Nova Scotia Book Arts Group
Thursday, May 18, 2023
Boxes of all kinds
Master bookbinder, Joe Landry, has been binding books since he was a little boy, seated at the bench in his uncle's bindery in Halifax. Joe received his formal training in England at the London College of Printing. Upon graduation, Joe studied conservation of rare books and manuscripts at West Dean College, University of Sussex, where he apprenticed with noted book and paper conservator Chris Clarkson. At Montefiascone, Italy, Joe taught conservation to students from all over the world. Since 1999, Joe has taught hundreds of students at NSCAD University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has produced books for film and television, and has made regular appearances on the acclaimed History Network series, The Curse of Oak Island, to offer advice and expertise on book-related matters. Joe has had some very prestigious clients, including King Charles III, and examples of Joe's work are held in a number of collections internationally.
Joe showed us over twenty different box structures and book enclosures. These examples included many that he'd made as well as numerous historic examples that he has collected over the years. Joe shared his experiences working with and constructing various styles of protective enclosures and how they are used in library and conservation settings. Thank you Joe, for your knowledge, your time, and your stories!
Wednesday, May 3, 2023
The Douglas Cockerell collection
Special Collections librarian, Karen Smith, introduced the collection by telling us about Cockerell's life and how the books came to be housed in this library. The short version of the story is that a friend of Cockerell's, William Morse, who lived in Nova Scotia, purchased these books from Cockerell and then later donated them to Dalhousie University. There is an online exhibit with photographs of each of Cockerell's fine bindings and information about Cockerell's life and work, available here for a closer look: Dalhousie Libraries Digital Exhibits.
Karen was kind enough to pull all of these books for us to see firsthand. Of course, complementing the fine leather bindings and elaborate gold tooling are several examples of beautiful Cockerell marbled papers.
Monday, May 1, 2023
NSBAG Book Swap 2023
- What is a handbound book swap?
Make a book, bring it to the meeting, and swap it for a book made by someone else.
- Who can participate?
Anyone who is, or wants to be, involved with NSBAG. All bookbinding skill levels are welcomed and encouraged to participate, but of course participation is entirely optional.
- When will the swap take place?
We will swap the books at our November meeting (exact date to be determined).
- What kind of book should you make?
It should be a blank book with height and width dimensions somewhere in the 5" to 9" range (14cm to 24cm). You can utilize whatever bookbinding techniques you like and make something that you'd be proud to share! Please include a colophon or a note with your name and details about the binding techniques and the materials used.
- How will the swapping be done?
The books will be swapped randomly and blindly with the other swap participants. Bring your book to the meeting in November. Everyone who brings a book will get a different book to take home. Please wrap your book in brown paper or put it in a bag before you come. The books will be numbered and then participants will draw numbers and take the corresponding package. Imagine the suspense!
Saturday, April 15, 2023
Artists' Books at the Mary E. Black Gallery
This exhibit features "artists' books and publications by queer and transgender artists, from graphic novels and collage-works to bold experiments with letterpress, screenprinting, video, performance, and risograph." Curator Anthea Black, a Canadian artist and writer who is an Assistant Professor at California College of the Arts, recently gave an artist's talk at NSCAD about the exhibition, where they posed the question: "So what happens when a book object (or a body) 'frustrates legibility' or becomes difficult to read? It must be felt. Held in our hands. Absorbed."
The artists' books on display are absorbing, but unfortunately, they cannot be felt or handled. Many are protected under plexiglass cases. The majority of the works are strongly focused on content. Form seems to follows content. It's as though structure is an afterthought. That being said, there is an integration of content, structure, and message.
The precision of these well-constructed artists' books is impressive. They consist mainly of editions versus one-of-a-kind creations. Nicholas Shick's series of 9 books entitled Radiate, is pure eye candy with each volume being a series of shades of one rainbow colour. Bound using the drum leaf technique and letterpress printed on Mohawk superfine paper stock, the books are displayed with all the pages fanned out and is a visual magnet.
