harakka - an artists' book

July was a month of only two books - one case bound journal, to be shared with you soon-ish, and one artists' book for the #areyoubookenough bookbinding community challenge. I had actually given up on hope of getting anything bookbinding related done - the heathwave seems to be neverending and it's wearing me down, and so is living between two major construction work sites. Haven't spent much time at home for obvious reasons and spent the month looking for cooler and quieter locations suitable for writing. With less than two days left to finish my book for the challenge I found myself back home with barely an inkling of an idea. Sarah of Ink and Awl wondered how I came up with something this refined and finely made so quickly, and I decided it was time I wrote about the process behind a finished piece. First, let's see what I'm talking about:

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You can view a short video of the piece on my Instagram page. The book measures 8,2x8,2x5,8cm / 3.2"x3.2"x2.3" and it has six pages.

The theme for the July challenge was 'treasure'. My process started from the thought of what sort of things I consider as treasures. Important things about treasures: they're precious in one way or another, they preferably have a connection to a bygone era, they're found (or stolen), and in finding them one feels delight or exhilaration as one instantly recognizes having found something of value. Then I thought of what kind of people could have somewhat actual treasures: rich people, historians, collectors. I then widened my perspective and thought of magpies, who collect and steal all sorts of lovely, shiny things to decorate their nests with. I enjoy shiny things, but even more I enjoy lovely, tiny things, like buttons. And so the idea to create a book titled 'Harakka', the magpie, was born.

I always try to have some kind of personal angle in the artists' books I make, be it through words, images or materials. I personally have always had an eye for beautiful buttons - and so have all the women that have become before me in my family. I’m a collector of buttons, and a keeper of buttons as well as their stories. So, for this book I have picked six buttons I have considered as treasures from the moment I first saw them. The first button comes from the very first button box I ever had, the others from a special flea market find, my paternal grandmother’s round button tin, my maternal grandmother’s much larger button drawer, the tiny mourning button was found from the attic of my paternal grandparents, and the final one is a button I have always imagined having once been my great grandmother Saima’s. It was given to me by my maternal grandmother a long, long time ago. I have no way of knowing if it was Saima’s or her sister’s, but I have always thought this one as Saima’s. She passed away long before I was born, but I feel a special connection to her and her beautiful little things that have been passed on to me.

This book is a book of my personal treasures, so to keep things personal, I chose to stick to my mother tongue this time. It would be strange to try and translate the different names I have for my grandparents, even though those particular names are only meaningful to me. Still, I felt translation would create undesired distance in this case. Partly because I had very limited time, partly because I'm a fan of minimalism, I decided to only have very brief notes about the origins of each button. 

After coming up with the idea of creating a book around a handful of special buttons, I needed to figure out what book structure would work with three dimensional objects. Concertinas expand as needed, but having just made a concertina book a brief while ago, I wanted to go with something else. Also, the concertina binding is one of the most basic book structures, and one that is really often used in artists' books. There's nothing wrong with it, but I like to add variety to the field whenever possible. So, the next step was to decide how I would embed my buttons to the pages, and what structure would allow me to use thick pages. Board book structure was the first thing that came to mind, you know the kind that is used to make books for babies and toddlers. I first thought I'd make all six pages the same thickness, with the thickness determined by the thickest button. This however would've meant my book would've gotten very, very fat, so I made each page only as thick as necessary and managed to avoid creating a cube. The pages were built up in thickness with strips of book board glued together and sanded smooth. Buttons were sewn in place, and the sides were covered with white paper before I linked the adjoining pages together with hinges made out of book cloth. Once this was done both front and back of each page was covered with watercolor paper, on which I had printed the text. The first and last page were hinged with a piece of book board on which I then built the covers using a technique adapted from the sewn boards binding structure. This let me work on the covers while they were already attached to the book block - this included lining the book spine and board edges with teal blue ingres paper, adding a paper spine finished off the block, and covering the boards with black paper. The colours of this book are of course the colours of a magpie - black, white and teal.

