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.

Decoration · How-to · Paste Paper

How to Make Paste Papers

Paste Papers are papers which have been painted with a cooked and colored flour and water mixture. There are many ways to use these papers, but I most often use them as decorative covers for books. This week I had the pleasure of incorporating paste papers into projects with students at Long Trail School in Vermont. I supplied papers that I decorated to some of the classes while students in other classes made their own paste papers.

There are many recipes for making paste. It’s all about preference. My preference is to use Gold Medal Flour for making paste. I mix the flour with cold water, with a whisk, using 4 cups of water to each cup of flour. It starts out looking like milk.

Addendum 04/2022 :  When I make wheat paste to mix with PVA to glue down paper to board or paper to paper, , I need only a small amount of wheat paste, so I start with 1 cup water and 1/4 flour. Same as above, start by adding Gold Medal flour to the cold water, whisk, then cook over medium heat, whisk whisk whisk. This small amount takes about 5 minutes to make, from start t to finish.

The flour-water mixture needs to be cooked over a medium heat, whisking often. If the stove top temperature is too high the paste will form lumps (bad). It will take about 8 minutes for the paste to begin to thicken. After about 12 minutes it will thicken considerably. Lower the heat then continue to cook for another 4 to 8 minutes. I generally figure on spending 20 minutes making paste. It’s important to stand by and whisk the mixture quite regularly. No going to the computer to check emails,,,,

After the paste cools down, put about a cup of paste in each of several bowls, then mix a big dollop of acrylic paint into each bowl.  A big dollop might be a  tablespoons or two?
The brushes pictured here are inexpensive utility brushes from Home Depot. I protect my work area with a big sheet of plexiglass that my friend Julie gave to me. I like the plexiglass because it easily wipes clean. In schools I cover tables with  multiple layers of newspaper.

Lightly coat of piece of paper with water, then smear on the paste. Most decent quality papers (ie NOT newsprint) work out fine. Use what is available, and if that doesn’t work, find something else, Papers that people like include Mohawk Super Fine, Aches Text Laid, and Canson Ingres. Different papers accept the colors differently. Lately I have been happily using Crane’s Distaff Linen paper.

Continue slopping on paste. Be careful not to heavily coat the paper as thick, dry paste will crack when you fold it. Add interesting textures on the surface of the paper by using a Q-tip as a drawing tool, lightly dragging combs through the paint, dabbing the paint with a sponge, pressing in foam stamps, or using anything at all that can create a texture. This part is all about discovering what kind of tools feel good to you. When the design is finished transfer the paper to a non-stick surface to dry. At the school, students placed their paper in a drying rack. At home I spread out a big plastic drop cloth for laying out the paper to dry. It takes a few hours to a full day for the paper to dry, depending on the humidity in the air and the thickness of the paste.

Here’s the finished piece of paper which was started in the photos above. The paper looks best when it becomes part of a book.

So here it is, the next day, on the cover of a book.

Here are a few more small books using a selection of paste papers for the covers.

The paste paper making classes at the school were 42 minutes long. That gave me about 5 minutes to demonstrate at the beginning of class, 5 minutes for everyone to clean up at the end of class, and about 30 minutes to work.

Students seemed to average making about 3 papers apiece during class.