V-Pockets Book Cover

January 27, 2012

V-pockets Book Cover

Click on drawings to enlarge or print

        Last Sunday morning  I was trying out different ways of folding 11″ x 17″ paper to make a folded book cover.  When the structure that I’ve drawn out in the document above appeared in my hands I was so excited that I kept making one right after the other, and, thus began my Off To South Africa day of bookmaking.

When I wrote the post about sending off the V-Pockets books that I had made I wondered if anyone would notice and ask about the folding method. I wondered if anyone would ask how to make it, and how long it would take for that inquiry, if ever, to come.

After posting it took me three hours to get back to the computer to look over the post. Bronwyn, who is literally half the world away from me, had already noticed and asked. I was so pleased that I immediately got to work on some sketches and sent them out to her. Here’s an excerpt of her response, which might be helpful to people who work with A3 rather than 11″ x 17″:

“….those instructions – they work perfectly!! I…. got an A3 piece of paper (which is 29.7cm x 42cm) …. and cut it to 22cm x 34 cm – not the same size as yours, but the same proportional dimensions.  I’ve ended up with an 11cm square, so you probably end up with an 5 1/2 inch square.”

So, there you have it, the metric measurements! Roughly, a proportion to keep in mind is that the starting paper proportions should be 1:1.5,  so if your paper is 10 units wide, is should be about 15 units long.

Thank yous to Bronwyn and to the others who asked for instructions on this structure. I hope you enjoy making books (or folders) with these directions.

More Books to Fill

June 14, 2012

A few summers ago I read Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. The title completely caught my attention, and I searched out the book – this was before it was a NY Times best seller and could be found just everywhere.  I loved the book, and  casually began following Ariely’s work.  This past winter I checked out his website and read that he puts together art shows at Duke University, which are responses to his work. I submitted a proposal for his current project. My piece is currently on exhibition, along with works by more than 30 other artists.

Here’s part of the press release:

PoorQuality: Inequality

June 1, 2012 – August 31, 2012

Open to the public Monday – Friday 10 AM – 3 PM

Opening reception: June 22, 2012 from 6 – 10 PM

Thirty-four artists were invited to create innovative and engaging artwork after a stimulating discussion on social and economic inequality, wealth distribution, and what is so taxing about taxation.

Books to Fill

 So, here’s how it went. Ariely gave a talk, which I was able to view on-line. He discussed the research he was doing around exploring economic inequalities and people’s response to inequality. At least that’s what I think he was talking about…there were so many interesting thoughts being put forth at once that I had a hard time isolating the central theme.

I had just a few days to come up with a proposal..maybe it was more than a few days, but I had a bad cold, and the proposal was due on my daughter’s sixteenth birthday, so it felt like I had a scarce amount of time to process. But that was probably just as well.

My thinking about what to submit was guided by the fact that I am one of those people who deeply believes that a strong education  profoundly resonates for the good, and has the power to narrow the chasm of inequality that exists between people and societies.  Recently, as a gesture to support education,  I had gifted blank, handmade books to a young man, James, who is teaching for the Peace Corps in a South African village. I felt good about this gift, and decided that, for Ariely’s show I would make more books to send to more students. My thought was to give them to students locally, not so locally, and to students who are not at all local. My hope was (and still is) to donate the books to at least four sets of students in different parts of the world.

Two of Four Spaces for Books

I also made a large accordion which could be set up in many ways, though, ideally, it is meant to create  four spaces (symbolizing East , West, North and South) for the books to occupy. The symbolically interesting part of this structure is that if the books are evenly distributed and tucked neatly into the four spaces, the whole structure is strong: each pile of books supports both the accordion, as well as the piles of the other books. If the books are randomly placed, as in the first photo of this post, or even orderly placed but not supporting each other, like the photo below….

…still the structure is not strong.

I had hoped to know who I would be giving the books to before the books  went out to be displayed. I still don’t know who all the recipients will be. Of the four people I contacted only two responded positively, the other two did not respond at all. So I am still am looking for two more teachers of young children who will be willing to accept a pile of books for their students to fill.

These books  have a combination of graph paper, lined paper, and blank paper. They have pockets on the front and back covers, and measure about 5 1/2″ x 5 1/2″.

I thought that it was interesting that not everyone I offered these books to jumped at the opportunity. It occurred to me, then that it is this is part of  the inequality in the world: it’s not so obvious what to give, where to give it, and who will want it.

