First in a series of three (so far), The Ballad of Randall Carter tells the strange tale of young Charles D. Ward (pictured here), and his boyfriend Randall Carter, who mysteriously vanishes from his Jeep on a country road a cold rainy night in November. These works continue my exploration of fine detail as a means of layering multiple narratives within an image.
Some details follow:
This work was generously supported by a grant from the Ontario Arts Council, to whom I am eternally grateful! Thank you!
I hesitate to call it a ‘prop’ at this point because it feels so much more like the ‘real thing’, but the object itself is complete, it’s just waiting for the text to be written inside. Two more layers of stain ‘finished’ the job, a little bit more crimson paint, but I’m fairly satisfied with the final product, it has a slightly aged look, with suggestions of things that might, or might not, be blood stains and fire damage.
Hoping to work on and maybe even execute a prototype work for this series that will give the book some “screen test” time soon, we shall see.
Base layer of stain down, metal-leaf done, all that was left was a few more layers of stain and some other adornments. As seems to be typical, once the leather is wet, the “look” goes quite dark, so I had to let things dry over a day to really tell how strong the effect was.
Shortly after staining, first layer after the metal leaf:
And sometime the next day after it dried:
And the second layer of the day, still wet:
For these layers I also added a few embellishments, some very faint traces of alizarin crimson acrylic paint, and just a touch of india ink in some places. The wet surface nicely suffused these tints into the grain of the leather and the end-product (eventually) had some subtle suggestions of burn-damage or blood stains.
Final pics in a day or two, and hopefully some test-shots “in-studio”.
The book is all but finished, figured I’d break up the “in progress” photos into a few posts.
After imprinting the covers, I decided to allow the book a few days to rest and dry, just to make sure the imprint stayed – it did nicely, and meanwhile I experimented with some of the water-based (I think acrylic) stain I had on hand for the leather, and the metal leaf I was planning to use. I “concluded” the best approach was to apply a base stain, then do the metal leaf on the lettering, and then work up the effect from there.
To (hopefully) get a more even effect with the stain, I wet the leather with water first, and then applied a diluted solution of the stain with a sponge brush. Initially it looked quite dark, but as it dried the effect was more subtle:
And then it was time for the metal leaf!
I chose an imitation gold leaf for a number of reasons, but most pointedly cost (way cheaper than the real thing) and the fact that it would patina naturally over time. I wasn’t going for perfect, a rough look was sort of the goal, so the effect looks pretty shoddy at first. The “kit” I bought included an adhesive and sealer and “antique glaze” as well as a “base coat”, I experimented with all of them but eventually decided to just use the adhesive primarily, and then layer a bit of the glaze and sealer on later:
The basic steps:
1. With a ridiculously tiny brush, line the inside of the letters with some adhesive.
2. Let that get tacky for a few mins.
3. Place down some metal leaf on top and use a soft brush to adhere it.
4. Use a coarse brush to brush away the excess and texture what leaf has ‘adhered’.
The results looked pretty good, nice and rough, though a little brilliant. The plan was for the subsequent layers of stain to reduce that intensity (the antique glaze helped a little). I applied some of the ‘sealer’ to the letters as well and I’m honestly unsure as to what effect that had.
Two views of the result:
And next up, the next round or two of staining, blood and ash!
Little behind but things are coming along well. I acquired some simple leather-stamps to imprint text on the cover, and while I know I don’t have quite the right type of leather for this operation it still worked out fairly well.
The plans for the back and front covers were made well ahead of time, and some happy errors on the back cover taught me a few lessons and ended up acquiring the look I wanted.
I first placed some greaseproof paper between the cover and the text block, before brushing the leather with water:
A few tests and some of the tools I used:
And the cover, slightly saturated with water but mostly dry to the touch – took about 3 minutes to reach this stage. I didn’t want to over-saturate the cover and end up softening the glue, but I gather the leather needs to be damp to properly hold an imprint and not simply get “cut” by the stamp:
Back cover, stamped, first still wet and then after it dried:
Front cover, before and after drying:
A week later the imprint has held beautifully, even if it fades a bit once I begin staining/”decorating” the cover the text should just become more intense. That’s sorta this week’s project.
Something I forgot however, was headbands – these should have been added before casing in, but I improvised and it worked out ok. Lacking time and motivation to order headbands online, I used this wonderful tutorial from MRX Designs to make my own, which I’ll link here for the sake of brevity:
I used that basic technique and then attached them with some neutral-PH glue; I’m still confused as to what purpose they serve, historically it was to keep the “leather from being crushed when pulled off the shelf” … still reading to see how that works. For now, they look kinda pretty:
More to come as I stain the cover and possibly attach some metal leaf to it … we shall see.
