The concept for my final book project was to present a short story/monologue I wrote in a way that aesthetically matched the tone of the work and incorporated design elements to reflect the content of the story. I wanted to do something a little more light and fun for this project, and I wanted to experiment with new materials.
The story I chose is called “Tub Spout Blues.” In the story, a man reflects on a recurring dream he has in which his big toe becomes irretrievably lodged in the spout of his bathtub. It’s a silly story meant to provide the reader with comical images of bathtub mishaps and a little cautious fear toward tub spouts.
My concept was a both a creative and structural challenge to realize because it required me to think hard about how I could capture the tone and content of the story in physical form. I had avoided going gimmicky all semester long but decided for the final project that it would be okay to dabble in “nontraditional forms.” For some odd reason, the central image of the story (a toe stuck in a tub spout) just felt like a strong basis for book design. With this in mind, I began thinking about how I could construct the two main elements (toe and spout) and somehow include text without it feeling out of place between the two elements. These considerations led me immediately to the accordion fold book form. I figured that this long, vertical style could be used to mimic a stream of water falling from a faucet—perhaps the only thing that would make sense between a toe and spout.
A fair bit of craftsmanship was involved in the bookmaking. The spout, composed of two deftly folded pieces of cardboard, took several tries to perfect. Early forms were unstable or too light to support the weight of the toe. Eventually, I was able to find a thick, heavy cardboard that I could measure into foldable pieces to counter the issue of lightness. From there, it was a matter of applying duct tape in a semi-convincing fashion and creating tub stoppers from bits of broken pencils and metal washers.
The toe, constructed entirely from Super Sculpey, also required craftsmanship. I hand molded each toe and then smoothed out some details and carved others using a set of wooden tools. The trickiest part to the toes was finding the right amount of clay to use. Too little and the toe was a t a greater risk to crack or crumble; too much and the toe would too heavy to stay inserted in the spout. There was also thickness to consider. The sides of the toe had to be such that they could fit within the spout, but still be wide enough to hold fast and not fall out. The unbaked toes tended to mold to whatever size and shape the spout was, but the final, fully baked toes would not be as pliable. I kept this in mind when prepping the toes for baking, and through trial, error, calculation, and more error, I made it work.
I think the accordion fold was the right form for my project. It added the content-supported appearance of a water stream and fits great within the bizarre casings I created. The surprise of dislodging the toe and pulling it down to reveal a long chain of blue paper is a nice touch for the reader as well. As for exploring and stretching the book form, I did do a few things that I hadn’t seen for accordion books before. First of all, I bound it using a cardboard tub spout and a sculpted clay toe—that has to constitute some kind of stretch. Second, I printed it vertically, which while not a huge deviation, is still not the norm for accordion books.
Typographically, the book was a bit of a chore. It took several attempts to lay it out in a way that minimized my paper usage, fit the text without looking cramped, and wasn’t obscured by the hollow part of the tub spout. Changing the text from horizontal to vertical after my first mockup didn’t make the layout process any easier. Still, once I had my layout, things went more smoothly. As with my midterm, I used Modern No. 20 for my text, finding it to be pleasantly readable but still visually interesting. My title was set in Poplar Std, which I chose because it’s thick and bubbly like tub spouts and toes, and a little fun, as the story is intended to be.
Graphically, I went with a few simple clipart pieces—a tub spout (natch) and a few water droplets falling out and pooling at the bottom of the page. Because the accordion fold required a few extra pages for spacing and binding, I thought using the image of falling water would be an appropriate and visually appealing way to fill the empty vertical space. I also added a similarly styled clipart image to my bio page, feeling that it was silly and fun in a way that matched the rest of the book.
The title of my book is “Tub Spout Blues”, which seemed pithy and fun while still being a pretty accurate description of the story. There’s also “blue” in the title, which is the color of water (kinda) and the color of the paper used (totally). So there’s that.
If I were to make this book over again, I would mostly do things the same way, as I’m happy with my finished product. I would, however, choose paper that is a little lighter, as the small text can be difficult to read on this shade and texture of paper. I tried to pick a lighter shade, but it still ended up too dark. With more time and resources, I would also experiment with other ways to color the spout silver. The duct tape works very well, and I especially like the way it makes the back part of the spout look like it’s molded into a wall. Still, it might look cleaner if the whole thing was just painted silver instead of layered in silver tape.