In Context: Looking at the Arteza Watercolor Book Part 2

June 5, 2019
A Sailor Fude Pen sketch (using Platinum Carbon Black ink) and watercolor in my 8.3 x 11.7 inch Arteza Watercolor Book.

Key Points

This is part two of my in context review of the Arteza Watercolor Book. (You can find them on Amazon and the link is in the first post in this series.) Use the navigation at the bottom of this post to go back to the first post in this series.

Close up scan of the join between the last page of one signature and the first page of another. Here they are pulling apart—not a good sign.

There’s no text on today’s page spread.

What you want to take away today is that at the joins between signatures the signatures pull apart in this construction.

That’s not great.

Sometimes this happens in a book because the structure is faulty in its physical design. Sometimes this happens because there are faults in the execution. Sometimes both types of faults are pulling a book apart. I feel the latter is happening in this book.

You can look at the scan at the left and see how the signatures are pulling apart.

It looks as if the paper is too soft to hold together. The glue between them pulls apart because the fibers of the paper pull away from each other as the book is opened. (It may be that the book wasn’t weighted well enough during the drying process, but it looks like it is a paper surface issue.)

This can happen with lots of papers. It happens if you try to make Magnani Pescia, a fine, wonderful printmaking paper, into a text block like this construction—that’s why I only use Magnani Pescia in sewn on the spine constructions where there is no glue between signatures.

Now in the case of the Arteza Watercolor Book the signatures are sewn together as a text block and we can see something else—the spine of the text block hasn’t been sufficiently lined or backed to aid the text block in holding together at this stress point (and a similar stress point wherever two signatures meet like this throughout the book!).

Why do I say it isn’t a sufficiently lined or backed spine? Because at the separation at the tail end of the spine (bottom of the photo showing the gutter) you can see a gap showing all the way through to the inside of the spine of the case (cover of the book).

This wouldn’t happen in a book that I made, even if the paper was soft and separated at this gluing point.

With a sketch book you need to bolster all the stress points in the book’s structure because a sketchbook is going to get used more vigorously than most books which are simply read.

Is There A Fix for This Stress Point?

There is a fix. I show you how to support your glue seams in this linked post.

Know that you need to be careful selecting the paper you use to reenforce the glue seams of a text block. The thinner the paper the better. I recommend a Japanese paper with long fibers. Check Talasonline for lots of choices. 

Detail from today’s image so you can see how the washes look on the paper and how the ink from the Sailor Fude Fountain pen sits on the paper.

You can use a decorative paper and incorporate it into the page layout. 

Remember to use the paper so that the grain direction runs parallel to the spine.

(Yes the paper in this book has already been determined to be folded against the grain, but it’s better to keep as much as possible running with the grain parallel to the spine. It will be less problematical in the long run if you do this.)

Depending on the structure of the book and how tight the spine is, adding paper at these seams can cause additional stress on the spine because it adds bulk at each instance. And each instance then combines in bulk added by the end of the book.

If I’m going to do this procedure in a book I will typically take out some text pages. I will not take the first, last, or either of the two center pages in any signature. The others are fair game. Again, it’s structural considerations. And when I cut a page out I always put a cutting mat under the page near the gutter and cut leaving a 1/2 inch to 1 inch tab. This will keep the sewing from becoming as loose as it might otherwise become. It doesn’t make room for the extra thickness at the spine because the tab is still there holding its sister page in place, but it helps a bit.

Do I routinely do this procedure in my books? No, as I say in the linked post, I do this when I use papers that have this tendency. So if I’m using Magnani Pescia or other soft surfaced printmaking papers, or papers with so much hard sizing that the glue won’t hold I’ll do this when I start a new book, at each signature seam.

But in the past 10 years or so I’ve used papers where this hasn’t really been necessary so mostly you’ll just see me tipping papers in as shown in the video, to use for decorative effect.

If you would like to know how I support my spines when making a book consider signing up for one of my text block  bookbinding classes such as the Simple Round Back Spine. 

(Note: In the sewn-on-the-spine book you do not create a text block so this procedure is not covered in that class. In in-person classes involving a text block structure like SRBS, the Roz Method, and the Simple Album this approach is taught.)

    • Tina Koyama
    • June 5, 2019

    You’ve already convinced me I don’t need to try Arteza books. I have no interest in repairing a poorly constructed, commercially made book — if I’m going to do that kind of work, I might as well hand-bind! Which I enjoy sometimes, but not as a routine matter. Thanks for this review series — I’ll keep reading the rest of the series anyway, just out of morbid curiosity.

    1. Reply

      Being out and about as you are I don’t think it’s a sturdy enough book for you. I am in the hand bind camp with papers that you love too, but I do like the ease of sometimes having commercially bound books. The paper in this book will allow for some fun things to happen, but it’s of course a trade off.

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