Friday, March 23, 2012

Artist Feature: Pat Sweet of Bo Press Miniatures

I have the spectacular pleasure of featuring one of my favorite Etsians and bookbinders: Pat Sweet. She owns the Etsy shop Bo Press Miniature Books and makes wonderful "books of curiosity, mystery, humor, and delight." Be sure to click on the hyperlinks interspersed to discover amazing resources for bookbinders, or to find more details about her work!
Here's the interview: 

What first interested you in bookbinding?
Two things: reading and dollhouses. I'd always been a reader and collector, but had never heard of miniature books until I decided to make a dollhouse. Naturally I wanted a library in my little house, but a search of the Internet taught me two things: if I wanted to fill library shelves with real books (hand-made, with content) it was really going to cost me. Miniature fake books were cheaper, but disappointing. I'd been a craftsman all my life, making theatrical costumes, so I thought, “How hard could it be to make my own?”
This leather covered book, Grisbourne, features
actual content from an Australian writer Prue Batten.
How/where did you learn the techniques you use?
I'd call myself self-taught except that I depended almost entirely on Internet tutorials to learn the basics of bookbinding, primarily the excellent tutorials by Garry Harrison of Indiana University Libraries, the clearest and best illustrated of all the many bookbinding sites on the Internet. I also got lots of insight on binding miniature books specifically from Peter and Donna Thomas' More Making Books By Hand. Everything else has been experiments of varying degrees of success.

 What inspires your work? To what extent do you base your books on historical books?
My first criterion for the books I make is this: will it make the reader feel curiosity, wonder, humor and delight? I want to recreate that moment every reader has felt in a bookstore of taking a book off the shelf and experiencing a coup de foudre of astonishment and recognition that doubles her over with the lust to own it.
As for historical books, only superficially, as far as binding is concerned. Eventually I'll learn bookbinding properly,with all its historical forms, but for now case-binding is about as far as I go. Content, on the other hand, is something else again. I love playing with historical layout and design, and especially turning them on their heads and to odd purposes.

Why mini books?
Because they're irresistible. Miniature books automatically have that aura of magic about them that we associate with things that push the boundaries of reality. And it lets me create my own content with no more effort than that of a term paper, rather than having to write a whole book. Saves a lot on materials, too. 

Many of your books are printed; do you create their content? If so, what is your process of creation?
Usually, yes. I illustrate all my books with Photoshop collage in a style that will express the purpose of the content, using public domain images. Like this, for example, an illustration I did for a book on dragons. I wanted to show them in a sympathetic light, away from their St. Georges, so I combined several ideas and let them play with each other: dragons, paintings, frames, gallery, and escape. And this is what I got.     
Sweet uses public domain images and transforms them into
illustrations for her books. Her Grisbourne book (pictured above) uses
large ornate letters from a 15th century manuscript,
The Macclesfield Alphabet Book.

I'm fond of concepts like this, especially when they break the fourth wall, as this one does. I've done a book that illustrated in itself how a book is made, and have done a book about books that appear in other books as books inside a book inside a book-shaped box. It's called This Is Not A Book. Other books are straightforward illustrated versions of poems and songs, or maps of imaginary places. I did a book about flea circuses that demanded to be made as a pop-up.
Sweet's Flea Circus pop-up book is only one
of the many imaginative books in her Etsy shop

My favorite, your Baba Yaga book features a case made with chicken leather (which is ingenious!). What other exotic or unorthodox materials do you use?
The Baba Yaga book comes with it's own case--which is covered
in chicken leather and the same Japanese printed paper as the book.
Both show off Sweet's unique blend of invention and adherence to
classical case bound styles. 
When I was planning Baba Yaga, one of my blog readers wondered if binding leather could be made out of chicken skin. One Google search later,  tanned chicken leg skin was on its way to my door. The joke is, of course, that Baba Yaga's hut is perched on chicken legs.

The Masked Ball also comes in two additional bindings,
one half-bound in black lace and one trade bound. 
I've bound a book about the Commedia delle'Arte as the back of a theatrical flat, with tiny lumber, muslin, and corner blocks. I've bound a book about heiroglyphs in papyrus. I bound a story about a supernatural masked ball in black lace and a slipcase containing a shadowbox containing a miniature golden bead-and-lace-trimmed mask.

