I recently used up all the pages of my first hand bound sketch book, and decided to make a new one.
I’ve been working on this project for a while now (due to crazy life stuff) and finally finished it off this week. The book itself has a similar design to the first, (mainly because I wanted to use the suade fabric and not waste it). However, I also wanted to push my creativity. Instead of drawing the cover design, like I did with the previous one, I wanted to experiment by sculpting it.
I recorded some of the processes and made an Art Vlog video. Please have a look. Some of the videos were recorded live via live streaming, some with my iPhone. I couldn’t record everything due to needing to concentrate on the task at hand, but hopefully the write up below explains anything I missed out from the video.
I dyed some heavy paper stock (A4 sized, 200gsm) in a mixure of tea, coffee and bicarb soda. Then I dried each page in the oven. I really like this decorative touch. The pages get dark coffee stains and burn lines from the oven racks making each of them look unique and different. I really love this. Pure white paper sometimes intimidates me. When the paper is too clean and precious, it can stop you from experimenting, but when the paper is already marked and soiled, it takes the pressure off of being perfect and it allows you to experiment and be more relaxed when sketching. At least, that’s how I feel.
The book binding process is still a bit challenging for me. I’m not at the stage where I can bind by heart and still need to use tutorials for reference. Book binding is a very specialised craft that takes a lot of practice to master. I don’t feel bad about not being perfect. Compared to my previous books, I think this one came out more refined. In comparison to my previous attempts, I’ve definitly improved.
The materials for the cover were left overs from my first book, (the cardstock and suade fabric). Instead of wasting the resources, I decided to use the same materials, and adapt my design to suit them. I used an A4 piece of paper as a template and added a few milimeters around it. For the spine I measured the width of the text block, and glued everything together. During all stages of the process, I kept putting the paper back into my home made book press to squish the paper down. I think one of the major time eaters of this project was waiting for things to dry and sit in the paper press.
Last year I went to the aquarium and was inspired by a clown fish I saw, especially since the reef was lit up with a black light and made everything underwater look neon. I first drew up a sketch of how I wanted the cover to look and used it as the base. When I was ready to sculpt, I put a piece of baking paper on top of the sketch to protect it. I used Super Sculpty to follow the design and shape of the anemone, clown fish and shells. I think Super Sculpty is the best clay to use for detailed sculpting. Even thought it’s more expensive than its competetors, I think the price is worth it. When making the 3D rock shapes, I used aluminium foil to make the basic shape, then I added clay on top. This technique allows you to make your sculptures lighter and not use too much clay. I also used an assortment of clay shaping tools that I bought from a dollar shop. It’s possible to shape clay with your hands alone, but it becomes more difficult to refine the details. Unlike the clay, I don’t think brand name matters as much when it comes to the tools.
I probably spent about 4 hours sculpting. Depending on the layers, you may have to bake the clay several times before you’re happy with the result. Then I used a black acrylic paint mixed with some quick drying medium to paint all the layers. Once that was dried, I used acrylic paints to paint the colours. I added some metalic gold dry bushing to make it match the neon colours from the aquarium and then used some glittery nail polish on the tips of the anemone and shells to give them some more detail.
Once all the decorations were done I used some strong two parts resin glue. Because of the difference in materials, it was important to choose a very strong clue to make sure the parts stuck to the suade cover well.
I used some thin decorative craft paper for the inside of the book cover. However, the paper dried a bit wrinkly, which was due to the book changing position when it opens and closes. Next time, I may have to pay better attention to how the paper dries to avoid this issue.
The cover decorations look amazing. I feel a bit nervous putting it in my backpack like my previous notebooks incase it gets damaged, so it’s just been in my room for now. As I start using this sketch book more often, I’ll have a chance to see how well the decorative pieces can restist constant wear.
What I do know from my first book is that it feels so special to have my own hand made sketch books. I feel so proud and inspired when I use them, which is so different to using store bought books. I like to use my sketch books as personal diaries so the book themselves end up contributing to my history as well.