It was great to be back teaching at The Center For Book Arts this weekend. As far as I can recall, the last time I taught there was nine years ago. Things have changed at CBA, in such good ways. It’s wonderful to see this evolution.
The class, making Zhen Xian Bao, Chinese Thread Books. enrolled just three people, which was such a pleasure. Even though the group was small I still was mostly on the move, either teaching to the group or helping people individually, so I, sadly, didn’t think to take more than just a few photos.
Since we were such a small group I decided to show them all how to make the flower-top origami box. In the last workshop I taught, I made this optional, and only two of the eight people in that workshop opted in. There is so much to learn on the whole, that showing this particular variation of the top level of these layered boxes, which requires takes lots of time and focus, seems to be more like bonus material rather than basic knowledge. Also, since it takes a whole hour to teach the flower top box, and is impossible to remember after seeing it just once,I was worried that the class participants might feel overwhelmed. Instead, it seemed the class was delighted with these folds. I’m glad there’s a video they can watch to remind them of what we did.
An extra treat, for me, was that I was able to show my models of the Zhen Xian Baos to other artists who were milling around The Center for Book Arts. No one that I showed it to was at all familiar with this book form. I have been so totally focused on it for so long that I forget that it’s still not a well know form.
Looks like teaching the Zhen Xian Bao will be on CBA’s course schedule for the fall. Already looking forward to teaching this again.
A few days ago I saw a message asking me about putting covers on Chinese Thread Books. I’ve written lots about assembling this structure, but haven’t much mentioned its covering. I’m scheduled to teach a 2-day class in the Zhen Xian Bao at The Center for Book Arts in NYC in about 10 days. so this was a good time to get a question about the covers.
There’s many ways of treating the outer layer of Chinese Thread Book, as many ways as you can think of. That’s what I love about this structure: there are no set rules, just variation after variation. Here are some of the ways I have dealt with covers.
In the photo above I’ve used Asahi bookcloth, which I purchased at talasonline.com. I’ve glued two wrong sides together with straight PVA (white glue), and glue the boxes on to the cloth with straight PVA. If I had a bit of wheatpaste made I might of added small bit it to the PVA just to the adhesive easier to work with, but that didn’t happen this time.
An easy cover material to use to leather. Occasionally I will come across some leather scraps which I just cut to size and glue to the bottom layer of the Zhen Xian Bao. I nearly always use either double sided tape or PVA, or combination of the two.
Here’s one that, technically, can be said to have no cover. What’s going on here is that I made the bottom big box layer out of a really sturdy handmade paper, then called it a day. No extra piece needed.
Here are some decorative handmade papers that I’ve had around for years, I wish I could tell you something more about them. They made great boxes, and they are beautiful enough to double as covers tood, like with the former photo.
The covers of these two thread books are made from bookcloth, but, I’ve lined the inside of the cover with decorative paper, sort of like a case binding with endpapers. It’s great having some bookbinding skills as it lets me think about all sorts of possibilities.
One of my favorite materials to use for covering thread books is my husband’s old dungarees. I can generally find a decent enough piece to use. Looks like I re enforced the edges of this one with a running stitch, and used the seam of the pants to use as a tie around the book.
I have many wallpaper sample books around here. When I want to make a thread book to carry around to use as a workhorse for storing supplies while I am travelling, I will use paper from my wallpaper sample books for both the inside and outside of the zhen xian bao. The samples that I have have a vinyl-like feel to them, which make them really sturdy.
Here’s the inside of that book above. What I love about the wallpaper books is that there are so many wild designs to play around with. I probably used white glue to keep this all together. Maybe some double-sided tape too.
Sometimes I want a really simple cover. The one one the left is a prototype for short class in which I will be taking every possible short cut. The insides are made with paper, and I will likely use glue sticks to hold things together. The thread book that is laying down is another wallpaper book.
Here’s a video, shows a few more books, and the inside of most.
I didn’t know that the Cary Collection houses a huge collection of artists’ books. What a surprise! When I asked the guardians of the collection if they had any unusual bindings, they sort of casually pulled out a remarkable assortment. for me to look at and handle. I was there only a few hours, and I wanted to linger over every book they showed me, so I didn’t see a great number of books, but what I did see what great.
Many of the books, like this one above by Ed Hutchins, are from a collection bequeathed to the Cary by Patricia England. For the most part I didn’t take note of how these books found their way to Rochester, but the name “England” was associated to so many of them that I eventually inquired about it.
My daughter stopped by when I was looking at this book by Ed Hutchins. Ed knows and has been helpful and encouraging to my daughter over many years so it was quite wonderful for her to see that Ed is represented (by three books) in her college’s collection. She was thoroughly delighted with this book and its message.
I’m going to have to split these images of the books that I saw over several days so these posts don’t get too long. Because of the nature of artists’ books it takes multiple photographs to begin to give a sense of each piece. I took like a gazillion photos. I’m not going to post all of them, or even show every book I looked at. What I’m going for here is to give a glimpse of what I’ve glimpsed, wanting to let people know that this amazing collection exists.
