I’ve been hiding away in my little concerns for the last while; and to anyone out there who has been following my posts here and who might have been looking forward to new ones, all I can do is belatedly thank you for your interest. But, I don’t think I will be writing here anymore; I have transferred my interest. I am trying to take what I have learned from studying zen into outward things, into the world. And I have come up with the idea of developing a website, found here, for the purpose of helping the artists and crafts people in my local community promote their work. This idea is predicated on the notion that when artists/craftspeople are actually doing their work they enter a state of awareness that is not unlike the state we aspire to in zen. But most artists either have no interest in or no skills in marketing their own work. Having a little skill in that area myself, I thought that helping everyone along might not be misplaced. Well, the idea that I can help may well be misplaced, but I’m going to give it a go. And to that end, attached to the website, I will also be writing a blog about arts and culture on Galiano Island (and the world in general, and to how art helps us be aware and awakened to the moment). You can find it here.
It’s been about two months since I wrote here. And the book is done. It was done shortly after the last post and it has been sitting in the book press ever since waiting for the person who commissioned it to come back from Europe. He has family matters to attend to and I have no information re: date of his return. No matter. The book is a book for all that. I’ll not be able to get to another one for a while as the summer is the time to work on the house to try to get it finished. Today I did the final coat resurfacing the bathtub.
I got up on stage and played bass and sang in front of 200 people a week ago. Conquering an old fear has changed my life. Tonight I have a opening of abstract drawings; no fear.
I am starting to remember people’s names. Something I’ve always been bad at. This is so I can start doing a little community organizing with all the many wonderful artists on the island. Can’t talk to people if you can’t remember their names.
When one knows nothing about a topic, it is not necessarily a bad idea to jump in head first – as long as one is willing to put up with all the mistakes one is invariably going to make. In my case all the things that I could do wrong I have done wrong. The process of putting this rather large format book together has been a process of screw it up and fix it.
My Iaido teacher, sensei Ken Manecker, always talked about the importance of the beginner’s mind: One can only learn when one is in the embrace of the beginner’s mind. I wonder if, as in zen, the practise is not so much getting to the point that one does things perfectly, but rather one gets faster and faster at figuring out solutions to the problem of the mistake at hand.
The book is now sewn and glued. Next I will finish the spine and make the case.
The picture above is of the end papers, done with acrylic paint, that keep sticking together whenever I put the book into a press. Then I repair the paper. Why can’t I remember to put waxed paper between the pages? The solution: I thought to write a reminder on each press: “Wax Paper”. I wonder if I will pay any attention.
If I had bad days any more this would be one of them. But not being a bad day, it is merely one beset with fear and trepidation. Everything is sure to go wrong. What have I gotten myself into? I know nothing about book binding. Reading books on the subject is no substitute for having a good teacher who can direct one away from the most common errors. Me, I decide to go it alone. Figure out what I am doing as I go. So today I suspect that my signatures are too thick. When I press the signatures into my gluing frame, it looks like the glue will run down at least an eight inch between them. Is this good or bad? I have no idea. After procrastinating for hours, I go ahead, and glue everything up. If it doesn’t work, I have enough paper between the spine and the pictures that I can sew through the face of the paper. There is always a solution. Sometimes it just takes remaining calm in the face of habitual panic and self-loathing while waiting for the solution to come. So I procrastinated by going for a walk with my companion, in the sun, on the beach. She said, “Everything is shining.”
It still is.
So I’ve been making things needed to bind my book of drawings. The latest is the book press. Crude and haywired. I used a square screw from an old bench clamp, a bunch of re-purposed 2 x 4s and melamine from old shelving. Today is a holiday or I’d go out and buy some bolts to strengthen up the joints. That’s where patience comes in. Waiting for tomorrow. Knowing tomorrow will come and forgetting about it.
And then I will sew my signatures and assemble the book. Maybe the press will even work.
But what I’ve noticed in this whole process, being completely ignorant in respect to book binding, is how instead of doing things to a fine degree, I do haywiring. Why didn’t I make a cabinet quality press. I don’t worry about it, I just say that I don’t know how many books I will bind so good enough is good enough.
The other thing that I’ve noticed is that I’m terrified of making mistakes. I make lots of them. And then I have to figure out how to fix the mistakes – the goal being, after all, a highly skilled work of art. So far, I haven’t destroyed the project, but I’ve spent more than one night unalbe to go to sleep, plagued by various problems that I don’t have any solutions to. Like how to relax the wrinkles in my end papers. I dampened them and stuck them between two boards and left them there for a day to dry. But how do I keep two pages, painted in acrylic, that face each other from sticking to each other? They can’t have glassine between them. What makes acrylic surfaces non-sticky? Anyone have an idea?
I started making books because I was comissioned to do a book of abstract drawings/mixed media. The books that were commmerically available contained paper that was too thin to allow washes, so I opted to research bookbinnding and fell in love. So here is where the zen comes in – as a tool to allow me to continue to make the drawings (60 [+,-] on 9.75″ x 12.75 paper — ideally to sewn into signatures) when I want to fall into my new obsession and spend all my time there. But the commission comes first, and only then do I get to do anymore bookbinding. Ah, the anguish. All my life I’ve had a problem with impulse control. My impusle is to experiment wildly with bookbinding but my need and promise is to make a hand-made art book. I draw and wait for all things to pass. I don’t need to be impatient. In fact, impatience is best served by breathing and focusing on the art. I’ll post one of the draswings as soon as I decide that one is finished.
Second attempt. Still with the handicap of not having appropriate material. I am using 13 oz duck canvas. The coloured bits are 13 oz. painted with acrylic by the age-honoured method of using a scrap piece for a paint brush rag. My first book was signature sewn. This second book is fan glued (attempted a quarter-joint but the book was too thin and the canvas too thick). The glue on the first book was ordinary carpenter’s glue. I did a test on glues and the carpenter’s PVA glue became very brittle in a dried blob, where as the bookbinding PVA stayed flexible. Today I used acrylic medium to cover some paper. The idea is to paint my endpapers before putting them on the next case.
For the last few days (3-4-5?) I’ve been researching Bookbinding (youtube, Gutenberg Project. And now I’ve made my very first bound book, blank. I had to use what ever was laying round the house as I have none of the specialized tools or materials. But using ordinary paper and canvas from my painting, including an old paint rag, I cobbled together the book in the photos. Now I feel like I can go ahead and make a few more in preparation for a commission, 40 – 60 pages of abstract drawings. The reason that I needed to make my own book is that most books that are blank are not suitable for art. They are mostly used and intended for writing. Thanks for your attention to my joy at doing.