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MOMENTUM

I finished this essay as I was creating the book form which made for an interesting process. While I don’t think this will be a standard practice of mine, it was really neat to be able to mold the content to the form and the form to the content without making any large concessions because neither existed on its own terms yet. I chose to call this project Momentum for several reasons: the box (the speaker) gains more and more emotion throughout the piece, there’s a lyric quality throughout that sets the reader’s pacing early on, and the entire essay surrounds the idea of memory and momentous occasions. The accordion folds & interior cover lend themselves to a kind of movement or momentum that works nicely, too.

THE CONCEPT

Because the essay takes the point of view of a box, I think I was able to create and present a unique and visually appealing concept (which is a significant improvement from the conceptualization of my mid-term).

the box—Moving away from the idea that I was going to create three very unique boxes was an excellent idea (thanks, Meredith!). I went to a couple of different cigar shops and finally found a group of five that I liked. It did pain me to repurpose these boxes as they were so beautiful, but all for the craft, right? It’s also nice that these boxes were able to serve a purpose without being exact replicas of the photo box I describe in the story—it lets the reader make their own connection to the form

Interior pages and “mini-books”—The pages of this book are still my favorite and most successful element. The simple variation in half-page or full-page folds allows for great movement and reader interaction and lets it get “messy” without destroying the cohesive, simple beauty of the whole thing. I also added two “mini-books” in place of the copyright and author pages. These additions offer limited interaction, linking to the content of course, but also, it adds to this “sorting” idea. If a reader is inclined to read or experience the book a second, third, or fourth time, how probable is it that they’ll read through the copyright a second time? What about the third? With each use, they’re less likely to experience each part of the box and so they’re essentially “editing” the experience, deciding what’s important and what’s not…which is exactly what the essay is about. I was really excited to be able to accomplish this without needing to include “removable” elements

Stamps—I wanted to include images that were appropriate to the content, but my original idea included “found objects” and things that would matter to me but virtually no one else in the world. Meredith and I talked about using stamps for other items that were loosely related, and I did gather a handful of nice silhouettes, but they still just weren’t working with the content and form. Instead, I used InDesign to create a series of rough squares (an image suggesting a box without hitting you over the head) that I then made into stamps. I really like the effect of these images throughout the book; I only wish I’d stamped more across the folds. I did this by mistake on one of the last ones and it’s actually really nice.

CRAFTSMANSHIP

Overall, my craftsmanship has improved drastically over the semester, but this project humbled me in big ways. I had to constantly remind myself that I’m still very new to this thing called bookmaking and there’s still quite a bit I need to learn and perfect. Still, I’m learning steadily even if it is painfully slow and sometimes just painful, and that’s really encouraging.

Successes—I’m really proud of my interior pages. I love that the form is mobile while still retaining aspects from the “traditional” form. I’m also glad I stretched myself into this unknown territory rather than playing it safe with one of the hardcover forms we learned in class, because I was able to experience both the essay and the form in a way I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.

I could also become a stamp junky. My poor family will now be receiving journals and letters with these abstract squares everywhere. Because I made them. And they’re beautiful. And they need to be used more to pay for themselves.

Failures/Challenges—I intended to use hand-stitching throughout the book (square, oppressive lines at first; curved, freer lines at the end) paired with text blocks that were decreasing in size and font that was increasing in size. These three elements were going to be used to highlight the change in both the “I” and the “You” in the essay

At about midnight last night, I realized the “stitching” that I had done on the first signature on all three books was terrible. It was crooked and uneven, inconsistent, and really, it was unfixable. I couldn’t even just leave those pages as they were because it looked like a huge mistake since it wasn’t anywhere else in the book. I weighed my time options and my obvious lack of skill in this area, and decided it was better to just recut, reprint, and restamp the first signature on each book. This took about an hour rather than staying up all night trying to make the stitching work. It was unfortunate, and I was upset about the wasted materials, but I think it was the right call and my book doesn’t look like it’s missing anything, so that’s positive

I did go with the text blocks decreasing in size, but I was unable to increase the font size since each fold is only 3.5 inches tall and my paragraphs are long. Because of this, the text block change is virtually unnoticeable and I’m not convinced its intent would be clear if someone did happen to notice it.