Do you have a favorite type of binding?
Even though it's the only one I really know, case-binding really is my favorite. Although I recognize Japanese bindings as beautiful, I've never been tempted to learn to make them. One thing I must learn, though, is tooled leather bindings.

Many of your books have accessories, like your chained libraries. Do you hand-make those as well?
I do. I started making little boxed pocket globes, since box-making and book-binding go hand-in-hand.This led to tellurions and orreries in little glass vitrines, and I finally got up the nerve to tackle woodworking, using wood that I'd bought for the (now abandoned) dollhouse.
Inspired by 15th century chained libraries, these miniature versions
are just as precious and perfect for any collector. Also check out these books
which come with hand-made accesories: a Chained Library, a Box of H.P. Lovecraft,
a case of Miniature Summer Cottage books, and a Mini Traveler's Book Case

Do you have any advice for bookbinders who've just started?

Learn by doing. Don't wait till you know how to do a technique, figure it out by trying it. Don't try to re-use waxed paper, it's cheap. Thread is not your friend. Single-edge razor   blades are your friend. Get thin leather for miniature books from old gloves at antique   stores. Your cleverest ideas will come from trying to work around mistakes. Start selling your books immediately, on Etsy or eBay. Not so much for the money at first, but because you will meet the most wonderful and friendly people. There are plenty of people out there who care passionately about miniature books: join the Miniature Book Society!

Any resources or trade secrets you'd like to reveal?
Buy paper from:
                        Hollanders,  PaperMojo,  Fine Art Store,
Buy equipment especially for miniature books from:
                        Wren Haven Tools, Tony Firman, and Talas, of course
Marvel at other people's miniature books at:
                        Bromer Booksellers, Vamp & Tramp Booksellers, Peter andDonna Thomas,
                        Robert WuBo Press Miniature Books, MGBooks, and the MBS has links to all its members' websites.

Also check out Pat Sweet's website, her Etsy shop, and her profile

Third Giveaway!

Last night I finished the first of this new technique I'm trying--a faux cord-bound hollow-backed quarter-leather (what a bunch of jargon!). Basically, it's a normal book, with decorative cords rising out of the leather on the spine. 

It's so pretty, isn't it? Reminds me of Cecily from The Importance of Being Earnest. 

Anyway, I'm giving this little beauty away to one of my fantastic readers. Here's how to win, do one or more of the following:

(Note: if you've already completed the following in one of my previous giveaways, you're still eligible to win!)

1. Like my page of Facebook, here.
2. Follow me on Twitter @MakingMyRent
3. Follow my blog.
4. Purchase something from my shop. 
5. Favorite my shop on Etsy.
6. Follow my pinboard on Pinterest here
7. or write a comment on this blog post detailing which list items you did. 

All my best luck to everyone, and may the most devout follower win!

In other news: I've begun renewing some sold books as made to order, so if you missed one you loved, there just might be a chance for you yet! 

Also, the Tax Refund Sale's still going on. Enter the coupon code GOTMYREFUND for 15% off anything in my shop.

Lastly, and most importantly, I'll be doing an Artist Feature of the lovely miniature bookbinder Patricia Sweet soon. She's answered my exhaustive questions about her work and about miniature books in general. Keep a look out, but in case you're too impatient, find her shop here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Challenge Update and Randomness

Unfortunately, I did not complete 50 books for the Spring Break challenge, but I did get 42!

In other news I found this little gem at the Lobby today <-- for a dollar. It makes waxing linen thread so much easier (and my fingers won't be waxy afterward!)

In some other news, I've decided to have a Tax Refund Sale! For 15% off, use the coupon code GOTMYREFUND during check-out.

Also, be sure to keep an eye out for my feature post of one of my favorite Etsy book artists coming out this week!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Spring Break Challenge

My sister and I never have overlapping Spring Breaks, so she came to visit last week though I was still busy with school work (and that damn essay). And at the end of her stay, we decided to make a bet: I said I could have 50 books in my shop by the end of my Spring Break, and, of course, she said I couldn't.

At the beginning I had 26 books in my shop. So I posted ten. Then I sold two. And I posted six. And sold  another. So now I have 39, and it doesn't look very promising. It's Saturday and I have a shopping adventure planned later today. Which means I have two days, still, to post 11 books. Will I make it? I definitely feel the underdog.

Here are some of the journals I've posted for the challenge:

Friday, March 16, 2012

On Negativity: A Rant

Be forewarned: this is a giant rant. A rant which you might not want to read as it's going to be lengthy and doesn't have any pictures to break up my whining.

