a small trio with print endpapers

As promised, more new books this week! I’m finishing up on some sewn boards bindings I started in the summer months and have been itching to see in the flesh ever since the idea of them came to me. The first lot is this trio of small notebooks with beautiful print endpapers. You can now find them in the shop.

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Picking matching endpapers and linen fabric is a particularly enjoyable part of the bookbinding process for me. Once I know what materials I’m using, I can already see the finished book in my mind’s eye. After that it’s just about recreating that vision with my hands, and I know what I need to do in order to make it happen. As soon as I have that vision, the book becomes an individual instead of simply a thing to tick off the to-do list.

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This month the #areyoubookenough bookbinding community challenge has the theme ‘Found’ and I’m actually struggling a bit. Found items and random collections play such a big part in my everyday life and in my own art, it’s difficult to choose where to start! I have picked some items that could form the core of my artists’ book, but just as well I could go down an entirely different path. Structures and practicalities are all still wholly undetermined, and while I do enjoy this moment where everything is in the air and there’s no rush, soon I’ll be running out of time like I always am. The end of the month will be dedicated to Helsinki Book Fair business as a poet, so I really should try and finish my project well on time this time around! Before it’s time to focus on ‘Found’, I’m going to finish some more books that have been waiting ever so patiently for my return from poetry.

return to bookbinding

Things have been awfully quiet here for many months now, with just the occasional artists’ book post every now and then. My world has revolved around poetry in the months surrounding the publication of my second poetry book Koko meren laajuus in August. I spent September in Visby, Gotland, Sweden, writing new poems as well as an article about artists’ books (in Finnish only, sorry!), but now it’s finally time to make room for bookbinding again. Today I’m sharing with you a book I finished just before I left for Visby, and some of my favourite photos I took during my stay at the writers’ and translators’ residence. New books are drying in the press as I’m typing this, so new treats are here sooner than you’d think.

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You can find this beauty in the Paperiaarre shop. I love this pairing of teal blue linen and the teal/green leafy print paper I used for endpapers. Coming next: smaller notebooks with print endpapers, but first, let’s take a look at the beautiful Hanseatic city of Visby and the island of Gotland.

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Knowing my home would be taken over by a crew of workmen, I applied for a writers’ residency in Visby for September. Gotland is much farther down South than Helsinki and the weather was brilliant apart from a storm or two, so I actually managed to extend my summer by a month with this trip.

Visby is a very small city (I’d call it a town, but it’s not my business to correct how others describe their home) and the most idyllic part of it is located inside medieval city walls. The residency is inside the walls, on a high cliff, right next to the Visby Cathedral - a location beyond amazing. I enjoyed the views, the sunsets, the smell of apples and pears everywhere, the walks around the city walls and by the sea. Once I got back home it took me a while to adjust to a skyline without a seemingly endless sky playing a big part of the view.

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This is a colour combinations that will definitely show up in my work soon!

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Gotland being mostly limestone, there were fossils everywhere. You could sit down on the pebble beach and pick up dozens of them within your arm’s reach. Even though I spent hours of my “thinking time” sitting on the windy beach, I limited my personal collection to a small handful…

I also got to go on an island excursion with some really nice writers and translators. Met a bunch cows at När Lighthouse (and around some impressive bronze age gravesites, too). Our excursion took place on what felt like the last day of summer, and the island really showed its best to us.

Even more important than the gorgeous surroundings and fantastic sunsets was the community of writers and translators with whom I got to spend my four weeks (and some magnificent dinners). During those weeks some lovely people left and some lovely new people arrived. There was this bittersweet sense of temporariness in the air, which by the way, was unbelievably fresh. All these things feed my creativity and I can’t wait to go back some day (soon, I hope)!

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Cloudy days in Helsinki. Perfect for some poetry stuff, lots of bookbinding, and lots of other creative work, I hope. See you soon.

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!

the minis are back

One of the very, very few books I keep making again and again, is this little long stitch notebook. I just checked Etsy and saw I've sold almost a hundred of these over the years - which, for me, is a LOT, since I generally make just one of a kind books or very limited lots. I absolutely get the appeal of these books, as the maker (these are fun to make!), but also as a creative person. The covers are heavyweight watercolor paper and the pages are drawing paper, allowing for all sorts of artistry from cover to cover. Also, these books are inexpensive and cute as a button. I've had several customers buy a bunch for their children/grandchildren to keep the kids busy for more than a minute, and to have their artistic creations in a handy format for years of admiration to come. Then there are the lovely people who turn these into art journals by embellishing the pages with their beautiful miniature-sized creations. And then there's people like me, who just enjoy the minimalism, the practical small-enough-to-travel-anywhere size, and use the books to jot down some ridiculous notes or shopping lists while sitting in a train...

You can now find a big lot of these in the shop.

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silky

Just finished the second half of my latest lot of kimono silk books, slow and steady... Coptic and long stitch bindings now available in the Paperiaarre shop.

We've been enjoying a particularly beautiful and sunny May here in the south of Finland, and it's been a challenge to stay indoors and get everything planned done, while also allowing myself some time to just relax and celebrate my accomplishments. I hope it's beautiful and balanced wherever you are!

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