand with rubbing ink on waterford watercolour paper which I gave a thin coating with gesso. (The gesso, by the way, was a bad idea: It looks nice but writing on it with a pen is awful.) The poem was then erased by painting over with gold coloured acrylic paint. The backsides of the pages are covered with an acrylic wash with it deliberately staining the front page, and here and there are golden fingerprints or waterdrops.

It has this atmosphere between precious (the gold) and discarted rubbish (good paper, but looking like rough cut-offs). And I wanted the cover to reflect this by choosing a precious material (well, semi precious) but I wanted it to be not quite there. So I decided to stitch parchment pieces together to use for the cover.

After having decided on a parchment cover, I consulted Monica Lange Berg’s Limp Binding from the Vatican library, remembering that one of the descriped bindings featured a collection of unbound pages. And indeed, accoring to the book, S. Maria in Cosmedin XIII 2 consists of two volumes of loose leaves, each held together with a ribbon, and then both of them held inside a parchment cover with another ribbon. The historic binding has turn-ins with yapp edges and a lining from thick paper or cardboard. I was going for a completely non-adhesive version.

First I made a paper model (can be seen lying to the left in the image below), to get a clear picture of how large a continuous piece of parchment would need to be. Then I sifted through my stashes, arranging this and that on top of the dummy and finally decided on two pieces with a diagonal stitching line across both front and back cover. I chose a black linen thread for the stitching to emphasize the seam. And this is how the result looked like:
Binding of Copy 3 of Erased (or copy 2 depending on how you want to count)

In meinem letzten Artikel habe ich ein schon über das Gedicht Erased gesprochen, und spare mir das deshalb hier. Nur soviel: Der Text ist von Hand in Reibetinte geschrieben und dann mit goldenen Acrylfarben übermalt, hier habe ich damals Bilder von den fertigen Seiten gezeigt. Sie haben für mich diese Atmosphäre irgendwo zwischen wertvoll (repräsentiert durch das Gold) und Abfall (der ausgestrichtene Text, Fingerabdrücke auf den Seiten und Büttenränder, die mal abgeschnitten sind und mal nicht,…). Ich wollte dass auch der Einband irgendwo so dazwischen rangiert. Daher der Gedanke, Pergamentstücke zusammenzunähen und daraus dann einen Pergamenteinband zu machen.

Nachdem ich einmal auf diesen Gedanken gekommen war, habe ich mir Monica Langwe Berg’s Limp Bindings of the Vatican library zur Hand genommen und durchgeschaut. Ich meinte mich zu erinnern, dass darin eine Bindung beschreiben wurde, bei der das Buch aus einer Loseblättersammlung bestand. Und tatsächlich: S. Maria in Cosmedin XIII 2 besteht aus zwei Stapeln aus losen Blättern, die jeweils mit einem Band zusammengehalten werden. Beide werden dann mit einem weiteren Band in ihrem Pergamenteinband gehalten. Bei dem historischen Einband  wurde die Innenseite des Pergaments mit dickem Papier oder dünner Pappe hinterklebt. – Ich dagegen wollte gerne komplett auf Klebstoff verzichten. Auch um den ephemeralen Charakter zu unterstreichen: Es sollte glaubwürdig bleiben, dass sich in dem Umschlag etwas befindet, das verworfen wurde.

Nachdem aber die Grundstruktur klar war, habe ich erstmal ein Papiermodell gemacht (im Bild oben und auch unten gerade so am Bildrand zu sehen), um mir einen Eindruck zu verschaffen, wie groß mein Stück Pergament denn werden soll. Dann habe ich meinen Vorrat durchforstet und Stücke auf dem Modell hin- und hergeschoben. Letztendlich habe ich mich für zwei Stücke entschieden und eine durchgehende Naht, die quer über Vorder- und Rückdeckel laufen würde. Im Bild oben sieht man die zusammengenähten Stücke. Dann wurde beschnitten:
Binding of Copy 3 of Erased (or copy 2 depending on how you want to count)

Above you see the cut version. After deciding where to cut, I first un-did the seam and made a new knot and then cut the parchment. Then the folding started, and the interior ribbon that will hold the package in place is attached with parchment tackets. You can see Monica’s book opened for reference on my working table.