The cover elements were also a bit of a failure, although the failure still lines up with the content pretty nicely. We’ll call it a happy accident. I tested the stamps out on the paper (old art book) before I glued everything down, and the image came out very clearly. I didn’t realize the ripped paper and glue would interfere once on the box. These unreadable images are still intriguing and match the essay’s description of “tiny strips,” but it’s not the effect I was originally going for. I’ll have to remember to even play around with small things like this while I’m still in the mock-up phase next time.

The final big hiccup that I ran into is the engineering of the “interior cover” (title page, copyright, author bio). I changed the design because the thicker pieces of book cloth wouldn’t behave as the thin strips did in the mock-up. I tried more of a “loop” technique this time, but now the box has to be forced closed and it’s less able to stand up to the test of time. It’s really a bit cumbersome.

PRICING & DISPLAY

I’m using a few other cigar boxes that I acquired through this process as my display. They’ll create a boxy-kind-of theme, but also allow for levels which will let me drape the accordion folds out of the boxes.

I hate pricing, but mostly, it’s because I’m cheap. And so I think everyone must be cheap. And I can’t see anyone paying $35 for a book, but…

Materials:

Boxes: $10, Paper: $20, Stamps, Ink, & Glue: $25, Book Cloth: $15

Total Materials: $70 (~$23.50 a book)

I’m pricing my books at $35, and I’ll be interested to see how many people’s eyebrows go up at that or say, I wish I could buy it, but it’s just a little too much, or that’s all!? Next time I’ll think about price ahead of time and see if I can plan a bit better to keep costs down.

IF I WERE TO DO THIS AGAIN…

I would definitely try to fix my “failures” list and rethink those elements. I think there are simple solutions to all these issues and the main fix is spending more time on each step.

I’m proud that I stretched my comfort zone on this project and deviated from the book forms I’m more comfortable with. I identified the needs of this content better than I did for the midterm and made appropriate choices rather than just picking things that I thought looked pretty together (although, I still think that’s important, too.)

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The best news is I’ve finally finished the essay to my liking. It’s been interesting figuring out the story while I figure out the book form. Maybe not a practice I’ll engage in in the future, but interesting and valuable nonetheless.

I’ve made significant process on my second mock-up as far as “rethinking” all these ideas that were bouncing around in my head. I’ve figured out the logistics of the pages and made the seams of the accordion fold as unnoticeable as they possibly could be, so that’s nice. Because my essay is about a box and eventually destroying that box, I’ve decided to use a bit of hand sewing throughout the piece as a subtle visual element. Plus, I wasn’t really feeling the time crunch, so now, with all the added stitching, I’m sure to be in panic mode by Saturday.

I’ve also been able to use the wooden panel to create a “book cover” in the interior which is reminiscent of the early idea I had without the whole making boxes part. I’m excited about the way the reader will experience the box.

I haven’t figured out the display yet but I think I’m going to use the other cigar boxes that didn’t make the cut for the project. I think I can use them to add layers to the overall layout, and highlight the ones that are actually books. And I’ll need to make them appealing, because the price is increasing with each hand-this-takes-a-really-long-time element.

I think overall, everything is turning out really nicely and I’m excited to see the final project.

I spent most of my time this week trying to make the “box thing” happen for myself only to discover that it was indeed possible: I mapped out the coolest book-box thing ever on paper, felt sure about my measurements and materials, and left no real time to execute it. So although it was possible it became less and less probable. I decided to learn from my over-ambitious mid-term attempt and take Meredith’s advice and start with ready-made boxes so that I could focus more on the book form itself rather than how to create these intricate boxes.

I went to a couple of cigar shops and studied different boxes, their shapes, and forms and ended up finding one shop that had five (in case I screw things up) identical, thin, square beautiful boxes. I didn’t get as far with the interior on this mockup as I intended but I reworked my original concept in a way that I think is really going to lend itself well to my content.

