Over the past month-and-a-half, I’ve been taking one of the most exciting studio classes of my college career so far: Bookmaking. We did indeed learn to actually sew books. Although, today I’m going to spotlight the equally thrilling paste-paper covered boxes we made at the same time.
Above you can see the fruits of my labor in all their glory. Allow me to explain them to you. Each piece starts with a cardboard under skeleton. I measured and cut all the cardboard for everything you see here. The cardboard used is a special kind with a denser quality than regular corrugated cardboard. (If you’re interested in exactly what kind of board I used, click here.)
Starting in the bottom left hand corner of the photo, the stack of green and yellow covered prisms are bookweights. “Bookweight” is a gloriously fancy term for a cardboard box filled with 4 rolls of pennies and covered with a lid. They are remarkably useful for holding pieces together while waiting for glue to dry. The escapade of obtaining those pennies was hilarious. You’d be surprised how hard is actually is to get your hands on $8 worth of pennies in rolls. You’d think they were solid gold the way no one wants to give them up. I went on a hunt for them with two other girls from my class and at one of the banks we visited, the teller informed us she wasn’t allowed to give away that many rolls of pennies without her manager’s permission. Since he was on the phone and we were late for class, we decided to just leave empty handed with nothing but tired, exasperated faces for our trouble. Wal-Mart was the friendliest place we found in our search, but they would not exchange pennies for all of us, because they understandably needed to keep some for the registers. The banks had no excuse, though. In the end, I collected half of my needed pennies from my brother’s change box and my own penny collection. The rest were a gift from Wal-Mart. Anyway….
Moving clockwise in the photograph, we next come to the deep red clamshell box. It is exactly the same kind of box as the black and green one in the foreground. I found the clamshell boxes to be difficult to get right, so that is why I’ve made two. :) A little practice never hurt anyone! The clamshells are meant to be protective cases for special books. I haven’t finished the matching books yet, but they are in the works. The book for the red case is going to have oyster colored resume paper for the interior pages. (I found an old box of it in my stash, so it’s rather like recycling!) Here’s an inside view of the red clamshell.
Up next are the Japanese boxes. These are crafted in a special way. Each side piece is laid end to end on the pastepaper and covered. The button and string are sewn on next. Then the box gets folded up and the right and left sides are covered and glued in separately. Getting those final sides just right is tricky, so I’ve made four of these to make sure I could master it. :) Here are some closeups of the Japanese Boxes:
The large blue and yellow Japanese box is a 5 sided box and has two lids. It looks so neat when opened:
The final collection of boxes in the top photo are basic lidded containers. They are covered in paste paper inside and out. These are constructed completely different than the Japanese boxes. The cardboard skeleton is assembled first, 4 sides and bottom all glued together in box shape. Then, it gets covered in paper through a series of intricate snips and cuts. They are still easier than the Japanese boxes, though!
As for the pastepaper, it started life as regular sketchbook paper from those large drawing pads (if you’re an artist, you probably still have one of those Strathmore pads around somewhere!). By applying a mixture of acrylic paint and gel painting medium, the paper becomes something special. The designs are created by swirling afro picks, combs, plastic forks and plastic milk jug templates through the wet paint. The dual color effect is achieved by painting the paper a single color first and allowing it to dry before creating the design over it in a contrasting color.
So, I hope this is some kind of explanation for my absence of late. It is tremendous fun, and I foresee myself making books and boxes for eternity! And if you enjoyed this peek into the art in my life, remember to stay tuned for the handmade book unveiling. :D