Binding of Copy 3 of Erased (or copy 2 depending on how you want to count)

Oben sieht man wie ich die Kanten schon gefaltet habe. Einige Änderungen habe ich vorgenommen: Zuerst habe ich über die ganze Länge eingeschlagen, aber das ergab ein zu steifes Gelenk am Rücken, und ich habe mich entschieden das Material dort zu entfernen. An den Ecken dagegen habe ich weniger Material als vorgesehen entfernt und mit Tackets aus Leinenzwirn zusammengenäht. Am Rücken ist das Band mit Pergament-Tackets befestigt, das dann die Seiten im Inneren festhält.

So sehen die Tackets am Rücken aus: Ich hoffe, dass das in der Tat “richtige” Pergament-Tackets sind. Ich habe intensiv die Bilder angestarrt, das Material manipuliert, und das hier ist das einzige, was ich dachte, dass es sein könnte. – Hält verblüffend gut!

Ich habe dann länger darüber nachgedacht, ob und wie ich einen Titel auf dem Einband unterbringen soll – und mich dann komplett dagegen entschieden, ganz im Sinne des Titels “erased”.

Mehr Bilder vom fertigen Buch und dem making of gibt es in meinem Photostream bei ipernity. Und für die Zukunft, wenn die Bilder nicht mehr ganz oben im Stream zu sehen sind, gibt es hier einen Link zu dem ersten Bild vom fertigen Buch. Von da aus sollte man sich ganz gut durch alle Bilder durchklicken können.

Danke für dein Interesse!

Binding of Copy 3 of Erased (or copy 2 depending on how you want to count)

Above you see what the spine looks like. I pondered adding a title and my name to the spine or cover but then decided against it. It didn’t seem to fit in the illusion of something that wasn’t meant for keeping.

More photos of the finished book (as well as one more making of) can be found in my photostream on ipernity (and for the future, when they are no longer up on the top of the stream, here is a link to the first photo of the finished book, from there you should be able to navigate through the stream).

Thanks for your interest!


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Erased – first copy finished by Zoran


Book bound by Zoran Vidakovic, Rucni uvez Zoranoske; Photo by Zoran, used with permission

A while ago, in June, I showed you pages that I made for a collaboration with Zoran Vidakovic. Erased is a short text that was erased by painting over in golden acrylics – the ascenders and descenders still peep out, though, making it possible to guess the text. It still can be read completely with some patience and hard staring. The text is self-conscious, “I am a poem, and I am erased”. A declaration of love towards whoever takes the effort of reading follows this entry statement, and it closes with the expression of hope of not being useless, although deleted, with a wish that maybe it is the start of something new and better. – “That would be worth it.” it ends.
It is, with sparse words, an homage to the creative process and a thank-you to all that have the time and set-of-mind to appreciate the not-quite-perfect, not-quite there-yet.


Book bound by Zoran Vidakovic, Rucni uvez Zoranoske; Photo by Zoran, used with permission

Two of the copies were sent to Zoran who was going to bind them. One copy for his travelling exhibition, another copy will be send back to me. The first book (that will remain with him) is now finished. He send me some pictures of his binding, and I wanted to share them with you.

The way he suspended the parchment pages in cardboard frames reminds me of the frames on which parchment is made originally, and I like how the book gains substance throught this process. The letter E for a title is perfect, very similar to my handwriting on the pages, especially on the first of which the title “Erased” is written in such curvy letter.


Book bound by Zoran Vidakovic, Rucni uvez Zoranoske; Photo by Zoran, used with permission

Each book bound is a solution found to a problem, and my solution for this problem would have been very different. That is why I am very happy with this collaboration, because I could not have made this book on my own.

The book will soon join the travelling exhibition organized by Zoran himself. The name of for the show is Multilines, multivoices, shapes and photos (Friendly synergy – artist’s book). Each book is a collaboration of Zoran with a fellow (book) artist. For most he bound the book which features content from someone else, but for some he provided handmade paper or a similar component, and the book was finished by the other artist.
It started in October 2013 in Đurđevac, and is traveling from library to library in Croatia. Today 14/11/2014 is the opening of the 8th exhibition in Petrinja – so if you should be close, visit the library and take a look (and a photo, and show it off!). Click here to go to a gallery of images of the books finished so far.


