19 November 2008


Well, it's time I gave some much-needed attention to my little blog. Let’s talk about bookmaking.
No, not "Making Book," as in taking bets on the races.
But making books, as in creating covers and pages and binding them together. THAT kind of bookmaking.

I took up bookmaking this past summer, and I found it interesting and rewarding. I love digital photo editing and digital scrapbooking, but what I had been missing in those activities was the tactile dimension—the touchy-feely nature of the actual page, as opposed to the virtual page, which is essentially made up of tricks of electrons and light—the smoke and mirrors of the early 21st century. So I took up once again the art of the actual page, this time as part of actual books, which I would build and bind myself. If this intrigues you, I highly recommend a very handy little book by Esther K. Smith: How to Make Books: Fold, Cut & Stitch Your Way to a One-of-a-Kind Book. I also took a couple of online classes at Big Picture Scrapbooking--extremely nurturing instruction!

So, I learned how to make covers, how to make neat, crisp folds and corners, how to create several different bindings, how to stitch bindings, and how to embellish my pages. What I liked most was, I think, the stitching. I think I could spend a good deal of time sewing book bindings and remain very happy. I found something immensely satisfying in my first stitched binding, a pamphlet stitch. Just three holes and, basically, three stitches, et voila, it’s a book binding! I embellished my first pamphlet-stitch binding with a monogram medallion—just seemed like it could use that to finish it off.

The Japanese stab-stitch binding I like for its artistry—the way the stitches become part of the visual appeal of the cover. My first attempt was just a tiny book made of business-size envelopes cut in half, with cardstock covers, but I like it quite a lot.

In contrast, the post binding does not impress me much. It just seems heavyhanded, especially after the delicate, dancelike sewing of the stitched bindings. On the other hand, I’m very content with the post-bound book I made, especially because it’s Cocoa’s book. The window in the cover allows the bookmaker to highlight a favorite photo, and it was fun making pages out of unexpected materials, like torn corrugated cardboard and a panel from a dog biscuit box, plus throwing in some fibers and tags. Coke thinks it came out great.

A couple of bindings that I hadn’t expected to like turned out to be very adaptable in interesting ways. The fan-fold binding I used to save photos and cards from the Chief’s 60th birthday. I also included some experiments in photo transfer and printing on transparencies. (Photos of this book later, I promise!)

But by far my best effort involved the accordion binding technique, which I never thought I’d like much. I used it to make a book in honor of my relationship with my twin brother, and I called it Dialectic. As any student of rhetoric can tell you, dialectic is a form of argument in which the proposition of a THESIS leads to its opposite, the ANTITHESIS, and the dialogue leads eventually to a third proposition that compounds the two: SYNTHESIS. The dialectic of the Hale twins frames the sister, elder child by “four precious minutes,” as Thesis; the brother, and younger child, as Antithesis; and their relationship itself as elegant Synthesis. Like Eliza and Wilbur, the twins in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slapstick, we are like two imperfect halves of one perfect person, and are never so good individually as we are together: “Thus did we give birth to a single genius, which died as quickly as we parted, which was reborn the moment we got together again.” In critical readings of the novel, Eliza and Wilbur represent right brain and left brain. But in my reading, they are simply a brother and sister who cannot live well without each other near, and who are their best selves when they are united: Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis.

So, to you, dear brother, the other half of my best self, I offer this little book: