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Guerrilla Bookmaking

 

 

Guerrilla Bookmaking

Preserving Your Community's Heritage
Edward H. Hutchins, Book Artist/Teacher

An important preservation opportunity exists for libraries everywhere that is more than just taking care of existing materials. It is the creation of new books that record and preserve the stories and visions of the communities being served. Guerrilla bookmaking is the discovery that the stories of everyday people can be recorded and preserved using simple skills and ordinary materials.

Libraries are sometimes thought of as bringing knowledge to a community. But in every community surrounding a library, there exists a unique set of customs, traditions, experiences, and viewpoints that are often overlooked. These are the imaginations of the children, the hopes of the teenagers, and the experiences of the adults. The local library, in whatever setting, has the opportunity to record these aspirations and preserve them for the future.

 Why Make Books?
With all the books being produced, why encourage more? Bookmaking is a great equalizer in our vastly competitive world. Not everyone will achieve success on the athletic field. Not everyone will succeed in business. But everyone has had a unique experience, and that gives them a personal, one-of-a-kind story. Everyone is a potential bookmaker.

Limitations of Mass-Produced Books
Everyone has a story to tell. However, it may not be a story that will be of interest to everyone else. There is a common perception that books have to be mass-produced. When a book is offset printed, the difference in cost between printing 50 copies and 1,000 copies is not great. But what do you do with 1,000 copies? Thoreau said that he had over 1,000 books in his library, and he had written most of them himself. It was one book that didn't sell!

In the book industry, the current philosophy is to arbitrarily select potential best- sellers, print up thousands of copies, put them up for sale, and after a relatively short period, dump or remainder every copy that has not sold. What a waste!

Even with self-published books, there is a danger in producing a large edition. It is natural to be proud of your first effort and to want to see a copy of it in everyone's hands. Alas, there is an agony in being forever surrounded by a bottomless supply of your first effort. My first literary effort was not very good. As my literary talents improved, I realized that it would make sense to create small editions of initial efforts and save larger editions for improved work. Mass-produced books are not always successful on the national level. On the personal level, they are a recipe for disaster. Let's rethink the model.

Rethinking Books
Consider the option of making much smaller editions by hand. Imagine the pleasure of creating an edition of 30 copies of a special, handmade book that can be shared with the people who will value and appreciate it most. Handwritten books are the ultimate small edition. But when you have something worthwhile to say, reproduce the text mechanically so that you can share your message with more people.

If we are going to produce our own handmade smaller editions, we have to reconsider how books are made--how they are printed, assembled, distributed and preserved. We need to explore how we can produce a better book. We want to end up with a book that is special and uniquely ours. We want a book that is so representative of our talents and abilities that it not only is not mass-produced but couldn't be mass- produced

Alternative Printing Processes
If not handwritten, we can start by considering how our books should be printed. Offset printing will probably be ruled out. The process of setting up the press, getting it running, and cleaning it up afterwards encourages longer printing runs. But there are other options.

The photocopy machine is quick, easy to find, easy to use, and inexpensive. Even the cost of color copies is coming down to the point where they can be used for small editions. A good idea is to copy the text pages on a regular copy machine, leaving spaces for the color parts. Gather up all of the color illustrations on one sheet, color copy that sheet, then cut apart the pictures and paste them in their respective places.

Gocco printing provides another option for producing color in small editions. Developed in Japan, this type of printing begins with a stencil made using flash bulbs. Ink is added inside the stencil, and the press operates like a giant stamp pad. It is possible to print more than one color at a time. Most large craft supply stores carry gocco printing outfits, and they can be purchased by mail order. A set including everything necessary for printing a 4" x 6" area currently cost under $100.

Other ways to reproduce text and images include rubber stamps, silkscreen, block prints, stencils, sponging, collage, mimeograph, ditto, and Xerox transfers. It is still possible to find tabletop letterpress printers. Nothing discourages wordiness like having to set each word in type, letter by letter

Reconsidering Structure
While we are rethinking books, let's take a second look at the structure of books. We tend to think of books as pieces of paper folded in half and attached somehow between cardboard covers. But there are a lot more possibilities.

