Archived entries for

The Tucson Festival of Books!

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This weekend, we set up up shop for the first time at the Tucson Festival of Books, a huge gathering with book lovers of all kinds. The festival was held on both Saturday and Sunday, and attracted droves of humans with author appearances, signings, talks, panel discussions and of course vendors.

To prepare for the big event, a group of us got together beforehand with intentions of binding some of the most beautiful notebooks ever to grace earth with their presence. Well…we did bind notebooks, and they were quite lovely, if I do say so.

Using some fresh paper from French, as well as a few of our pastepapers from Curt’s workshop, we made twenty or so pamphlet stitch notebooks, both single and double, hard and soft covers.

After a day of binding, we were ready for the event. We packed up our notebooks and some work from members and set up shop in our booth.

The festival was a really interesting experience for us. Ultimately, the main goal of our being there was to raise awareness of our presence at the university and let humans know about book art in general. At the same time, we did raise some money from donations (notebooks accompanied donations) and promoted an upcoming sale we are hosting with the UA Print Club in April.

Phil was signing his most recent publication, Sanctus Sonorensis, which is totally beautiful and local artist and writer (and member) Alice Vinson had interesting books there too, both blank and filled with content.

So! Overall, the event was a success. We now have a big list of interested humans to whom we will send newsletters and, in the meantime, we will bind more books in preparation for our Book & Print Sale later on this spring. Thanks to all who came by to see us and we look forward to meeting again!

Pastepaper Workshop!

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Pastepaper making is a technique developed by bookbinders about 450 years ago, according to some accounts, in which pigmented starch paste is designed on paper to create decorative pieces which act as book covers or end sheets. They can also be used in greeting cards, wrapping paper and boxes…or anything, really.


Pastepaper is actually a really interesting and rewarding technique of making your own decorative papers rather simply and beautifully. And today, we had the pleasure of participating in a workshop led by book artist and paper ninja Curt Dornberg. He spoke briefly about the history of the craft, then showed us - the Book Art Collective - what to do.


Basically, all you need to do is mix paste with pigment (as in, Golden Acrylic Paints). There are many, many recipes to make paste so here is a simpler one from Curt:
- 3c boiling water
- 1c cold water
- 1/2c cake flour
Mix flour and cold water with wire whisk. Gradually pour boiling water into mixture, stirring constantly. Bring mix back to a boil, reduce heat slightly and cook for ten minutes, stirring constantly to prevent paste from burning. Cool completely; then whisk again. Paste will keep for one week or so.


With the mixtures mixed and supplies at the ready, Curt demonstrated for us the basic techniques of pastepaper making. Or designing. Or whatever one might call it. A most basic tool to lay pigment to paper is a brush, which, if I do say so myself, renders this craft a lovely way of combining gestural techniques with design. Note, the paper is first dampened with a sponge before working.


In addition to the brushes, you can use other tools, anything really, like stencils, hand carved burnishers, plastic grout spreaders, rubber spatulas and popsicle sticks. Dough rollers also come in handy. You can carve shapes from sticky-backed foam and paste them onto cardboard rolls. Then you can insert them onto the roller and make patterns.



After watching the demonstrations, we spent the next several hours working on our own sheets that Curt had generously prepared for us.


We then laid them to dry. One of the exciting possibilities of pastepaper is that you can layer the pigments. Once your first layer/pattern dries (usually 24 hours is the wait time…but Tucson is a pretty dry place) you can add a second pattern, creating a really interesting sense of depth and texture.


Another spontaneous way of creating patterns/textures/designs is to paint them on, or literally remove the pigment using objects like the back end of paint brushes. This can also be a way of illustrating the canvas.



We were in the Printmaking Studio for this workshop, and laid our papers wherever we could find space. The equipment in there is so incredibly beautiful. Here are some of our final results!






In the next week, we will make many of our papers into book covers of notebooks to display at the Tucson Festival of Books, where we have a booth! So, if you’re in town, come check us out (Booth 108), and if not, visit us in the digital world here or on our site.

Lastly, here are some sources to inspire your bookmaking practices:
My Handbound Books
Paste Paper Patterns
Sage Reynolds

Happy painting/making/pasting/book-covering!

Making Memory: Stories of Nonfiction

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the University of Arizona’s Special Collections scouting the stacks for artists’ books to include in an upcoming exhibition that I’m helping to curate, The Secret Lives of Artists’ Books: Stories of Nonfiction.

