When I work on an art project, I really test my theme for the year: Letting Go.
I'm putting together a small book of watercolors that I painted. I know they will look much better when they are framed in some matter. They will stop being just sketches. The book I am making is called "Ephemera" based on a visual poem I wrote about things disappearing.
Putting together a book is mind-bending. As I work on the book, I need to visualize its completed form, I need to calculate dimensions, I need to measure accurately, and I need to be precise with the assemblage. I have to work really hard to make these actions happen so that I end up with pages that line up without any squiggly edges out of whack.
As you can see on this try making accordion folds, I didn't quite make the folds precise enough, which can throw off the book's form. That's when I have to ask myself, "Does it matter?"
I have a choice here of just letting go or making the most polished book that I can. I have to ask myself, "Is this the best I can do at this time?" Then I think of another small book I made with shows a quote from Lao Tsu.
Each time I practice making a book, I find new problems, new mistakes to make. Sometimes I need to begin again, other times I am satisfied with what I've done, while other times I can let go of my preconceived ideas of what I wanted and discover a better solution.
With some books I've made, I have reveled in their imprecision. When I have used cloth bindings, the pages naturally twist and give a little. They are full of scraps and stitches.
What I have to ask myself each time, "Is this the kind of book I want to make or is it a book that needs to be made as meticulously as possible?" What questions do you ask yourself as you work?
For this book of very careful watercolors, I think it is important to develop the precision I need to make a book that allows the watercolors to shine and also pleases me. I may make the book over and over again until it just right. I've decided to cut apart what I have assembled already and remake the book entirely.
Instead of an accordion folded book, I cut and folded enough separate pieces of paper to hold the small paintings. After gluing a painting to each page, I tied the pages together with square knots at both bottom and top. I then punched two holes in the fold of each piece and made a loop to anchor the ribbon that I attached to the covers to hold the whole book together.
In the process of finishing the book, I used matt medium to attach end papers. I didn't notice until everything was dry that a big drop of medium landed on the first page of the book. Do I let that go? Do I have to start over? No. Instead, I took a piece of the end paper and attached it to the first page. The drip disappeared under an interesting page that had a trace of ink swiped across it.
When I finished, I did not have a perfect book. I remembered when I was younger, my inner critic parts would have been jumping up and down in frustration. I have learned to talk with those parts so now I can slow down, enjoy what I am doing, and be patient with my results. My mom said, "It takes some people a long time to grow up." I now know what she meant by that.
I am still learning to let go.
If you are interested in making books, look through Alisa Golden's book, Making Handmade Books, and you will find 100 ways to build a book. Check out her website too.
Two galleries to discover: 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland, Oregon, which specializes in book art exhibits.
Seager Grey Gallery in Mill Valley, California.Their annual book arts exhibit starts