Pages can be unusual shapes. They can have pockets for fact cards, mini-folders, and even paper puppets. Pages can unfold to the side, top, or bottom. Pop-ups can be added. Holes in pages can reveal images and text before the page is turned. The edges of the page can be torn, crinkle-cut, or folded to give an interesting effect. Tabs can be added to make parts of the page slide, swivel, or unfold.

The binding for the book can be elaborate, but it does not have to be. It might be as simple as a punched hole with a key chain through it. It is possible to glue the pages together or to use several different decorative sewing stitches. Paper fasteners and staples can be used. Most copy centers have a comb binding machine that allows you to combine different colors, sizes, and types of pages in one binding. Pages can be interwoven to stay together. They can be held together with tabs. It is even possible to take one sheet of paper and cut it and fold it into several different book structures.

Books can take many forms. There are tunnel books, star books (with pages that unfold like petals), shape books, miniature books, oversized books, movable books, pocketbooks, collage books, journals, diaries, scrolls, accordion folded books, cloth books dos-a-dos (two books that share one of their covers), time-lines, flip books, and rotating wheel books. The possibilities are limited only by the imagination.

The Joy of Bookmaking Programs
If everyone has a story to tell and everyone should make a book, what part does the library play in encouraging, promoting, and preserving these efforts? As the community center for preserving and presenting information, libraries are a natural facility for bookmaking programs. It is a win-win-win situation: the materials are inexpensive, the instructions simple, and the results overwhelming.

Materials Are Inexpensive
I believe in keeping bookmaking simple. Paper and materials can be found at an office supply store, and basic tools such as a pencil, ruler, scissors, solid glue stick, and something for folding are all that are necessary to produce simple editions. A bone folder would be wonderful, but the back of a plastic picnic knife (the non-serrated edge) suffices.

Some instructors favor using only the best handmade and decorative papers. The argument is that if students have the best materials with which to work, it will encourage their best efforts. I think it is important to show people that making books is within their reach and can be accomplished with materials close at hand. There is something to be said for using materials that you will not feel badly about destroying if a mistake is made.

At the point of materials selection, you can talk about the longevity and preservation of the materials being used. Decisions about acid-free paper and archival glues, as well as the type of binding chosen, can be connected in a very real way with the library's preservation efforts.

Simple bookmaking leads to more involved bookmaking. If you can get people hooked on making books, once they gain confidence, they will search out better materials and more complicated structures. But start simple first.

Instructions Are Simple Fine bookbinding, like fine letterpress printing, is a complicated art form requiring study and practice--lots of it. But that is not what guerrilla bookmaking is about. It is the process of putting simple bookmaking skills into the hands of everyday people. Put aside conventional ideas for what a book is and look for innovative ways of putting the stories and visions of people into book form. As librarians, you can obtain instructions easily. Either go to the stacks and pick an instruction book off the shelves or place a couple of the titles from "Bookmaking: An Annotated Bibliography" (see end of this case study) at the top of your next book order.

The Results Are Overwhelming How do you evaluate a bookmaking program? The answer is to look at the books produced and at the people who created them. Look for stories recorded for the first time and in unusual ways. Look for people that radiate happiness, the result of seeing their first bok produced. They have just taken part of themselves and put it in a form that preserves it and allows it to be shared with other people. This is library preservation at its best.

A fourth grader came up and proudly presented the book she had just made. "I'm going to save this," she announced, "and show it to my daughter when she is in the fourth grade." This is the essence of preservation and making books. And if you think there is pride in the first book, wait until you see the satisfaction that comes from the vast improvement on the second try.

Excavating For Creativity
In the course of our education, many things are educated into us. Unfortunately, some things are nearly educated out of us: creativity is one area that often suffers. How can children start out so full of excitement and inspiration and end up as insecure adults? But creativity is never lost; it just needs encouragement. And making books is a wonderful way of developing and promoting creativity.

