29 July 2009

Updating and All That

Man, I really need to get my ass in gear. About the only thing I've been keeping up with is my deviantArt page. And Facebook. Evil, evil Facebook.

I ran across the very spiffy blog of an old friend (and ex-boyfriend) Tim Rast, and it looks like he's doing really well. I started making books around the same time as he started flintknapping, and his business is so far ahead of mine it's . . . um, I don't want to say "it's not even funny" but I can't think of a better phrase at the moment. I really need to do some real writing. I'm out of practice. Anyway, he always was way more focused than me. I've often wondered where I'd be now if I weren't so easily distracted. But whatever. Go look at his blog and be amazed. Fine work, that.

And it occurs to me that I really haven't been keeping those of my friends and family that still happen by here very up to date, and the whole purpose of this blog was to let everyone (mostly those of you far far away) know what I was up to. That and make a public record of my writing and art so I'd be shamed into working hard. I'm not sure that's worked.

That said, here are some updates, starting from now and working backwards. More or less.

Okay, actually starting from the future, because the first thing I'm going to write about is tomorrow. Tomorrow, I'm off to work in the studio of my former teacher and mentor, Joe Landry. I've been helping out off and on for a big government project called "Democracy 250" which is a celebration of 250 years of democracy in Nova Scotia. To commemorate the event, they put together a big volume of reproductions of documents relating to the history of democracy in the province. And I do mean big. If I remember, I'll write down the dimensions tomorrow, but it's something in the range of 12 inches by 18 inches. Maybe? I'm not very good at estimating measurements. And about an inch and a half thick or thereabouts. So big. And heavy.

I'm not sure who did the compiling and note-making and design and all that for the book, but the 12 copies (plus one extra "proof" copy) were all printed by Image House using special water-based inkjet inks. The scanning is top-notch and the printing looks fantastic. Okay, it would look better if it was letterpress, but I'm a little biased. Inkjet printing always has that slight fuzziness around the edges where the ink seeps into the paper. I think the technical term is "dot gain" but I could be confusing my jargon. Anyway.

The paper was handmade by Papeterie Saint-Armand in Montreal. It's based on their Old Masters line (one of my favorite lightweight papers for both intaglio and letterpress), but it was actually made especially for this project, because the paper needed to be a little more opaque than their usual.

Once the printing was done, the sheets came to us. We had to fold and collate (actually, I missed out on most of that since at the time I was madly trying to finish Dawson Printshop jobs before they shut us down). Then we had to trim them to size, which only meant slicing off a little from three sides on the board cutter. Then collating again, because we were paranoid about something being out of order, which happened in the proof copy due to a printer error. Then I spent a rather long time poking the sewing holes. Then sewing.

I'm afraid I'm getting a little tedious here, and I wasn't even going to go into this much detail. But it's too late now.

Because the books were so large, we had to sew them on a sewing frame. It's just too hard to handle big books with six million tapes (actually, I think there were maybe seven tapes) without the support of a frame. I ended up doing almost all of the sewing, but I got to use Joe's conservation frame, which is designed to make it a whole lot easier to get your arm around the uprights and the text block than a conventional frame, which hasn't changed much since Victorian times. If I were any good at woodworking, I'd make up plans and build my own. It's not a complicated design. Alas, I make books, not tools. If I could make it out of eska board, it would be no problem.

After the sewing, Joe rounded and backed them all and began lining the spines. Joe did all the rounding and backing because he can do it at lightspeed. It would probably have taken me as long to do one as it took him to do six. Or more. After that, Chris (Dunnett) and I sewed the endbands. We used a three-colour pattern, which requires one to have three hands. Or so it seems. Luckily, endbands is something I'm actually pretty good at, so I managed with just the two hands I've got.

After that, Joe glued on the false bands and I cut and sanded them into a nice curve. Then I disappeared into some other work for a while and Chris stained the leather. Joe did the paring--each book took a whole calfskin, and each calfskin costs several hundred dollars. While my paring skills have improved considerably, there's no way I was going to put a knife to those skins.

Again, I was off doing something else when the books were covered and sprinkled. The binding style is Cambridge Panel Binding (click on that and you'll see a photo--the different tones in the leather are achieved by sprinkling more or less or no dye on different parts of the book). Today, Joe was planning to finish up the gold tooling.

Which is a really long-winded way of coming around to what I'm doing tomorrow. I'll be lining the insides of the boards with thin card to fill in the area not covered by the turn-ins of the cover leather. That way, you won't see the usual ridge when the endpapers are put down. Once the boards are all lined, then we'll put down the endpapers. After that, we've got to finish the boxes, as each very expensive book is being housed in its own protective box. The boxes are all done, but they need to be built up inside to custom-fit each book and lined with soft felt. Then they need to dry. I think the goal is to get the bulk of the work done by the end of Friday, so things can dry over the weekend. Then they'll take the books away Monday. Then we can get paid. Which, since the Dawson Printshop is closed and I'm out a job, is a very welcome thing indeed.

Because, of course, this is the month the car insurance is due. And the month I'm supposed to start repaying my student loans (if I believed in god, I'd be thanking him for interest relief right now). Also, there's next month's car payment, and the house insurance (or, rather, the tenant's insurace), credit card bills, etc etc etc. So getting paid is good.

But now I've gone on much longer that I intended and I didn't even include any pictures. So I'll stop now. But I think I'll immediately post again with some images of new work.


stampernancy said...

I saw those books in Joe's studio recently when taking his "making a hardcover journal" classes - I would love to see more photos - thanks for the update - Nancy

Tim Rast said...

Hey Niko, I'm glad you found my blog, thanks for following! Your Etsy shop looks amazing. I thought about trying Etsy, but a few weeks before I went to sign up a flintknapper in the US grabbed the Elfshot name. So I started the blog instead.

Niko said...

Look, ma, comments!

Nancy: The books look better and better. I'm just about to post some pics. Enjoy!

Tim: How are you? I sort of ended up with two Etsy shops (it made sense at the time). I'm thinking of switching to my own site eventually, though. I fully intend to mine your blog for useful info about running a craft business. I've been lazy quite long enough.