Thursday, December 29, 2011

True Confessions of a Bookbinder

I did something I never thought I'd do: I destroyed a book to make a book.

At work, when customers ask for "a book about birds" and I know they're just going to cut it up for prints, my steps drag as I take them to the Birds aisle. We have a gazillion prints shelved in the back, but that section is not for the faint of heart.

Over the past two years, a friend wrote a series of beautiful meditations on suffering that drew on imagery from the Hubble photographs to explore the greatness of God. When I decided to create a one-of-a-kind physical book for her, I found myself with an Olfa silver in hand, cutting out pages from a stunning book called "Star Vistas: A Book of Fine Art Astrophotography." I reasoned that the ends justified the means. But I still apologized (out loud, even) to the book with every cut.

I had tried to download & print images from the Hubble photos online, but my little printer couldn't really handle the job. The fine coated paper and gorgeous detail of the printed book were simply the only way to do justice to the project.

I did buy three more "Star Vistas" and gave two of them as Christmas gifts, unmutilated. And of course, I kept one for myself.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Reconnect with the joy - Flying Dog book

In between family Bibles, I am playing. For a former coworker who loves beer, I decided to create a pop-up book as a wedding gift. I'm no paper engineer, so I used a well-engineered product. The book can be a guest book, photo album, beer-bottle display.... whatever! I strengthened the inside moving parts with PVA and cloth tape, sewed pages to an accordion spine, and added an outside spine of bonded leather. The bottle-cap closure holds its place with a strong little magnet taped to the inside front. Velcro keeps up the bottom flaps until they're needed.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

12 Rules For Bookbinders

I'm still working on the Heritage Society Bibles, a project that has had numerous interruptions. For now, here's a text-only post.


1. First, do no harm.
2. If you meet resistance, find out why.
3. It's better to have a good mend than a bad match.
4. If you get tense or stressed, take a break and tidy your work area.
5. Food and drink nourish body and soul, but they don't belong in your workspace.
6. Don't overdo. "A little more" can be too much.
7. Don't panic. When you make a mistake, nobody dies.
8. Build reversibility into your process.
9. Charge what you're worth.
10. Find a mentor. Ask questions. Join a mentoring group.
11. Consider the value of your work and don't scrimp on the quality of your materials.
12. Reconnect with the joy.

(c) 2010 Tawn O'Connor with contributions from The Book Arts List

Monday, February 21, 2011

Middletown Heritage Society presentation

Last Wednesday I had the privilege of speaking to the Middletown Historical Society about restoring books--the "why" as well as the "how." My husband helped me tote bags and boxes of books to display. (I always bring too much stuff.) Lacking Power Point skills, I wanted a hands-on" presentation. I showed them several of the books on this blog, including my prized Samuel Wesley, and told them book stories. The latest story came to me the morning of the talk. A woman called who told me about rescuing an unwanted box of Bibles at a local auction. No one had bid on them, so they were headed for the trash. She and her husband bought the box for $2. Upon investigation, they discovered that one of the Bibles was a Daniel Webster Bible, 1832. They put it up for sale on eBay and watched in astonishment as the bidding war began. It went to a person in Philadelphia for.... $2,100.00. I would love to make a discovery like that! I appreciated the responsive audience and we had a good time! Here's a link to the article that came out in the Frederick News-Post before my talk. On another note, eventually I hope to make new business cards that include this black-and-white book photo by my daughter Liana.