Off to South Africa

January 23, 2012

    This past Christmas I received a card from my pal Nancy, celebrating that, in lieu of a gift, she had donated a bicycle, in my name, to a charity which refurbishes and distributes bikes to people whose lives will be enhanced by the acquisition of two-wheeled transportation.

v-pocket book
Handmade books bound for Pretoria
    One good turn deserves another: now that Nancy’s birthday is coming up, it has occurred to me to donate some handmade books to students in South Africa whose learning may be enhanced having some new notebooks. Given in Nancy’s name, of course.
Wall Paper Sample Book for Bookmaking

A Wallpaper Sample Book: these pages are good to use as book covers because they are durable and vinyl-like

    These books will be sent to a young man who, as a fourth grader, used to come the book arts classes that I taught at our local library. Back then, this little boy made a real connection to the mechanics and magic of paper-folding Now a college graduate, he is spending two years as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in Africa.

Back Page Of V-pocket book

These books cover are made from 11" x 17" , folded in such a way that a both the front and back covers have a V-shaped inside pocket.

This young man, James Higby, is a lone American teaching in a rural South African school, having committed to teaching for two years. Honestly, I can’t  relate to what it would be like to be so far from home, for so long,  to have to learn a new language and to make all new social connections. Each one of these challenges in isolation seems managable and exciting, but, all together all at once is something I can not image.  Since I have often seen how little blank books encourage children to write (much like water encourages fish to swim) the books I am sending are my modest way of supporting the work that James is doing.
V-pocket book cover, without pages

V-pocket book cover, without pages

From what I understand, James gets his mail only on the rare occasion that he visits his mailbox in Pretoria. It takes him a full day of travel to get to his mailbox.

The book block is a combination of blank pages, and pages I "harvested" from a thrift store book, which I disassembled

From what I’ve been told,  James visits his mailbox just about once a month.  This leave me feeling nervous about both the time and distance that separates my gift from its destination.  To allay my own discomfort, I am going to affix post-it notes to the books:  my plan is to write quadratic equations and area formulas on to these post-its,  as I imagine, donned with math facts,  my books will be cloaked with a protective aura.

I slid cover weight papers into the pockets, to give the book a more substantial feel

I haven’t yet told Nancy that I am sending these books in lieu of her birthday present.  However, since James is her son, I am confident that she will approve.

Rembrandt and Jose

August 8, 2012

I decided I needed some help with a two-hour workshop that I was leading this past weekend. I looked towards two artists, Rembrandt van Rijn, Dutch painter 1606- 1669, and Jose Gaytan, Brooklyn photographer, 1949-2011, for support.

Here’s one of Rembrandt’s drawings:

Dutch Landscape by Rembrandt van Rijn

and here’s a landscape photographed by Jose ;

Brooklyn Landscape by Jose Gaytan

What these two gentlemen have in common, besides having both died in their early sixties, is the way that their works betray the fact that their eyes were wide open to the world in front of them. This openness, this posture of yes , is where I wanted to begin. Rather than actually teach I wanted these talented, interesting, smart workshop participants to spend their time working from a place in themselves that reenforced exploration and moving forward.

After showing a 6 minute and 40 second movie of insightful clips that I snipped  from TED talks – from talks by Elizabeth Gilbert,  Brene Brown, and Mina Bissell –  I laid out a pile of intentionally low quality black and white copies of works by Rembrandt, by Jose, and also by Elizabeth Murray, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, and Georgia O’Keefe. Again, I chose these artists’ works based on the way that I sense that their interface with the world was remarkably open.

Working on images by Matisse, Murray, and O'Keefe

Working on images by Matisse, Murray, and O’Keefe

After I laid out prismacolor pencils, black markers, glue, colored paper and scissors, we reworked the images of the masters. My hope is that by responding to masters’ work we give ourselves the gift of integrating great influences. After people got to work I just hung out a tried not to interupt.

This workshop was the quietest workshop that I’ve ever led. After awhile I finally had to interupt the work so that we could actually do some bookmaking. We hinged together two of the 8 1/2″ x 11″ papers that we had worked on, so that each person had a single 11″ x 17″ paper. We used this to make a V-Pockets Book Cover.

Last step was to make pages by cutting other papers in half, then fold them in half.

Pages were sewn in using a simple pamphlet stitch, embellished with beads.

I have to mention that  I was very happy with the way that people seemed to be involved with their work, and I was delighted by their results, too.

The last ten minutes of workshop was spent looking at each others books.

It seemed to me that the morning was a great success.

PS…At the end of my last post I mentioned that have copies of the BASIS 2012 catalogue to give away for the asking. That offer is still open. Don’t be shy! No use having them sitting on my shelf.

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