always not remembering - an artists' book

Sometimes creating something new feels like fireworks going off in my brain. It had been months since I last did this kind of creative work - I’ve been writing so much, binding some fairly basic books, and that’s it. I wanted to make a new one of a kind artists’ book for the #areyoubookenough bookbinding community challenge that I have been missing so much in my months away from it. Energy levels have been low or directed to poetry and a part of my brain was beginning to feel utterly neglected. The challenge theme this month was ‘shadows’ , which I once again chose to interpret fairly freely. I’m currently translating poems where memory and remembering play a big role, and when I was brainstorming my book of the month, an old project of mine quickly came to mind. The line “I forget I am forgetting you” first came to being in a physical form in March 2017, but I never knew where exactly it was going and so the project ended up abandoned until now. And now everything about it feels just right.

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I’m a big fan of transparent elements in artists’ books (who would've guessed?) and I also enjoy book forms that look nothing like books. Vastness suddenly (2017) was my first cylindrical book and Always not remembering is a play on the same structure. In this book there is text on four see-through layers (the same line printed on both mica and silk organza, the first one being the more visible of the two, the latter almost like the shadow of the first one) as well as on the outer edge of the cylinder. I see the layers acting as the pages of this book and the cylinder as its covers, even though this object is obviously handled in a way that differs from that of a codex.

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I’m of the mind that a good artists’ book needs a container. Soon after I began making mine I realized mine will probably need yet another container for storage - the container took a quick turn for the more delicate when I started adding fragments of mica to it. It’s bordering inappropriate how much I love the way this piece turned out as a whole. The process of making it was so satisfying: I was basically winging it the whole time, never quite knowing what I was going to make next and how to make it work. Yet I ended up with this beautiful cylindrical book and it fits into its custom made container absolutely perfectly. The container is not only pretty, but it also has a very satisfying functionality and a magnetic closure. And I really, really love it when things work just right.

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Always not remembering - an artists’ book by Kaija Rantakari, 2019

paper, board, mica, silk organza, linen, ink, magnets

mere contusions of darkness

+

I forget I am forgetting you

book 5,4cmx3,1cm / 2.1”x1.2”
container 6,1cmx3,8cm / 2.4”x1.5”

I’m posting a video and some more photos to my Paperiaarre Instagram account, so that’s where you should head next. If you’d like to see what everyone else has created for the #areyoubookenough challenge this month, take a look at Instagram posts tagged with #areyoubookenough_shadows (or just click that link…)

untitled - artists' book

Some last minute magic happened last night and I finished my #areyoubookenough project in time. The November theme was ‘Translation’ and this time the theme was something I wanted to take very literally since I work with text all the time as a poet. My poems are usually very long and fragmented, so I chose to work with the one new text I have that is neither, and is in a quite different style all in all. The poem is a love poem for a painted lady who shall remain unnamed - we have a significant age difference of some 100+ years, and she’s accustomed to a far more luxurious lifestyle than I, but we’ll try and make it work…

Translating this poem was a strange experience, especially since I can’t even say the Finnish version of the poem is finished - the text lives and is free to change at least until it finds its way into print. So, you only get to see the translation, as the original is still holding on to its right to turn into something entirely different. Not the way translations usually work, I know!

The book plays on a structure of joined accordions, and it’s housed in a modified vintage compact case.

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case: 6x9x0,9cm / 2.4”x3.5”x0.4”

book: 6,7x4,3cm / 2.6”x1.7”

You can view a video of this book here.

lost&found&forgotten&found

Wow-just-wow. My mood lately, that is. Letting things sink in. The book fair went really well, but of course it’s a bit exhausting to wander in the record-breaking crowds and to be on stage with a million other things competing for the audience’s attention. Before I get deeper into my personal wow stuff, I want to share with you my latest artists’ book I made for the #areyoubookenough bookbinding community challenge.

