Collage and Sketching: A Look inside a Recent Journal—Wrap Up

December 30, 2010

This post wraps up a look at Adjusting along with tips on how to work in a book like this.

Stendahl_Adjusting_Cover Left: Cover and spine of “Adjusting: P10.” A three-signature, rope-stitch, sewn-on-the-spine book, 8 x 10 inches. The boards are covered with a nubby Japanese bookcloth. The cover has a band of painted fabric—edges sewn with a sewing machine. The lamintated dog image in the cover is a print taken from an earlier journal (and stands in here as a self portrait). The title is rubberstamped. P10 refers to the volume identification—this is volume P of 2010. (See my page on how I index my journals for more information.) Photo by Tom Nelson.

Today’s post is a wrap up on the Adjusting journal. I may post some other still images from the book to write about specific things but currently have no plans to do so. The posts from Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week (i.e., the previous 3 posts) provide additional commentary and links to the videos of each of the signatures of this book so you can see the book page-by-page.

This journal was made as an in-class demo book for my current Journal Practice: Collage and Sketching class at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. The class began in September of 2010 and will run through June 2011. It is one in a series of Journal Practice classes I’ve taught there since 2000. The book structure for each class in the series changes depending on the focus of the class. The focus of this class was collage and sketching and the melding of the two within a visual journal. A sewn-on-the-spine journal is an ideal structure for heavy use of collage. It allows more expansion from the added collage materials, without endangering the integrity of the spine or necessitating the removal of pages to maintain the spine’s integrity (removal of pages, leaving a tab to hold its opposite page in the signature that is, let’s be clear).

I wanted to show a couple still photos of the book, because the lighting in my video isn’t the best (it turned out rather orange for reasons I don’t understand) but also so that a couple details could be viewed.

I thought first of all people would like to see a clear image of the spine. Rope stitch is a beautiful decorative stitch useful for books with signatures in multiples of three. Keith Smith’s fine book 1-, 2-, and 3-section Sewings: Non-Adhesive Bindings, Volume II contain instructions for this stitch. (I do it a bit differently, so your final output might look a little different from my example, but the overall result is the same.) Despite the beauty and apparent complexity of the stitch I would like to stress it is not complex, and I encourage you to give it a try.

What is complex is working with this stitch when you have sheets of all different sizes. Then I would encourage you to prepare your signatures with pages taped temporarily in place (with Post-it Notes or with low-tack masking tape) so that the holes of any given sheet don’t slip out of alignment while you’re sewing. Additionally you might find it easier to do a running stitch through your signatures to hold them all together, or do a running stitch on the outer signatures to hold them to the spine, all so that you can focus on the main stitch (and remove the temporary threads when you’ve finished).

Another important matter—don’t make your signatures too thick. It may take you some trial and error to find out what works for you. I go by paper weight and the amount of heavy to thin sheets in a signature. With the papers we were using on this day, which were heavy, I encouraged students to keep to four or five pieces at any given hole. Obviously when you are using extremely small pieces like I did in some instances (remember the Buzzard Luck pagette?) you can fudge this.

I also recommend when planning your signatures that you position partial pages (i.e., pages of smaller dimension than your master page) so that at least two sewing holes can be pushed through them.

You may find that due to your page designs and selections you need to use a different stitch to “catch” all the pages adequately. Again, Smith has numerous useful and glorious stitches that you can use as is or use to build your own stitches from. (His books are on my essential book binders bookshelf for a reason!)

I use multi-ply waxed Irish Linen when working on sewn-on-the-spine structures. Because of the size awl I use, which is neither too small nor too large (it’s a clay tool I’ve written about before), I find that 3- to 5-ply waxed Irish Linen works best. Two-ply is too skimpy, and even 5-ply is pushing the hole size for really bulked up, multiple-passes-through-a-hole, stitches. But it gives you a place to start when thinking about your sewing threads.

You can of course use other types of thread and yarn and fibers. I find that cotton warp thread on spools found in fabric stores is useful for pamphlet books and great for budgets, but in structures more complex than pamphlet stitches I find that that or any other decorative thread doesn’t really hold up: there is stretching, fraying, and of course breaking.

When I make a book I want it to be bound once and withstand use and come out the other end intact. If I’m going to spend the extra time beading the spine it’s doubly important to have a strong sewing. I don’t want to spend time repairing books.

Keep that in mind when making thread choices. Don’t complain that you can’t get waxed Irish Linen where you live. Go to Royalwood Ltd. where the selection in color and ply is fantastic. Any extra money you might spend on great thread will be time and effort and money saved later.

Above: Page spread from “Adjusting: P10” which shows a variety of page sizes and a fold out page. Collage (on left edge of spread behind man’s head), Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, and gouache. Photo by Tom Nelson.

There’s an embarrassing moment in the first part of the video series of this book where I seem unable to do simple multiplication. Partly, I’m hesitating because I’m reaching around a tripod and trying not to um-and-ah on the audio. My main hesitation is that it isn’t simply multiplication and I’m also thinking “do I take time to explain that now or not,” and simply end the moment by finally simply multiplying the book’s width by 4—32 inches. But the reality is no fold out spread, even a gatefold (which has fold outs at each fore edge) will be 32 inches long, because your fold outs must always be less wide than your page width so that there is ease in opening an closing the pages and the book. You’ll find an allowance that works for you. I would start with an inch and work in and out from there. (It totally depends on how you decorate your pages with thickness and how tightly you sew your books, and what sort of stitch you use…you get the idea.)