Instead of having a bound book in the lid of the box and an accordion fold in the bottom of the box, it’s just going to be an accordion fold book. When you pull out all of the folds though, one side of the paper will be the letter from the box (and it will look like a letter because of the size and shape of the folds) and the other side will be the “collection of items” almost collaged to give the effect that they’re from different places, times, people, events, etc. The really cool thing about this (I think) is that the folds are at 7.5 inches and 3.75 inches, allowing the user/reader to fold back the pages in a variety of ways. If they fold them all at 7.5 inches, the book lays flat, everything is organized, and the box closes easily. If the user/reader folds the pages at the 3.75 inch mark, the pages start mixing in the content and the pages take on a more “pile of letter” quality. The whole story is about rearranging and editing things out of the box so this usability is really quite exciting to me (nerd alert, I know).

I have to say that I was completely avoiding this “non-traditional” book form but it’s kind of freeing. I feel like I’m still being true to the “book” by making the content stay connected with the folds instead of just putting everything in the box and calling it a day. I’m really trying to be conscious about using story-telling and the traditional book form in this experiment and I think it’s helping craft the essay too as I’m still editing it and marrying it to the form.

As far as image, I’ll be creating a few stamps of fake postcards and letters to stamp throughout, but I’m also going to be using the whole idea of the box as an image and artifact. I want the box to remain, clearly, a cigar box because it lends itself to my idea of a “keepsake box on the shelf” but I’m going to glue down pictures to its top (just like the story) and then rip them up leaving behind the residue of the torn image (again, like the story) and then sand the sides a little to help with the worn aspect. I want to put shellac over that finished project though to kind of balance this old box and the beauty of the book and so it looks purposeful, not just sloppy. I’ll also be roughing up and softening the edges of all of the pages and adding coffee-cup rings to some of the “artifacts” to further allude to the essay.

I’m really excited about this project and I’m glad I was able to keep my pride in check and give up on the box making idea, so that now I can fully focus my energy on the interior of the book.

The Writing 

Since we need something new that we haven’t used for another class, I decided to revisit an essay that I first started writing at a garage sale two years ago. Since that day, I’ve tried off and on to make something of the essay with no real results.

The essay—or lack there of—is about a box that I have back home, filled with letters and other artifacts from my lifetime. Every now and then, I go to put something in the box and the lid won’t shut. At that point, I then have to decide what to keep, and what to throw away (and no I can’t just get another box, read the essay). In any case, the essay is basically me saying what I just did. Pretty boring. Nobody cares.

In thinking about this project and the form this essay might take, however, I was able to rethink the entire thing. I decided to change the whole form and approached the essay like the box was telling the story. It makes an otherwise boring piece of info about my life, at least a little more intriguing. So there’s the story from the box and then the actual artifacts that are separate poems/tiny experimental pieces that will be self-contained all to themselves.

Form & Concept

I first thought I’d do one of those books that have their insides cut out. You know, book safe style. And that was a cool idea for 10 seconds. Why would I make a beautiful book just to cut it up? And how does that really reflect the “box.”

Now I could just do a box like the one in my closet, put the artifacts and essay in the box like the letters in my own and call it a day, but I’m not a huge fan of these kinds of “books.” It’s art, I’ll give you that, but I’m uncomfortable calling a box a “non-traditional” book. So I decided to do a blending of the two with a traditional bound book within a box (made like a hard bound book).

So the basic idea is that I’ll make a miniature box out of book board and book cloth just like a hardbound book. It will look like a box but the cover will be hinged instead of two separate pieces. When you unhinge the cover, you’ll find that it’s actually the back cover of a book nested in the lid (either hardcover accordion or quarter cloth, depends on the final essay length). Then, in the bottom of the book there will be the individual artifacts with their self-contained experimental pieces: a package of seeds (will probably use a stamp for this), a letter in a hand-addressed envelop, a picture with handwriting on the back, and a few other items that I’m working out the logistics for.

