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OK, A Little Bit of State Fair Prep: Listen to Your Mood When Binding a Special Journal

August 23, 2010

I make a decision about my approach at this year’s State Fair.


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Above: My latest batch of books—including my two choices for the Minnesota State Fair 2010 Journal. Read below to learn which book is which.

I know I said in my State Fair Round Up post that I was going to spare you all another round of State Fair Prep, but I have to share this little bit of excitement and joy—I've decided on a paper, a book size, and the book is made!

While gearing up for this year's State Fair I went in an unusual direction (for me) for the journal. For the past several years I've been doing unbound journals—working on journal cards at the Fair and then making a box or case for the cards when the Fair is over. There is a freedom to this approach. I don't have to wonder if the book I'm selecting has enough pages or not enough pages. And I really enjoy working on my journal cards. I've kept things interesting by changing the background treatments and the size of the cards and the media I use on the cards.

This year, because I'm sketching a little bit more slowly, and because I'm not even sure how many trips to the Fair I will make (the scheduled five were cut down to only a definite two, though I still hope to make it out there on the other days as well), I went the counter-intuitive route of deciding to work in a bound journal.

This means of course that I can end up with a lot of unused pages, or if things go really well I can run out of space altogether and need to start a new book. It also means there won't be a convenient place to store my disk of photographs. (Such disks fit easily in a stack of cards—you simply make your final case large enough to accommodate them.)

And none of this matters to me because my mood told me—take a book. There was something about the idea of holding a book, of having an excess of pages always in my hands. Though I have to say I never suffer from too few cards I do think I treat cards more conservatively than pages in a book, i.e., I linger more and wait to find something really interesting to draw instead of just drawing anything and everything.

The more I thought about what type of paper and size and format I wanted to work in at this year's Fair the more I kept hearing myself say, "Take a book."

So I compromised and made two books so I could hold them and see if the mood had shifted.

That's what you see in the photo at the top of this post—the latest batch of books includes two State Fair possibles covered all in cloth with recessed areas on their covers for a label. (The other two books with purple book cloth and splotchy purple paper that I painted, were made from the two sheets of Arches Text Wove [Velin Arches] I had left over and didn't want to store. The large one has 4 signatures and the small one has 2 signatures. The latter will be just fine for a weekend trip.)

I came to my design decisions about the Fair books in the following way. First if I'm going to use a book how will it be covered? I typically have decorative paper on the front of my books. I didn't want to go that route because the decorative paper always sets a mood and I was already dealing with enough mood! I decided to make a book covered completely with book cloth. I wanted a bright color of cloth, but one that wouldn't show wear (and barn dirt!) readily. I happened to have a piece of blue and a piece of magenta book cloth—both of which had black woven threads in them which didn't take away from their brightness, but would help to hide dirt.

Next I had to decide what type of paper on which to work. I knew I wanted to make a fairly thick book in case I did get to return to the Fair multiple times. That meant I would need to use a relatively thin paper so that the book would have manageable bulk at the spine. I couldn't decide whether or not I wanted a white or toned paper. But these characteristics all pointed me toward two of my favorite lighter weight papers: Arches Text Wove (Velin Arches) which is 120 gms and Gutenberg 130 gms. (I actually prefer to use the Gutenberg 180 gms when I make journals, but it wasn't available and for the small page size I was going to work with I knew the 130 gms was a better choice anyway—I sure didn't want to lug a book with a thick spine around the fairgrounds!)

For a couple days I went back and fourth in my mind about which paper I would most enjoy. Other criteria were at play here too. I had decided that my approach at this year's Fair would be "Any damn thing goes! Just get something down on paper." So the idea of using only one medium was no longer important to me, and I wanted a paper that could work well with whatever I decided to take on the morning I took off for the Fair: again MOOD was going to play a part.

I like ATW and Gutenberg for similar reasons. Both have a little bit of texture that is fun with colored pencils but not disruptive to dip pen work. Both will take my Pentel Pocket Brush Pen without complaint. Both will take watercolor and gouache washes. And both are light weight enough to cram a lot of pages into a reasonably sized spine!

