The State of Book Making

When I was in fourth grade, our state (Michigan) was the main theme of our social studies class for the year. I distinctly remember that the big project that would sum up all we had learned was a handmade book that we could interpret artistically.

Shaped journals by Ingrid Dijkers, featured in
Cloth Paper Scissors
magazine March/April 2013.

Now, this was back in the days when most parents were very hands-off on homework. It was also before the proliferation of a wide variety of increasingly costly art supplies. Consequently, on the day the project was due, most of us turned in handmade books created with construction paper and cardboard, illustrated in crayon or colored pencil. The pages were stapled together, held together with brads, or tied with yarn. (The latter was not looked upon as a creative gesture, rather, one of desperation and homeliness.)

Some of us went so far as to cut the cover and pages out into the shape of Michiganno mean feat when you consider that Michigan is made up of two peninsulas. (Big benefit of growing up in Michigan: you can spell and use "peninsula" in a sentence at a very young age.)

But if any of the kids who had handmade paper books in a mitten-with-wing shape thought they were hot stuff, they were humbled at presentation time by a quiet boy whose name I forget. The covers of his handmade book were made of wood and had a hinged binding. Moreover, he had used a wood-burning tool (with his dad's help) to incise a state map on the front.

This was also not the era of everyone-gets-a-trophy. This boy's project had won the day and the teacher made sure to praise his creativity and suggest that the rest of us might consider stepping up our book-making efforts next time. (Rather than be envious of this boy, I recall feeling secretly happy for him because he had finally had a moment in class to shine.)

I thought of the Michigan project the moment I saw Ingrid Dijkers's shaped journals made with boxboard and wood in the March/April issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. Not only do they have wooden covers, but one is in the shape of a mitten! (OK, a hand.)

If you're reasonably handy with a jig saw and drill, you can create these books in just about any shape you want, provided there is one straight side for the binding. Ingrid used ¼" plywood for the covers and boxboard for the pages. She writes:

"Boxboard has always been my go-to material for book pages. It makes for a very sturdy book that will take most media well. It's also readily available. Cereal and snack boxes are perfect, and if you keep your eyes open you'll find boxboard in many places.

"Sheets of boxboard are often used to separate stacks of paper products in stores and they are happy to have you take it away. Hot-press, 150-lb. watercolor paper also works well, and Bristol paper is another option, but my favorite is boxboard."

I can't help but think that these shaped journals would make excellent social studies projects (with adult supervision on the sawing and drilling). Or perhaps a fun project for a grown-up artist who wishes she could redo her 4th-grade Michigan book.

You can learn how to make a book like Ingrid's, plus techniques for creating unusual textured papers and much more in the March/April 2013 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors.


P.S. Do you have a memory of creative envy or pride from your school days? Why does it resonate with you today? Leave a comment below.

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Blog, Handmade Books

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