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.”
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?