I put the final selection aside and did some math. How many signatures should I include? I wanted to settle on 9. That allows me to cut some pages out of the bound book so that I can add in collage material I might pick up at the Fair. I left the final signature count hovering at 9 to 12 and focused instead on size.

I knew I wanted something that was about 7 x 7 inches square. That size would fit easily in the small fanny pack I like to take to the Fair (OK it's a day pack and some people don't think it's all that small, but it's one of the smallest I've found that holds all I like to carry and you can see it at this link—also it has nice padding and lumbar cinching straps that make it fit so well you don't notice you have it on.) That size of book also gives me a 14 x 7 inch page spread which is a nice space to work on, yet it is still a manageable book to hold on to, even open, when you are in a crowded barn!

Wasting paper is something I like to avoid so I looked at both the ATW and the Gutenberg with an eye to what I could do to tear a full sheet down to get close to the size I wanted, and yet not waste a lot of paper. I found that I could get a 6-1/8 x 7 inch page easily from the Gutenberg, and from the ATW I was able to tear down to a page size of 6.5 x 7 inches. (You'll see that the magenta book looks a bit wider in the photo because it's the one with ATW for text pages.)

To do this yourself I suggest that you get a piece of paper and sketch the dimensions of your full sheet of paper, noting the grain direction. Your spine fold in your signatures should always be going with the grain and this will help you work out how to place that fold. If you have a 32 x 40 inch sheet with the grain going in the 40 inch direction your height is going to be measured out on that 40-inch side. You could decide to have a 10-inch tall book and that would mean you would get four 10-inch tall strips from that sheet, with the grain going in the correct direction. Or your could have a 5-inch tall book and tear 8 strips of that height.

When you are tearing your width you have to remember that your signatures are folded so you have to make your tear width two times the width of your final page size. On the 32 x 40 inch sheet described above you could do an 8-inch wide page and get two spreads from each of your 10-inch tall strips, because 32 divided by 8 equals 4! Of course if you want a 5-inch width to go with the 5-inch height mentioned at the end of the last paragraph you need to divide 32 by 5 which equals 6 with 2 inches left over. Since 6 is an even number you know you'll get 3 page spreads from that strip, but you still have that two inches left over—that's waste. You can of course decide that it's such a little bit of measurement when spread over the width of 6 pages that you might just decide to leave it on and work out the exact fraction extra that each of the spreads would have to be. Be as fussy as you like. I tend to work with whole numbers or with even numbers of tears, e.g., things that just need to be folded in half instead of thirds for instance.

You get the idea—you look at the sheet and the grain direction and the DESIRED size you're aiming for and you start drawing diagrams to determine how you're going to arrive there. (Don't tear your paper before you do a diagram or you'll start crying.) You can read more about tearing down paper for binding on my page, Tearing Down Fabriano Artistico for Binding, or use the blog's search feature to find related posts—I have written about this several times.)

Once you've worked out how to tear your paper down you want to tear one sheet down and check that you were right. (I do this after checking my math at least 3 times.) Once you have torn one sheet down and it's obvious it is working as planned, you can tear the rest of your sheets. Part of the reason I ended up with 9 signatures in each book is that 10 would have taken me into another full sheet for one of these papers: I didn't see the need for that.

At this point in my thought process I had already decided that I wanted to use the Gutenberg paper but I thought I should go ahead and bind the ATW at the same time in case my MOOD changed—easier to bind two books than to find time to bind again later at the last moment before going to the Fair.

Part of the reason I settled on the Gutenberg is that it has a creamy tone and I like having a tone to work on, even it if is light. And also it is slightly more opaque than the ATW. When I use my Pentel Pocket Brush pen it's less noticeable through the page, even on this 130 gs weight (not visible at all through the 180 gs I usually use). But it is still lightweight enough that I'll be happy churning through the pages (if that happens), and not so textured that my pen will skip about, and not so toned that I can't use watercolors—because I decided that I wanted to use watercolors, not gouache, at this year's Fair. Also, in May of this year, the journal I was working in when I went to the Shepherd's Festival was made with this weight of Gutenberg and I loved drawing animals on it.

The only other consideration I had when making these books was what to do about the covers. Since there wouldn't be any decorative paper on the covers the books would be rather "secretive" as to what they contained. Every year I like to make Spin Art and I like to include that Spin Art in my State Fair Journal, usually in a window in the case, or as a label. I decided that this year's book would have a recessed space on the front cover where I could put a reduced and laminated print of my Spin Art.

