Radioactive, by Lauren Redniss

orange and green cover of book 'Radioactive' by Lauren Redniss

Radioactive, by Lauren Redniss

Currently The Big Read at the UW-Madison this semester, this book is just phenomenal. The author/artist is a genius–writing, illustrating, and creating her own font for this book–Lauren Redniss is a god! I’m so inspired by her work.

Radioactive is about the life of Marie Curry, and along with being a gorgeously illustrated graphic novel, it’s incredibly-researched, historically accurate, full of drama, intrigue, love and death, it reads like a novel! Very hard to put down.

Oh! And the cover (hard-cover version at least) glows in the dark–how cool is that??!!

I can’t say enough about this book, nor can I say it well, so here’s a link to a terrific review of the book by journalist, writer, and current UW-Madison grad student, Emily Eggleston:
A Radioactive Treat.

Check out Lauren Redniss online and Radioactive itself. At her site you can also check out her wonderful Op-art” pieces for the NYT. Oh, and this book (that I have to have) Century Girl is also there. Check it out! Genius. Seriously.

And here’s a video of Lauren talking about the making of Radioactive at a TED Talk (yep, she’s also young and beautiful–she’s got it all):

The “Tunnel” guestbook

printed, cloth-covered artists's book
At the Tunnel of Mortality show, I made this matching guestbook and left it on the table in the anteroom, with a sign “comments welcome” (the anteroom’s wallpaper, upholstery, tablecloth, etc all used the “bones and offal” linocut pattern on burgundy cloth).

Here are a few of the comments (favorites), below…

Love this one:

Artwork that makes you think! Yeah!! Nice processing:

Cracks me up:

Wait, what?…

Girl after my own :

Hog hides arrived!

They made it. Finally! These are hog hides (and one buckskin) from last fall, 2011 (when I took them into a tannery in Milwaukee, WI). They’ve all been tanned and dyed to specific colors…

black, brown and natural colored hog hides and bucksin

Clockwise from top: Buckskin dyed brown, Hog hide–natural, hog hide–tan, hog hide–brown, hog–black. Can’t wait to make book covers with these, but have deadlines that need to be finished first. Eyes on the prize!

BTW, anybody know how to soften hides? The hog skins are really stiff. It’s not a real problem (I dampen the hide before using it for binding, so it’ll be soft to work with), but it would be nice to know how to do it in case I need them softer when they’re dry….

Making 4th Century Books

wooden covered bookTook a fantastic bookbinding course at Valley Ridge Studio last weekend with instructor Daniel Essig! I love his work, and showcased his books in the book arts class when talking about contemporary book artists this past semester. He’s so inspiring. So, I was thrilled to be able to take his class and learn how to make his wooden book covers and Ethiopian binding.

Click on any image to enlarge it.

Closeup of mica window with corn insideThe book is about 5 inches tall, the cover wood is cherry–cut, filed, sanded, drilled, then stained with Kiwi shoe polish, then buffed to a shine.That window on the front encases some field corn and a small chicken feather (from a Black Laced Polish), sealed in with sheets of mica. Mica, or muscovite was originally used as windows in horse-drawn carriages as well as windows for early 20th century cars [more…]. Daniel uses it in many of his books and taught us how to cut, drill, peel and manipulate it for use in our books.Those are tiny little nails holding down the mica.

The thread is 4-ply and heavily waxed. the pages are a mixture of cotton rag paper sections alternating with mica sheets–all sewn in with the coptic stitch using 4 needles.

top view of Ethiopian bound book

It’s a coptic (or chain) stitched book, but there’s a lot of detailed intricacies to drilling and sewing on the covers that I never would have learned by reading a book (that is, I wouldn’t have had the patience to figure it out from written diagrams all by myself). Daniel says that the Coptic-stitched book combined with the wooden covers is what makes this an Ethiopian binding, a style of bookbinding from the 4th century. More information about the history of this book form is here.

rooster spur on left, page from old book on right

(click on photo to enlarge)

The Standard of Perfection (cover)

This spread (in progress) features one of my rooster’s spurs (cut in half with a jeweller’s saw)–you see the back of the spur here, encased in mica (click on the image to see the awesome growth rings exposed when it was sawed in half!). And on the right, some pages from a 19th century version of The American Standard of Perfection (a chicken breed book), sandwiched in-between sheets of mica.

Anyway, just wanted to share the experience here. To see much better made, polished, gorgeous books by Daniel Essig, as well as his amazing wooden sculptures and more, please visit his website. You’ll find his schedule of workshops there too, as well as information about his private workshops in his studio in Asheville, N.C., so you can learn how to make these too!

An abbreviated version of the links I gathered for UW’s 446 Book Arts class….

…more links will be added as time permits…

Artists who do sculptural book forms: Beautiful and Creative Book Sculptures

From the NZ Book Council

Some of the most amazing book art I’ve ever seen (stop-action animation). Audio is horrible, but visually….

And another…

Links to online viewing of Artists’ Books

Artists’ Books Online
UW-Madison’s Kohler Art Library Artists’ Book Collection
Bonefolder | Book Arts Web
Bonefolder’s Online Exhibitions and Galleries
Artist Books 3.0
Granary Books
Artists’ Books collection at Otis College of Art And Design
And exhibit of Alphabet Books

More Artists’ Books

Timothy Ely’s Charts: 1, 2 and Fire
Inspired by the palm leaf manuscript from Indonesia.

Tutorials, etc

Making a Casebound book (sewing on tapes)
Making a Clamshell Box

Jim Escalante’s Video: Coptic Stitch Binding, Part 1
Jim Escalante’s Video: Coptic Stitch Binding, Part 2
Video: Sewing on Cloth Tapes
Video: Sewing on Cords

Links to Supplies, etc

Boxcar Press (polymer plate printing supplies)
French Split Goatskin we used to make our leather books in class

Class collaborative, end of semester…

Last day of teaching for the Book Arts class at UW this semester. What a great class (there were some really exceptional students in this group) and we all made a lot of stuff. I had no idea how many books I would have to make in order to demo (think cooking class–different stages ready to show), but omg I never dreamed it would have been this many! Holy cow. But, practice makes (closer to) perfect, right?

Here’s some of my students’ books, after the leather binding workshop we did, along with some of their 1st half of semester books (click photo to enlarge):

leather bound and other handmade artists' books

And some of their gorgeous marbled papers we made after Spring Break (click image to enlarge):

mosaic of marbled papers

For end of semester, we printed/bound a class collaborative travel/adventure book (students picked the theme), with each of us making a spread (6in x 12in wide).

printed book cloth, papers

Some of the pieces–the printed cover papers and book cloth (lower right), little 1/2-size model of book to figure out pagination (upper left), title page, little bellhop guy that will be featured on interior pages of the book… (click image to enlarge)

I haven’t taken pics of the individual spreads yet, but (above) are some of the pieces of the book in progress. Handmade paper on cover, polymer plate printed 17th century world map on various pages, cover paper and book cloth. Also polymer-plate printed bellhop guy for some of inside spreads. I marbled the endpapers onto Rives BFK tan. Here they are drying in foreground with my double-spread foldout of Ivan and the Wily Coyotes in the background:

marbled paper and relief prints drying in studio

and the title pages and colophon are letter-press printed with wood type (big letters) and lead type (smaller text). Here’s setting up the type (#1) for the colophon and the students’ names (that they set themselves with the lead type), that will be printed with white ink over a polymer-plate-printed dark brown cover stock (#2). Click either image to actually read the type!:

lead type cased in on letterpress
printed colophon: white text on dark brown paper

I will post photos of the finished book and some spreads next time.