All in all, I think I must've spent at least 16 hours by my work desk during those two days, so this wasn't really a very quick book to make. Cutting all components by hand is time consuming, and sanding all those bits of board is a pesky job. If needed, I'm quick to come up with a concept, and to figure out what kind of technical requirements it sets to the structure, but the execution still takes time. I think it's just routine that brings along with it the self confidence and knowledge required for quick decisions - I can see the finished piece in my head really early on, which is a blessing and a curse. Working without a clear vision of the finished piece encourages improvisation, but yeah, I've never been very good at that...

The August theme for the challenge is 'listen' - I expect to see books that make a noise, I expect to see books about sounds, I expect to see books that ask us to stop what we're doing and listen to something that's important. What I'll create, I have no idea, but even though this is a busy month (my poetry book launch party is coming up, and so are big deadlines!), I hope to start my next artists' book a little earlier on in the month!

a human forest - an artists' book

After a rough and busy week it's nice to focus on something beautiful. The June theme for the #areyoubookenough bookbinding community challenge was "boxed in". Being boxed in, either physically or mentally, has much to do with factors that restrict or limit your actions. I enjoy restrictions when it comes to creativity; I enjoy this themed challenge that gives me both a starting point for a new artists' book as well as a deadline. What I don't enjoy are the inner restrictions that sometimes come from the conflict of having an actual self that always differs from the ideal self. Life is messy. We're not always as strong or perceptive as we'd like to be. Being more than just okay with who I am is something I work on every day, and a big part of that process is accepting all sides of myself, all emotions, all quirks, and all my neuroses. This artists' book is about all that, and it's called "A Human Forest". I'm not just birches, I'm pines and willows and aspens and all - and it's a fact that some of those make me weep.

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The vintage tin measures 8,2x4,2x2,5cm / 3.2"x1.7"x1" and each page measures 7,9x3,5cm / 3.1"x1.4". I've once again used glass microscope slides and transparency prints of digitally edited cut up poetry. When viewed as a stack, the variable order of the pages creates a peculiar sense of depth to the piece.

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A human forest:
All pleasures and all pains,
the excitements of silence
whatever it is, it's mine

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As promised, I randomly picked a winner for the book giveaway, and now the amazing Collage Ideas Book is on its way to @kreativesdurcheinander who recommended @lovewalkinginsnow as a collage artist worth getting to know. There were altogether 50 entries with more than 50 recommended artists listed, so if you're looking for inspiration and new-to-you collage artists, check out the comments on my previous post, and more importantly, the long long list of artists tagged and mentioned on my Instagram post. Thank you all for your participation - I'll probably spend weeks going through the list of recommendations to make it last as long as possible!

win a copy of the collage ideas book

I'm so, so honoured to have my Letters to You matchbox art featured in the beautiful Collage Ideas Book by Alannah Moore (ILEX, 2018). This is the first time I'm featured in a book as a collage artist instead of a bookbinder (or poet, for that matter), and it feels wonderful! 

If I got my math right, there's work by 82 amazingly talented artists featured in this little book, and all are paired with words designed to awaken your own creativity. What I love about this book is that it isn't about recreating collages in the style of the artists featured - it's about widening your perspective and finding new and inspiring ways to create collage art! The Collage Ideas Book is so well written and thought out, it has something for even the more experienced collage artists, without being too complex for a beginner to grasp. It really is a joy, this book. And now you have a chance to win a copy! Yay!

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If you'd like to receive a copy of The Collage Ideas Book, leave a comment here, and/or on my Instagram, naming in your comment a collage artist worth getting to know. I'd love to learn about artists I'm not familiar with, but there's nothing wrong with recommending a big name collage artist either! I'd love for this book to go to a good home where it inspires someone who is actually interested in collage art, so, this isn't a tag a friend giveaway (unless your friend's an amazing collage artist! in which case, let me know you're not just tagging someone who might be into entering the giveaway!), nor do you get in by simply leaving a comment saying you're in. You can leave one comment here and another one where you recommend another artist on Instagram to have your name in the raffle twice. You definitely get extra love for sharing the giveaway with your friends, but that's just extra love from me, not extra entries, sorry! I'll randomly pick a winner on Thursday 28th June (around noon GMT+2) and let you know who gets the free copy of The Collage Ideas Book!