It just so happens that in the past week(s) I, too, had to solve the same problem: Pretty much from the start, Zoran and I thought, it would be fitting to enter a copy of Erased to the 7th Artist’s Book Triennial Vilnius 2015 with the topic Error {mistake}. But then Zoran had a lot of work thrown at him, and it became clear that Zoran wouldn’t have the books finished in time. – I hardly made it either, with the book finished just in time last Thursday. Initially I wanted to write the text once more, but then (due to lack of time) decided to just rewrite the informational first page and use one of the three copies that remained with me when I first made them.

Erased II

Erased, a second copy made by me

The pages are supposed to look a little rough, not quite there, and I wanted the binding to fit in with that look. This mixture of precious and yet not the best you could get. Another post will follow, with a making off, too, I don’t want to draw all the attention from Zoran’s work.

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needles 01

Well, that was a short break! – I just can’t stay away from blogging, it seems.

Not much has happend since you last heard from me. But I went shopping for needles, and I thought I’d show you what is inside my needle case these days.

The image above shows them all lined up. Not all are in frequent use, but most are. On the top are harness needles, followed by bookbinding needles. (I am going to talk more about them in a minute).The lowest row contains needles I hardly ever use: Those with the yellow eyes are embroidery needles some with sharp, some with blunt tips, an upholstery needle, -The curved needle on top is also an upholstery needle-, and to the right is a leather sewing needle which a triangular shaped tip with three cutting edges along the shaft.

Needles differ in their shape (curved or straight or something in between), in their thickness, length and the shape of the eye, and the shape of the tip.

These are the needles I mostly use:
needles 02

Up until recently I used almost exclusively John James bookbinding needles, just because they were the ones I got hold of and they sounded like the right thing to use. Bookbinding needles are made to punch through paper. The idea is that the bookbinder marks the position of the sewing stations on the outside of the signature and then looking with one eye on the outside, one one the inside, you can actually train yourself to “see” the mark on the inside. It requires some training to be done at sufficient precision and works best when the edges are trimmed afterwards. I learned to pre-punch my signatures later which gives (me) much more precise and desirable results. Pre-punching on the other hand takes more time, which is probably what makes is less desirable for a commercial bookbinder. Well, be that as it may, this is why bookbinding needles have a sharp tip.

Harness needles are made to sew leather in conjunction with a sewing awl. The awl punches the hole through the leather, and the needle passes the thread. Therefore the needle itself doesn’t have to be sharp, and harness needles have a blunt tip. This kind of sewing technique is employed with heavier leather, and pretty much the same size of thread is being used as for bookbinding.

Therefore, using harness needles for bookbinding can be a good idea: If you pre-punch your signatures anyway, there is no need for a sharp needle. On the contrary, a blunt tip helps prevent accidental holes into the paper.

I have been using John James needles since I first started out with bookbinding, some 12 years ago or so. And not a single one broke so far. I am not especially careful with needles, and I use(d) them also for stitching on leather. I read about other binder’s needles breaking and bending frequently, and wondered what I did differently. Mostly I though they were just binding more. But I do use them up. They do bend a little over time and when they are not completely straight I find them irksome to use. Also I am loosing them frequently.
Just last week I noticed I was down to 6 needles or so, so it was time to buy a new packet. I found a seller on ebay who claimed to sell John James, but not in original packaging (“because I buy in bulk and sell them on in smaller batches”). I had no problem with that – it was not even as if I had been looking for John James specifically. But when they reached me, they were smaller and thinner. And when I asked him directly, he admitted they are not original John James, because he was able to secure those cheaper ones. Aha. It turns out they are bent after first usage. So now I have discovered that it does pay to invest in quality when it comes to sewing needles, and at the same time, understood that I am not doing anything different from other binders – I just happened to have good needles.

I found someone who does sell the original John James in the meantime. While searching for them, I found vendors who carry John James harness needles, and I thought I’d give them a try, too. After reading a bit, I decided 1/0 was the size to try. I bought “John James size 1 harness needles”, which turned out, when they reached me, to be size 002. The vendor claimed 001, 002, and 003 were all the same size, and “size 1″ always meant 001, or 002, or 003. Probably my mistake, but who came up with numbers 001 and 1/0 being used at the same time for almost the same needle?! In any case it was a lucky mistake: I love them! Numbers 1/0 and 2/0 which I also acquired are longer and thicker. All will have their use I guess. I was surprised and pleast that the small 002 needle holds NeL 18/3 thread with ease, better than the No. 18 bookbinding needles.
At the moment I am using the harness needles not for bookbinding but for sewing leather just like they are meant to. And it makes such a big difference! Up until now I have been using bookbinding needles for all leather sewing. That works well enough, but using the harness needles is much more comfortable!