The Reading Room at Special Collections at the University of Arizona

With the help of designer/artist/teacher (and our faculty advisor) Karen Zimmermann, a loose criteria was determined with which to choose books (because there are so many, and I would have wanted all of them). We decided that the books should be nonfiction narratives that tell us about life in some way. I also have a particular fondness for accounts of memory, so wherever possible, that topic was favored.

Anyway, the collection is pretty expansive, and I wanted to share some of the books here, because it’s often hard to find images of artists’ books online. Also they are awesome; I love them and want to own them. (NB. In addition to Karen, I had the expert help of book artist Philip Zimmermann to help choose the books.)

Scott McCarney, Memory Loss (detail of cover), 1988

One side of the open view of Memory Loss

Detail of the interior from McCarney's Memory Loss

I don’t know much about this book artist, Meg Webster, but I enjoyed her boxed compilation of items, titled Matter. Inside the box is a bag of crushed clover, a mirror, six marbles, two pearls, and a plate of copper.

Meg Webster's Matter

Inside the box

There's really no reason for this...except that I thought it was pretty

Artist, bookmaker and gallery owner Susan Baker is a witty and talented thinker who is the recipient of many grants and fellowships, like at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. This is an interesting, hilarious book with stories of an adult life.

Susan Baker's How to Humiliate a Peeping Tom

Susan Baker's How to Humiliate a Peeping Tom

A book within a book

Humor. I like humor.

Henrik Drescher is an excellent contemporary illustrator and author (Hubert the Pudge, Turbulence, McFig and McFly…36 books in 23 years) whose work, I think, transcends genres and audiences. Aesthetically and conceptually, the ideas and style communicated within his work appeals to both children and adults because he doesn’t sacrifice his vision. Anyway, here is an artist book he made printed in an edition of 100.

Henrik Drescher, Comeundone, 1989. The book comes in a metal case.

An interview with Drescher can be heard here.

The cover of the book. The book comes in a metal case.

The book explores some sins.

Places (like Shanghai) attached to other places on the skull.

The following book was created by artist Sandra Turley at the Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY in 2001. Processes used to make the book include devore printing (burning away of natural fibres) and letterpress. The fold is accordion and the craftsmanship is beautiful.

Sandra Turley, This Original Self, 2001.

Detail of the cover, which looks like stained cloth. Delicate.

Accordion fold.

The imagery is incomplete; sentences never begin or end..

One of the first book artists whose work I fell in love with is Julie Chen, founder of Flying Fish Press. Chen currently teaches at Mills College’s groundbreaking MFA program in Book Art and Creative Writing. Chen’s craft is impeccable and the content of her work is poignant, authentic and simple. Perfection, really. This book, True to Life, is about the power of memory on everyday life, and was created in an edition of 100 copies. The structure is a tablet, with a built-in lifting floor, with tabs that are moved and with them, the text/images changes. Very clever, very clean.

Julie Chen, True to Life, 2004.

The book is protected by a clam-shell box.

The book is protected by a clam-shell box.

Detail of the tablet, showing the first lines of text.

The fifth section of text. The pages were printed using a combination of pressure printing, letterpress and photopolymer plates.

Atlanta-based book artist Ruth Laxson makes beautiful experiments with form. Communication is a major theme in Laxson’s work, and she uses the surrealist technique of automatic writing to compose much of her text. The following book, (Ho+Go)2=It, was created in an edition of 500 copies (still available!) at the now defunct Nexus Press in Atlanta, using an offset press and Mohawk Superfine paper.

Ruth Laxson, (Ho+Go)2=It, 2004.

Ruth Laxson, (Ho+Go)2=It, 2004.

“I hope to test the language for meaning and merge text and image in the spirit as the surrealists. But I want to take it a step farther to text as image.” - Laxson.

Another spread.

Another spread.

So, this should be a good start. There are more books in the show and I’ll be photographing next week. In the meantime, enjoy the books!

Here are a few online resources for artists’ books:
- Buy artists’ books (many of the ones shown here) at Vamp & Tramp Press

- See a huge collection of books at the Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection

- A huge archive of artists’ books can be viewed (with background information) at Artists’ Books Online

- Here is the Book Arts Web which also publishes the online book arts journal, Bonefolder

- For techniques, tools and terms, see the curiously named Evilrooster Bookweb

A Studio Visit with Mark Andersson!

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This weekend, the Book Arts Collective and I had the exciting opportunity to visit bookbinder, conservator and teacher Mark Andersson at his studio, Panther Peak Bindery.