Materials

Outside Box & Covers

                  Book board                            Free (Book Thing)

                  Book cloth                              $20

                  Art Paper                                 $10

Inside Book & Artifacts

                  Linen Paper                           Free (left over from midterm)

                  Handmade envelopes     Free (paper didn’t use for midterm)

                  Art Paper                                 $10

                  Stamps                                     Free (left over from midterm)

Unforeseen Extras                              $10

 

Schedule

Before April 9                        Finish and Edit Essay      

                                                      Get Supplies

Before April 12                     Make mock-up box & book

Before April 16                     Make mock-up artifacts

Before April 19                     Make adjustments and get more supplies if needed

 Before April 23                     Make new mock-up, make three boxes

 Before April 30                     Make interior parts and assemble

 Before May 7                         Finish everything, price, and make display

The concept for my book was to create a small collection of poetry focused on Winter season and weather and all that entails—cold weather, lonesome days, overcast sky, etc. I wanted the book to be pretty minimalistic just like the outdoors during winter, but I also wanted a really “touchable” book because I think that’s one of the greatest things about handmade books.

The title of my book is “a traveling flake of snow.” It’s a line from one of the poems included in the book and I thought it was nice because the book itself feels just like a little tiny piece of winter floating around to my friends and family (I can’t figure out how to say that and now sound completely cheesy). I thought it was a nice title and because I chose not to pair it with any cheesy snow flake images, it still retains it subtle, simple beauty.

I chose Garamond (spelled wrong in the Colophon—really embarrassing) and Optima for my typefaces because of the delicate strokes. It reminded me of winter trees while still being beautiful enough for poetry. I think it looks really nice in the dark brown ink.  

My concept is creative and original because I took this winter theme a few steps further by painting the pages with three and four layers of coffee to mimic the sepia tones of winter and I also carved a stamp to help the illustration.

I fully explored the form in trying to use different papers within the same book and playing around with a few different stitching patterns. I tried to really just invent my own in the end since the size of my book was a little different. I don’t know that I’ve fully stretched it the form because beyond using distinctive materials and a different pattern, I didn’t really try anything crazy. I’m not really upset that I didn’t push things further though, because I feel like now I have a much better understanding of the form.

I’ve painted with coffee once or twice before, but never to this magnitude. I also had never worked with linen paper or this binding technique (besides in class). Creating a handmade stamp was also new. So what I’m saying is that I was way overly ambitious with working with “new materials” which really challenged me. In the end I really needed three more hours to get the books as perfect as I wanted them, and the new materials did leave me with a few mistakes within a few of the copies, but I’m really glad I took on the challenge. I feel like I really learned a lot about these new materials and the best practices—all about giving things time to sit under large paper weights.

I think I brought a high level of effort to the book but my craftsmanship still needs a bit of work due to my limited background working with these materials. My cutting has gotten a lot better and I’m pretty proud of the stamp I made considering it’s the first one I ever made, but there are some pretty embarrassing errors floating around—misspelling one of my typefaces (only just noticed this), mixing up a few interior pages for back covers (my cute dedication now looks like a weird afterthought), and I didn’t give the actual placement of the text blocks much thought until I was gluing them on the paper. I don’t think any of these mistakes cause for glaring problems, but the book isn’t something I’d feel comfortable selling. I think I improved from my mock-up significantly, but if I were printing these again, I would allow for more time between steps to cut back on simple rush-induced errors. I think these materials and poems have potential to be really lovely and if I were to do this again, I would really want to push perfection even more than I did this time.

I would also of course budget more time between steps, and I would print like-pieces all on one sheet instead of 10 copies of the entire book on one sheet. I think this will make quick cutting much simpler. I’d also incorporate my tree stamp just a little bit more and add a collage element to the branches for a little more color. I think I would also try a new pattern as this one is okay, but it’s not overly beautiful.

I’m a little sad that the books aren’t as perfect as I wanted them, but kind of pumped up to try the process again with a few little tweaks to see if I can get a bit better at the overall structuring of the books. In the end I spent roughly 42 hours on this project and I’m really proud of the work I did. I think I learned a lot about the content and the form and I know a lot of that time was spent on trial and error.  I can only get more efficient and better at bookmaking in general, so that’s pretty exciting.