Limp Leather Binding Kit

This is the kind of leather sewing I am currently making. – This one was still done with a bookbinder’s needle, though.

For some binding styles, straight needles won’t do, for example when incorporating a concertina into a Coptic binding. Some people prefer curved needles for all Coptic sewing. There are special curved bookbinding needles available, and I only used them once when attending a workshop where the teacher provided them. In the picture below you will see a curved upholstery needle which I never used for bookbinding; I just put it there for comparisson. I find the curved needles hard to use, they tend to twist and turn in my fingers while I try to use them. Early on I bent some needles to use them for this kind of job:
needles 04

These are the exact same needles I bent in 2008 for the first time. (Just to mention again that good needles last for a long time and are worth the extra penny.) It is really easy to do. You just need two pairs of tongs and a flame, for example from a gas lighter. Heat a point about 1/3 the length of the needle from the tip, and when it is glowing red bend the tip over to about or a little less than 45 degrees. It will cool down really quickly and is then ready to use.
needles 03

In the photo above you see an assortment of other needles. I bought the embroidery needles when I needed larger eyes for lacing in for a custom work about one and a half years ago (the last work I did in Germany), needed them immediately (no time to wait for a delivery to arrive), and the only needles I could find in a brick and mortar shop nearby were these. They served me well. I particularly like the ones with the blunt tip. I wouldn’t recommend them for sewing pages, though, since they slightly blulge at the eye and therefore make bigger holes in the paper than necessary – which is bad for long-term (or even mid-term) stability and doesn’t look nice when doing a visible spine binding.

The two needles in the middle, with the larger eyes are upholstery needles. They, too, have seen some use for lacing in, especially the larger one because it has such a nice long eye. – But they are unsuitable for sewing paper.
Further to the right is a leather sewing needle. I find it very interesting, unfortunately this is the only one in a set that I have left. I had a whole collection of these from very thin ones to this big version. They all have a triangular crosssection with sharp edges that can cut through leather – and therefore also through the skin of your fingers, so be careful! But they definitely were something special and had their use when sewing thinner leather. It was possible to sew it without prepunching with these needles. I will have to look for more of those in the future!

I hope that raised some interest in going to look around for more needles. Happy needle hunting!

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Blog on Vacation Mode

blog 01

found this in my studio today. It is not something I am actively workign on, but liked the picture.

Sigh, I have updated this blog software to version 4.0 and like others, too, I have difficulties uploading photos and other media to the blog now. At the same time I am really busy with my current projects (346 and a new instruction). And there is not so awfully much to share at this stage.
So, I am going to take a brief abscence from blogging. I started my first blog in May 2008 and I have been writing fairly regularly since then. But recently it seems to take an extra effort to sit down and publish something, and what then comes out from under my hands does not even seem inspired to myself. – I am not going to abandon this blog. I doubt that I could even if I now decided to (I’m an addict!). But maybe a little vacation would do me and this blog good. If you are still interested in my work and the progress of this new book, I would be very happy if you followed my facebook page. I do plan to give updates there every now and then.  – And in a few weeks or month, or maybe even days, I will be back with new esprit and hopefully something to say.

blog 02

what I have been doing today: working on a new book’s cover.

Seufz, ich habe die Software für diesen Blog auf Version 4.0 ge-updatet, und jetzt kann ich wie andere auch keine Bilder mehr hochladen. Das ist frustrierend, und zur gleichen Zeit habe ich ziemlich vir anderes zu tun, um mit meinen beiden Projekten (346 und der neuen Anleitung für eine koptische Bindungsvariante auf deutsch) voranzukommen. – Und so richtig viel darüber zu erzählen gibt es gar nicht. Daher mache ich wohl mal eine kleine Blogpause. Ich habe seit Mai 2008 regelmäßig gebloggt, und das sehr gerne. Aber in letzter Zeit merke ich, dass ich mich immer ein bisschen treten muss, um überhaupt was zu schreiben – und auf deutsch ja auch schon (aus genau dem Grund) nicht mehr so viel. Da ist eine kleine Pause vielleicht genau das Richtige. In der Zwischenzeit müsst ihr aber auf kurze Updates aus meinem Buchbindestudio nicht verzichten. Denn meine Facebook-Seite werde ich weiter benutzen. Also dann, bis nach dem Urlaub, in einigen Wochen oder vielleicht auch erst Monaten, aber wer weiß, vielleicht auch schon in ein paar Tagen. Wenn mich der Drang zum Schreiben halt wieder überkommt…

