Learning to Make Books by Hand

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Some projects never seem to end. For more than two years, I’ve been cautiously tinkering with a chapbook called “Portraits and Landscapes.” The book is an experiment with the poetic line. The “portraits” which depict people of course are all written using very short lines. The “landscapes” use very long lines instead. They depict places. Is a mannequin a person? Is a wall a landscape? You decide.

Portraits and Landscapes handmade books

The book went through many versions, and it probably could forever except that I decided to declare it done. The chance to do that came when my friend Alexander Jarman invited me to contribute to the Post Contemporary Record Store. He describes the record store this way…

The PCR store displays and promotes the work of a wide range of artists, highlighting the special nature of record album art and expanding upon the meaning and nature of a physical album. Not all albums in the PCR store contain music, but these albums are an invitation to begin imagining. That is naturally what happens in our brains when we see the image on an album cover; we instantly begin hearing music in our heads—where the image begins to stand in for a sound—begging the question: do you even need sound to “hear” a record?

Portraits and Landscapes handmade books

My book was already designed to be square, so it seemed a natural fit for display alongside all the other square images and objects in the space. There was just one trouble, though: my book was 8 inches square. I needed it to be either 12” like an LP or 7” like a single. I chose the later, but it meant that the book would be to be made by hand. I couldn’t seem to find a printer who would make a book for me at that size.

assembling handmade books

I am lucky to have several friends who are experienced book-makers. Amanda McCormick from Ink Press Productions loaned me some tools and gave me a crash course. Alexander came over to help with cutting the pages down to size and with the stitching. When it was over, I had a very limited edition of handmade books!

The books went on view at the last installation of Post Contemporary Records, at the Windup Space in Baltimore. You can see them again at the Spin & Sell Print and Vinyl Bazaar this weekend at the Maryland Art Place.


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