Tip of the Day: Blade Disposal

We all know we should be changing our knife blades frequently. Dull blades make displeasing cuts and are more likely to harm you. But it’s a nuisance to stop in the middle of working to wrap each blade for proper disposal (and we do this, of course, because we care about our trash collectors and the roaming animals sampling our bins on garbage night… right?).

Or else the blades sit out on our work tables waiting to be disposed of. Need I even mention why this is not such a good idea?

There is a better way. If you don’t have one already, consider making yourself an arts ‘n crafts sharps collector. Get a container with a tight-fitting lid. Something like a margarine container will work.

Cut a slit in the lid that will comfortably fit your blades. Securely attach the lid to the container.

And since this is for arts ‘n crafts, you might want to appropriately decorate your new item. At the very least you should write on it to make it clear it has dangerous sharp things in it. (And, of course, this is only for adult-friendly workspaces! Very dangerous, not a plaything, use caution, blades are sharp, you have been duly warned, I’m not legally responsible if anything bad happens, etc.)

I made this one here several years ago. It’s one of the most used things in my studio. I’ve been dumping all my old scalpel and rotary blades in here for all that time, and there’s still room for more. (Although I have to slip off the lid for the big rotary blades.) Nothing has ever cut through or poked out of the plastic container, but I’m sure that doesn’t mean it still couldn’t at some point.

When it’s full, I might carefully seal the blades in a sturdy container and dispose of it in a garbage company-approved manner. Or I might fill a jar with all these scalpel blades and keep it as a decorative piece in the studio.

How Not To Do The Wash

This sign used to hang in the local laundromat. I do my wash at home these days, but perhaps I should post my own friendly reminder above the washer and dryer.

Although I’d assume this isn’t quite as bad as doing the laundry with ammo, I’d think that putting a pocket full of scalpel blades through the wash isn’t a good idea either.

(Picture of laundry sign found here.)

Petri Dish Books

Tip of the day: if one has difficulties with concentration, one should not watch TV while gluing together pages of a book. One might discover, after the books have dried, that some of them are missing pages. Just sayin’.

I’ve finally almost assembled (reassembled?) an edition of 15 petri dish books. The title is Mysophobia: Mainstream Culture. The pages are individual circles that were scored and glued together at the side.

I’ve discovered that scrapbooking toys have their uses. My 3″ circle punch is now my friend. And… I can’t believe I’m admitting this on the Internet… the Martha Stewart score thingie. I remember seeing this very item in a store a while back and sneering. Then came the need to score lots of circular book pages. I could’ve done it with a ruler or a jig. But then I read this blog post from Ginger Burrell. I have to agree; it’s a nifty tool. Who’d have thought…?

The book is about modern germ paranoia. The “cultures” are paste paint and acrylic paintings that I manipulated in Photoshop. I find it fascinating how behavior that is now seen as normal would’ve, not long ago, been seen as compulsive and disordered. I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere, but here in the US–at least where I live–every big store now seems to have disinfectant wipes at the door. Anti-bacterial soaps are big business. Yet, do we actually get fewer communicable illnesses these days? I doubt it. Outside of a health care context, all this disinfectant wiping and dousing comes across as some sort of quaint evil-repelling ritual.

Of course, ironically, all the evidence suggests this germ phobia is only creating more antibiotic-resistant germs.


Making Book Cloth

Book cloth making time! I first did a few sheets following the directions I learned a long time ago from a book, using rice starch paste. Then I experimented a bit.

[Please be patient and try not to get confused, since I took pictures at various times when I was doing different cloths. We might jump around from florals to squirrels without notice.]

