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  1. Artist: Jennifer Davis

    April 16, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

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    I really love the work of Jennifer Davis, she’s a master at combining colors and patterns into beautiful and wild works of art. The following pieces are from her most recent exhibition Joyride on display at the Public Functionary in Minneapolis, MN. This show is a product of a grant Jennifer received two years ago that allowed her to travel across the US to cities famous for their old carousels. 

    I’m just ecstatic about the hand painted carousel horses and I hope Jennifer continues with 3-dimensional art in the future. 

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  2. Artist: Richard Butler

    April 16, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

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    These moody portraits are the work of painter and former Psychedelic Furs band member Richard Butler. His work is particularly striking through the disruption of the subject’s full features. The paint strokes evoke the impressionist style of Manet with a contemporary look. 

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  3. My Hand // Leather Embroidery Samplers – Part One

    April 15, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

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    Since my last embroidered leather binding, I’ve had the urge to experiment with various traditional stitches in leather. Through my experiments I aimed to find which stitches would translate the same way on leather as they do on fabric. In addition, I wanted to know if I could easily keep a stitched line straight during the covering process.

    I began with a rough sketch of each sampler, a total of six. The stitches I chose were divided into categories (such as chain stitches, variations on the back stitch, couching, etc.) and then laid out onto each sampler sketch. I choose to experiment on both goatskin and buffalo which were pared down to the thickness I use when covering a full leather fine binding (~.5 for the buffalo and .7 for the goat). 

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    Then, I cut down a piece of Japanese tissue to the size of the plaquette board and adhered it to the center of the leather. Once the pieces were dry, I proceeded to draw out a 1 x 1 mm square grid onto each sampler. This grid made it incredibly easy to lay out the stitches and to make sure I kept them even and straight. Before I began a stitch, I figured out the hole placement and spacing. Then with my pin vise I made pin-pricks through the leather. Laying out the holes beforehand made the act of stitching easier and faster. 

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    After completing all of the stitches on a sampler, I prepped the leather for covering. Excess strings were trimmed and pasted down in line with stitches on the backside. This way any strays would not be visible on the front side of the leather. Once I readied my bench with the proper tools, the leather pieces were pasted up with wheat starch paste and attached to the board. After folding over the turn-ins and working down the corners, I stuck the plaquette under a press between foam and press boards. The foam pushes down the leather around the stitches much easier and quicker than I could. 

    When working with embroidered leather, I don’t wet out the piece before pasting up as I normally would. I do however add some moisture to the turn-ins to aid in the covering process. 

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  4. Conservation Conversations // Not Just What, But Why

    April 10, 2014 by Athena Moore

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    In conservation, there are an endless number of questions to ask oneself on a daily basis. Is this binding contemporary with the text? Should I size this paper? How am I going to reback this mess? The reality is that in this field, it often has less to do with how you’re going to treat an object and more to do with why

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    As a book conservator at the Northeast Document Conservation Center, it’s difficult to predict what might come across my bench from week to week. NEDCC is not a collecting institution and as a result, the objects that come in and treatments we perform can vary pretty widely. Despite the fact that certain treatments might not come up with great frequency, it’s crucial for us to keep our broad skill set sharp. In addition to knowing how to execute these treatments, it’s of equal importance for us to know what the most appropriate approach is. 

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    When a client approaches us about a volume or collection of volumes, one of the first things we work to establish are the goals of that client and/or their institution. This helps to inform our recommendations and gives both us and the client a sense of what is possible. 

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    If the intent is to put a volume on exhibit, it may be decided that we should improve its appearance by surface cleaning and stabilizing the binding to make it safe for display. If the volume will be used for teaching, we have to be more thoughtful about its ability to function – this might mean reattaching loose material, reinforcing or replacing sewing, or rebacking. If the volume is considered important because of its content but the binding isn’t necessarily special to the client, we may change the binding altogether or decide just to digitize it. Particularly fragile items that will be used for research or otherwise handled will often be digitized and returned with handling instructions or if they’re in particular bad condition, may be encapsulated and post bound. Objects that are considered artifacts are generally approached in the most conservative manner and may only be boxed. We often remove damaging materials, but not always – if it is considered part of the history of the object, it might be necessary for us to leave them.

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    As a general rule, our intent is never to treat an object in a manner that is unnecessary. We aim only to perform treatments that are responsible and, to the extent possible, reversible. A large part of our job is to educate clients and help them to make the best decisions for their collections. We often aid in prioritizing – if an institution only has a certain budget for the year but aims to treat a set part of their collection, we’re able to guide them in those decisions.

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    At any given point, it’s not unusual for us to have two very similar volumes that receive very different treatments. This depends largely on the object’s intended use and the goals of the institution, but may also have to do with timeline and budget constraints. As challenging as it may be, it’s extremely important for us to balance working efficiently with treating each volume on its own and being thoughtful about what we hope to see as an end result. 


  5. Bookbinder of the Month: Lang Ingalls // Bonus

    March 31, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

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    Just one more bonus binding from Lang Ingalls to end out the month. King of the Alps by Reginald Farrer with illustrations by Abigail Rorer was bound by Lang in 2013. The Lone Oak Press edition is signed by the illustrator. 

    Bound in the French technique in full white alum-tawed goat. The geometric design on the covers is an interpretation of one of the illustrations. Lang continues to use the incision technique in which a thin line of leather is removed and painted with acrylics in grey and blue tones. The same palette continues on the inside with blue leather edge-to-edge doublures and grey suede flyleaves. The title, author, illustrator and date of edition are on decorative onlays on the spine. 


  6. Swell Things No. 13

    March 31, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

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    1. After a successful Indiegogo campaign, artist Sipho Mabona was able to construct a life-sized origami elephant from a single sheet of paper. The elephant is beautiful and quite impressive, but I’m a bit skeptical about its construction from a single sheet of paper. 
    2. I am both entranced and repulsed by these paintings from artist Lauren Roche
    3. I am always impressed by the meticulous work and patience needed to construct an object, animal or whatever out of paper. New paper illustrations from the French duo Lucie Thomas and Thibault Zimmermann aka Zim&Zou are just beautiful and brilliant. 
    4. Last year at the Venice Art Biennale, artist Odires Mlászho put on an exhibit of sculptures that really tested the flexibility of the book as an object. Each sculpture is constructed of at least two books that have been contorted into beautiful and unusual shapes by interweaving the book’s pages and covers. 
    5. I bet he’s just saving those Flaming Hot Cheetos for later. In an ongoing series called Will It Beard, photographer Stacy Thiot tests the lodging capabilities of her husband’s beard by sticking as many objects that can fit within his tangled facial hair. 

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    6. Marjory’s World I is just a beautiful and peaceful photographic series from artist Rebecca Reeve.
    7. A German manuscript from the 1530s contains illustrations and text about the use of ‘Rocket Cat‘. Unfortunately, it’s not as cool as it sounds. Cats were nabbed off the streets and strapped with an explosive sack. After the sack was ignited, the cat was set loose in the hopes that it would run and hide behind the walls of an enemy’s fortress. I bet that plan didn’t work very well. 
    8. After cutting out images from over 700 discarded books on the subjects of flora and fauna, artist Andrea Mastrovito began the task of collaging each piece for the installation. The Island of Dr. Mastrovito II includes a ceiling consumed by bats, while butterflies cascade up the wall in a frenzy, the base of the installation is filled with various mammals, insects and plants. Quite an impressive installation. 
    9. These whimsical dioramas are not animated scenes, but layers of precisely cut watercolor paper lit with various flexible LED lights. Hari & Deepti are the artist couple behind these fantastic pieces. 
    10. Sophie Blackall has been illustrating the online listings put forth by lovelorn strangers hoping to reconnect known as Missed Connections. She’s even published a book of the illustrations, which are beautiful and lovely and endearing. 


  7. Bookbinder of the Month: Lang Ingalls

    March 30, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

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    On exhibit from June 20th to September 14th of this year is Lang Ingalls’ binding of Ici by Roger Munier. The exhibit is sponsored by ARA France in partnership with the city of NÎmes and its renowned Carré d’Art Library for the XIth FIRA International Forum & Exhibition. 

    This edition is copy 13 of 47 and is signed by the author. Bound in the reliure à cru structure in black sanded calf with sewn red thread elements. The binding is complete with squared suede headbands, suede doublures and suede flyleaves. The title, author and date are hand tooled on both covers. 

    This binding stands out in your portfolio due to the absence of color in the design, however the treatment of the leather is exceptional. It reminds me of how a photocopied image begins to degrade and become fuzzy with each subsequent copy. Was this effect created through a dyeing or printing process?
    This binding was made in Paris with Ana Ruiz-Larrea last fall. The structure is called reliure a cru, a soft-cover leather binding. The text is about how all things go round, all things in life. I decided on a circular element and taped #18 thread to the back of black calf. I sanded and — viola! — the calf was distressed and the circle came through. There is a hint of red in the text, the initial letter at the start of the copy, and I borrowed from that when I made small sewings of red thread through parts of the circle. The French teach that 2/3 of your design is on the recto and 1/3 is on the verso, thus the placings of these tiny thread elements, while considering the title, author and year.


  8. Bookbinder of the Month: Lang Ingalls

    March 23, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

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    Chansons is a text written by the Belgian poet and playwright Maurice Maeterlink. This particular 1995 edition is in French and includes engravings by Ginette Litt; the copy is signed by Litt and bibliophile G.A. Dassonville. Lang Ingalls bound this copy in 2013 and it will be exhibited from April 4 to June 30 of this year in a show titled ‘Belgian Writers, a Binding Homage’ sponsored by Bibliotheca Wittockiana and ARA Belgica

    The binding is bound in the French technique in pink goatskin. Lang describes the cover design inspiration and techniques below in response to my question. However, not shown are the hand-sewn silk headbands and black suede pastedowns and flyleaves. 

