Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Learning to make books

Foredge bound book using monoprints (by Martha Simms) on heavy paper

When I was first learning to make books I learned each new kind of technique in the process of making a book I cared about: one that I wanted to show or give or sell. Relatively few of the books I've made have been blank because in general I am most interested in how to construct a book to enhance or complement the content (usually one of my poems).

Labyrinth book with separate board covers covered with painted paper (painting and book made by Adrienne Grant)

I mostly followed the directions in books like Alisa Golden's excellent Making Handmade Books. I picked up a few techniques off the internet, and a few from attending short workshops. The things that I value most from workshops have been almost incidental to the teacher's curriculum. The point of the workshops were to make a particular book, with a structure that I've never, or rarely, used again. But from my teachers I also learned how to find paper grain, measure accurately, fold crisply and cut cleanly. I learned when to use glue or paste, how to apply them properly and how to sew through paper. These basic book-craft skills have been the most valuable to me as they are the building blocks of my artistic practice continuously applied to many and diverse projects.

Pamphlet stitch with wrapped covers (from letterpress paper)

Now that I am preparing to teach a couple of bookmaking courses I am thinking a lot about how I learned what I do. I want to equip my students with confidence in all these basic skills, experience with making a variety of types of book structures (including the books shown here), and an understanding of how to combine different techniques to design and create their own unique and expressive handmade books. Everything I'm planning to teach can be applied to their projects at home with inexpensive and accessible tools and materials.

Flag structure made with old calendar pages and painted paper

I'm teaching two five week courses.* The Tuesday evening class will learn and practice these skills by making lots of little books, with relatively simple but increasingly challenging structures. The Thursday morning class will learn the same basic techniques but will work towards applying them in one larger and more substantial coptic bound book.

Coptic binding with separate board covers

The first book my students will make is one I have written especially for them called Basic Book Craft Skills. Students will get the printed sheets to make up as part of their first class. It's only 16 little A6 pages, more of a zine than a book really, but it summarises some of the most basic skills needed to make any kind of book.


If you can't enroll in my classes but would like a copy of Basic Book Craft Skills (pamphlet stitched by me) for yourself, you can buy one on Etsy $2 (+shipping).

*Both classes will be held at the WSA Art School, upstairs at Arts Post on Victoria Street, Hamilton. The cost is $75 (or $60 for WSA members). Contact WSA for more details or to enroll.

3 comments:

E said...

I'm so jealous!!

Kay said...

They are very lucky studetns. I love my coptic bound book!

Lou said...

Cute pamphlet