You can see this recessed space on the covers of the blue and the magenta books. You simply mark off this space on your cover board and carefully cut down into the board (but not all the way through) peeling back layers to the depth that you need. When you glue the fabric and board together you want to be sure you work the cloth into the depression. I recommend that you use a piece of bond paper as a protection sheet and keep your non-bone-folder hand in the path of your bone folder as you work so that the bone folder doesn't shoot off onto the rest of the cover and make an indentation that will show through the fabric. (After the Fair I'll make a scan of my Spin Art, reduce it to the label size, print out an archival print, laminate it and glue it in place in the depression. You can see two laminated labels in my rounded back journal class samples.)

One more bit of math. Originally I checked past State Fair journals to see what my daily output of sketches has been so that I could plan for an appropriate number of pages. Ten to fifteen per day, depending on the year and the medium I was working in, seemed about right. Nine signatures gives me more than enough pages to meet that if I go even more than two times. And to solve the disk issue I will just make a small folder for the disk and then make a slipcase to hold the disk and the book together. I'll probably cut a window in the slipcase so that the Spin Art Label on the cover of the book shows through the window. It sounds like a plan.

My mood is very good indeed.

All I have left to do is buy some new pens (Staetdler Pigment Liners and a couple Nexus too, just for grins), get some more sunscreen, and get going.

    • Janine
    • August 23, 2010
    Reply

    Those two cloth-bound books are absolutely gorgeous. I tend to like simpler rather than overly decorative things… the purple one looks good enough to eat 🙂

    Have fun! (and have a fried twinkie or a corn dog or a cupcake on a stick for me!)

  1. Reply

    Thanks Janine. I don’t eat fried Twinkies (having tried them when they were first introduced—the oil they are fried in clashes with their oil [is it still lard?] filling and makes them inedible) but I will munch a cord dog in your name!!!!

    I only hope it cools off!! (86 today and humid!)

  2. Reply

    Elizabeth, I didn’t mean to not inform folks about the Fair! EEEK. I did post about the upcoming sketchout at the Fair, but frankly, all that I wrote last year about the Fair pretty much sums up what I love about the Fair. I had over 30 posts about the Fair last year, and most of them were prep posts. SHEESH!

    I will definitely enjoy the taffy!

    Funny you should write about Stabilo Tones. I don’t have your note yet, but also haven’t checked email today. The reason it’s funny you brought this up is that I just took my lightfastness tests down on Sunday and was going to scan them and post them (probably sometime during the Fair, or just afterwards—very interesting results, and not what I expected.)

    Roz

  3. I have seen instructions for making a recess in the book cover by including a blank piece of metal or plastic the size of the recess when you have glued the fabric or paper on and put the book cover into a press to dry. Is there a reason you don’t like to do it that way?

  4. Reply

    Jeanette, one main reason actually—I am really about making books without any special tools—or rather with only a bone folder, awl, and needle—anywhere you happen to be; and part of this comes from the fact that I don’t have a book press myself. I use fabric covered bricks and other lead filled weights in my drying process. I don’t have a press that I can crank down with sufficient pressure to make the method you describe practical.

    Anyone can do it the way I suggest, with a clean result each time if they are careful. Without any special equipment.

    You also don’t need to use the same size “plates” every time, or have a plate for all the different sizes of labels you might need. Each is a custom job.

    I’ve seen it done the way you describe once and it worked out with a lovely result, but I have never tried it that way myself. If however you were doing a production run of several with the same size depression I think it would be advantageous to work out a way to use a plate just because it would be a lot faster over the course of a set of 10 books for instance (or 100!)

    I would worry about slippage. Avoid the urge to tape the plate in place as the tape extending past the plate would also get impressed into the bookcloth leaving an ugly result. You could hold the plate in place by putting two-sided tape on it’s back—you don’t care that the depressed area has messed up cloth from the tape, because it will be covered by the label you add later. Something to think about though.

    If you have a press and can create enough pressure on the “plate” that you use I say go for it.

    Let me know if you try it and how you like using your “plates.”

    Roz

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