Sketchbook making

Sketchbook making

During this period of lockdown I have been making sketchbooks. At first it was because the shops were shut and money was scarce but now it is mostly because I enjoy the making process, love the outcome and can make them exactly tailored to my needs. I thought I would take you through the process of one of the designs to hopefully inspire making in others.

  • good quality magazine paper
  • matt white paint (acrylic, gouach or emulsion)
  • paint brush
  • card for covers
  • awl (or hammer and nail)
  • waxed thread
  • needle
  • cutting mat
  • scalpel
  • button
  • tracing paper (optional)
  • clips to secure the paper

I have been using pages from an Italian architecture magazine I got for free from a book swap near where I am staying, the paper is a good thickness and strength so can take lots of playing with. First of all I painted each of the pages on both sides with a matt acrylic white paint. When they are completely dry fold in half and trim to whatever size you require. Collect together into three signatures. With this batch of paper I made a squarish sketchbook and then a landscape one with the off cuts.

Next take your card (I have used two old school folders stuck together with double sided tape to make it thicker and two coloured) measure and cut your cover leaving extra either end to fold in at the end of the process to create a box cover. Make sure to leave a section in the middle which will be your spine, score either side of the spine and make folds. Measure and mark where you would like holes for stitching up the centre of one signature then use that as a template for the others and the cover. With your awl make holes in the paper ready for stitching. Take one signature and clip in the centre of your cover making sure the row of stitching will be up the middle of your spine. With your needle and thread start in the inside centre and use a running stitch first up to the top then back down to the bottom and back up to the centre where you can tie the thread securely. Trim the ends. For the second signature place it close to one side of the one you have already stitched and clip in place. With your awl make the holes through the signature and into the cover. Stitch using the same process as before. Repeat the whole process a third time on the other side of the first signature then you should have three lines of stitching down the spine of your cover.

The next job is to fold the ends. This is entirely up to you how you configure it. You could just simply cut them off altogether or, as I prefer score the folds to make a neat box shape which protects your precious scribbling inside. For this one I have stitched on a button for a fastening but you could simply have a length of ribbon or string that wraps around the book or anything else you fancy.  A little extra touch I do is to round off the corners which really pleases me but thats completely to taste (and I have a corner rounder which makes it easy!)

As an added extra I use tracing paper for some extra layers throughout the sketchbook but also to create a pocket at the end. I am notorious for collecting ephemera wherever I go so pockets in sketchbooks are essential for me. All you need to do is fold some paper in half and half again. Stitch in wherever you like with the fold at the bottom so all you need to do is add a line of stitch (I use a sewing machine for this bit) hey presto a pocket. Of course you don’t have to use a tracing paper but I like to be able to see what is in there! 

I wish you some happy hours of making something exclusively tailored to your own needs and I’m sure you can come up with some other extras that suit your practice. These little beauties will be coming with me to Iceland next week as I have been blessed with two weeks of drawing time there and I am very excited! Will keep you posted on what comes out of that as I go…

Sketchbook making on a budget

Sketchbook making on a budget

During this last few weeks of lockdown I have been in Germany. I was visiting when everything unfolded and decided to stay put. It was definitely for me the best choice my only problem was that I had very few materials here for making work or money to buy things due to loosing the majority of my income in one go. I love the phrase ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and am very aware that all the best equipment in the world doesn’t necessarily equal quality or good work in some cases it can actually hinder thought processes and make us a bit lazy. I am particularly fond of a challenge and creating something from nothing, with a nod to recycling and minimising waste. So all of this has led me to make a series of sketchbooks that would enable me to draw all the things I wanted to during this time. Currently I have made five…

The first one was made from collecting end pages from some old books picked up from a free book swap box a couple of minutes walk away from where I am staying. One of the books provided the black outside cover and the three signatures of pages were stitched inside. I left most of the edges rough and this book has been for drawings of objects from my surroundings. I love how an object tells a story and sparks memories. In another post I will share some of the drawings.

Next came the ‘Fat Boy’! This one began with the label which I removed from a large bean bag chair thing that was being thrown away due to holes. It is really tough material and seemed the perfect length for a spine, the rest of the book evolved from there. It has hard covers made from off-cuts of board covered with pages from an old Italian book on engineering. The signatures are made from used wrapping paper, magazine pages washed over with white paint and some old card file dividers not needed any more. I am always picking up things when I am out and about so already had a little selection of bottle tops that when flattened made great bookmark ends. Finally I made a pocket inside the front cover and voila a second sketchbook.

After the second sketchbook I was really pleased with the magazine pages washed with white. I used a matt acylic which had created a lovely chalky texture that was working well with all my drawing materials. So on another trip to the book swap box I collected a couple of architecture magazines which had some great images in I was thinking of using for collage. However I realised that the paper was quite thick and might work well painted with white for drawing on. So book three emerged. Completely made from the architecture magazine and white paint. Three signatures stitched into a cover made from two interesting pages stuck together. This one was finished off with my corner rounder just for a little touch of class!

The final two are made in a similar way using a kind of adjusted coptic stitch to attach the signatures together and I left these without a cover. The main difference was the paint used for the white pages. This time I tried a furniture paint using a roller to apply it. The surface is nice and smooth but a bit to slippery for watercolours but good for pen and ink, biro or fine liner.

I am sure as the weeks go on I will keep experimenting but for now I hope this maybe inspires you to use the things you have to hand and that a lack of materials  or money doesn’t have to mean a lack of creativity, actually I think that the opposite is true!

