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My San Francisco Week in Books: Part Two


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The book I made in the workshop.
The book I made in the workshop.

I like Drum Leaf and similar types of bindings. I’ve read as much as I could find about making them, and I’ve seen a video of Tim Ely making one, but mine sometimes have bumps where I don’t want them and other unintentional features that displease me. When I saw that John DeMerritt was going to be teaching a Drum Leaf workshop the week I was going to be at the San Francisco Center for the Book anyway, I jumped at the chance.

John turned out to be funny and nice, and made the class a delight. By this day, I was so tired I glued some of the wrong pages together and even managed to … ugh … slice a finger and drip on my book. Fortunately, it was on the end page and was not going to be visible once the book was finished. But my classmates were going to see it. I was embarrassed. But John turned this into a light-hearted moment too. (Among other things, he told us he used to have a sign in his bindery that advised, “Don’t bleed on the work.”)

It was such an educational class. There were a few times when John would show us something or share a tip, and that one thing alone was, to me, worth the tuition in itself.

We made the spines out of Cave paper. John had us pare the paper along the sides, using our scalpels and sanding blocks. I must say, it had never occurred to me to pare paper before. He also taught us a handy trick for turning-in the cover papers over the board edges using a little squeegee tool, which creates a neater edge when gluing.

We also were given nice materials — aside from the Cave paper, we also got handmade Saint-Armand papers for the covers, and enough materials to make two books. Yum.

There are piano hinges in front of the wing that open out to reveal much more inside.
There are piano hinges in front of the wing that open out to reveal much more inside.

Immediately after the workshop, Paul Johnson was back to give a talk about his work. He showed us his amazing, big and long accordion-style sketchbook, which he invited people to spread out around the room (alas, I didn’t get any photos of it). He talked about his father, who’d been a talented amateur artist, and showed us slides of some of his father’s drawings. He talked about his own work and about how the environment in which he’d grown up — in the shadow of the nearby cathedral — had influenced his work throughout life. Afterwards, we were invited to go up to a display of his magnificent sculptural books. I did get a few snaps of these, but they barely convey the complexity and size of his wild, multi-layered creations (for one thing, most were so big when opened out that it was impossible to get more than detail shots in that crowded space). I noticed later, after downloading the pictures, the childlike looks of wonder and joy in the faces of my fellow adult attendees as they circled the display. As I say, the photos don’t do them justice.

Close-up of one of Paul Johnson's Books

Noah's ark (opened)
Noah’s Ark, unfolded.
Close-up of Noah's Ark
Close-up of Noah’s Ark.

PS: Twenty years ago, John DeMerritt and Dominic Riley made a video about the history of bookbinding that was shown on San Francisco’s Public Broadcasting Station. I thought I’d post a link in case you haven’t seen it. It’s a half-hour long, but is much fun. Around the six minute mark they transition into historical costume…

 

 

My San Francisco Week in Books: Part One


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Paul Johnson with his ark folded

A few months ago, I discovered that Paul Johnson, one of my all-time favorite paper artists, was going to be coming from England to teach a few workshops at the San Francisco Center for the Book. It was going to be in November, right around the time I was going to be in S.F. anyway for the usual medical reasons. Books are the best medicine, thought I! I signed up for two of the classes.

And then I discovered that John DeMerritt was going to be having a Drum Leaf binding workshop as well, during the same week and when Paul Johnson wouldn’t be teaching. Hmm… one of my favorite bindings with a master bookbinder…? I signed up for that too.

My first workshop day was foldable piano-hinge screens with Paul Johnson. I’d never thought of making piano-style hinges with paper beads before, which is essentially what these were. You roll the paper around a skewer to form the hinge in a bead-like fashion. When they’re done, you string them back on the skewer and attach to the screens. Very nifty.

This was mine:

foldable pianto-hinge screen with cat and bird designDay two was little toy theater-style pop-ups, along with some similar things. This was one of my projects from that day:

Pop-up Card

And that was supposed to have been the end of my time with Paul Johnson. I hadn’t signed up for the weekend workshop on pop-ups as well. But I was beginning to regret it. One of the lovely people at the workshop on the second day had signed up for all of the classes. As we were leaving, she told me that her hands were getting worse, and Paul Johnson was getting older. Who knew how many opportunities she’d ever have to do something like this again? Which, given my own circumstances, echoed what I was thinking inside.

As it turned out, there was still a slot left for the weekend. It became mine.

Next post: Drum Leaf bindings with John DeMerritt and a talk by Paul Johnson.

Paul with ark open

Victorian Pleasures


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Scrapbook cover

My friend Shirl is an ephemera magnet. I don’t know where she finds what she does! We’re talking seriously good ephemera. And she’s also extremely generous, much to my good fortune.

She recently gifted me with a scrapbook from the 1880s. The binding has completely come apart and the spine covering is gone, which, for me, is a large part of its attraction.

Victorian scrapbook spine

Its spine was formed by layers of paper that were folded, accordion-like, to form guards. The folios were inserted into the valleys. It was all sewn together over tapes.

There is only one folio still (barely) attached. It’s a bit hard to make out in the photo, but, if you look carefully, you can see that it had been sewn into the valley.

Spine sewing

There is also a single fabric endband still attached.

Endband

Dang, I just love looking at old deconstructed bindings.

The actual content is marvelous too. It’s a fairly typical Victorian scrapbook filled with advertising cards and whatnot. I plan to photograph or scan some of it later.

Advertising cards in scrapbook

Sweet 16

Advertising ephemera

And, by coincidence, I also recently acquired another Victorian-era treasure. A Webster’s dictionary from 1859! It was being sold in two pieces with a few pages missing, which made it affordable. Aside from that, the pages themselves are in good shape.

dictionary

1859!

In the front there is a section of illustrations (some of which I am later planning to photograph more properly). As you can see in the photo below, some of the “birds” are a bit… interesting… to our modern eyes. (The “fishes” are similarly a bit surreal  — apparently, for example, seals were considered a type of fish.)

The Birds

All the latest in science is here too:

Phrenology

And some botany:

Poppy

Among other things, I was surprised to discover that as relatively recently as 1859, the word “weird” still solely meant something to do with witchcraft.

Weird

It has a handy usage guide too.See Insanity

I also have been enjoying Webster’s essay detailing why, for instance, he has taken the “u” out of words like “colour.” “That Johnson,” you can almost imagine Webster sighing and shaking his head as he wrote.

We took the u out of colour

 

Ground Squirrel

The Paper Ground Squirrel somehow doesn’t have quite the same ring…

Note: if you want a close-up look of any of these, click on the photo. It will take you to another page where it won’t look any bigger. However, if you click on it again from the other page, it will then display a larger version. Sorry for the inconvenience of having to click twice. It’s the native WordPress way, apparently.


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