 

 

 

 

 

Well. I was quite ambitious last week, wasn’t I? It’s a good thing we did a mock up because I got a couple of things wrong last week…

 

Problem #1

My book form was only dating my content. They needed to get serious.

 

Solution #1

Part of the problem was that my poems all loosely had to do with winter or nature or the coming of spring. The form and color scheme I’m using really didn’t reflect one of the more carefree, upbeat poems I was interested in using. I had to cut it. Now I have three poems from Dickinson that mirror the barren tree of winter with just a bit of the red in the artificial leaves (the image that inspired this whole project on Falls Rd.).

 

I think that by using the stab bound book, I’ll also mirror the loneliness and solitude of winter in that its delicate stitching takes time and forms a book that you have to sit with, hold, experience, rather than something you flip through very quickly. It’s delicate and beautiful but still sturdy and made to be handled.

 

 

Problem #2

I originally meant for the book to be 5 inches tall by 7 inches wide because I liked the look of the horizontal book. This doesn’t work well with the longer poem that I chose.

 

Solution #2

I’ve decided to make it taller than it is wide which also matches the image of the tree and allows for more stitching and a sturdier book all around.

 

 

Problem #3

I just don’t have enough time to handwrite everything, nor did my handwriting match the overall content. It had no real purpose besides the fact that I wanted to do it.

 

Solution #3

I used InDesign and I’m going to print everything. This also allowed me to find a delicate typeface that matches the content, again solidifying the relationship between form and content.

 

 

Problem #4

Last week, I wasn’t thinking about how image would work in the book.

 

Solution #4

My poems deal with winter and the wind. I’m already painting the pages with coffee to give them subtle color, and I’ve played around with a few techniques that mimic a dusty wind but I’m also going to add subtle “hills” and shadows of “trees” and other images that suggest winter or the personification of wind from Dickinson’s poem. I do want to preserve the sparseness of the pages and absence of image because that actually does speak to my content more than an abundance of images that are contrived.

 

 

So that’s the new plan: to just really embrace the form and work within my time constraints to make 10 solid, beautiful, winter-inspired books. I’m hoping for a snow on Wednesday and a day off of work to be both inspired and actually able to get it all done! It’s a fun process though. 

I found the Nail Art video interesting and annoying. Interesting because I didn’t know nail art was such a thing beyond what I’ve seen on Pinterest and annoying because I want to dismiss it as craft and move on with my life, but I don’t think I can.

The question of “defining” art always bothers me. Because it’s fluid, it’s based on individual taste, artist intent, and context. But I don’t think “anything” can be art. I liked when the video mentioned the definition (as defined by a famous person I can’t remember) as being larger than the sum of its parts. I think that definition still has holes–who’s doing the weighing of the final product–but it’s getting at something that’s hard to put into words: something has to change. A perspective has to change, an image has to change, maybe just the artist has to change, but something is different. Something new is created in its truest sense or created in the absence of something else.

I think we’re often obsessed with classifying things and  making things measurable in some way because we’re lazy. We don’t want to have to look at something new each day and ask is this art? What makes it art? We want to say, okay, paintings–art; drawings–art, nail polish–weird and a waste of money, sculpture–art. But really, I just don’t think it’s that simple, and I don’t mean that as a cop out. I mean it seriously.

I think we have to approach each situation or object with a questioning mind, a critical eye, and  objectivity, and only then can we decide if something is craft or art or busy work for elementary school students. And at the same time, the person next to us could be voting the other way. and I think that’s okay.

As far as this nail art business, I think it’s weird. And I can’t imagine getting through a day without totally messing one up, but I think there’s a good bit of skill there that I have to respect. I’m not ready to call it art, because I don’t really get the intent of it, but I’m not willing to totally dismiss it either. I guess I’ll have to settle for calling it “craft, and if ever I meet a nail artist, I’ll ask them questions about their motives and meanings and be able to judge for myself more appropriately.