For nine years, Mark was the head of Boston’s North Bennet Street School Binding Department. This School, featured on PBS’ Craft in America Program, focuses on hand crafts like violin-making, cabinetry and [drumroll] bookbinding. Hear president Miguel Gómez Ibáñez describe the programs here:

What’s so exciting about visiting a kind of human like Mark is that we are able to see how alive the craft of bookmaking is. Mark has a diverse background, which includes a Fulbright Scholarship to study bookbindings in Sweden and playing in a rock band. (He also saw Bob Marley in concert, which affords him no small amount of street cred.)

Mark has a ton of teaching experience, which is of great benefit to us. In addition to his knowledgeable brain, which he’s happy to let you pick, he has a ton of didactic samples of bindings, stitches, boxes and gold tooling. Here’s a smattering of what we learned.

Above and below are examples of trends found in stitching/books made in different time periods. An interesting point made in the visit was the resourcefulness of binders throughout time. Basically, bookmakers utilize materials available and affordable. Traditionally, they were academically uneducated, trained perhaps only in their craft (beginning as apprentices).

Part of the trade of binding is decorating your books. One method of fancifying is gold tooling, which is an ornamental decoration applied to leather book covers by impressing heated tools into the material.

Tools can come in the form of metal wheels (above) or stamps (below), and each has a different purpose. Wheels are for consistency in line work, as in creating the front or back covers. Stamps are used for the spine, which requires more controlled precision. Often, only the spine will be decorated to save money…and show bling when on a shelf.

After the visit, we got to see the Andersson garden, complete with all kinds of tomatoes, peppers and snap peas. Yum.

Mark is also a member of the Guild of Bookworkers, a national organization for all of the book arts. All of them. There was talk over the weekend of starting up a Tucson chapter, which would be fitting as their annual Standards of Excellence Conference is happening here this year (in October). This is super exciting because it means that book artists, binders and conservators from all over the country will be right here, in sunny Tucson.

So, if you’re in need of, well anything related to books, Mark can probably help out. Check him out at the Panther Peak Bindery. Happy binding.

Barb Tetenbaum’s Pressure Printing

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Barb loading a low-relief collage onto the Vandercook letterpress

This past weekend, we had the lovely pleasure of meeting Barbara Tetenbaum, a letterpress artist, bookmaker, writer and teacher, among other things. She came to lead a Pressure Printing Workshop for our Book Art Collective.

Pressure printing, a term coined by Barb, is an experimental letterpress technique in which a low-relief collage is made with thin objects (string, stickers, lace, thread), arranged into a composition (or not), glued onto a sheet of paper and then placed underneath the paper to be inked. The resulting image is similar to a rubbing, though (in my opinion) much more polished and lovely looking. Barb notes that the final piece is always better than you are, meaning that a simple arrangement can result in a beautifully finished piece.


Explaining registration and use of the (not-yet-inked) MDF board, which is topped with plexi glass

One of the most exciting learnings from the workshop was our binding technique, a whirlwind binding. The story behind the whirlwind is fascinating. In the early 1900s, caves were “discovered” by a monk in the ancient city of Dunhuang, in the Chinese province of Gansu, which contained thousands of manuscripts of various forms evincing the diversity and breadth of the art of bookmaking. The manuscripts, for which content was the driver of the forms, dated from the 5th to the early 11th century. Holy crap is right.

The binding techniques, with descriptions and instructions, are freely available here.

So. For the workshop, each participant created her own low-relief collage and then printed a small edition on silky kitikata, a handmade Japanese paper. Each person received one of every print, trimmed the pages to book size and bound them into a whirlwind book. The [modified] whirlwind is convenient for this project because each page size is the same, but they are glued such that a sliver of every page is visible, creating a lovely kind of pattern reference when the book is opened.


A few of the pressure printed compositions from the workshop

We’re still finishing up our bindings. Pictures to come. Anyway, the workshop was successful. An excellent combination of getting to know a strong thinker and eloquent speaker in the world of bookmaking, of learning technique and making something pretty. We also had a party with lots of delicious food, which helps too. Workshops are a great way of integrating yourself into your field.

Barb’s beautiful work can be found and purchased at Vamp & Tramp Booksellers. (I highly recommend having at least of her pieces in your collection.)

Who We Is

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Hello, humans! Welcome to the virtual home of the Book Art Collective, hailing from the University of Arizona in Tucson. The mission of our organization is to bring book related arts to the community at large, to educate and to provide a forum in which students and community members can learn about and practice the various crafts of the book.

We are generally located within the U of A’s School of Art, where we have a lovely little lab containing letterpresses, type, paper and a beloved guillotine.

Copyright 2010, Book Art Collective.

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