Short days that feel very long. December has been so different with all this free time. I've made dozens and dozens of stars and mailed them to places far away. There was a big spike in views and orders after they were featured in Remodelista; yay for that! Also, all presents wrapped already! No real need for Christmas stress this year - maybe I'll now start worrying about getting books done for the Valentine's so I don't get all confused because of this stressless state of mind.
This year I decided it was time to take a break from my traditional matchbox art advent calendar and enjoy a more relaxed December for a change. So, this time my calendar is a Christmas present just for V. 24 little presents wrapped in five sorts of kraft and vellum paper, some with embroidered or gilt numbers, some with simple hand lettered or paper cut numbers.
Days of dense snowfalls, days filled with the sound of snowploughs. Vertiginous days.
All these little long-stitch jotters along with some friends have spent months and months on my desk badly neglected, mostly done, before I finally took a morning off just for taking photos and squeezed these into my schedule. It's most certainly winter here; daylight is scarce and sun a rare guest, so it is not often that light and inspiration (inspiration. who am I kidding? it's all about having or not having the energy at the right moment) coincide. Despite these minor difficulties on their way, these notebooks are now listed on Etsy. Some come in pairs, some individually; all beautifully wrapped (and ready to give away as gifts if you can bear to part with them).
I'm feeling a bit surreal today; I've had many good days, creative days, along with a feeling my mind is two inches right from where my head is located. Sometimes that's just how it is and it's alright, but today I just ended up wasting time - precious daylight hours to make things worse - only waking up to action so late I should've gone to bed already but instead I now procrastinate ineffectively (effective procrastination would be too much to ask tonight). Maybe by morning I've had some great revelation and made headway with the newest version of my poetry manuscript. If not, I'll just have to try not to break my printer again tomorrow and spend the day actually writing, making and doing.
I know many people (myself included) hate how most mass produced notebooks have such stiff spines you have to force them to stay open, and still there's the awkward area you're unable to use. Handmade books (if done right) are naturally much more user-friendly to begin with, still, I wanted to go even further and make a book that allows you to scribble notes super smoothly over the entire page surface. Coptic bound books are a dream when it comes to a book opening flat but they're not for everyone, so I wanted to experiment with the basic case bound style. These differ a bit structurally from my usual style of case bound books. I've left out everything from the spine of the book block I deemed possible, leaving just a some lightweight linen fabric to support the sewing and hinge area. The spine is much more flexible and still solid enough for books this small. The covers are also slightly thinner than usually, so these are lighter as well. These are easy books: easy to take with you because of their size and weight, and, most importantly, easy to use.
I've been thinking about my bookbinding a lot lately, and I've come to the conclusion that the structural part of book design is even more important to me than I imagined. Sure I've always thought like an engineer but the importance of it all comes clearer day by day. When I see masses of hand bound books on Etsy or on Pinterest, I cannot but think about the structural issues they have. Making books well, being always aware of how choices in materials or construction affect the durability and functionality of the end result - those are the things I really feel set apart the work of a good bookbinder. I know where I am and where I strive to be with my skills, and I hope the good bookbinders realize how important their skills are, even if the general public fails to see a difference between handmade and crafty. (And crafty is fine too, it's just something entirely different I'm not a big fan of...)
It seems every now and then I need to rant a bit about quality and awareness and all that. Sorry about that. It's just that lately I've had one encounter too many with someone claiming to be a bookbinder with nothing to support that claim. It's the same with cutting your friend's hair with your utility scissors - it does not turn you into a hairdresser. Knowing how to make a book does not a bookbinder make. I don't care about titles or formal education but I care about the books and I care about what sort of image they give to the general public about bookbinders and their work. Maybe it's different out in the big world; here where bookbinding is such a rare profession all publicity counts, and this is one time when all publicity is not good publicity.
I wish I had enough faith to believe that people know better, that they recognize quality when they see it (or maybe they do, they just don't recognize the lack of quality as easily). I'm not worried about someone without talent taking my customers; I'm worried that people don't know what handmade books are supposed to look like, how they're supposed to function and not fall apart.