This year I got my own Christmas present - this absolutely fabulous wall clock from Paulaart. Actually Santa came two months earlier as if I didn't snatch it, it would probably hang on someone else's wall by now. I fell in love with it long time ago and when Paula discounted it in the shop I just couldn't resist anymore. It has an amazing story as it's made of a cow watering bowl she got from an old barn in Vermont. The place was demolished shorty after for building something else. So I'm the proud owner not only of a wall clock, but of a piece of history! As Paula said, imagine all the cow tongues that have dipped inside of this bowl! :)
Paula makes contemporary artworks from found and recycled objects. Her work has always fascinated me. She is one of those 'natural born talents' who struggles to live through art without making compromises. She has an interesting blog (one of the few I always read) and very much alive at http://selftaughtartist.blogspot.com/ .
Thank you my friend! I love the inspiring tic-tac of your work!!
These are probably my favorite three books I've made so far. I think they represents a step forward in my bookbinding practice - they are books with memories, that tell stories even before being written.
I found this wonderful quote while writing on the endpages of a book:
"The labour of the writer is the refreshment of the reader. The one depletes the body, the other advances the mind. Whoever you are, therefore, do not scorn but rather be mindful of the work of the one labouring to bring you profit... If you do not know how to write you will consider it no hardship, but if you want a detailed account of it let me tell you that the work is heavy: it makes the eyes misty, bows the back, crushes the ribs and belly, brings pain to the kidneys and makes the body ache all over. Therefore, O reader, turn the leaves gently and keep your fingers away from the letters, for as the hailstorm ruins the harvest of the land so does the unserviceable reader destroy the book and the writing. As the sailor finds welcome the final harbour, so does the scribe the final line. Deo gratias semper."
Lately I've been working on large books, on a larger scale. Tonight I've just finished ten books which are going to London. I'm pretty tired and look forward to my holiday which luckily starts early this year, on 4th of December. I'll close my shop for a while and focus on new (book) projects and designs.
But for a change, here is my teeny-tiny library. I've been working on it in between the large book orders. I still have a lot to fill :)
Here’s what I recently received from two of my friends :) Could any surprise be better for me than vintage leather? I don’t think so!
The piece of leather is coming from a vintage chair and was offered to me by José, my leather mentor :) It is recovered from an old family chair which he upholstered. It’s a big piece but I’ll use it for only one book, a really special one.
The book cover below is almost 150 years old. I got it from a very good friend of mine who was my colleague in high school. He recently visited me and liked my books so much that offered me this cover. The story behind it is quite interesting, as he got it from an orthodox priest who commissioned him to paint some icons for his church. At the end he offered this cover to my friend, which he kept but never knew what to do with it until he saw my books. I, on the contrary, knew what I want to make with it from the first moment I saw it. I’ll restore it and use it with my first real art book. I’m dreaming and designing this book in my head since more than one year.
Thank you to my great friends for these inspired presents and their support! It means so much to me! I'll be back with photos of the work in progress.
This month we celebrated one year since we moved to Vila do Conde, in the north of Portugal. When I first came here I had no idea if I will like it or if it was really the place where I wanted to live. I didn’t know anybody and being such a small quiet city, I had no expectations of meeting people or making new friends around here. And then this wonderful unexpected thing happens, and one day I discover a blog of another artist who works with leather and lives right here, just a few streets away from me! Two weeks later I receive an email from him, as he had already discovered me before I got to contact him first. His name is José Machado and he also moved here with his family exactly a year ago. He is a creative shoemaker who - honestly, I’m not saying that because we’re friends now :)- makes the most beautiful and original shoes I ever seen!!!
His work is the perfect blend between antiquity and medieval styles and contemporary materials, colors and textures. These are one of a kind shoes made after extensive documentation, beautifully designed and carefully created. To me they seem some magic objects that came out of a beautiful story and once you put them on, they’ll take you to some dreams world.
José has a background in theater stage lighting and sometimes designs pieces for actors and theater play.
I’ve been in a little vacation for the past two weeks and neglected a bit my online presence, my blog and even my Etsy shop. But that was for good reasons--my sister visited me in Portugal so we were going to places and having fun. We also worked together on our bookbindings and made all kind of artistic experiments. It was great.
Here’s what we did one day, inspired by a book from 1893 which we bought at an antique fair in Porto. The book is huge and has hundreds of pages filled with beautiful handwriting about the accounting of a shop. I guess the person responsible to fill it should have had some calligraphic skills. Just imagine how much time was spent to write it!
