Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A naked book no more

The client wanted a pamphlet from 1918 bound in the "most Chinese" way possible, and all I could say was that it would have to go in a shutao case. (I love that it translates as "book clothes.")

Here are pictures of the project. I had to cover filler boards to make the pamphlet thick enough to encase. One side of the case has to be wide enough to accommodate the straps that hold the biezi (bone clasps) in place.

Here's the case hinged with Japanese paper.

The case shown partially covered, with the filler boards.

The case folded and awaiting the mallet.

My "pounding station." Everyone should have one.

Two whacks and we're halfway there.

Here I am trying to obey my rule of photographing every thing I make, hustling to get the job out the door. But my plan is cut short by a small sock-footed creature.

The smallest jobs can mean the most

People often ask if I do restoration/conservation work on old books, and aside from making protective clamshell boxes and other noninvasive treatments, I don't. But I do make some exceptions.

Roy possibly loves his TRUCK book more than he loves TRUCKs themselves (and yes he does say TRUCK like that). So it was with heavy heart that we saw how much his favorite tome was falling apart; in fact, I doubted the book would make it to his second birthday. Luckily, I'm a bookbinder!

I took this "before" picture after I'd already made a lot of repairs to the spine and split pages. The book barely hung together.

Another happy customer

Upgrades all over

After months of deliberation, I finally fell for the Epson printer. I like how it stacks up with the old-school bookbinding equipment in the bindery. Add in the new speakers, and I'm all set for printing, binding, and dancing in the Year of the Tiger.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

No soap here, but there's plenty to get your hands dirty

Sometimes life's adventures pay off in surprising ways. In the thick of Crafty Wonderland another vendor from Bellingham, Washington, came over to talk books; taking a break with her made for one of the most relaxing and pleasant quarter-hours of the day.

I always forget what a bonus such networking can be, because I must have received at least a dozen visits to my Web site based on the blurb that Amber wrote for the company she works for, Bramble Berry, which aims to meet every soap maker's needs and fantasies. Amber said her boss was focused and ambitious, wanting to be the Martha Stewart of the soap world. Well, more power to her, and thanks Amber for the blog mention!

Who knows, maybe all those soap makers need is a little manual on Chinese bookbinding to get them going on drier pursuits? The writing proceeds marvelously. I love digging in my brain like this, smiling over all the vivid memories and smells. I even relived my Beijing first bike crash the other day, so much safer (and less embarrassing) at the distance of time and place.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Paving the way for a perfect '10

Before I get too starry-eyed about the present and future (so much easier now that the antibiotic fog has lifted), let's review '09. I finished A Tango Diary, made progress on the Schack family tribute, and sent Ataturk out to the masses—via my distributor Vamp & Tramp.

We packed up our show at TaborSpace this weekend, and lo, but two of my three pieces sold, so that starts the new year on a winning note. Right now, 2010 is all about write now, and so today I set my timer (per Chuck Palahniuk's writing advice) for an hour and I bent knuckles to keyboard and I wrote. I wrote until the ticking faded away, until I was digging deep into soul and memory finding the best words to describe the flavor-punch offerings at Beijing's Jiaozi King and imagining my way back to when I first dug into China.

The best thing: When the alarm went off, I kept on writing. I floated on that creativity high until the wee one's nap ended, but the buzz lasted all afternoon.

That's right, the Chinese bookbinding manual, a contender on last year's list, is in the No. 1 spot now. Every time I check into Statcounter to see my Web traffic in detail, I'm always shocked to see the number of visitors coming to my site on account of their entering "Chinese bookbinding" in a search engine. Sometimes they stay for a long time, too, hopefully gleaning inspiration and excitement for books and their history.

It's an international crowd, with many surfers shooting in from Paris, especially, and Vietnam, Malaysia, even Laos. The other week I noticed someone from Botswana had gone looking, yes, for "Chinese bookbinding" but decided to spend a few minutes with Ma Nao Books along the way. So this manual goes out, perhaps, to that buddy in Botswana (jambo rafiki!) and all those looking to learn more. I plan to include not only technical information on making some of the oldest bindings but a personal narrative of those formative months learning in the cradle of the craft.

So here's the new year's list per usual,

To do
• Update Web site
• Chinese bookbinding manual & memoir
• Editing on Suely Mesquita project
• Schack family tribute
shutao commission
• New York Chinatown book collaboration with the Harleys

To move forward
• Saucymorons
• An Adventurer's Guide to Rose City Cemetery

To consider for development
• World trip
• China times
• Essay on what newspapers were for Roy
• Portland bridges in Polaroid
• Chiyogami tea caddy and cell-phone recharging cradle
• MFA program