First, you need a smooth flat surface to work on. I’ve saved my old worn-out cutting mats and use the back sides of those. Spritz the cloth with water–get it good and damp. Smooth it out with the right side of the fabric facing down:

On a piece of scrap paper (here, newsprint), brush an even layer of paste onto the backing paper, which should be just a bit larger than your piece of cloth. Always brush from the center out to the edges and be sure not to miss any spots. I’m using basic Japanese kozo:
Smooth backing paper, paste side down, over the fabric:
Using a dry brush helps smooth the paper:
As does using a rolled up towel to tamp down the paper onto the fabric. This also, especially, helps create a better bond between fabric and paper:
I also use another method to smooth down the paper onto the fabric, but almost hesitate mentioning it. This could potentially stretch your fabric and push too much glue onto the side of the fabric you don’t want it on. That said, carefully using a roller (going, as you always should, from center outward towards the edges) will give you incredibly smooth and well-bonded book cloth (for some fabrics, you might not even want it that smooth):
The original method I was taught was that one should now carefully turn and smooth the book cloth over onto a new, clean surface, right-side up, then paste around the edges to hold it down flat as it dries:
From recent experience, I can report that this is also an excellent way to drop your wet, newly-made cloth and ruin it. (I did not take a pic for posterity.)
So what I started to do was just leave the cloths in place–don’t 
touch!–right-side down to dry, without an extra turning step. (Do you know why we are supposed to turn over the cloth? Does not turning increase the likelihood of paste getting onto the side of the fabric you don’t want it on?) Regardless, I’ve found that, at least for the dropping-prone, the leave it alone method works:
When dry, peel it off, trim off the extra paper edging and voilà–book cloth:

More Magnetic Attraction

I mentioned a while ago that I’ve experimented with using magnets for closures, with limited and varied success. The problem was the tiny magnets I’ve tried are very strong, but once the bookcloth and/or paper are placed on top, they aren’t really strong enough. Recently I got some more, slightly bigger, magnets from my favorite source. Oh my.

The first difference was after I unpacked them. The stack of square ones (1/2″ x 1/2″ x 1/16″) held together with such force I couldn’t pull them apart! I do realize that I don’t have the strongest hands, but still… it took surprising effort. The trick was to carefully slide them with as much strength as I could manage (and even then I somehow got my hand in the way and got pinched hard enough to start dripping blood…yike).

Then I discovered that if you leave one sitting too close to the rest of the stack–say, within a foot or two of it–it will, after a while, begin to move and will SLAM into the stack…with enough force to smash the attracted magnet into shards. Pretty trippy.

I’m thinking these babies will have enough force under bookcloth and paper to work (hopefully not too well), although I have yet to try them out in anything. I’ll let you know when I do. I should add that the company I got these from recommends this size for brochure closures.

Those with pacemakers and metal implants should probably steer clear…

Julie Chen Videos and Magnetic Attraction

Last March Julie Chen came up here to Humboldt to give one of her “Book Brain” workshops to the book arts group I belong to. It was a good experience, and I can highly recommend it to anyone who is thinking about taking one of her classes.

Julie was featured several weeks ago on the PBS show Craft in America. It used to be available for viewing at the PBS site, but they’ve since removed it. You can still see a couple of segments from it here and here. I particularly liked one quote from her. Talking about how she uses skills from traditional bookmaking and printing to make beautiful objects, she stresses that creating an attractive item is not the end purpose. The polished look and the methods used in the construction of the books are there to help support the content. “Everything that goes into the piece should contribute to the meaning of the piece,” she says.

While poking around I found another interesting Julie Chen video from 2004 that originally aired on the San Francisco PBS station KQED. One of the scenes that awakened my fuzzy brain was of Julie showing some of her books to her students at Mills College. One is a carousel-style piece that is held in its open display position with magnets, rather than with ties or whatever. How clever. It made me want to pull out my own magnet collection, which I got a long time ago from K & J Magnetics on the advice of another book artist (who, in turn, had gotten the idea originally from Julie Chen). These particular magnets are tiny, yet very strong, making them ideal to embed in book board and such. Or at least that’s the idea. When I played around with mine I found that the magnetic pull wasn’t quite strong enough once the book cloth and such were added on top. Perhaps I hadn’t been using the best sized magnets, or enough of them. At any rate, I think I might have to give it another try. The video also shows Julie paper shopping at Flax in San Francisco. Just the sight of all those flat files bulging with paper makes my heart pound..