Are you ready? Still here? Well, you should go away, because I might just be ranting about You.

This is your last chance.

I mean it.

Fine. You've chosen to stay. I hope you don't come to regret it.

Do you know what's nice about owning an Etsy shop? Basically, that I get reimbursed for a hobby, that I have a chance to cover myself entirely with glue, and that it's like the first day of kindergarten when they give you those crayons and tell you to color a picture of farm animals--as an assignment!

What I don't love about Etsy? Well, really, it's what I hate about myself: I'm not the most business-minded person alive. I'm that girl covered in glue, not the one giving power-point presentations about profit margins and gross-net-what's-it. Here's the truth: I don't naturally assign monetary value to things, especially not something I've made. Use and sentimental values aren't really that big on my radar either. So, most of the time, my natural inclination is to give it away for free. Unfortunately, I've come to rely on things like my apartment, food, water, and school books. That means I SELL stuff I make. That means I've had to learn to value my time and effort and craftsmanship. Granted it feels strange to me, but I have to do it.

Now we come to the crux of this rant. And that is negativity--especially as regards either my pricing or the quality of my books. Let's start with the pricing.

I've heard a lot of competing views about pricing, and about mine in particular. Many on Etsy say to keep your prices high, because it denotes the true worth of your object. Depending on what book I'm making, it can take anywhere from a few hours, to a few days to complete. Since I've been on Spring Break I've had the opportunity to spend a lot more time on bookbinding, and I just finished the Tyrion Lannister journal an hour ago. It took me through an entire Ocean's Eleven marathon (all three movies) and the first Twilight movie to complete. That's nearly 8 hours, a full work day. If I'd worked a normal shift, earning as much as I did for a glorious summer job I had a few years ago ($10 per hour), I'd have made 80 bucks (minus taxes, of course). Now account for the cost of my materials: leather ($14), thread ($2), PVA glue ($1), davey board ($1), artist paper endpages ($3), sketchbook paper ($5), cord ($1), and kraft paper ($1), that comes to $28. So, this book should cost about $108. (Oh and this does not even take into account the time I take to photograph, edit, and post information about the book on Etsy, or how much time I spent learning the techniques needed to do it in the first place).

The real problem, though, is that I need to sell this book to earn rent money (hence the name of my shop) and often I'm plagued with the idea that, oh yeah, no one wants to buy a book for $108. So, I end up reducing my prices hugely. This one I'll probably list for 60 or 70 dollars, despite the fact that, even then, people will still see it as not worth that. Goodness it's frustrating.

I suppose that if people think my work is too expensive, then they just won't buy it. But nooooooooooooo. That's not all they do. Some friends and customers (who you'd think would be supportive enough to say I need to increase my prices instead of lower them) have put me down by saying that my books are too expensive. It's one thing to say that you don't have the money; it's another to say that they aren't worth it. I understand that not everyone wants a journal that costs so much, if they even want one at all. I get it that there are other, less expensive alternatives, which still look awesome. And to those who want such journals, I say "go buy those and stop complaining about mine" (read "f#*k off").

Here's the truth: I'm not a press. I'm not a manufacturer. I don't make things whole sale. I bind each book individually. I don't have a tool more advanced than an awl or needle. My entire process occurs at my 3'x2' desk in my 10'x12' bedroom. I sleep a few feet from my glue collection. I'm the epitome of small-business.

So, if you want something cheap, made by machines, wrapped in cellophane so that the first human hands to touch it are all means, go to Barnes & Noble and buy one of their lovely mass-produced journals.  In the mean time, I will continue with my absolutely unique, one of a kind, imperfect journals that have my cooties all over them.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

B.E.S.T. Book Swap

On Etsy, I'm a member of the Bookbinding Street Team and we occasionally do a swaps, since we're AWESOME. And it's free.

This is the book necklace I'm giving to TheOrangeWindmill.

Check out our Team blog!

Monday, March 5, 2012

New Casebound Books

I've been making a lot of casebound books lately, after a friend recommended the heat 'n' bond method of making bookcloth.

You should check out her Etsy shop called theartofjello. She makes beautiful original art work and sells the prints.

Some of the cloth I've used is vintage from my Grandmother's huge collection, and there are a few more to look forward to. The blue and white flowered one here is one of them.

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