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September so far

a pile of stones which I especially liked and therefore also took a photo of

The good news is that thread sales in September were really good so far. I have been doing this for a while, and I should get used to the sales being low during the summer, when everyone is enjoying time outside in the sun rather than inside sewing books and leather goods. But I am always relieved to see sales spike again when in September people begin to think about preparing for the Christmas season. The downside of flourishing thread sales is of course a lack of time for other things than measuring and packing thread. Which is meant to be an excuse for the lack of new work being shown on this blog in recent weeks.

But I have been able to spent some time in the studio and have a little thing to show you: Since a couple of days now I have started a new habit of beginning a studio day with stacking some of my beach finds, and making a quick sketch. It all began with three messages in bottles that had such covers. (If you want to see them, click here, here, and here for the three bottles.). I like this self-imposed small task: Often I am not completely convinced by the outcome, but I can always blame the fact that it is supposed to be a quick sketch and not something time and energy consuming, so I can always tell myself that I could have done better with more time. And overall I very much enjoy this little thing and the look of what comes out of it. Some if its attraction also stems from that is not supposed to really go anywhere, and therefore is not something that needs to get finished.

one of my sketches

Other than that I feel a little worn thin at the moment. We have had 2 weeks now with all 4 of us taking turns on being sick. Last Sunday it was my turn. However, I also had thread to ship, so I kept working until I really just couldn’t anymore. That evening I was absolutely drained. Next day I felt better, however, dear husband was badly hit so I was back at the front line. Luckily little boy could go back to nursery. (He had been sick the week before.) But little girl had three things at a time: the virus we were all suffering from, a skin infection at her back which must have been itching like crazy, and she was feeling nauseous and had a loose nappy. And I can tell you, a kid with a nappy flowing over with poo is hard to clean when the kid is squirming madly when on her back because it itches too badly. Things were uggly, I better leave it at that and do not paint you a more detailed picture; probably that was more than you wanted to know anyway…

But, today they are both in nursery, M. in his office. I started work on a new instruction, and the first illustration (to be used in the introduction) is currently being finished on my table. So, everything seems back to normal now.

a chain stitch

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346 first prop finished, look what I had in the mail, and Nachtmahr Box Part II

346, artist book by H. Kurzke

346 – first trial

I finished a first copy of 346 almost two weeks ago. Procastinating the blog post about the Nachtmahr box that I still owe to you, I never wrote about it. But I want to show it to you, and thought I’d better do it now. This book is / will be in the form of a box with a pile of postcards in it, one card for each day I spent in hospital before and after my children were born in 2011. It is the most personal book I have made so far, and that makes me a little insecure. The front pages of the cards are much like each other, representing the monotony of staying 7 weeks flat in a hospital bed. The backsides of the cards show pages from my visual diary (I tried to keep up with  one-drawing-a-day) and sometimes updates in writing about what was going on.

This first mastercopy contains photographic prints, and scanned and cut out pieces all glued together on cardstock. For the edition, I am now making these into digital images, to then order them as printed postcards. For the first 10 or 20 copies I thought of including one of those little plastic containers and latex glove like they can be seen in the photos. But I am still not sure a) how to include it and b) whether that would just be gross.

stamps and stamp print from Ellen Golla

gift from Ellen Golla

And look what I found in my mailbox, also about two weeks ago: Stamps and stamp prints from Ellen Golla from Zebra Crossing Picture Factory. She had this fun idea of scanning stamps and then printing them enlarged. And now I have one in my studio decorating an otherwise white wall. Thank you very much, Ellen. Along with the gift she sent a bag of stamps, and I am torn between the desire of sorting them and putting them neatly into bags and folders, and using them somehow. There are a lot of different, interesting stamps in there: Some with foreign writing,

some representing crafts like photography and even bookbinding,

and of course a good selection of cats.

