Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Books start simply

Hard-copy markup and measuring paper
make up some of the final stages
of manuscript prep.
At last, we are on the home stretch in compiling the art for the Chinese bookbinding book; in fact, we are one image away from layout. As I create the final project—models of four of the oldest forms of books on paper following the scroll—plus a hardbound case to house them, I'm reminded of the relatively small number of materials required to make books, and the centuries that went into fine-tuning their forms.

More than anything, the creation of books takes time and care. Hopefully, my how-to manual and ode to the roots of bookbinding will give readers a chance to slow down, appreciate, and take history into their hands. 

You can read more about bookbinding tools in the next post, and see many more at this site created by photographer (and Portland tanguero) Dale Bennett, who focuses on artisans and their equipment. I am honored to be included.

Silk cloth from the legendary Aiko's of Chicago will cover the case. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Tools rule

I never thought that one of my most important tools might be the one I can't even properly name. Having surveyed tool sellers, users, and the google, it's clear this tool is far from a punch. But what is it? "Cold chisel" is about as close as I can get to a specific description of this fetching piece of metalware, but other than that, it's almost a free-for-all of description. Is my chisel—which I use for whacking narrow slots in bookboard—"flat," "diamond point," or what?

Left: What a chisel makes possible in bookbinding. Above: Note no bevel at the cutting edge, as with many other chisels.

The online photographs and illustrations can be the worst, labeled something different from the text and then entirely contradictory to other sites'. Get your illos right, people!

That's exactly what we're trying to do—and even the reason for this rant on chisel identification—for the final push on art for the Chinese bookbinding book that seems to have no end (in production work anyway; why did I think writing it would be the hardest part?). It should be bound in some form or another in the coming Year of the Sheep. 

If you know how to better specify the tool I use to make the simple, elegant Chinese shutao ("book clothes") case, please dish it.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

This is late notice, but I'll have my wares for show and sale at the German American Society of Portland from 2 to 5 p.m. this Sunday, Dec. 21, at the new clubhouse, 5626 N.E. Alameda.

You will be amazed by the renovation done to the old Masonic Lodge there at the intersection of Northeast 57th, Alameda, and Sandy, and hopefully just as amazed by the incredible quality (and modesty) of the vendors assembled for the Christmas Market.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

School book fair shows books far from dead

Here's the shoulder-to-shoulder scene at the recent sale in our neighborhood school. The kids came in jostling and shouting, then settled in to flip and browse pages even while they were buffeted by the book-loving crowd. Long live book lovers, long live books.

The sale last week at the Northeast Community Center also went well. I love watching people meet Japanese chiyogami paper for the first time and experience the tactile joy that comes from making contact with something—say, a handbound portfolio or archival clamshell box—made to last so long it easily becomes an heirloom. One customer explained his purchase thus: "I have to get this because every time I see it it'll make me smile." It makes me smile, too, thinking how the happiness multiplies.

This week I delivered a long-planned commission, which commemorates a life cut short. Hopefully the stories inside—wrapped in life-affirming colors—offer solace and enduring memories.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Smart Santas save the date

Early next month the Northeast Community Center rounds up local artisans for its annual wide-ranging craft fair featuring goods of all kinds. My chiyogami-covered boxes (bottom left) even made the promo postcard!

The event runs 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7, with wine, cheese, and music, and continues 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8.

See you there.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The real bookbinding season begins

As the leaves swirl around us and temperatures slide, I look forward to the rainy days ahead, when it's easy to focus on work in the studio. Aside from completing a long-awaited commission, I'm creating wares to meet everyone's holiday needs.

Come check them out for yourself at the show at the Northeast Community Center, which runs 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8, at 1630 N.E. 38th Ave. I might bring some of my limited-edition books, too. This steadily evolving art fair also brings out the neighborhood woodworkers, watercolor artists, and soft-sculpture artisans, among others, for an incredibly varied outlay. Part of the proceeds benefit the facility.

Grain arrives by train. Shyla's not shy.

Most of my photos are stuck in limbo between two computers, so for now I go off-topic in presenting art for this post: views of the Kalama Export grain terminal in Southern Washington. Usually you can't access the site without a grain train or a barge in tow, but a special opportunity came to take a tour and, as a lifelong industrialist, I got on board and snapped away. Herewith: The Art of Kalama Export.

Rail and conveyors move the goods around.

When taggers get bored

A couple of other visitors come looking for nibbles.

Wheat piles up beneath our feet.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Tables made of paper (sort of)

Much of what I bind ends up covered in chiyogami, that righteous (and sometimes riotous) famous paper of Japan. I love how multiple motifs can work their way onto a sheet, and yet the design still exemplifies chic Japanese style. What could be chaos reads as calming complexity.

Long a fan of unique small pieces of furniture picked up at resales around town, I often bemoan their damaged tops, from water usually or simply decades of scraping and placing. I never got around to refinishing the furniture properly, but then it hit me, How about chiyogami? It looks stunning on books; what of the other plain or damaged surfaces in our lives?

First I cleaned the tabletop for a good seal, sandpapered the rough spots, then applied a piece of precisely cut chiyogami using wheat paste. Over that I spread another coat of wheat paste, then several layers of finish from the hardware store. Voilà—chiyogami furniture.

Tabletop detail of chiyogami pattern

Thus emboldened, I took on a larger piece.

Tabletop detail of chiyogami pattern