Also on display are a few zines (which are saddle-stitched) and Untitled Hand Book (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6), by Miller & Shellabarger, one of which is labelled as "case binding" but is constructed using a Japanese stab binding (tortoise shell pattern). The other letterpress books in this edition have pages printed in brown, pale blue and gold jewel tones that positively shimmer. It is the content, not the structure, that dazzles us. The pages entice the viewer to caress and touch.
Lamination is used for a few books and these books in particular challenge our notion of book structure. Kate Laster's Yearbook Photo Missing consists of multi-coloured, laminated tinsel (that resembles ribbons) and found photos. However, it is the backs of the photos, each of which are each inscribed (and resemble cue cards), which face the viewer, not the photo image. And there is more transparent plastic than there is content. Blank paper pages in book construction are rarely questioned. Then why are pages that are made of transparent plastic so unsettling?
Other distinctive laminated paper cut accordion fold books by Kate Laster include Waiting Game - Bookfair, an oversized four panel "pamphlet" (standing about 20 inches in height) that is reminiscent of Papel Picado, Mexican cut-out paper art. However, Kate Lester’s approach is not solely using cut-out patterns and graphics as Mexicans do, but Laster has substituted stylized letters of varying sizes that hint of folk art. The cut-out stencils get their power from seeing right through them. Laster also riffs on this form in Roadmap Accordion, where the book is laid out on the display table (like a road map) and the cut-out stencils get their power from the shadows created from the strong beam of light overhead. In this case, the message is amplified by the light and is ephemeral, like the material.
There is An Ocean by Joshua Saul Beckman is an 18-panel accordion fold book with six horizontal zig-zag lines of blue and grey thread that run continuously and precisely for the entire length of the book. The lines appear to have been machine-sewn without ripping the paper. Stan Shellabarger has three accordion fold books on display, each of varying lengths, whose panels feature a series of swirly dots set against white and pale blue backgrounds, with solid dark blue front and back cover panels. The dots give this otherwise static display a fanciful sense of movement. Random dots are also used in Heidi Neilson's Atlas of Punctuation (letterpress in case binding), which only features periods. While the dots may appear randomly placed on the page, one is left wondering are they simply punctuation place holders for the text that has been completely removed.
As Anthea Black notes, "Artists in The Embodied Press make important visual and material choices in their use of printing techniques, sequencing, and manipulation or absence of text... These ideas find great resonance in the artists' book field as it radically expands the ways books can be produced, read, and understood as a form of culture."
The Mary E. Black Gallery is run by Centre for Craft Nova Scotia and is located at 1061 Marginal Road, Halifax, beside Pier 21. This exhibit runs until Sunday May 7, 2023.
Friday, March 17, 2023
A Collection of Handmade Books
Her collection was acquired through a variety of book swaps over several years. Rhonda has participanted in many different types of swaps and she disucssed the different formats that she had participated in and how this had been a great way to build a varied collection for studying and teaching. The collection includes handbound books in a wide range of styles and structures utlizing many different materials and techniques, both familiar and unfamiliar, common and uncommon.
Blank books make up a substantial part of the collection, some of which can be seen here in the first two photographs. Most of these swaps occured between 2007 and 2012. Some of the swaps were documented on her bookbinding blog at the time, where there are also pictures of a few of the many books that she made and sent out to others.
Other swaps were more focused on content-driven books and artists' books, including numerous miniatures from an edition exchange, most of which can be seen here.
Update: Check here for more details about our book swap.
Thursday, January 12, 2023
Making Small Bookbinding Weights
You can purchase lead, of course, although it is quite expensive. You can also buy small weights, ready-made, so that's certainly an option. But, if you just want to make a couple of small weights without spending a lot of money, there are other possibilities. Definitely check around your home and see if you have any small, heavy items that could be used, such as steel ball bearings or heavy bolts, nails, etc, that could be used to fill up a small box.
Here's how we did it.
We started by making a small box with book board. These are the dimensions we used, in inches.
We covered our weights with a durable, starch-filled book cloth. There are various approaches to covering a box and all are acceptable here. We prepared the covering as a single piece like this:
It was lovely to see everyone who came out for the meeting this week. See you next time!