Well, and now I finally owe your the last bit of the Nightmare story. When I began to write my last blog post, I already started off with how hard I found it to write about the backstory of my Nachtmahr Boxes. Since then I had several goes at writing the story, taking turns in crossing out large sections and later adding them again. It really seemed like an interesting story at the time, but somehow the words just won’t come out from my hands in an entertaining way.

So I decided to just give you a short version just to get you off that cliff you are still cinging to, maybe.

Nachtmahr aus der Tiefe der Zeit by H. Kurzke

my second go at an artist book at all: “Nachtmahr aus der Tiefe der Zeit” i.e. “Nightmare from the depth of time”. It had a collection of different poems, with cut out pages, such that different things from before pages were readable as well – as for example the title. One of the poems is the spell against nightmare

A spell against Nachtmahr is quite commonly known in a modern German version from “Deutsche Gedichte” published at Insel Bücherei, editor was Hans-Joachim Simm.

I have known it since mhm, probably 2003. When I started my phd studies in Leipzig, I was faced for the second time in my life with studying just one subject from morning until night. And just like the first time, I couldn’t stand it. The first time I changed my subject of study (from physics to math and theology), this time I started to buy poetry books, old classic collections as well as contemporary anthologies and some poetry books from authors I especially liked. And then I started each morning with a poem (and spent an awful lot of time each day sneaking a look for “just one more” when I really should be working on a proof or an excercise).
The first book I bought was said cheap but thick “Deutsche Gedichte”, and the spell against Nightmare can be found on page 15.- I didn’t take me long to discover it.

nachtmahr in Deutsche Gedichte, Insel Verlag, ed. Simm

Nachtmahr in Deutsche Gedichte, Insel Verlag, ed. Simm

I have used the spell a couple of times before, but only privately. The first time I ever used it was when I had borrowed a book from a fellow student and office mate (I didn’t know then that he would become my husband one time) and hid a bookmark in the book when I gave it back to him, with some drawings and the spell written on it. Maybe I’ll be able to show a photo some time later, unfortunately right now it is in his office across town.

As you can see in the photo, it says the spell is from the 10th century, and up until recently I had no reason questioned that. But when I decided to make an edition using that poem, I took a closer look. The poem itself would be old, and therefore would be in the public domain. However, who-ever translated it, would have a copyright on the translation. Therefore I wanted either to find out who translated it to gain permission to use it. Or even better, find the original. I thought, the original might even be more interesting to use, and  I wondered how it might have sounded. – 10th century German was nothing like modern German at all.

Strangely enough, a transcription of the original was not included in the book (in contrast to other pieces from that time). I (still) did not think much of it, and followed the reference that was given in the book. However, it turned out that the poem was not dated in that source, and it was also only in modern German. And not only was it not dated, it said, it was a “modern spell in old style”. – That didn’t sound like 10th century at all.

Nachtmahr in Friedrich von der Leyen

Nachtmahr in Friedrich von der Leyen

Well, so I followed his reference… In the end I found a version that looks and sounds like it could be an original prior version of that Nachtmahr poem of which the author claims he has heard it orally. But it does not sound like it was from the 10th century. Unfortunately I couldn’t find out, where either of the two versions might have come from since this latest source did not give any specific reference at all.

And with that I was at an end with my wits, and just didn’t know how to proceed methodically. My only idea so far had been to follow the references, but lacking one, what should I do? I wrote to my father in law, who is a German literature professor (even though this is not part of his field of expertise), asking very generally how he would recommend to proceed. He thought the question interesting, and asked a collegue. Who didn’t know the answer, but found it interesting and asked a collegue… In the end three German professors and their students who were put to the problem couldn’t find the answer. One of them then wrote to the above mentioned editor Simm, and he said he relied on others and their sources when dating it (apparently the one I showed you, which doesn’t date the poem at all, and on the contrary, raises doubts about the given date more than supports it).

Thinking about a problem and then ask a collegue who let her students check all the general references (mostly articles in journal to which I had no access) and digg through libraries for other sources, order something from a library abroad; this all takes time, and before I received this final answer, I had already decided to use the other, shorter version which I was able to find. While most certainly not from the 10th century, at least it is in its original dialect. All research that has been conducted did not yield one original source for any such spell against the nightmare, and it remains unknown from when they might stem.

