In my practice I create artist’s books and content-sensitive altered book works. I rarely use the sewn codex as a format, so I did not include an awl —I have three lovely ones in different sizes made for me by my partner David— or a needle. My two most used tools in any project are a home-made scoring/scribing tool and an Olfa snap-off-blade knife. I also use a scalpel when cutting, especially curves. The eighteen inch steel rule is absolutely essential. The surgical forceps would not have made my list under normal circumstances, but I discovered that they were the only tool I own that would enable me to assemble my most recent artist’s book.
The tools I would miss most:
Bone folders (four at this point)
Glue brushes (though I have been known to use my fingers)
Swivel knife and Circle Tool
Set of graduated width steel rules
The Cloisters is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, located in upper Manhattan, quite near my studio. In fact, I think I might be able to see it, if I climbed up on my bench and peeked out the upper left corner of my window. Northern Manhattan is quite different from the rest of the city. It is where the Dutch purchased the island from the Native Americans and there is still even a farmhouse located on Broadway dating to 1784, which is now a museum.
The Cloisters was built (assembled?) in 1938, and consists of four medieval buildings imported from Europe. It is located inside the 66 acres of Fort Tryon park. There are also beautiful gardens, including a nice garden featuring plants used for making dyes and paints. Looking across the Hudson River, there is a stunning view of the Palisades of New Jersey which John D. Rockefeller so admired he purchased 12 miles of shoreline to preserve the naturalistic view from the park.
The Cloisters is not only my favorite museum, but it has my favorite painting, The Merode Alterpiece. Note to the impecunious: although the Met recommends a $25 entrance fee, you can pay whatever you wish.
In April of 2015, I decided to photograph 34 actual books and works of art which contain representations of books which were on display. This was also a great chance to try a lot of handheld, low light photography with my new Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7, which is proving to be the second best camera I’ve ever owned. There are higher resolution images for most of these on the Met site, searchable by accession number.
If anyone would like to visit my studio, we could take a short detour to the Cloisters and look at the works, discussing what we can — and can’t — learn from looking at representations of books in art. Or you can can use this as a virtual or self guided tour.
BOOKS AND REPRESENTATIONS OF BOOKS ON DISPLAY IN APRIL, 2015,
AT THE CLOISTERS MUSEUM, NYC
This virtual tour starts on the main level in the Late Gothic Hall, and follows a counterclockwise path around the Cuxa Cloister, then jumps to the Gothic chapel, Glass Gallery and the Treasury on the lower level.
Most bookbindings function as protection for the text contained within. This, however, is a bookbinding that also functions as a strop. I rebound Ron Hock’s The Perfect Edge: The Ultimate Guide to Sharpening for Woodworkers in reverse calf in order to make it work as a not-so-fine binding/ strop. This book is one of the best on sharpening, containing an excellent overall assortment of information. It is loaded with practical advice, overviews of the various sharpening systems and informative photos. I recommend it as a textbook to accompany the sharpening workshops I teach.
Anyway, this was the first time I constructed a reverse calf binding– the paring took a bit more time since most of the strength of the leather (hair side) was cut away, and the caps were a bit tricky to form. The book was sewn on 5 quarter inch linen tapes, the edges decorated with Golden Fluid Acrylics chromium oxide green mixed with airbrush medium and Staedtler Karat water-soluble pencils, and the endbands simply sewn in purple silk over a cord core. The front cover was coated with a .5 micron chromium oxide honing compound, for preliminary stropping, the back left bare for a final polish. It will be interesting to see how it looks in a couple of months when the metal particles start to build up.