    Once again, you’ve created such a beautiful binding. I would just love for you to discuss your concept behind the design and how you translated that into the materials used on the binding. 
    This binding is recent, and one that took a long time to develop, and one that is amongst my favorites I’ve made. The shapes on both the recto and verso are taken from the etchings of Ginette Litt, one for each song (six). The shapes were removed and sanded, then re-adhered to the covers. The incision lines were painted black. The small connecting lines are thin twine that has been wound with silk thread in a near-pink hue, then adhered in a tooled line. The title is blind tooled then painted in the same black as the incisions.


  9. Moving Images: #PostModem

    March 21, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

    The internet just celebrated its 25th birthday and since I’m just a couple years older I have fond memories of how it slowly crept into my school life then my social life. I find my generation to be a mixed bag of those who integrate their lives full force into the internet, those who don’t and the range of us who fall in-between. 

    The internet is definitely changing our lives in how we interact… and doing it rather quickly. I would put myself into that in-between category, I’m comfortably active in a few social networks and I have my own website and blog. But I’m also really behind technologically speaking, which is why I enjoy having a nerdy husband who lovingly rolls his eyes when I don’t understand some meme or thread on reddit. 

    #PostModem is a comedic satire by Jillian Mayer and Lucas Leyva based on the post-human theories of converting your consciousness into a digital form. 


  10. Conservation Conversations // Leafcasting

    March 20, 2014 by Athena Moore

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    Leafcasting is magic. Well, it at least LOOKS like magic. A not-oft-used conservation method, leafcasting helps to strengthen paper by filling areas of loss with pulp. Experimentation with this treatment began by hand in the 1950s, but was made considerably easier and more efficient with the advent of the leafcasting machine in the following decade.

    There are only a small number of institutions that have leafcasting machines and an even smaller number that use them. At the Northeast Document Conservation Center, where I work as an assistant book conservator, we’re lucky enough to have one (on semi-permanent loan from the North Bennet Street School – thanks, Jeff!). Before coming to NEDCC, I had no idea what this machine was or what it did. Kiyoshi Imai, who has been with NEDCC’s book laboratory for over 20 years, is something of an expert on this treatment. He was kind enough to teach me the process (and re-train my brain on the intricacies of arithmetic) and I’ve been somewhat obsessed ever since.

    The leafcaster is essentially a paper-making machine. A document or folio (or multiple folios, as is sometimes the case) with losses is measured to determine the weight and full size dimensions. The areas with losses are measured and subtracted from that. There are a few more math steps in there, but essentially what you come up with is one number – this is the amount of pulp needed to fill the losses in grams. Leafcasting pulp can be made out of cotton and/or hemp fiber pulp or handmade paper. It is often necessary to use a combination of both, as one of the issues a conservator is attempting to address in the process is finding a good color match for the object.

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    The material that is chosen is blended with water to form a slurry. The object is placed on a sheet of spun polyester (which makes for easier handling and allows water to pass through) in the “casting area” of the machine and is held down by a screen while water is poured in. The pulp slurry is added to this water, distributed evenly and finally removed from the casting area by a pump located below. The pulp is pulled to the areas in the object with losses. If the conservator has done their job well, the new material will appear even and well matched in thickness and color.

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    The cast object is removed from the leafcaster with a second sheet of spun polyester and can be sized on a suction table, which helps to improve the strength of the original object and the adherence of the new cast material to the original material. The object can be dried either in a press or under blankets, depending on the intended result – drying it in a press can often augment the size, so in the case of casting just a folio or two from a bound volume, it may be best to allow for a slower, more gentle form of drying. If the object is a one-off, it can be slightly faster to dry it in the press.

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    While it isn’t the appropriate treatment for all items, leafcasting can be a great option for some. Volumes that have large amounts of insect damage, for instance, often require a huge amount of mending time. Attempting to hand fill losses at that scale is daunting. Because the damage is usually fairly consistent, it is relatively easy to use the same math on large sets of folios. It’s also very likely that the same pulp would be used, so the biggest time commitment is just the initial set up. When an object is well cast, the strength and stability of it is greatly increased. Objects that have been cast are protected against further damage in weak areas and can be handled much more safely. Because it is essentially just handmade paper pasted to the object, it is also reversible.

    It’s easy enough to create your own losses in sample materials, so if you’ve got access to a leafcaster, try it out!

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    I am currently working with Helen Bailey, Library Fellow for Digital Curation and Preservation at MIT, to develop software that can use digital images of objects with losses to determine the amount of pulp needed and will be leading a leafcasting demonstration and lecture for SUNY Buffalo’s art conservation graduate students this spring. I have also created a user’s manual for the Model 0901 Leafcaster, so if you have any related questions, please feel free to send them my way!