Wednesday 27 June 2018

Vinyl "handbag" sketchbook

While I still have three more of my Mum's leather handbags that I want to turn into notebooks/sketchbooks, I turned to one of my own old bags to use for making for a sketchbook as a long overdue gift for a vegetarian artist friend. This was a good little bag that I received as a gift many years ago, but was out of circulation due to a broken strap. 

The first step was un-seaming the bag and taking measurements. The bag's flap with design patches was actually like a pocket so I kept it intact for possible further use.

I figured out the size for my signatures (folded paper groups) and measured the vinyl to size for a wrap-around cover. I had decided to go back to the very first bookbinding method that I learned - the Medieval tacket book - and slightly modify it to my needs. In the image below, lines marking the interior spine are visible with approximately 1/4 cm between each line.Two signatures will be bound in corresponding holes along each line.

Using graph paper I decided the distance between the binding holes. In the picture below the extra lines denote where the signature spines will be -- the meetings of perpendicular lines marking the locations of the binding holes. NB: it is important that the TOP and BOTTOM of the cover and signatures are obvious; I mark the interior spine (it won't be visible after binding) and always have a deckled edge at the top of my books. Likewise, the template should also be clearly marked.

Each signature is opened centrally to facilitate puncturing binding holes. Each signature for this sketchbook is ten folded pages, i.e., 20 pages. The pushpins need to poke completely through the ten pages, in the middle of the fold; the graph paper provides a template for where the holes will be.

A book cradle is ideal to facilitate the creation of binding holes; I have made a useful enough cradle from cardboard. It has gotten a bit wonky at this point, with much use, but I keep repairing it with duct tape and additional bits of cardboard in strategic places so it still serves its purpose!

Back to poking holes in the sigantures: the two white pushpins are stronger and easier to use than the round headed pins. However, I only have two of the white type so they are my main men for poking holes, and the round ones act as placeholders, keeping the signature aligned with the graph paper template. While working on the book, I thought of this step as the "dance of the pushpins": I kept having to move the pins around till all the holes were punctured.

Looking at the signatures not in the cradle, one can see the holes punctured in the signature spines. These are the binding holes. Note that there are seven holes in the paper signatures; five of these holes will be bound to the cover, but the top and bottom holes are for thread entry, exit, and signature binding -- they are not used to bind to the cover.

As with the paper, the cover needs to have holes punctured. Five holes per line are punctured, corresponding to the five binding holes in the signatures. I used an awl to make the holes, but as with leather, the vinyl wants to heal itself! Safety pins and earring wires are handy to give those pesky holes a nudge to stay open; these handy pin items need to be removed completely before beginning to bind.

 Start binding in reverse order. That is, the last signature (with end paper) is the first to be bound. It is probably the most tricky, so it's good to get it over with. Leave about 2 inches of thread at the entry hole, starting from the outside and threading into the centre of the signature. Threading through the second hole you bind the signature to the first hole in the cover and come back through the cover's second hole to the third signature hole. The thread then goes to the centre hole and it is here that a decision must be made: the thread has to go back through the same hole, so either another thread or a decorative bead or button is used in order to facilitate the bind (otherwise it would come undone). The following signatures do not have this dilemma as the binding thread loops through the previous binding thread (i.e., signatures 3, 5, 7, and 9. The second signature on each line (i.e., signatures 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10) is not bound to the cover at the centre hole --  the hole is bypassed as one long thread to the next hole (lower or upper hole, depending on your sewing direction).

I am happy with the final book, I chose the teal embroidery thread (3 strand) to match the endpapers, which is paper giftwrap from Prague that I had been saving. I thought of using one of the ceramic buttons that I had made as a decorative, practical element in that first tricky signature binding, but I found the glass beads and thought them more appropriate and less likely to damage the threads with time.

As I am planning to mail this sketchbook to my friend, I was delighted that the "pocket" of the original purse flap is large enough to contain the sketchbook. Though it's a bit of tight squeeze, it will offer considerable protection in the post!

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Jesse Jones at The Project Arts Centre, Dublin

Jesse Jones was the artist chosen to represent Ireland at last year's 57th Venice Biennale. As I had met Jesse briefly a few years ago, I was curious as to what she was going to exhibit, and then followed the presentation avidly through social media and the catalogue. So when I heard that the complete presentation of "Tremble Tremble" was going to be shown at The Projet Arts Cente in Dublin this summer I was completely excited and chomping at the bit for the opening day.

The exhibition opened nearly two weeks ago and I met an artist friend to attend.

We were both blown away! Although I had read the catalogue essays with interest, they could not prepare me for the exhibition. Essentially it was a multimedia performance, where the main performer, Olwen FouĂ©re,  was present on film via two huge, oblong video screens.

What a presence! I cannot describe this artwork adequately - it defies description. But the mythic exhibition continues in Dublin till July 18, and I am under the impression that it will tour to other venues around Ireland. Have a look at Project's website here for further information on the exhibition.

Wednesday 13 June 2018

Bray - summer

A few weeks ago I took this picture of Killiney Bay on my way home from Dublin. That is Bray Head jutting into the Irish Sea in the middle of the image. Bray nestles below and around the Head -- my home these past few decades. 

We have had an amazing summer, blue skies, lots of sun and warmth. It is a wonderful reminder of why I have been here for so long -- I love the place! Foxgloves are out and they are wild and extremely tall here in Ireland.

Bray is ideal: it is close to the countyside, the sea, and Dublin. Everything is at your doorstep. This cliff down to the sea is on the side of Bray Head.

One of my neighbours has a brilliant collection of irises growing in her side garden. I have to pass them walking towards the park on the way out of the estate.

Especially when on a mission to pick elderflowers on the edge of the park -- elderflowers bloom in June and make a fantastic cordial and wine.

The grass on the edge of the estate is full of tiny, pink-tipped daisies.

Looking through tree branches the sky is blue.

The sun is shining and the leaves are lush. Can it get any better than this?

Wednesday 6 June 2018

Summertime - music gigs!

I think it is common worldwide that musical people equate summer with gigs. Although bands play year-round, there is a proliferation of outdoor festival gigs in the summer, and there are also other annual music events that mark the beginning of summer.

Here in Ireland, where I live, the May bank holiday weekend (always including the first Monday of the month) is marked by the annual Bray Jazz Festival. It has been going strong for 19 years now, and though the Town Hall gigs are no longer free (as they were in the first few years), there is still the pub trail that sees a huge amount of free live music in bars all over the town. One of my locals, The Harbour Bar, was hosting several live gigs daily over the weekend and I saw that The Tommy Halferty Trio, who I had seen and heard and enjoyed a number of years ago, were scheduled to play the Sunday afternoon of the festival..

Halferty is a jazz guitarist extraordinaire and the first set included some great improv jazz from Halferty's latest album, Station Midi, as well as "standard" work by the likes of innovator Thelonius Monk. Since it was a gorgeous, summery weekend, I refused to stay in the cave of a pub (often in Ireland you could miss the summer by blinking) so I only stayed for the first set and gave up my prime seat at the bar to people arriving for the second set and the rest of the gigs taking place that day and night..

Some friends had invited us to spend the warm evening with dinner and drinks in their gorgeous garden that evening, so leaving the pub was not a hardship! By my good fortune, those same friends had a spare ticket to see The Rolling Stones in Croke Park a few weeks later. And summer persisted, so it was a completely unforgettable evening by those four legends. I definitely have to hand it to those wrinkly rockers for putting on an incredibly amazing show.

Last night the summer of gigs continued for me as I headed off to Malahide Castle in north Dublin to see LCD Soundsystem. The gig was fabulous, helped by the atypical continuation of summer weather - even James Murphy (LCD's front man) declared incredulously "this is the longest sunset I have ever seen!" We never saw the castle because the grounds are huge, and the gig was in an outdoor area. It is a good venue to see a band in fine weather, but boy what a trek from where I live!

My love of music has really worked out well this summer, winning tickets to the Bryan Ferry gig at Trinity College in July. And I was absolutely over the moon to win tickets this past weekend to see two more rock legends in the autumn when Van Morrison and Robert Plant (with the Sensational Space Shifters) play a double bill at the 3 Arena in Dublin. Wow! Many, many thanks to Radio Nova, the Dublin radio station that I listen to constantly.