I am deeply dissappointed by this occurrence, I must say. Insel is an established publishing house, Simm seems to be generally considered a good editor. Still it seems a pretty obvious mistake that should have been discovered upon a simple check. This book probably even gets used in schools…

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Nachtmahr Box

Johann Heinrich Füssli 053

Johann Heinrich Füssli “Nachtmahr”, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 Yay! I finally finished this edition of 12 Nachtmahr Boxes. And so here comes the Nachtmahr Box story as promised. There were several reasons why I pushed off from writing this blogpost again and again. For one, it is a little longish and complicated story. Unfortunately, delaying writing about it, doesn’t necessary make it easier.

So, let me start easy: What does “Nachtmahr Box” mean? Well, first of all this book is in the form of an altered matchbox, which accounts for “box”. Nachtmahr is the German name both for nightmare (a little oldfashioned word to use, though) and for the creature that is thought to cause nightmares by sitting on its victim’s chest.

nachtmahr box by H. Kurzke

Nachtmahr Box 4/12

The boxes are painted with black gesso and red acrylic paint. A figure, scanned, from Androvani’s Monstrorum Historia from 1642 (available for example through Paul K. – thank you!), modified, and cut-out, adorns the front. Inside the drawer you will find a selection of found objects: a piece of wood, a spade of grass, a dried leaf, a cherry stone, a piece of copper, and varying additions that differ from box to box: stones, glass pieces, a button, … On the inside of the box is a pencil drawing, showing a waning moon, shining over a grass plain (in the background there is a lake which is more or less apparent for different boxes) and a tree with all its leaves laid out in a pattern around it. – Plus the edition number and my signature. Once you emptied the box, you will find that on the backside of the drawer, a spell is written:

Nachtmahr Box 9/12 by H. Kurzke

Nachtmahr Box 9/12 – showing the spell

Nachtmahr, du lällek Dier,
komm van dese Nacht niet hier
Alle Water söllt gej waaije,
Alle Boome söllt gej blaaije,
Alle Spille Gras söj telle,
Komm mej vanne Nacht niet kwelle.

This is German, Rhineland dialect to be precise. From when the spell originates is unknown. And there lies – maybe that is a surprise – a long story. Well, let me first talk a little more about the book that is finished, before I dwelve into the genesis and research preceeding this book.

The following is a rough translation. The original German rhymes and has better rhythm than what I can immitate with English words. – I am not good at translating poems:

Nightmare you evil creature
don’t come here tonight.
All waters you shall wade,
All trees you shall de-leaf,
All spades of grass you shall count,
don’t come torturing me in the night.

And this should explain the presence of wood, leaf and grass in the box. All items in there were found in our garden and the immediate sourroundings, – though not completely on chance, I took my family on nightmare-box-completion-walks a couple of times during these past weeks.
The box and the objects can be used to put up an installation against nightmare on your nightstand, facing away from you (and toward the potential nightmare) as a last barrier before he can come to you. The spell on the back of the box can then be read and recited while lying in bed.

Nachtmahr Box 9/12 by H. Kurzke

Nachtmahr Box 9/12 – sample installation

The copper bits lay in dozens along our road. I can only suspect that they were some kind of clamps, used for some cable works, maybe? I found it wonderful how they glimmered in the summer sun and felt almost too hot to pick them up from the heat… I have chosen the specific objects to go into the boxes because I found them beautiful, because I felt they fit within the atmosphere I wanted to create, because I felt a connection somehow, and because I could give a meaning to them in this context. But you are invited to find your own meanings, use just some or all for your installation, or maybe add objects of your own.

Nachtmahr Box No. 9/12, Hilke Kurzke

Nachtmahr Box No. 9/12 – closed with scroll

The box is accompanied by a parchment scroll. This scroll merely contains information about the text and the image used on the box. But I used real parchment and bone beads so that it would fit in theme with the box, and if desired it could be part of the installation, too.

Well, so here comes the background story about the text. It is a bit of a science thriller, or at least it appeared so to me, while it was going on:

I hope this is a good cliffhanger, because it got so late while writing this, that I  just cannot continue right now. And the blog post is quite long already… I am planning to continue the story soon.

nachtmahr box by H. Kurzke

Nachtmahr Box 5/12 – sample installation

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