In Between

In Between

The #areyoubookenough challenge for January was ‘in between’. I thought about many different concepts for this one but ended up pouring all my time into one book.

This little book is made up of three parts. It began as a vintage book sourced from a charity shop in Frankfurt. I took out the body of the book and cut the cover into three equal parts. Using a vintage english book, two maps and the rest of the german book I created a triptych book exploring my current life ‘in between’ two places. I live in Sheffield and my partner lives in Frankfurt.

One book is constructed of pages of english text and sections from a map of the area around Sheffield, one has german text and maps from around Frankfurt, and the final one is a mix of the two collaged together. I cut holes into the text pages so that maps would be visible through the text. The cut out circles were used as the collage pieces for the third book.

The central page of each book is the key place so Sheffield, Frankfurt and the mixed one is Manchester as that is the conduit that we both pass through to see each other. These central pages have been left solid as these are the streadfast places in my life, while everything around them is fluid. I am really pleased with the way the pages interact with each other making shadows and revealing places on the maps. The triptych format allows even more play with structure enabling them to be laid out simultaneously or left to form a dos-à-dos form. I used the spine from a third vintage book of poetry by Robert Browning and the title comes from a poem from that book called ‘By The fire Side’.

A little project close to my heart

A little project close to my heart

While I was away over christmas I took the fabric with me for a project that has been in my head for months now. I wanted to make something for each of my little neices as a memory of their Grandma who had passed away eighteen months ago. She was my mum’s sister and a very special lady to me too and this all started because I wanted to make something as a memory of her for myself. I had held onto some of her clothes for the purpose of creating something with them and a plan had been germinating in my imagination. The ‘From Grandma with love’ bear was born.

I found a pattern for an old fashioned teddy bear shape and my imagination went into overdrive! I cut out the pattern pieces and started playing around with combinations of fabrics (I was using a pair of jeans a dressing gown and a couple of tops). I wanted the bears to be like a family but all with something different so they were easy to tell appart from each other to prevent any mixups. The first one I made for myself as a test run.

 

Once the first one was made the other three were a complete joy to make! Each with a different little character that reflected the recipient a little bit whilst still being very much a reminder of Grandma. Grandma was known for her love of leopard print so a final little addition was a scarf for each of them made from her leopard print leggings! As you can see from the picture below they were extremely well recieved and that made me a very happy auntie indeed! One is still to be delivered but ssshhh that’s a secret…

Warmth

Warmth

Having enjoyed participating in the #areyoubookenough challenge for November so much I made a priority to find the time to concentrate on December’s word which was warmth. I had two very different ideas. One has a focus on memory and capturing a moment the other is a whimsical bit of fun.

This first book was made as a memory of a visit to a friend in Italy. I hadn’t seen her for over a year so it was lovely to catch up and share stories and laugh. All of this was a warm experience. Whilst there I collected all the tea bags we used and they became the signitures for the book. Tea bags need warmth to become that lovely rich colour when the tea infuses in the hot water so a second nod towards ‘warmth’. Finally where I stayed we are surrounded by olive trees 200 of which belong to my friend, they also require warmth to grow. I embroidered 100 little olive tree shapes throughout the book being aware they can be seen on both sides and each side is different so decided that would pass for 200! The rest of the paper and card used came from a book I picked up in a second hand shop whilst there. A lovely memory of an equally lovely visit.

The second book is a bit of frivolous pleasure. I thought it would be fun to make a cut out book of myself with each page being a layer of clothing until I am totally covered, warm and ready to head out into the cold. It was a little tricky lining everything up but I am happy with the results. I was particularly keen to make it as real as I could and also to draw the backs of the clothes as well as the fronts to keep the interest as the pages are turned. A very different project from usual but a lot of fun to do. I really enjoyed the challenge of learning the lotus stitch for the Japanese binding which I will be using again!

Looking forward to finding time for January’s ‘inbetween’ challenge watch this space…

Matchbox heaven

A couple of posts back I shared with you my found matchbox collection from India. I have been busy working on them transforming them into little homes for handmade collage books made from all the bits and pieces I collected on the way. At this stage special mention has to go out to Maggie one of my travelling companions who spent most of the time away handing over all of the ephemera that came her way (when not travelling she lives in a shed so has nowhere to store all these bits and bobs which turned out to be my very good luck!) We became life long friends, I love a person who collects rubbish for me.

So here is a little teaser, I will write a post about each one in turn as there is so much going on in each book they deserves their own space to shine and tell their story. But for now a quick peek at the first four beauties. 

Second receipt book

The second handmade receipt book is full of drawings about transport. Travelling is always interesting when you use modes of transport that you wouldn’t do at home. For example the people who live around the backwaters of Kerala rely on boats to get around. Most of the area is made up of little islands carved up by an abundance of  lagoons and lakes. These areas of water are slightly salty as the water originates from and sits just inland from the Arabian Sea. 

In the big cities push bikes, motorbikes and tuk tuks are the choice of the majority able to weave in and out of the busy traffic and get you where you need to go quickly. I have seen all of these three converted into small vans to transport goods around in an economical fashion, you can’t really believe how much someone can stack up in one of these its a proper art form!

And finally come the buses and trucks the biggest things on the road which take longer to get places due to their size and not having the ability to squeeze through tiny gaps quite like a bike or tuk tuk although most will have a good shot at it!