Thursday, March 29, 2007

printing & binding

I keep complaining about being overworked and then neglecting to show you what I'm working on. Some of this is because I rarely think about using the camera in the thick of it, and some of it is sheer couldn't-be-arsedness. But that's not the attitude to have as a blogger, is it? My bad. So here is a sample of the things I've done today.


Editioning prints

I'm editioning an artist book by GW Bot. That is, she's done all the prints, and I'm printing the text. This is a delightful job that should really have been done at the end of last year, but thanks to my dodgy insides I had to postpone a lot of work, and I'm spending about the first third of this year catching up.

There are a few problems to work around on a daily basis; I've printed all the easy pages, and now I'm having to be resourceful with Bot's creative registration (which means that her prints aren't always in the same place on every sheet). There's one page where she has lots of lines running along the page, and I have to get the letters in between the lines...

Letterpress line dancing

but the lines aren't always at the same height or aren't always the same thickness. And because she's printed it first, I don't get many chances to make mistakes, or the edition will get smaller.

So I've developed a system where I print onto an onionskin paper (tougher than tissue but translucent enough to be handy) and use it to check my positioning. It's probably an age-old trick, but I'm pretty happy to have fallen upon it by myself.

testing alignment

I should finish printing three copies of the entire book by the end of the weekend if I'm lucky, and then I will bind them next week so that Bot can take the books to London with her. She wants a cased-in binding (ie, a hardback) of Tapa paper laminated onto bookcloth, which will be fiddly but beautiful. I'll do the other 16 copies while she's away, at a more leisurely pace. I'll show you more later as I get on to it.


I'm being a bookbinding student at night this year, because I just couldn't seem to fit it into my days, and I love it too much to relinquish it. Plus I see it as professional development. Tonight I've been learning how to sew a book into cords, or cords into a book, I'm not sure of the right terminology. You saw holes in the spine and insert jute or hemp cords, and sew them in, instead of using tapes.

I've never been comfortable with a saw; it takes a sure and light hand to do both the to-ing and fro-ing. I can usually only do the fro-ing. I can work with power tools happily, because they're all point and click, but never having been a boy, I've never had the mystery of saws explained to me. I asked a fellow traveller tonight, and he gave me a brilliant tutorial, which probably saved my thumb. He showed me the right way to guide with your fingers and I only lost a little bit of nail when the saw slipped. So here are my dodgy keyholes:

keyholes in the spine

The one on the right is the best one (the lines at either end are my kettlestitch stations, and don't count). The other two were decidedly lame, but the cords still fitted into them ok:

cord sewing

It's a lovely sight, a spine binding progressing beautifully. The thread locks the cord into the keyholes, and you don't wrap the thread around the cords in this version. Every few sections, you need to hammer down the spine to compress it, and tweak the cords the increase the tension. You don't pull the cords from both ends, or you may pull one out. Which is just what I did, a good way into the sewing, and I almost cried.

But. I am a resourceful person, and no stranger to problem-solving, and with the help of Neale, my fabulous teacher, we plugged the hole to our satisfaction:

substitute cord

That's as far as I got tonight, apart from rounding and backing the shoulders of the book with a hammer (it's a brutal business). Next week we'll add some endpapers and case it in (put a hard cover on it).

I'd like to think that's all I've been doing, but I'm also working on two catalogues, a scholarly journal and a cover for an upcoming novel that is so good that I can't stop reading and thinking about it. I'm also teaching a mini-workshop on sunday as part of the NGA's Print Symposium.

You can see why I really enjoyed just drifting around Melbourne, can't you?


elsewhere said...

Wow, thanks -- I really enjoyed seeing all of that.

TimT said...


Sach said...

You are a STAR!!! No cringing Ms Ducky.

Val said...

Very impressive work!

And I'd love to do your workshop as described in the Print Symposium brochure. I did a lino cut class in Feb and would love to incorporate that into books. Whenever you're offering classes in Melbourne, Ducky...

Rach said...

I love your short introductions to the world of printing and books. I'm glad you enjoyed Melbourne, too. It's a great city.

Ampersand Duck said...


Val, I was just telling a Sydney artist on the phone (who missed out on the workshop): if a group can organise for me to get to them (ie pay my expenses), I'd happily teach as many workshops as they want. In fact, I think there's some Bega people mulling over the idea too, after I joked about it last weekend. I love the idea of travelling to play books with people!

genevieve said...

What they all said, specially TimT.
And you write so well about it, and take great shots too.
Thanks very much, Duck.

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

oooooh you're working with Bot? tell me what she's like. I bought a small Bot at an exhibition about... mmm... 15 years ago? back when I could afford it and it was cheaper anyway. heh.

and her rego was... creative... back then, too. the work on the wall was near-perfect, but the one I got was far from it. the colours were quite different as well. I still like it, but it wasn't as luminous as the one on the wall, and poor registration. but I was too young to say, "No, thank you, another one please."