While I was on my trip South a few weeks ago I bought myself a new book (a rare event). It is the Penland Book of Handmade Books and it cost way more than I can afford but I had to have it and so I do. But strangely, I came home, put it on the shelf and didn't look at it for three weeks.
Why? Well, for a start I am world class at delayed gratification (watch me NOT unwrap the present for hours or days or weeks). Also I had a ton of orders to fill, so I was in production mode and couldn't afford to get to excited about designing new books. But most of the orders are filled now, and the itch to make new books has been begging to be scratched. I spent the weekend noodling around with interesting ideas for content... turning into unsatisfying structures. And then I remembered my new book.
It's big, it's glossy and hardbacked, it's chock full of incredible, beautiful photographs of artist's books. It has interesting essays by ten different expert book artists, each of whom demonstrates a representative technique (this is not a book for beginners). And from the moment I pulled it off the shelf and slowly, respectfully opened it up, I have been on a crazy ride.
First I had a crisis of confidence- these guys are sooooo good, who am I trying to kid with my feeble efforts. Then I started getting excited by all the new ideas bouncing out of the pages. Then I followed Heidi Kyle's step-by-step instructions (she is famous for folding single sheets of paper into elaborate elegant books). Then I looked at the time and thought I better go to bed. But I just lay there imaging where I could take the Heidi Kyle structure and eventually dreamed about making books and then couldn't be bothered staying in bed any longer (it was almost dawn) so got up and started experimenting.
I've been in a frenzy of folding and cutting and glueing and sewing as I spiral outwards from the first model- following interweaving paths of content and structure, butting up against the boundaries of (wailing begins not having the right kind of paper and tools so having to make do with what I can find in my stash. Here I am 30 kilometers from the Stationery Warehouse- not good enough!- which is the best on offer in the arts supply wasteland that is Whangarei and while I've been mail-ordering up a storm, rural delivery is unbearably slow wailing ends) . So inevitably, I am having to be more creative, not less, because 3 out of 4 ideas I've come up with in the whirlwind of the the last 48 hours have been blocked by logistics, sending me galloping off in another direction.
And while my studio is starting to silt up with intricately folded paper and interesting cardboard cutouts in the pursuit of the new, I am also looking at my current work with fresh eyes, suddenly seeing new ways through some sticky technical production problems.
I've been feeling the need for a book artist-mentor or teacher who can critique my work in a constructive, challenging way. This book, subtitled Master Classes inBookmaking Techniques goes some way towards giving me the expert push I need. I'm not sure where my new work is going to take me, but I'm enjoying the ride. Yee ha!