Sunday, January 23, 2011

A rougher kind of book beauty

Instead of saying "I'm making something 365", that header should say "I'm trying and failing to make something every single day, but even so I've been way more productive than if I weren't taking part"...

Take a quick look at the date of my last blog post and it's obvious that I haven't been keeping up with that part of my schedule (one blog entry per week). Here's one example of what I have been up to, though. A blank book I gave to a friend as a Christmas gift.

Lately I've been trying to capture a rougher look in my books -- like the straightforward, simple aesthetic of haiku. There's something poetic there, but it's under the surface. Part of the appeal of handmade books can be their imperfection, and too often I've fought that by focusing on extravagant materials. My two most recent blank books have been an attempt to bring a wabi-sabi feel to go along with the Japanese binding style.

For this one, I had some papers in mind that were decorated with a brilliant gold chrysanthemum pattern. I had sheets of the paper in different colors -- white, black, fuchsia and yellow. As I planned it out, though, I also knew that those papers shouldn't be the first thing you noticed about the book when you picked it up. I wanted the focus to be on the texture and feel of it. At the same time I wanted to include hints that there was something more inside.

To get that effect I used the white version of the chrysanthemum paper for the book's covers. I folded the paper so that the bright gold pattern is hidden on the inside, though. You can see the bleed-through of the gold on the outside, so you suspect something is there -- but it's much more subdued. On the outside the book looks a little bland -- maybe even stained or moldy.

For the front and back flyleaves (the first and last pages inside the covers) I used the fuchsia and black versions of the same paper. For full impact I folded those so that the gold pattern shows in its full beauty. After the plain, rough off-white of the covers, the flyleaf papers really jump out.

For the internal pages of the book I used a couple of different kinds of Japanese mulberry paper, each one with just a tinge of color that's hardly noticeable -- light green, blue and beige. It's not enough color to clash with the decorative flyleaves, but enough that if you look closely each page is a little bit different.

Finally, maybe my favorite thing about these two recent blank books is what happens when you tear the mulberry paper by hand instead of cutting the paper down to size for pages. The mulberry fibers along the torn edge are incredibly soft. When you put together a stack of pages that are torn like that, the edges of the book are almost furry -- the top and bottom edges feel like a rabbit's fur. Unfortunately that's not something I've been able to capture in a photo -- you'll just have to take my word for it or try it yourself.

I haven't had a chance to give the second book to its recipient, so I'm not leaking photos yet. Hopefully soon, though.

Happy New Year!


  1. Nice to see what you've been up to! I look forward to seeing more!

  2. very nice, i like the layering. looking forward to more!

  3. Thanks, Velma - your books really seem to have that wabi-sabi aesthetic, the beautiful, rough, natural materials. Glad you enjoyed this one!

    And glad you love your book, Jeffery!

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