Retreat extension

I overprepared for the Handmade Book Club’s one-day retreat in May 2020. I cut boards for two books, but only finished one at the retreat. I thought I would follow up promptly and make another book using the same steps. But that’s not how it happened, time got away from me. The cut boards sat around, taunting me. I decided to finish the project this month, as part of my new year’s cleanup campaign.

My retreat book (pictured below, rust cover with blue stitching) had twenty-five signatures from a full piece of Strathmore tan printmaking paper. I only had a partial piece of similar paper, enough to get fifteen signatures. I think it’s enough.

I set out to collage the large paper before cutting. This was my favorite technique from the retreat: collage a large sheet and then cut it up. It reduces all the preciousness about how the pages will look when completing the initial collage steps. This time, the collage took on a life of its own. Not limited by the retreat timeframe, the process just went on and on. I used different papers and media and built up the surface until I found it interesting to look at. Lots of mottled color and texture. When satisfied, I cut the large sheet into signatures as shown below.

Cut signatures for retreat extension book
Blue example
Red earth example

And I added an element I’ve been planning for awhile. My friend gave me a stack of woodcut prints on rice paper. I finally scanned them, so I could resize them as needed and also not destroy the originals while playing around. Here are eight woodcut images reprinted onto tracing paper. I also printed them onto tissue paper. I cut out and applied the images to the pages with matte medium, printer ink side down. The tissue paper disappeared more readily into the surface.

Woodcut prints scanned and reprinted onto tracing paper
From left: tracing paper reprint, original, tissue paper reprint

Next step was preparing the covers. I cut bookcloth to size, deciding on the moss green. I ignored the grain of the bookcloth, rationalizing that the covers were freestanding and the cloth would be folded on four sides anyway. Covered the boards. Punched holes with an awl, which took quite a while. Then sewed the book together using the single-needle coptic stitch binding.

Sewing in progress
Final sewn spine
Two books from one retreat, side by side

I’m happy with the new book. I glued in the end papers. I’ll probably add more to the pages but I can take my time with that.

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