The book really got us in the mood to play with text, so here’s how our calligraphy experiments came out:
Text written by my sister with a bamboo pen and brown ink
on paper cream paper aged by hand.
Text written by me with the dip pen and china ink
on recycled paper stained with acrylics.
Next days we also made handmade and decorative papers. It was fun!
Yesterday morning when I heard the alarm clock ringing for the fair I was soooo sleepy so I decided better I don't go anywhere. Trying to go back to sleep I started to have all these images with great vintage bags and other people were buying them, and then the question: what if this week is THE week? Because very rarely, there are some amazing Saturdays when I find incredibly many things to buy, like the fair would know exactly what I need. So I decided to get up after all and go, and guess what, yesterday was one of those days!
A gorgeous suitcase full of stamps from where it traveled, from the customs and hotels in Europe
Two hand bags in pretty bad state but with healthy leather
and beautiful wear patina
It is precisely this type that I'm happy to find, because if I buy beautiful old things that are in good state I can't bring myself to use them as materials for my books, so I keep them for my "collection" which has already way too many bags.
I also found a very old frame and a few other metal hardware for my books. Then we went to "celebrate" the score with some grilled sardines which are very traditional from Portugal and sooo delicious!
I’m still at a point in my bookbinding work where I’m tackling new ideas and techniques. I delve into research of tools and materials that I can use, re-use, adapt or improvise. When I find myself getting too far away from the traditional I take a break, so I can jump back to the basics the next day. That’s how I’ve always functioned, I can’t do something for too long, so from time to time I must allow myself the time to miss it.
The other day I happened to find these great images that filled me with respect for the old times. They are reproductions from a project of Nürnberger City Library that edited and digitized the craftsmen illustrations from 15th-19th century house books of the Nürnberger Zwölfbrüderstiftungen. The website of the project has a huge database with over one thousand images of all master craftsmen at that time (some of which obsolete but very interesting, Bell ringer, Bird-catcher, Runner, etc). It’s so nice to see these portraits made in great detail, sometimes naively represented at work or with their occupation tools, accompanied by descriptions that reveals lovely details. The website is in German but a list in English of all occupations (and of tools, materials, products and even diseases!) can be found here if you want to check how your profession looks like.
Yesterday one of my books was featured on Etsy's front page thanks to the gorgeous treasury above, made by the talented Evelyn from Sumikoshop. In fact, the entire collection was inspired by my book because of a very fun game that we're playing in our AG team (Artisan Gallery Team). The idea of the game is to make treasuries dedicated to each other so that everyone gets equally featured, this driving more traffic to our shops and increasing our sales. I did sell a book after yesterday's feature, so it looks to me like it's working!
Thank you Evelyn! If you get the chance do check her shop to see the wonderful jewelry she is making!
There are a lot book binders on Etsy. Many of them make nice journals, but very few make really special ones. Among my favorite book binders is Anca from Baghy who happens to be my sister :) We live in different countries and see each other very rarely. Twice, or maybe three times a year if we're lucky. We learned bookbinding together a few years ago and from there we developed quite different styles. I'm so happy to follow her work and see what an amazing job she is doing. So when I read the other day a post on her blog about a custom order she received, I had to share it with you too. I just love the way this book turned out!
It all starts with a request to make a book out of some documents that attest the legendary gunfight in Arizona, known as the "Gunfight at the OK Corral".
"The book had to have the look and feel of a book from the old wild west. I thought that is really cool as the actual handwritten testimonies of the men involved in that gunfight are to be found on the internet, scanned at good resolution. The documents were recently found in a jail storage room.
The documents were yellowish with stains from old adhesive tape so I had to put them on a similar background so that when I'd cut the prints to size, there wouldn't be any white borders left or anything strange.
I decided to print them in color, as if I were to print them in gray-scale and then tan them they wouldn't look as good.
There were 8 testimonies and a cover sheet so I wanted to separate them somehow so I created some extra pages in between them, also on old paper background, using an old typewriter font to write which testimony that was.
Because of the size of the documents, I had to print A3 sheets that would contain two different pages on each side that I then folded in half. The hardest and most time consuming task was to figure out which page continues with which one, cause due to the binding would be like... page 37 continues with page 54 and so on.
Then, out in the town to find the best printer service - I made sample pages at about four different locations - one was too contrast, another made unequal borders that made the binding center offset compared to the other side of the sheet, another made the pages much too shiny, and finally I found one that printed them with a nice color and feel. I opted for thicker pages as if I were to print all the documents on normal paper, the book, which is quite large, almost letter size, would have the feel of a flimsy magazine.
After I trimmed the pages, found a distressed leather piece and sewed the pages in, the real fun begun - I folded the pages just a bit, then ironed them, to have these subtle creases that give it a nice look.
I added a belt with a vintage buckle and distressed the leather even more, tanning it with sepia pigments. The last part was painting the journal - my favorite part :)"
This was a part of her blog post, but you can read all of it and see more photos here. Needless to say that the customer was thrilled with her book. It was ordered as a present for the 60th birthday of her aunt who actually lives in that area.
I think this is a perfect example of a book art project. The outcome is so impressive that I told her she should make another one and sell it in her shop. I admit I'm a big fun of westerns but I also think it's a lovely theme and there are many people out there that would buy one. What do you think?
There are a few aspects in bookbinding that I love most. For example, sewing the book block is one of my favorite parts. It can be done in many different ways but it looks really beautiful no matter the technique. Unfortunately most of the time the sewing is hidden by the spine and remains unknown to those who are using the books. I feel it's time for me to try something new, something different in bookbinding, and I feel it has to be related to the technique itself, which I love so much and would like to expose.
This weekend I made a first attempt to sew on cords. I don't have a proper sewing frame and I worked on one improvised but now that I know how it works, I'll try to build a better one later this week.
For those who did not recognize yet this character, I introduce you to Gromit, very intelligent dog and companion of Wallace, famous creation from the great comics of Nick Park. Originally they were made of plasticine and filmed with stop motion clay animation. My Gromit here, on the other hand, is made of polymer clay and is an expert in bookbinding inventions. It measures 27 cm from head to toe and it was a present for my boyfriend who is a huge fan. It was custom made by my sister who makes beautiful polymer clay dolls.
So today I got bored of the classic photo set up for my books and Gromit here helped me out with it. I think these are the tiniest books I've made so far!
These days I was playing a bit more with painted book edges. I thought I'd show you a few pics during the process. I really like painting them, it's fun and relaxing.
The first thing to do is fixing the book with clamps. It must be as tight as possible so that the color stays on the edge and does not slip between the pages.
Followed by sanding the edge with sand paper of different size, from rough to fine. I use four sizes.
After this, I apply a thin layer of egg white which I immediately spread on the edge and absorb with tissue paper, polishing the surface until it becomes glossy. This creates a layer that protects the paper from soaking any color.
Applying the color in different layers. This one here is brown decoration painted on golden background.
Very rarely I make a custom order in Etsy. It’s quite difficult because I like to have my liberty of creating and most of the times it’s the vintage materials that I work with that define the aspect of my books. But I do agree to make a custom book when I really like the idea of the customer. In this case, the request was quite a challenge as I never made such a big book before: 9 cm. thickness, a book with black leather cover and silver fittings and lock.
The owner is such a wonderful person who totally trusted my choices and suggestions, so I really enjoyed collaborating with her on this joint project. I’m really glad that the book is in such good hands as hers – just take a look at the pic below, how wonderful it looks arrived at home!
I've always loved books with gilded edges. Their fineness, elegance and preciosity fascinates me. So a few time ago when I received as present a book on how to do it I immediately had to try. It took me a few days to gather the tools and find a workshop that agreed to cut my book blocks with their guillotine, but I was all set up and ready to go. As you imagine, the experience was not at all as I expected.
After a day of work I end up frustrated by several unsuccessful trials but I decided if I can’t gild edges, at least I can paint them. That’s how these two vintage fabric journals came into existence. Now they are two of my favorite books.
The funniest thing is that in my frustration I went to the net to search for more info that could help me with the gilding. This is what I found (first hit in Google!). Hilarious!
Gilder's Lament By Unknown Gilder ca. 17th Century
My size is prepared,
The leaf is laid out,
My agate is polished and smooth.
The press, it is loaded,
The edge has been scraped,
I feel like I'm in the groove.
I put on the size,
I lay on the gold,
My confidence reaching its peak.
I polish the edge,
Till I see by its shine,
The edge of perfection I seek.
I take the book out,
Fan open the leaves,
My heart stops still in mid-beat.
Where has the gold gone,
I look all around.
As the leaf flakes onto my feet.
Oh, where did I err,
I did everything right,
But the gold, it just didn’t stick.
I love the gilt edge,
But the process is such,
That it leaves me feeling quite sick.
So gilding book edges has been a pain in the ass for more than 3 centuries. Why would I even be surprised by my first experience?!