I am currently making a Carolingian binding, a work which has in a few days time reached many newly found planes of self-torture. While this early Medieval structure is rather easy to understand and should be delightful to work on, almost everything has gone wrong with the book itself. I shall write more about it some time later, but because I rarely complain about things in this blog I’d like to have a moment for it:
- The boards were never quite the size they were supposed to be and for some reason I didn’t double-check, which means I cut the pages a few millimeters too small. I couldn’t find other paper that would have suited my needs, so I was stuck with two dozen too small sections.
- Also, I didn’t know what to take with me so on the first day of the class I had to constantly borrow materials and tools that I wasn’t familiar working with. I rarely borrow materials because I don’t know how to use things that everyone else in the world is accustomed to. For the sake of everyone’s convenience, I shall never do this again.
- The cords that I chose for sewing supports were just a bit too too thick and stiff to handle and to lace in. The other option was to use cord that was a bit too thin, but in retrospect it would have been a thousand times better than the one I ended up using. Somehow, materials still matter a lot when you’re trying to learn something.
- I had lost my knife, too. What kind of person loses his knife?
- I had to go do my Other Work™ yesterday, so I fell behind and missed some information on the headband, which is really quite simple too, but I wanted to improvise on it and ended up making three awful looking headbands, one of which I cut off. The other two were sewn with coloured waxed thread, which was great at first but by the time I was halfway done looked like a hideous mess. Never going to do that again, either.
- I couldn’t find the right kind of leather: I didn’t have bookcalf so I settled on some brick orange goatskin, the colour of which was somehow revolting even before the covering, and even more so after. Some sick fine binder part of me also wanted to aggressively pare it all the time which caused much agony.
The Book of Objects
A while ago I began a project of documenting all my belongings in the form of ink drawings. You might call it somewhat ambitious. I thought I’d draw them all in a book, or maybe a few books, so I chose one that I had made in a summer class taught by Tiina Piisang in 2012 as a fine binding practise. This was originally an idea by S of which I got very enthused about, maybe because I’m both a lover of objects and a lover of simplicity and I’d like to cope better with my lifestyle. This project began as something fun, drawing-wise, to feed my lack of imagination and to keep me drawing something whenever I don’t have anything else to do, and then eventually became a part of a more philosophical process.
I began drawing what is closest to me, which is my desk and the small objects in and on it. I seem to draw the objects in loose groups structured around the appearance, use and location of them. I have now produced two pagefuls of ink bottles and one page of various glues and lacquer bottles. This project is particularly interesting because it teaches me to appreciate even the most mundane objects around me and see them anew; In a way it is a practise in mindfulness, which to me is the essence of everything - especially the creative process - and produces great delight.
I have never before realised that many of my seemingly similar ink bottles from the same manufacturer vary so much in small details such as the cap design or smudges that they have accumulated in use. On the other hand I can also already see myself just throwing and giving things away so that I won’t have to draw them, which, too, will probably come handy.
This book is The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric; I’m removing the old glue and whatnot with the aid of paste bath. The hideous cardstock back piece was also stuck so tight that I couldn’t scrape it off. Ha! I have only now started with this book so I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it yet, other than dismantle it a bit.
Very basic learnings on leather bookbinding
During the past sixteen months (yes, I am that slow) or so, I have been randomly working on this book which is Out of Africa by Karen Blixen. As a child I used to press oak and brittle willow leaves in it, of which I found several when I took this out of the shelf. This book is above all a practise piece that I keep completing whenever I don’t have anything else to do. It has a splitboard cover and double French headbands. I have sanded the dyed edge in order to give it a worn out, old look.
There are some things that I have learnt from making this simple book:
I still need to learn to plan ahead. I have chosen the stupidest endpapers for this book. They matched with my original idea and they still look lovely with the edge colour, but they don’t fit with my much developed cover design. I must somehow accommodate those two in the same book and it will be boring and problematic.
Structure-wise, there must be no excuses. The book block with its cover boards and spine reinforcement must be pristine, with no bumps or suspicious looking ridges you’d think will “get hidden anyway” under the leather. They won’t. No little miscalculations and hasty glueing (I’m very prone to this. “Well, there’s a gap here but it’s only a half a millimeter, let’s just leave it like that and let’s not tell anyone”). It will all show and it will look terrible, and you will regret it. The book must be prepped as neatly as possible, its cover a solid surface for the leather.
The leather must be evenly pared, with absolutely no ridges or slits anywhere, not even small ones. They will ALL show, and you will already regret it when you are pasting the leather before covering the book. It’s interesting how you keep getting told this, but it never truly sinks in before you try all the shortcuts. The book is a delight to work on only when you make mindful and solid preparations. When working with leather this is especially important.