Saturday, November 12, 2022
What I did on my summer vacation: Medieval Bookbinding Boot Camp
A big thank-you to NSBAG members who made it out to the Central Library on a cold, November night to hear about Jim Croft's Old Ways medieval bookbinding boot camp and sit through 70 slides of vacation snaps and my judiciously documented "medieval face". I think we can all agree that this vision of loveliness was worth the price of admission.
It was a pleasure to talk about my off-grid, off-line bookbinding adventures with you and I am happy to expound on my experience further to anyone who will listen. Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions or you'd like to hear more, especially if you are thinking you might like to attend Jim's workshop one summer. It was a transformational experience.
As promised, here is a link to Jim and Melody's Old Ways, though if you would like to contact them, it is best to reach them by phone. And here are a handful of links, some from participants in previous years, to give you more information about making things by hand in the wilds of Idaho:
Looking forward to getting together again in the new year for making our own book weights.
Wednesday, October 26, 2022
Nocturne "Legacy": printing, collage, and origami
Outside the Dawson Print Shop on the Granville Mall, Katherine Taylor, a NSCAD book arts and letterpress instructor, was running a "hands on" demonstration of a table top printing press. This family-friendly exhibit let people experience making a colour pressure print. Based on Ms. Taylor's Ukrainian legacy, she had the word "Family" carved using Cyrillic letters, into a lino block. It was then printed on a base print of an intricate flower pattern, reminiscent of paper filigree. The chipboard base print pressure plate was cut using a Cricut machine, which can reproduce and cut most paper material and almost any pattern that is uploaded to a computer. The design possibilities for cards, posters, end plates and text blocks is virtually limitless.
The Legacy theme continued over at Inkwell letterpress studio on South Park Street, with another interactive print/paper activity. Billed as "Mind your Ps and Qs," prints of common English language phrases originating from the print industry, were created on a 1921 cast iron printing press that uses carbon negative ink made from algae. Like the Dawson Print shop, each participant went home with a print.
On Lower Water Street, the Halifax Collage Collective created a large, paper-based mural collage. Participants were asked to comb through paper-based materials and ephemera like old magazines, journals, drawings, printed material, etc., and select items that they felt contributed to their personal legacy. Using scissors, glue and drawing materials, a paper-based collage was created that encouraged participants to reflect on their personal legacy.
At the Chase Gallery (located in the NS Archives, on the Dalhousie University campus), a group show based on identity called "I Am What I Am," featured works using materials ranging from acrylic, paint and fabric to metal, found objects and paper mâché. Among those featured, was Miya Turnbull, a Japanese Canadian artist living in Nova Scotia whose art practice is informed by Japanese paper work. Among Ms. Turnbull's works was a series of Origami Self Portraits (of crane, frog, heart, box and butterfly) created from colour photographic prints incorporating the artist's eyes and lips. This original approach in utilizing deconstructed facial features in origami was both mesmerizing and unsettling.
While Nocturne is over, "I Am What I Am" continues until Oct. 29th, 2022.
Friday, September 30, 2022
First NSBAG Meeting, Sept. 29
Monday, August 29, 2022
Welcome to the Nova Scotia Book Arts Group
The Nova Scotia Book Arts Group has recently come together with the intention of establishing a local, active, and connected community of book and paper arts enthusiasts and practitioners. Based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, we invite folks in this area and across the province, to get in touch with us if you would like to be involved and we will add you to our email mailing list. We will post more information and meeting details on this blog regularly so you can also check back here to stay informed.
We intend to have regular meetings in Halifax and we have a variety of programming ideas that we're excited to share with the local book arts community. For example, our meetings will include some guest speakers, demonstrations, book arts projects, book swaps, etc. A schedule for the upcoming months will be announced soon. We look forward to having more folks involved and gathering your input for future programming.
Who is invited?
Any local book arts practitioner or enthusiast.
What are book arts?
A category of art forms that include traditional skills such as bookbinding, papermaking, paper marbling, letterpress printing, and newer methods of artmaking inspired by the form and function of books.
Who are the inaugural organizing members?
Rhonda Miller, Stephanie Morley, Marilynn Rudi, and Charles Salmon.