The October theme for the challenge was ‘Found’ and for some reason I struggled against using just some random found stuff (of which I have more than plenty of even in my own home, so it wasn’t because of any lack of material). In the end I narrowed down my approach by thinking more about items that are lost rather than found. Everyday objects constantly not where you expect them to be. Items that have actually become worthless with time and wear. My father passed onto me a tin filled with random old things put into safe keeping most likely by his parents or grandparents - a few pairs of rusty scissors, keys, buttons, nails, pins, razor blades, and the like. Absolutely worthless and useless stuff for most people these days, but I’m not most people. So, I turned my lost&found&forgotten&found items into a triptych.

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Typewritten title on the case. To me the enclosure of an artists’ book is just as important as the book itself - I want them to really go together. Since my triptych items are small domestic items, I drew inspiration for the case from matchboxes and created a very simple sliding case for my book.

These ornate scissors have long ago been replaced by better ones, but saved just in case, maybe because you just don’t throw away stuff like this. The buttons were saved despite their massive wear and tear. The keys were saved and now no one knows what they once opened - the lock permanently lost in time. All these easily lost items were most likely forgotten as soon as they were stuffed for safe keeping into the tin where I found them. The tin was forgotten. The tin was found. Time had unexpectedly turned these items into something worth something, once again. It’s my turn to keep them safe and celebrate everyday items.

Back to the wow-just-wow: I won the book award I mentioned in my last post! My poetry book Koko meren laajuus was awarded for being the best second book by an author, and I got this beautiful wood and metal award that weighs a ton and is just waiting to be featured as a murder weapon in a novel! I’ve gotten so used to being in the margin as a poet that the win was an absolutely unexpected one for me - the award’s been handed out five times now, and my book was the first book of poetry to win, which makes me even more delighted over the jury’s decision. I’ve been beaming with happiness and will continue to do so for a while longer…

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Photo by  Jasper Kaarna

Photo by Jasper Kaarna

My book has been received so, so wonderfully, I can’t really believe it. It was a risk to write poetry about the sea and love/sex/intimacy/whatever, since those themes have been written about time and time again. I’m glad I dared to do it. I’m glad my readers have found my poetry fresh yet timeless. I actually see a clear connection between my aesthetics in writing and bookbinding. Things seemingly simple have surprising layers and a massive professional dedication behind them. I’m glad I dare to do me in all I do.

find your inner voice - an artists' book

These days my life has been leaning heavily towards poetry and I've barely been in contact with paper. I'm beginning to miss it big time, but it'll still have to wait. My home will be taken over by men with loud tools, and I'm running away to a writers' residency in beautiful Visby, Sweden, where my main goal is to sleep after months and months of poor rest amidst a construction work soundscape.

So, very unsurprisingly, just like last time, I thought I wouldn't be able to finish an artists' book for the #areyoubookenough bookbinding community challenge, but I somehow made it happen anyway. The August theme was Listen. I had big plans about a hissing and rumbling Jacob's ladder, that, out of necessity, had to turn into much tinier plans - the kind you can actually whip up in one evening the day before deadline. That's fine - my main focus with these monthly challenge books is simply to explore new things and have fun while at it, so I made my very first volvelle, Find your inner voice! My own inner voice seems to change from moment to moment, from day to day (of course there's a baseline), so I thought it would be fun to find some way to put it into words. This volvelle can produce 576 different word combinations to describe your inner voice (correct my math if I'm wrong) - which one is yours today?

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I think I'm going with a muffled hum myself. Even my inner voice is wearing ear plugs.

The volvelle measures 12,7 cm / 5" in diameter and it's made out of 300 gsm watercolour paper. You can find a video of the volvelle in action on my Instagram account.

I'll most likely have to sit the next one out as I'm separated from my supplies and my tools by a decent-sized strip of sea. I hope other things come into being while I'm away. The next theme for the challenge hasn't actually been announced yet, but follow the hashtag #areyoubookenough for information and neverending inspiration should you want to join in!

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!