In brief:

  • Leave a comment recommending a collage artist worth getting to know.
  • Naming one artist here and another on Instagram gets your name in the raffle twice.
  • I will randomly pick a winner around noon on Thursday 28th June.
  • The giveaway is open to everyone, wherever you live. Please make sure I have a way to contact you for your mailing address in case you win!
  • The book I'm giving away was sent to me by ILEX. This giveaway is not connected to or supported by Instagram.
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 Letters to You, 2015 - part of an ongoing series of matchbox art

Letters to You, 2015 - part of an ongoing series of matchbox art

In 2018 my mixed media projects have mainly taken the shape of artists' books (which is something I'm very pleased about), so, not many new pieces have found their way to the Paperiaarre shop. But, as I was going through my inventory, I just found these two vintage watch case necklaces that hadn't made it to the shop for one reason or another - so yes, there's some, sort of new, mixed media jewelry in the shop at last!

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More mixed media work coming in just a few days when I can finally share the artists' book I created for the June #areyoubookenough challenge! In the mean time, keep me (and everyone else!) inspired by recommending those collage artists as you enter in the giveaway!

fingerprints - an artists' book

The May theme for the #areyoubookenough bookbinding community challenge is 'secret', and I decided I wouldn't take it too literally and pour my heart out, at least not too much. My artists' book Fingerprints was born after I went through a mental list of structures that hide and reveal in one way or another. I haven't made one of these magic boxes in almost 15 years, so it took me a moment to remember how it's constructed. I don't think I've ever known a particular name for this box structure, but it's basically a variation of Jacob's ladder.

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I haven't given fingerprints much of a thought apart from when I find dirty fingerprints on my supposedly pristine papers, and, of course, when they're mentioned as forensic evidence. This means, in general, it's not exactly good for you if you leave behind any fingerprints. Some research into the matter revealed a more pleasant side of those little loopy, whorly ridges on our fingertips - they provide us with tons of information crucial to our fine texture perception. The friction ridges are like little amplifiers for the sense of texture. As someone whose work is massively reliant on what I feel with the tips of my fingers, my view of the world is much more texture-oriented than the one of someone who maybe works with their brain alone. And it seems my texture-orientedness also affects how I get to know someone, how I trace their face with the tips of my fingers, over and over again...

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Fingerprints - a unique artists' book by Kaija Rantakari, 2018

(paper, board, glass microscope slides, ink)

the box measures 14,9x9,5x1,9cm / 5.9"x3.7"x0.7"

Check out my Instagram for a view of the box in action!

at last - artists' book

Quite fittingly the #areyoubookenough artists' book challenge had the same theme as my entire month of April. The theme was "poem" and I happened to make a book titled At last. This is the only physical book I've finished in April so far (I hope I can still fit a couple more into my schedule!), but I did finish writing my own poetry book due out in August. From now on it's just tiny edits, if any. I had hoped to finish the poetry book last summer, but I'm glad the project took its time, as I'm very pleased with how everything turned out.

This artists' book is the first one where I use my own photography as well as collaged cut-up poetry. The images are printed on 21 gsm Japanese paper, which I also used for hinges. The structure is basically a concertina, but as the pages are hinged with thin paper, the book can be manipulated into a variety of positions instead of it sticking to the rigid zig zag of a concertina. The pages were inspired by old slides, but I chose to print my imagery slightly translucent paper to keep the text more legible than it would be if I had chosen 12 gsm paper for example.

At last is an artists' book with a signed and numbered edition of six. The pages measure 6x6 cm / 2.4"x2.4", and the book measures 69,5 cm / 27.4" fully opened. The book will be available through the Paperiaarre shop. To see video and more photos of the book, please visit my instagram.

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