Saturday, February 06, 2021

Bookbinding hits the Zoom circuit

Last year about this time I presented on Chinese bookbinding in a Portland State University lecture hall as part of the First Saturday PDX series on Chinese culture (now celebrating 20 years!). So many people came to hear about the evolution of the world's oldest communications device; dozens afterwards came up to check out my book-model petting zoo where books really work their magic. 

How much can change in a year, and yet how much can stay the same. 

Next week I present again on Chinese bookbinding, but this time from my keyboard and to groups near (the Portland Art Museum's Asian Art Council book group) and far (the Whitefish Art and Culture Club in Montana). Education about book evolution knows no boundaries. 

Happy Year of the Ox to everyone. This year is the metal ox, supposedly a harbinger of career opportunity so, in the words of one Internet oracle, "Don't let anxiety or negative thinking affect you." 


While I ponder my future, I am finishing all the rainy-day projects because, well, it's almost always a rainy day where I am, and it's still COVID. That means I'm on Volume III of The Life of Samuel Johnson and I fixed up a broken box ("before" pics above and below, "after" pics last three). Fittingly, I used lots of Japanese tissue so it's not good as new, but good for next decades of celebrating milestones.

This "giant train" was carved of wood in Japan at the behest of the Shackman toy company in New York.




All aboard!

Saturday, November 21, 2020

In a pandemic, it's easy to tap into bookbinding bliss

Show your
bookbinding love
times two.

The world outside remains frightful, so no better time to duck between the pages and learn about where books came from and how you might make some yourself—or just take an immersive trip to China including fabulous meals, cross-cultural fun, thousands of miles of sights, and falling down a Beijing manhole.

While supplies last, readers receive two copies of China Under the Covers at a 25 percent discount—perfect for both the book lovers on your list and your armchair, bedside table, or workbench.

Visit the dedicated website here for more details on the book.

To order, click here for U.S. delivery ($45 for two copies), and here for international ($67 for two copies). Shipping's on me.

Wishing you all health and happiness even more than usual.

Coming soon: How to bind a USB drive. The visual teaser:

Friday, November 13, 2020

When camp resumes, Athenas stand ready


Scripps Camp didn't happen in 2020, like so many things, but scrolling through these pics from camp in the summer of 2019 gave me the warm feels all over again. These humanities babes proved to be naturals at the bench, many doing twice the books expected. May we all become bookbinders, if only for an hour.

Friday, November 06, 2020

Before corona came, Chinese bookbinding packed a lecture hall


Attendees of my "Heavenly Head, Earthly Foot" lecture in
January get ready to uncover thousands of years of bookbinding. Most photos this post by Joan McGuire


As part of the long-running lecture series First Saturday PDX, I brought my presentation regarding the evolution of the world's oldest communications device to Portland State University on Jan. 11, seemingly before time stopped for the rest of the year.

A curator from the renowned Freer Gallery in D.C. came, as did a fellow who grew up among monk bookbinders in rural Oregon, and then there were the Asian Studies students, the Sinophiles of all ages, the former Beijing Scene comrade, newsfolk of my alma mater (one of whom, Joan McGuire, took these pictures), tango dancers (!), and so many people interested in books, adventure, and all the connections we can make across cultures and eras.

Afterward, we continued the conversation over delicious dishes in Chinatown. I had so much fun sharing my story that I look forward to doing it all over again for a similarly minded group in Montana early next year.

After the First Saturday PDX lecture at Portland 
State, people flocked to get their hands on history.


How are your corona projects going? Perhaps it's time to learn bookbinding! To get you started, I'm offering U.S. customers two copies of China Under the Covers: A Binder's Journey to the Roots of Books for $45 (a savings of 25 percent), with free shipping, just click here, paypal.me/manaobooks/45. For international orders, it's $67 for two copies, including shipping, with this link, paypal.me/manaobooks/67. Thank you!

Monday, November 02, 2020

Paper over those flaws for one-of-a-kind furnishings

A bench with a trashed top became a marvelous opportunity to create yet another piece of chiyogami furniture! I just had to try again, taking full advantage of the full length of a gorgeous recurring scene of clouds and waves. 

Surf's up, and my bench gets a whole new artful life.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Bookbinders frolic in the Forest (Grove)

No hard sell necessary for books to the bookish.
The biannual Focus on Book Arts, held late last month in Forest Grove, had something for everyone: creative works of literature, art, form and function, and classes teaching much the same. Here are a couple scenes from the artists' fair, where I sold a bunch of China Under the Covers—to my best and easiest audience—and got to hang out with other makers.

To maximize my time at the conference, I stayed nearby at the Grand Lodge, where they gave me the Bob Dylan room, like they just knew what a huge fan I am.

One vendor couple brought marvelous
marbled paper, cloth, and boxes.

Washi Arts' eye-popping inventory made it hard
to choose at the trade show.

Not to be left out of the learning, I took a class in repurposing old book covers in a coptic binding. I came home that night and made three more, including one that I had never finished from the last conference.

Parts of old books can be recycled into a handsome journal.

I stitched this one up after class, using covers from an old
journal that had shed them after years of heavy use.

A project from long ago finally receives the finishing touches.


Saturday, June 15, 2019

Nothing stays the same in the face of ne plus ultra de change

That's the aim—a detail from Saucymorons, Volume I.

... except my love for books and binding.

As I prep to teach more at Scripps Camp, which sold out within two days this year, I have good reason to unpack my packed-up studio (yes, again) while I consider mentoring a wannabe bookbinder starting in the fall. I did order a massive supply of paper recently so there must be some edition brewing in my soul—just hasn't reached my fingers yet.

At the end of the month, I take part in the biannual Focus on Books Arts conference in Forest Grove at Pacific University, with a table at the artists' fair and sale from 4:30 to 7:30 in the Cawein Gallery on Thursday and Friday, June 27 and 28, topped with a workshop. Learning and networking are what life's all about these days.

In the meantime, enjoy pictures from a magazine photo shoot done last fall. Pics by David Vigil.



I pretend to read Mandarin.

Tools of the trade: Last time I was in China I couldn't find
the brown brushes anymore because the plant whose fibers
are used to make them was too scarce.

The centerfold of Steel Standing shows a beautiful bridge.

A page of Baudelaire's L'Invitation au Voyage—I only have
a few left in this letterpress-printed edition of 25.