Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Collaborating on a commissioned edition

I met Alan Deare and Katie Pervan when they introduced themselves to me after my Pecha Kucha presentation talk a few months ago. I realised that I've been a fan of Alan's book designs for a long time. I have a small, treasured, collection of the exciting, bold, catalogues he designs for Objectspace gallery in Auckland. That first conversation among the hubbub of Pecha Kucha included a throwaway exchange that it might be nice to work together someday.

That was the seed recently fertilized by a rain of synchronistic co-incidences and small city networks, that led to us collaborating on a limited edition contemporary art binding for Megan Lyon's history of the Waikato Society of Arts. The edition of 100, completed yesterday, involved an intense three day working bee in Alan and Katie's garage.

The view from the garage

We started on Saturday morning by admiring our pretty packages of printed material before we opened the packet of creamy cover sheets and started on the most complicated and time consuming part of the assembly process. It involved two very long folds and seven shorter ones, most of which had to be creased twice. The long folds were physically demanding, and gave me more papercuts than I have sustained in my entire bookarts career to date. There were also 24 separate nicks to be cut by hand, but no one was hurt doing that task.

Alan in the background doing short folds, foreground is spines of some completed books

As usual, the really laborious effort in a handmade book goes into the bits that will be unseen and unappreciated by almost everybody. If you buy a copy, you can carefully open the tab holding the wrapped cover closed, and see incredible handwork hidden within.

The infamous long fold in action

Neither Alan nor Katie had made any books by hand before yet they both picked up the techniques very quickly, doing a wonderful job. It wasn't long before I remembered that every time I edition a book I question my own sanity. This was no exception, but with such good company sharing the work, the craziness was dilluted a little. We also enjoyed lots of visitors, as a trickle of friends and clients dropped by to check out the handmade book action as it (un)folded. It was quite a contrast to my usual isolated work space, and good preparation for taking up my Writer-in-Residence studio at Hamilton Girls High next week.

Katie making 24 separate cuts per cover.

The book blocks were much simpler than the covers, as they pretty much came already collated from the printer. We just had to put two folds in the long pink page, and then wrap it around the creamy main text block.

Book blocks stacked up waiting to have their spines pierced for sewing into covers.

On Sunday we were ready to start my favourite part, sewing up the books. Katie and I spent many pleasant hours chatting and sewing alongside cups of herbal tea. I feel I've bonded a great new buddy: yoga teacher, dancer, caterer, and emerging zine/book/magazine editor. Katie generously fed me through the whole working bee, conjuring up meals and snacks as healthy and colourful as they were delicious.

That afternoon we had to vacate the garage so that Alan, Sten and Tom could have a music practice. We moved one of the work tables to the deck, and together stitched through most of the rest of the edition to the accompaniment of live music. Unfortunately the wind kicked up, and we had to weigh down all our stacks of paper, or they'd go flying off across the lawn.

Stitching book block into the cover.

The magenta and cream colour scheme was very soothing to work with. We matched the paper wrap, the title and some text and the thread in the same shade of smoker-lolly pink. It reminds me of my first big embroidery project in Standard Three: an ambitious, and ultimately abandoned, cross stitch in similar colours (if I recall correctly, it was of magnolia flowers).

Tying the knot (can you see all the papercuts on top of my right thumb?)

Although we had optimistically hoped to finish the edition in the weekend, there was still about a quarter of the books left to make on Monday. Both Katy and Alan had other work to do, so I got into my solitary work groove and pushed through to 100. It wasn't really solitary though, as Alan's office is in the garage and he kept coming out to show me another wonderful art book he thought I would appreciate.

Moves Afoot: A supplementary history of the Waikato Society of Arts 1983-2009 will be launched tomorrow evening at the WSA's 75th Anniversary Banquet. Copies of the book can be purchased by contacting the secretary at WSA. The limited edition of 100 is numbered and signed by myself, Alan Deare and the author, Megan Lyon.



Lou said...

Very pretty, I want one!
Does it have Grandma in it?

Also, if I ahd a camera I would send you pictures of the magnolia tree in the front yard next to mine. It's a terrace house so it's practically my front yard, and there are petals on my doorstep in the mornings.

Anonymous said...

Marathon Effort and, as always, so well documented ;-)

Bronwyn Lloyd said...

What an epic job - well done to all three of you. The book looks gorgeous. I had the pleasure of meeting Alan and Katie recently too, and I thought they were a lovely, talented and inspiring couple. Look after those paper cuts - ouch!

Carol said...

Great effort and a really nice binding.

Tim Jones said...

Amazing! And I don't think we'll ever see anyone do that with an e-book.