Here’s the first two panels opening of this heavy mysterious box by Gloria Helfgott.
As the inner pieces swing open, accordioned rows flank another mysterious set of doors.
By the time this tunnel-like accordion center is expanded, I’ve now had to open up three sets of enclosures. This inner sanctum piece has another layer that one might miss. I saw this top-opening structure and wondered if they might be pockets. Turns out, yes, there is a card hidden within each pocket!
Just coincidentally I’m sure, I saw three separate artists’ books that used this tunnel-like accordion in its construction. It’s an interesting structure because it can be set up in number of different ways. Alisa Golden’s book above works nicely as a tunnel book, as it has an opening in the front when it’s set up like a tunnel, but it’s also lovely to see in this half-star configuration. The little book on the right is Golden’s wonderfully realized version of Hedi Kyle’s fishbone fold book….
…which is housed in this remarkable little slipcase.
I also saw three separate piece by Carol Schwartzott, each a tiny masterpiece. These books are filled with content, both writing and images. Here’s one of her books, fully expanded.
I was enchanted by every page, even the colophon page, of Schwartzott’s books.
Okay, one more book to show tonight…
Here’s another small treasure this one by Susan Allix.
This little book is full of writing and prints. I was intrigued by all parts of the construction of this book. I can’t sort out what’s going on with how the covers are put together. It’s got a great look. And here’s another surprise: the enclosure for the book is really unusual and stunning.
There’s this little shelf inside the enclosure sleeve which the book slips under. What a cool little package!
The bookbindery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art takes care of many hidden floors of books. It’s like a secret place, mostly below ground level, under the Watson Library, which is entered through a discreetly placed door not far from the great hall. Many years ago, once a week for three years, I volunteered in the bookbindery. A few days ago I visited the Met to do a full day of PD with the staff of the bindery. They wanted to learn about the Zhen Xian Bao
This was my first time teaching the Zhen Xian Bao, aka Chinese Needle Thread Pack, or Chinese Thread Book to a group. We started at 9:30 sharp, broke for an hour of lunch at noon, and worked straight through 4:30. At the end of the day we were completely saturated, and everyone had made exquisite models. This was dream-team group of artists and binders, in a fully equipped bindery. I can’t imagine another group in any other place who would have accomplished so much in one day.
There was so much that I did not have to do to get ready for this workshop. Most significantly, I did not have to do any paper cutting.
Everyone either brought in their own papers, or they used papers already in the bindery. After explaining how to determine the paper sizes to create the size book that each person wanted, people cut their own papers to size.
Oh the papers that people brought! From orizomegami papers, to paper-backed fabric, to indigo papers with gold flecks, to Dick Blick assorted papers and more. The gorgeous papers kept coming out!
Here’s a five things I learned from this day of teaching: 1) teaching, then making, four twist boxes takes a good bit of time. After making a gazillion of these, it takes me about 5 minutes to make one of these boxes, but it takes making about 1/2 a gazillion for these to get fast at making them. I assured everyone that the other style boxes we’d be making wouldn’t take as long, and in fact they didn’t take as long. The twist box is a tough one to begin with, but it’s the way to begin.
2) We started the day with people working at their own desks, and much had to be done at these solitary work areas, but not everything.
Crowding around a single work table and working together was incredibly efficient and enjoyable, especially as the day wore on.
Folding the second and third layers books while jostling for space around the demonstration desk went surprisingly well.
3) I showed in a variety of different constructions of Chinese Thread Books. I’ve noticed that the most common structure that people teach is this one with four twist boxes on top. I thought I’d encourage people to make all sorts of other different decisions with their structures. It became clear very quickly that it was incredibly satisfying for everyone to make the exact same structure.
Trying to get everyone to do different things would have been too confusing for everyone. Everyone was able to help everyone because we were all doing the same things.
4) People liked having written directions. I’ve only written out directions for the twist box with a pinwheel top, which is in the current issue of Bound & Lettered, and which everyone had, compliments of the journal’s editor John Neal. I think every single desk had the magazine opened to this page all day, even after we were completely finished with the twist box.
5) I had thought that if we had the time and energy I would show people how to make the boxes with a flower top. All I can say now is ha ha. There was no way we could have done one thing more. As it was, we ended the day before some people put covers on their creations. I didn’t worry too much about this though, after all, these people are bookbinders. They cover things.
Besides absolutely everything and everyone that made this an incredible workshop day, people who teach (like my friend Susan Share) will appreciate this: I didn’t have to cut any paper for prep, I didn’t have to teach this group anything about cutting, gluing, putting things under weight, and – this was a surprise – when I had to ask people to fold a piece of paper into thirds they could that flawlessly, immediately.. Turns out bookbinders at the Met make hollow spine pieces all the time, which are made by folding paper into thirds. No problem!
What a great day. As we walked back out into the world after working all day in the underground, wending our way through the places that remain mostly unseen, we past this most unusual sign:
Big thanks to Mindell Dubansky for wanting her staff to become familiar with the historical structure called the Zhen Xian Bao, and especially thank you for letting me be the one to show them.