I recommend that you keep the width of your fold outs at least 1/3 as wide as your page. If you only turn in an inch or so at the fore edge on a page that is 8 or more inches wide chances are that little fold out will always be falling open and getting in your way. Again, you get the idea, some of it will be trial and error in how you use your book.

For instance I stand when sketching and have to hold the book open in front of me. If it is a soft-covered journal that has fold out pages I wouldn’t make those fold outs anything less than 3/4 the width of the page because anything less will constantly open as the book flops in my hand. If, however the cover is stiff board then I have more leeway. (If you stand and sketch this will make sense to you.)

You might deal with your passion for very small fold outs by creating closures with eyelets and thread or buttons or other 3-D embelishments. In which case you can ignore the laws of gravity and motion and flexibility the rest of us are governed by.

A Word about Paper Selection

With a book like this paper selection is as open as you are adventurous. You’ll see in my book that I’ve bound pages from another printed book into a signature and then collaged and sketched on that. It’s a great way to add visual texture with the type from that page.

Your main criteria in making paper selections for any journal should always be the workability of a paper and the media you are mainly going to use. You might want to check out my two-part series on papers for visual journals, which starts at this link, for more information.

Students in this class benefited from a gift of paper from Legion Paper. Tan Stonehenge and Magnani Pescia Blue were supplied for use as their base papers. (My journal does not have either of these papers in it because we had a last-minute registration and that student used those papers that were to be used in my demo book while I pulled more Rives BFK from MCBA’s shop. MCBA has limited space and only carries a few printmaking papers, Rives BFK white being one of them. The students also had Rives BFK to work with.)

Both of Stonehenge tan and Magnani Pescia Blue have lovely color already built in making them great for visual journaling. Both are also suitable for mixed media work. Readers of my blog will know that I don’t like to use either of these papers in books where the textblock is made and then cased in. The softness of these papers becomes problematical at the glue seams on such structures. However, since there are no such seams in a sewn-on-the-spine structure these papers can be relied on as workhorses. Stonehenge, in addition is a very inexpensive sheet when compared to other art papers. Test some to see how you enjoy working on it.

A Word about Consecutive Pages

In my videos I mention how I didn’t work on consecutive pages in this journal. Typically I do work on consecutive pages. In a book such as this, however, I encourage you to be a little more flexible, even if it offends your general sense of order. To come upon a small nub of a page and force a drawing on it, when the next page glows beyond it, waiting to receive your concept, is simply not healthy, as well as poor design sense.

Use a book like this to work on and play with and push your design sense. Use that next full page because it will give your drawing breathing room and then work like hell to relate the previous page to it with your writing, or another drawing, or…?

Watch for themes as they emerge. Watch your use of color and how it flows (or doesn’t if that’s your choice) through the book or a signature.

In general, with a book like this, I recommend that you look at the first signature as a whole. Look at all the pages, get them in your mind. Then go about your day. As something happens pick up your book and journal on the page that is appropriate in that first signature. Don’t even look at the second signature until you are almost finished with the first signature. In that way you won’t leave so many blank pages that you can never get back to fill them sensibly. Also holding the page configurations of the first signature in your mind you will find that your mind will actually seek things out to fill those pages. And the fewer page options you hold in your mind at one time the more your mind can get busy on focusing.

One caveat. These are addictively fun books to work in. You might find yourself up late at night finishing off a series of 5 pages, so just beware, and pace yourself.

Have fun.

    • Nancy
    • December 30, 2010

    I loved this series of posts. After I saw the first video I checked again and again until you posted the second, and then the third. I’m really inspired, and am planning all sorts of new directions for binding & sketching in 2011. Thank you!

    • Miriam
    • December 30, 2010

    I love your collage journal!!! Thank you very much for posting the videos and even explaining more technical information in today’s post. I wanted to mention that Royalwood has a color chart for $2 and it has samples of the different number of ply thread and all the colors, totally worth buying it.
    I also wanted to thank you for talking about Wendy Hales in a past blog. I took a book binding class with her and it was awesome! She is so fun and creative!

    • Frank Bettendorf
    • December 30, 2010

    Fantastic idea, excellent example, and just plain wonderful! I really appreciate your talent and thank you for putting the book and the video together. Very inspiring! Great way to wrap-up 2010.

  1. Reply

    Thank you Miriam. And thanks for mentioning Royalwood’s color chart. I have one too and it’s very useful to have on hand when planning!

    I’m so glad that you took a class from Wendy Hale Davis!!!

    Wendy is beyond awesome! Wendy is an amazing person and inspiration.

    I hope 2011 is filled with bookbinding for you!

  2. Reply

    Frank, have a super 2011! I’m glad you enjoyed this book and video. I have a little bit more to say about the craziness of December in January, but it was journal crazy!

  3. Reply

    I’m SO inspired by your collage and sketching journal, Roz! Thank you, thank you for posting the videos of it and talking us through the different signatures!!

  4. Reply

    Thank you Melinda. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for all your notes off and on. Have a great 2011.

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