Lessons from PBI – one

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Paper and Book Intensive was, well, hard to put into words. But now I am finally back at work in the studio I am beginning to find how being able to attend is shaping my work and my attitudes to that work. One of the really amazing things for me was the materials, I had never worked with leather or vellum, and the tools (all these things I never even knew I needed!) I really loved making the vellum bindings in Adam’s class, but I was a bit disappointed to get home and realize how expensive it is, and that I am not likely to be making many books using it in my studio anytime soon. So I had to move on and figure out how to use what I do have on hand, after all one of the reasons I first started making books in the first place was out of a desire to be a little more green in the studio, and recycle where/when ever I could. The medieval monks often recycled vellum for covers for new books, so making a recycled cover feels OK, close to the tradition. I had this great printed paper wrap I salvaged from the bin at the print shop. It has once contained digital paper for printing and has mohawk printed all over.

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This kind of paper wrap has a moisture proof liner, so I thought it might make a sturdy protector for a book, and the print was cool! I began by cutting off all the tattered edges and cutting it down to be 18 inches wide by however long the sheet was. I folded it into thirds and laminated (glued) it down, so I ended up with a 3 ply piece which is quite sturdy.

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I used this in place of the vellum we used in class and tried both a long (pictured at the beginning of the post) and a link stitch versions. Both these bindings are in very widespread use, but I had never been able to figure them out by myself using my Keith Smith book, I was confused by the fact that the first two signatures are not sewn into the spine right away. Once I saw Adam demonstrate the bindings I “got it”.

Those medieval monks were really amazingly clever, there is only one set of holes on the spine for every two signatures – the pages all nestle tightly together because of this economy (and of course it is less prep work too). I am still punching my signatures with an awl, but plenty of people in class at PBI just slashed their sewing stations with a a scalpel or knife. I keep trying, but even when I think I am cutting too deeply I am still not going all the way through to the middle. I need to keep practising as this would save me time in the studio, and perhaps if I can devise a substitute for a press to hold the paper steady I can be braver with the slashing! Many of the medieval signatures have a notch rather than a hole, and actually I think this would make sewing the final signatures in place easier.

Because I like books with pockets I added a pocket to the front covers, and of course I couldn’t resist sewing on the covers either. I really love to make something both beautiful and utilitarian from things that would usually end up in the rubbish. I like how these turned out, although they don’t have the fabulous feel of the vellum, or the sense of preciousness that the material gives the books I made at PBI, but the size is nice and they are practical blank journals that I hope someone will enjoy using in their daily life.

I am excited to work through all the variations of link/long stitch bindings and add them to my options in the studio.

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