Everyone Has Experience
How many writing sessions have started off with the complaint, "I have nothing to write about"? Everyone, including children, has an experience about which to write. Someone may have experience growing up with a houseful of brothers and sisters, while another may have experience growing up as an only child. Someone may have tried many different occupations, while another may have the in-depth knowledge that comes from concentrating on one area for a long period. Someone may have a lot about which to write because they always have something to say; for another it may be because they are always listening. Everyone has something about which to write.

Everyone Can Draw
If you ask a group of third graders to draw a horse, without a moment of hesitation they will all start drawing horses. And what a wonderful herd of horses emerges! Not one will look like any of the others, and no one notices or cares. But somewhere in the middle grades the situation changes. Given the same instruction, the pencils get put down and the wail starts to rise, "I can't draw a horse." Somewhere we have learned that unless we can draw like everyone else, sing like everyone else, dance like everyone else, we can't draw, sing or dance. If someone said, "You don't talk like us," would we shut up? Of course not. And we should not let others stifle our artistic talents either.

An argument can be made that you cannot draw like everyone else. But then, they can't draw like you! Like everything else, the more we draw, the better we get and the more comfortable we will be with our talents. I did not start drawing seriously until I was in my late thirties. It took me that long to overcome the mistaken belief that I could not draw. People may not feel comfortable with the present state of their talents. But that does not change the fact that everyone can draw. A little encouragement often reaps surprising results.

The good news is that drawing is not a requirement. There are other ways to add illustrations to your books. You can ask a friend who is more comfortable with their drawing skills to help. There are books of copyright-free clip art on every subject. You can also use rubber stamps or clippings from magazines.

Balance Between Words and Pictures
In the early grades we learned to combine works and pictures. Somewhere along the way, the two areas separated. We learned that the art teacher has to teach art and the English teacher has to teach writing. In fact, the two areas have a lot in common. If you can visualize a picture, you can write about it. If you can describe it in words, you can also illustrate it.

The great quality about a blank book is that you can fill it any way you want. People who like to write put in lots of words and may leave just enough room for spot decorations. People who like to draw may create big illustrations, leaving just enough room for captions. However it is done, it is helpful to recognize the relationship between words and illustrations and to strive for a balance that recognizes the importance of both.

Don't Forget the Adults
Children's librarians will find this case study helpful. Other librarians may be tempted to skip over it, thinking there is nothing here for them; they are wrong. Children bring a lot of enthusiasm, inventiveness, and imagination to the book arts. Adults bring experience, perspective, and knowledge. And they bring a willingness to share this information with others. Adults, particularly men, have an initial reluctance to get involved. Do not be fooled. Once the joys of recording and sharing life experiences through books is understood, there follows an out pouring of enthusiasm and productivity.

I taught a series of bookmaking workshops at the Phoenix (Arizona) Public Library. The workshops for children filled up quickly. The evening adult workshop did fill, but only at the last minute. All through the workshop, I noticed curious adults poking their heads through the door to checkout what we were doing. After the class, as we were putting our materials away, several other adults came in to look at the books we had created. Then, in the parking lot as I was loading my car, I was surrounded by adult library patrons wanting to know more about how they could make a book and when more classes would be offered. Adult workshops are a hard sell, but the results are worth the effort.

A Preservation Opportunity
A library is more than the sum of its books. It is the total of all of its programs for preserving and sharing knowledge in the community. Making books is an opportunity for the library to go beyond preserving physical items, to preserving information and experiences on the grassroots level. It is a way to get people interested and excited about all books. It is a way to make the library an unforgettable and appreciated part of a community's existence.

Bookmaking: an Annotated Bibliography

How-to Books for Young Readers: Chapman, Gillian, and Pam Robson. "Making Books: A Step-by-Step Guide to Your Own Publishing". Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press, 1991.

Divided into two sections. The first section contains instructions for making a variety of book structures, including cloth, zigzag, scrolls, sewn, and pop-up books. The second section is devoted to planning, designing, printing, and decoration the finished book.

Stowell, Charlotte. "Step-by-Step Making Books". New York: Kingfisher, 1994.

