The Big Ooops!!
Handmade book Part 6
By Les Picker
To set the record straight, "Mountain In The Mist" was an experiment, en route to a fully handmade book (cut paper, make covers and binding, glue, print, press, etc). I want to share with you some of the many things that did not go according to plan as the experiment progressed. Thankfully I'm not into medical experimentation or the death toll would have been horrendous.
This project took far longer than I anticipated, somewhere between 14 and 16 weeks. Granted it was not the only thing I was doing, but it did take up a significant number of hours.
Glue! Who woulda thunk that so much depends on adhesives? I applied too much, I applied too little, I used the wrong glues, they leaked out or leaked through. At one point my workbench was covered with more than a dozen glue tests.
When I finally decided on a glue, I used too much of it on the Title page of the book and so it is irretrievably wrinkled, although only slightly. Most people do not notice, but I do. Okay, maybe those people are just polite.
Drying takes much longer than one would think. I was constrained to gluing only two pages at a time to allow them to be dried and pressed adequately. After 48 hours they were still slightly damp. Later on I found a way to do four pages at a time with lots of absorbent paper to aid drying.
One of the reasons I chose a commercial blank book, is that the 100% cotton rag paper is very flexible, making page turning easy. I did not count on the fact that gluing another page on top of it would compromise its flexibility. Each poem/calligraphy page and each image page was on a separate right-hand page. The real issue came when I decided to do the middle spread of the book as a two-page spread. That meant gluing one piece of paper on each side of a page. That fatally compromised flexibility.
Early on I decided that the front cover would look best if it had a deckled edge, as many of the Awagami papers do. But the edges of the cover card were straight. I had to master the craft of hand deckling starting with dry paper. It took me countless tries over a week-long period to master the lengthy 6-step technique I developed. I look forward to sharing it, so if you're interested, just ask.
I finished a project I have wanted to do for years.
I learned a great deal, including skills that I'll apply to other projects.
I enjoyed figuring out my mistakes and ways to overcome them.
In the end it's given me a prototype and a path forward.
I have an even greater appreciation for the wonderful people and companies that support my work.
This prototype left me with no question that 14-16 weeks of work wasn't viable for a book that retails for $40, whether for commercial use or private fulfillment. I like the page design, I love the Awagami prints, but in its next iteration I plan to test a much finer book, eventually leading to my fully handmade edition.
I would love to hear about any book projects going on with the community, either in progress or planned. Please share.