simple book binding

Making Books with Teenagers, Post #2

sewing a book

Last Friday I was so  impressed with  the book making that I saw being done by high school students that I wanted to put up a post immediately. So I did. But I knew that I would continue thinking about these students and their work (after driving 100 miles each way – and teaching – I was a bit comatose when I composed that post) and would want to write more. So I saved some photos for this post #2.

red fingernails, book turn-in

Part of what was beguiling about watching these students work was seeing their year 2011 hands doing these centuries old techniques.

beads, punches, glue, and books

What stays with me the most, though, is how students gravitated towards making the most straightforward structures. Even though I brought classic materials such as wooden slabs to use as book covers, book board and silk book cloth, and white glue mixed with cooked paste,what these young adults were most drawn to were making books out of cover weight paper then sewing the pages in with a simple pamphlet stitch. Even though the students were successful with some of the  more complex sewing patterns , and even though they manipulated the traditional materials well, they seemed most captivated by the more basic methods of bookbinding.

line up of books

Noticing this I am reminded of a fact about teaching book arts that I often forget, and that is important to remember: the more complicated the book structure, the less likely it is that the novice book binder will personalize the book. The students seemed to feel freer to decorate and experiment with ideas on the books that we made using paper covers than the more complicated books. This totally makes sense as I continue to think about it. For instance, I showed three of the students how to use wooden boards and an exposed-link binding technique to create books. Each of these books looked exactly alike. No big fun in that for these kids.

paste paper book

The fact is that some of my most successful moments in teaching bookbinding have been when I have asked students to fold three or four pieces of paper together, then wrap a rubber band around the spine and we’re done. The students then dive right in to create, draw pictures, cut shapes in the papers, decorate and create. Students find great joy in transforming papers into pages then making then making the books their own. Sometimes I become so enamored by the architecture of the book that I forget about the pleasure of creating content and individualizing.

after work rush hour in the Adirondacks

At the end of this day my own individual joy was the beautiful ride home. Here’s what the after-work rush hour looked like last Friday as I headed out of the Adirondacks.

Beads on Books · exposed sewing

Making Books with Teenagers, Post #1


It’s a real gift to be totally surprised by the results of a bookmaking workshop. I did not have a clue that I would enjoy working with teenagers as much as I enjoyed working the group that taught this past week.  They were smart, capable and enthusiastic and they have an art teacher (the teacher that invited me in) who clearly has created an environment in her art room which is both relaxed and serious. This made my job easy. I started making books with these students, and they just took off with it.

Over the course of numerous classes with the high school students several styles of books were made, including the paper-cover, beaded-pamphlet stitch, a shoelace exposed link binding, and a hard cover pamphlet binding with Ahashi bookcloth, all pictured above.

I want to mention, too, that it felt like a magical journey just to get to the school, located up in the Adirondacks. This is a photo of morning rush hour up in the Adirondacks.

On the first days of classes many of the students made paste papers, so many of the books were well decorated using these papers. I rather think that this young lady’s nail polish goes well with the book. An added bonus.

Of all the styles that I introduced to the students, what they seemed to like best was making books out of the heavy black paper that I brought with me – Epic 80lb cover. We folded a spine, and sewed right through the text block and spine, adding beads. They all used awls to punch the holes, and no one got blood on their books. Always a good sign.

I brought lots of beads. It was quite remarkable to see all the choices these students made, using colors and patterns in many different ways.  They were also pretty good at threading the needles.  One young man threaded a needle for the first time in his life during this class. He had trouble at first, then quickly became an expert at it.

I have too many photos for just one post, so I will end here, and add more later.