haptic considerations

From "Reading by Hand: The Haptic Evaluation of Artists' Books" by Gary Frost:

Are there any additional approaches that will assist evaluation of artistic works in a book format? I suggest that there is an additional topic that could propagate additional tools.
This topic is the aesthetic consequence of a work of book art in the hands of the reader where tactile qualities and features of mobility are appreciated. This is a haptic [pertaining to the technology of touch] domain where the study of touch as a mode of communication is at work. Such evaluations call up deeply embedded perceptions and sensory skills where the hands prompt the mind and where the reader’s understanding can be far removed from the intentions of the artist. .... But how can we provide effective description for a more critical experience of the corporeal book? We can lift it, open it and turn a page. Is it docile or springy on opening, solid or tentative on closing? Is there a live transmission of forces through the structure or is it crippled? What instigates the reader’s ergonomic of comprehension and how are haptic features consequential to the evaluation of book art? .... [A]ll books are art in a world of subtle and critical manual evaluation. If we could delineate it, a manual evaluation or haptic criticism would lay out a physics for book art criticism, using words.

Frost, Gary. "Reading by Hand: The Haptic Evaluation of Artists’ Books." The Bonefolder 2.1 (2005): 3-6. Book Arts Web. Philobiblon. Web. 5 Feb. 2015. <http://www.philobiblon.com/bonefolder/>.

the kettle stitch

The kettle stitch, which holds the tension along each signature and acts as the change-over for many bindings, is a persnickety little stitch until you get the hang of it. When learning the coptic or sewn-to-tape bindings a common problem is an incorrect kettle stitch that does not 'lock' the tension, or a kettle so successful it cinches the head and tail while the center of the spine bows outward. These diagrams illustrate how I execute the kettle stitch, along with a trick for regulating the sewing tension both along the spine and between the signatures.

On reaching the head or tail of a signature, I exit the last sewing station, make certain the thread is nicely taught, then clamp down with a forefinger on the fold about 1/2" inside the last sewing station. The thread (and tension) is held firmly by this finger, and the end of the signature pops up just a bit. That tiny bit of extra space will prevent the kettle from cinching too tightly. I hold this position until the kettle stitch is completed with my other hand, locking the thread in place.

To execute the kettle stitch while holding this posture may seem acrobatic at first, but it can be easily done using the technique recommended in Non-Adhesive Binding, Volume III by Keith Smith. Having made certain to place the sewing stations a distance from the head and tail that is shorter than the length of your needle, its point will emerge from between the signatures and can be pulled through the loop in one easy motion. To tighten the kettle stitch keeping that extra iota of space, pull the thread straight upwards. And finally, release the finger that has been clamping your signature down all this while.

Another helpful technique is the french link stitch, which regulates the tension across the spine (between the signatures) by linking each stitch spanning a tape to its neighbor. The french link stitch is an extra step, but the herringbone-like pattern it creates can be a lovely addition to an exposed spine.

french link stitch diagram

madame bovary: beginning

I have begun work on a new series of artist books. These projects are always carried out in my spare time -  away from commissions, consulting, and mercenary quilting. I enjoy all of my work (at least very nearly), but artist books allow me to pursue the particular combination of conceptual and materials-driven binding that is most satisfying. This time I have also set myself the task learning a little more about book conservation.

I've begun the rebinding of a 1930 edition of Madame Bovary in the original french, with the intention of preserving the rather dilapidated book and redesigning the case. I am no fine binder (leather? linen, thanks), but will be drawing on my textile skills to hopefully make this an artful binding and homage to Flaubert's masterpiece. I will be periodically sharing my progress with you here to give a glimpse of the process.

The book was published by Louis Conard in Paris in quarter leather with a gilt head and faux raised cords. The end papers are beautifully marbled, and the book has striped headbands with a matching woven bookmark. The pages have all been opened.

madame bovary, 1930 edition watermark

These antique fabrics will be dyed and used in covering the new case. From the top down they are french lace, a cap, handkerchief, chemise, curtain, bed linen, and petticoat. As you see, my concept has much to do with the cosseted, domestic world of 19th century womanhood. By using these layers of personal and public garments I hope to get at the clash between Emma Bovary's private romantic fantasies and her pragmatic, provincial daily life.

Wish me luck, this book is about to be stripped bare while the textiles go into the indigo vat!