Carefully drawn illustrations and colorful photos of finished projects show how to create many types of books including novelty notebooks, zigzag, pop-ups, mechanical. and peek-in (carousel) books.

Walsh, Natalie. "Making Books Across the Curriculum: Pop Ups, Flaps, Shapes, Wheels and Many More". New York: Scholastic Books, 1994.

Not as colorful as the other books but loaded with ideas. The instructions are divided into shape books, mini-books, and dozens of folding books.

Traditional Bookbinding: Johnson, Pauline. "Creative Bookbinding". Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1963, rev. 1980 and 1990.

Includes a history of books and a discussion of materials, tools, and procedures. The instructions that follow go from simple folders all the way up to full leather bindings. There is also a good section on paper decoration.

Shepherd, Rob. "Hand-made books: An Introduction to Bookbinding". Turnbridge Wells, Kent, England: Search Press, 1994.

A thin book, but with over 100 color photos, it contains easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions for creating many traditional book structures such as single section, multi- section, and single-leaf bindings.

Exploring Innovative Book Structures Gaylord, Susan Kapuscinski. "Multicultural Books to Make and Share. New York: Scholastic Books, 1994.

Dozens of book structures are divided by geographic areas: Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe. The structures describe six basic book forms: scrolls, accordion, palm leaf, slat, Oriental stitched binding, and Western stitched binding.

Johnson, Paul. "A Book of One's Own: Developing Literacy Through Making Books". Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1990.

----- "Literacy Through the Book Arts". Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1993.

Not only do these two books show how to make interesting structures, many from a single sheet of paper, they also show how to bring out the natural creativity of people.

LaPlantz, Shereen. "Cover to Cover: Creative Techniques for Making Beautiful Books, Journals and Albums". Asheville, NC: Lark Books, 1995.

This book is loaded with bright photographs, detailed instructions, and step-by-step illustrations to make a wide variety of books. The major categories are pamphlet stitch, basic codex, stitches, stab bindings, fold books, combination books, and unusual bindings.

Webberley, Marilyn, and JoAn Forsyth. "Books, Boxes & Wraps: Binding and Building Step-by-Step". Kirkland, WA: Bifocal, 1995.

The authors have pulled together ideas from many sources to compile a handy source- book with instructions and diagrams for making a multitude of book structures and cases to hold them.

For the Advanced Student Ikegami, Kojiro. "Japanese Bookbinding". New York and Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1979, 1986.

This is the first book in English with instructions for making all of the major, historically important Japanese bindings: basic four-hole binding with variations, accordions, ledgers, and scrolls. Among the procedures described is how to back ordinary fabric so it can be used as book cloth.

Smith, Keith A. "Structure of the Visual Book". Rochester, NY: Keith Smith Books, 1984, rev. 1992.

Smith, Keith A. "Text in the Book Format". Rochester, NY: Keith Smith Books, 1989.

Smith, Keith A. "Books Without Paste or Glue: Non-Adhesive Binding. Vol. 1" Rochester, NY: Keith Smith Books, 1990.

Smith, Keith A. "1-2-& 3-Section Sewings: Non-Adhesive Binding. Vol. 2". Rochester, NY: Keith Smith Books, 1995.

Smith, Keith A. "Exposed Spine Sewings: Non-Adhesive Binding. Vol. 3". Rochester, NY: Keith Smith Books, 1995

All available from Keith Smith Books, 22 Cayuga Street, Rochester, NY 14620-2153; 1- 716-473-6776. Eventually  everyone involved in the book arts comes around to discovering Keith Smith's books. He covers how to organize a book as a visual object, how to use and present text, and more imaginative ways to put pages together without using glue than anyone thought possible. The books are very technical, but the results are well worth the effort.

 This article originally appeared as a case study in "Promoting Preservation Awareness in Libraries: A Sourcebook for Academic, Public, School, and Special Collections", edited by Jeanne M. Drewes and Julie A. Page. The Greenwood Management Collection, ISBN 0-313-30206-5, 1997. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

Contact: ed@artistbooks.com