Sunday, May 25, 2008

Flea Market Find

Today was flea market day in town, and I decided, on a whim, to take a look around.

I found this photo album. I spied it in a box, leafed through it, then plucked up courage to ask the guy what kind of price he had in mind. I expected him to ask around €40, which I didn't have on me and wouldn't have been able to spend in any case. Then he said "before it falls apart completely, how about five (euros)?" Stunned, I stuffed the bill in his hand, picked up the album and walked away, inwardly squealing with delight.

The album is genuine vintage (Art Nouveau), probably 90-100 years old, and it is around one third full of cabinet cards and photos, most of which date circa 1900-1920. The cover is green velvet with metal art nouveau ornaments attached. Someone has tried, badly, to replace the original closure, only half of which is still attached, so I may decide to do something about mending that. The album is hand-bound and gilded. As a hobby bookbinder, I really appreciate the style and quality of this binding, which, in contrast to what the seller said, is fully intact and in anything other than a delicate condition. The only damage is to some of the pages, where photos have been pulled out of the niches over the years.

When time allows, I'll scan the cabinet cards and upload them as blog freebies. I've been meaning to scan my entire cabinet card collection for this, actually.


This weekend I had one of those oh-so-simple ideas that leave you wondering why it took you so long to tumble to it. I've been painting lots of small wooden buttons and feet, and until yesterday, it was fiddly and annoying, and then the light went on!

I took a bamboo chopstick with flat sides, ran a strip of narrow double sided sticky tape along one of the sides, then stuck the buttons onto the tape. Painting was a breeze after that. I can now paint the entire surface in one go, with no paint smeared fingers or blemishes on the material. Once the objects are dry, I peel them off the tape, then peel the smeared tape off and dump it in the trash can.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Migratory Book Arrived

One of my recent posts was about Michelle Wilson's migratory book project. Well, "my" book arrived yesterday. It's a gatefolded booklet that can be read from either end. One version of the text in English and the other in Portuguese.

My task now is to contemplate the book for a short while then answer a question before releasing the book for another step of its journey (migration).

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Review: Penland Book of Handmade Books

I've not written about art-related books on my blog until now, but I thought it might be a good idea to do the occasional review.

Many of my artist friends live in Europe, as I do. One of the disadvantages of that is that it's not easy to find the range of great art books that is available in the US, and ordering US books has, until recently, been expensive. That's changed a little in the past months. One of the few advantages of the strong Euro in combination with the weak dollar is that US books have become very reasonably priced (through Amazon International).

I've been waiting for a long time for the paperback (brochured) edition of the Penland Book of Handmade Books to be published. When it came out last month, it cost me only 14 euros though Amazon International. I was pleased about the price, and I am thrilled with the book.

The Penland Book of Handmade Books contains approximately 400 high quality photographs of the work of book artists who have taught at the Penland school.

If you still think of books as a pile of papers bound between two covers, be prepared to revise your opinion. Among other things, you'll see book sculptures, boxes, scrolls, and objects that take the idea of "book" to the extremes. You'll probably find yourself looking at everyday items in terms of book-makeability!

The book contains tutorials that show how to reproduce some of the books, objects, and binding styles. It's simply full to bursting with book making ideas to ogle and adapt.

One of my favourites from the book is Barbara Mauriello's handmade "Women of the Bible" box. Here's a photo of the box from the Rutgers website.

Dolph Smith's books gave me a bunch of ideas:

And there were many, many more...

Because the artists are professionals, some chapters of the book show fascinating, large scale projects that would be difficult to do in the kind of kitchen table workshops many of us have. At the same time, because the ideas and tutorials are more artistic and ambitious than the step-by-steps in craft books, I felt inspired to stretch my abilities and attempt some of the more complex techniques, and I was successful!

In addition to the images, the book contains short essays by some of the artists in which they write about their materials, processes, and backgrounds.

Though this is an art book, rather than a craft how-to, I found it practical as well as inspiring. Leafing through the book gave me many new ideas to try in the coming months, and it also boosted my confidence. Without wishing to sound boastful, seeing the work in this book made it clear to me that some of what I've done in the past few years is probably as close to being as good as that of professional artists as it can be, given the makeshift circumstances I work in.

If you're looking for a truly great book about artistic bookmaking, this is one I'd recommend, especially if you have to budget. To my mind, The Penland Book of Handmade Books is one of the best bargains available at the moment. Check out your local Amazon.

The Penland Book of Handmade Books
Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher: Lark Books (March 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1600593003
ISBN-13: 978-1600593000

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Migratory Books (Libros Migratorios)

Michelle Wilson, from Philadelphia, USA is looking for participants for her Migratory Books (Libros Migratorios) project.

Michelle writes:

"I've been working on an ongoing bilingual book and blog project I'm calling the Migratory Books (Libros Migratorios). This project involves releasing books to individuals, and asking them after they have read the books to visit the blog and post an answer to a question in the end of the book. Afterwards, I ask that they pass on the Migratory Book, to ensure their journey continues.

I am looking for interested people who would be willing to receive a book and participate in this process. If you are interested, please send me your mailing address, and I will get one (or more, if you are willing, please indicate in your email), in the mail to you. Participants outside of the USA are welcome. "

You can find Michelle's email address on the project blog.

Migratory Books Blog: