Today I just want to take a brief moment to share my growing line of illustrated handmade pocket journals. This year has been a bit of a surprise for me. I can’t say I ever intended to get into bookbinding and making journals, it has all happened rather organically. Back in January when I found myself deep in a rabbit hole of YouTube bookbinding videos I thought I was just going through a phase. Sometimes things pique my interest for a brief moment and then I’m on to something else. I just knew for sure after I went through the trouble of making my first set of journals, that would be it. It wasn’t an easy process and I was a bit exasperated after a month of toiling through the specifics. I figured, okay, I’m not doing that again. But I knew it I was ordering PVA glue, bone folders, clamps and looking at book presses. Now here I am, eight months later and I’m up to four journals, which are all available here at my online store. What I thought would be a brief curiosity has now become a companion passion to my drawing. And here I thought I was getting too old to learn anything new. Okay, technically I’m not that old (47) but society can really do a number on ya and have you thinking that once you get past 40 life is pretty much over for you. Here’s to teaching old dogs/cats new tricks. 🙂
Well, I said I was going to make some prints and possibly a journal from my recent “Moon and Stars” mandala drawing, and so I’ve done exactly that. Getting the prints done wasn’t much of a fuss but the journal…that’s a different story. Trying to come up with a decent placement of the design on the cover took a lot of trial and error. At first I went with the whole mandala design on the front cover but I really didn’t like how it appeared, it looked too small and uninteresting. So I went with this idea of spanning the design across the front and back cover, which it turned out, to be far more appealing to me, so I stuck with it. Going into this I figured I would probably have to make this particular journal a little bigger than my pocket journals due to the cover design. It’s 5 x 6.75 where my pocket journals are 3.5 x 5.5, so you can squeeze in a bit more writing with this one. Also with this journal I did something a little different, instead of using blank paper for the inside pages, I went with lined pages. To achieve this I had to dig into some of my old graphic design skills and create a lined page template in Adobe Illustrator. Like my pocket journals, this one also has 32 pages, my little saddle stapler can’t staple more than 20 pages at a time and with cardstock added into that, I have to take out four pages, otherwise the staples get all jammed. So 32 pages is the most I can put in for now. In all the prints and journals came out really well, I even made of few journals for myself. 🙂
My little pocket journal line is gradually growing. Over the past week I made my second set of the three journal items I’ve made so far which I started back in January. This latest one is called the “Maybe Unfold” blank pocket journal set. It’s a two journal set with illustrated cover art reproduced from two drawings I did back in 2018 titled “Maybe” and “Unfold”, hence the title “Maybe Unfold”. I really couldn’t come up with a more snazzy name than that and truthfully, I just like to stick to the titles that I used for the original works. My other journals are the “Buddha Tao” blank pocket journal set and the “Koi” blank pocket journal. I’m striving to see if I can get a line of 10 before the end of the year. If you got any wonderful suggests for cover art ideas feel free to share them in the comments.
On another note, I’m still inking away on my “Moon and Stars” mandala. Actually I’m getting close to finishing. Once I’m finished I plan on making prints and possibly some journals, but that’s if the test runs turn out good. I’ve been a little slow on getting this done partly because it’s really been my stress reliever through these past two months so I haven’t been in much of a hurry to complete it too soon. But I have another mandala to get started on, so I need to go ahead and finish this one up. I don’t like to linger on one piece for too long other wise it just gets harder for me to finish and I don’t like leaving things unfinished.
I hope all of you are doing well and staying safe in the midst of all that is going on in the world right now. I have to admit that I’ve been distracted as of late. Unfortunately a few people in my husband’s immediate family have been hospitalized with the virus and are currently being treated and doing what they can to get well. Luckily their situation isn’t as bad as it could be but it’s apparent it may be a week or so before they are back to good health. As for myself, I’m doing well and staying in my home. As someone who doesn’t have children and works from home, I already live a lifestyle that doesn’t involve a great deal of social interacting so I can’t say that current events has caused a drastic change in my everyday life but I feel for those for whom it has. I pray for those who have been lost and that for those of us who are still here, that we all are able to make it through these trying times safely.
In the meantime, I’ve managed to work a little more on my bookbinding skills. I had this old 11×14 Robert Bateman Cover Series sketchbook full of blank paper, that’s been just sitting around since…wait for it, 1995. Yeah, 1995. That’s a long time to have a empty sketchbook. I have a tendency to hold on to stuff beyond forever. I still have and use my high school art box, which is really just a cute toolbox for art supplies. Anyhoo, I decided to take my Bateman sketchbook and turn it into a 5×7 sketchbook with my own cover art. Cutting the paper was a pain. No matter whether I was using my cutting board or a ruler and an exacto knife, my paper kept coming out at slightly different sizes. I ended up spending a great deal of time trimming up edges. And then there was the gluing for making a perfect bind. First off I don’t have a book press so I made a makeshift one from two old linocut carvings and a C-clamp I stole from my hubby’s pile of tools. This did a fairly decent job but I realized that I really need to get a book press or at least make one if I plan on making more books using this method. This was my second go at using the perfect bind method and this time was a little trickier since I was using thicker paper at a larger size. After five coats of glue a few of the sheets of paper didn’t bind together too well but that was remedied once I put the cover on. But then I learned 110lb card stock seems to work best for smaller sized books that require less glue. The spine of my 5×7 sketchbook has some minor warping where the glue was placed. Maybe I put too much glue on or next time I should use a heavier material for the cover. In all it turned out pretty decent for my second try at perfect binding. I now have a much more manageable sketchbook that I’m eager to fill with drawings. What started off with me wanting to just put a few quick drawings in my new handmade sketchbook has now turned into a cute little project of me doing a mini series of Nature’s little creatures that hatch from eggs. I really don’t know how this project came to mind, it pretty much just manifested on its own, like most of my projects do. But if you look at that adorable thing in the drawing above, you’ll see my first creature and there will be more to come.
It all started with staple saddle stitching in order to make some illustrated pocket journals as another way of sharing my drawings and now here I am, diving deeper into the art of book binding.
Over the weekend I got myself a basic book binding kit. Since I started making my journals I’ve developed a growing interest in book binding and this interest has surprisingly come just when I thought there was nothing else in arts and crafts that could capture my interest. So I’m a bit excited to have a new interest. I find the whole idea of book making fascinating. I’ve always loved books but not necessarily for the stories they told but for the artistry that goes into them. I’m a sucker for a decorative gold leaf classic or a well illustrated cover. And yes, I’m one of those people who literally judges a book by its cover…as well as its paper quality, font and feel. In the past I’ve bought books simply because I found the cover and construction to be appealing yet never actually read the story. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good story, if it’s short but my love of books has always rested on the craftsmanship rather than the storytelling. So, it’s not surprising that book binding has sparked an me.
Lately I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos on book binding and decided I’ll try my hand at what’s called the “perfect binding” method. Right now the only binding method I know is saddle stitching with staples, which is a quick and simple method to use if you’re putting together a brochure, comic or booklet of less than 40 pages (that’s counting the front and back). Perfect binding is good for making books and journals of more than 40 pages, especially if those pages are single sheets of paper. While saddle stitching uses staples (or thread, another method I haven’t tried yet) to hold your pages together, perfect binding uses glue but not just any kind of glue, rather a PH neutral PVA glue specifically for bookbinding. I had to order this separately from my book binding kit but neither the glue or the kit cost much. It’s a basic kit that I got all together for $22 on Amazon.
Prior to any gluing, I prepared a soft cover made from heavy weight card stock then cut and cornered 48 4.25×5.5 single sheets of 20lb paper for my pages. I don’t have a book press and since my journals are pocket size and no more than a quarter inch thick, I can probably get away with not having one, so I use four binder clips to hold the sheets of paper together while I added three coats of glue to one edge. Once the pages were dry, I added glue to the spine area on the inside of the cover and then adhered the pages to the spine. Once dry, voila, I had me a perfect bind 96 page pocket journal…all that’s missing is a nice drawing on the cover.