The book is finished being “bound” and all ready to be “decorated”. I attached the end-papers today and “cased in”, ie; mounted the block in the case. It looks pretty good. Here’s some shots along the way.
After much debate I chose this cream, black and blue art-deco-ish endpaper, here’s the paper before trimming along with my template:
Endpapers trimmed folded:
I used the method from the aforementioned videos http://youtube.com/#/watch?v=glbe_fDpCiU for gluing the papers, essentially by overlapping them a little less than a centimeter, and placing a sheet of paper as a mask to glue off of. A roller would be preferable, but I don’t have one, so I’m using little foam painting “brushes”, the cheap disposable kind.
The book block, ready to take the end paper, and the endpaper attached:
Once positioned I used a bonefolder to smooth out the attachment edge. This is a messy book block so it was a bit scruffy, I had to re-trim the endpapers after the fact.
The book block, positioned and ready for gluing – I placed a sheet of parchment paper undernead the end-paper to both avoid getting glue on the book block while gluing:
I glued beneath the mull and binding tape first, and then over top of both, before securing the end-paper in place on the case.
A clean sheet of parchment/grease proof paper was placed between the case and the loose leaf of end-paper, to avoid any transfer of moisture from the glue as it dried. Then, while not necessary, I decided to place the book for a time – again, protected with parchment – under some heavy books, since my book block is pretty wonky:
And an hour later, all finished and ready for me to make a mess of the cover:
I’ve found the cover is easily marked, likely because of the type of leather I used (which isn’t the ‘right’ leather), but as the book is meant to be worn and look aged and possibly bloodstained or possibly dirty or it’s really hard to tell what happened to it … I think it’ll work well. The next step is stamping in the title and “decorating” it for its final role as a prop … well, and the writing that goes inside.
Starting to enjoy this a little too much!
Woefully un-updated, a few pics and notes on the book I’m binding for a prop for some future work.
Previous to this – undocumented, because I’m forgetful – I sewed the signatures together (the bundles of folded paper that make up the body of a book), and ‘aged’ them by soaking the whole sewn unit in a vat of tea. It was a bit of a gamble – a few pages tore in the drying process, which took the bulk of a week – but it eventually dried and came together nicely when I glued the spine. Here’s a few pics of the signature block:
The effect was fairly good, enough of an aged appearance without looking overly stained. It’s a bit rippled but nothing that can’t be worked with – I guess the real test will be once some handwriting goes inside. We shall see!
I was unable to photograph the process of making the case, the glue was drying way too fast, but hopefully the pics will show some evidence of the process. That being said – I wouldn’t be redundant in over-explaining anyway, as it’s easier to link the fantastic video I use as a guide to this process:
I used a soft hide leather for the case fabric, really the wrong material, too thick, but improvisation is definitely a factor here and it had the texture I was interested in. Proper davey boards for the cover boards, and some simple paper to help line the spine. Neutral ph glue, although I’ve heard wallpaper paste works well.
The corners are a tad messy but it’s meant to have the appearance of being hand made, and a little sloppy at that.
The case dries with the signature block inside as a bit of a guide, and that’s where it’s at now. A few pics to show the almost-finished product:
After it dries, I’ll put on the end-papers and mount the block in the case. And then it’s down to ‘decorating’
This is the first post I’ve made from my ipad. I’m curious to see how much of a disaster it is.
Edit: horrible. Just horrible. Didn’t include most of the images, all of them uploaded tiny, bits of code mixed in with the text. Manually fixing it on my computer was equally bad. When did WP go downhill this way? ugh.
I’ve had a side-interest in bookbinding for some time now – I’m even planning a large work in which something I bind is featured – but for now, I’m getting practice making little notebooks, and most recently, a journal for my sister, modeled after that of River Song, from Doctor Who, whose own journal resembles the doors of the TARDIS:
River and the Doctor, both time travellers, encounter each other out of sequence – most typically, the Doctor’s future is River’s past. Eventually both keep a journal, and upon meeting, compare notes to figure out “where they are” in each other’s timeline.
This was the first journal I’ve made that I hard-bound, and it turned out fairly well I think, given the need to emulate the distressed quality of the original:
I’ve been using clearance sketchbooks as a source of cheap, good quality paper for these little journals. It seems a little odd buying a sketchbook, removing the spiral binding (thank god for my stack cutter), and then using the paper to sew and rebind new signatures, but I like the hand-binding process a great deal and I can’t seem to find reams of paper of the same quality for that kind of price. I might be insane.
The rest was matte board and quilting fabric and various odd papers and such, with some acrylic paint to finish.
A few of the resources from which I self-taught on the subject:
Hamish MacDonald’s “DIY Book” blog and podcast – covers the complete self-publishing process from novel-writing to bookbinding to distribution. I originally stumbled upon Hamish via his No Media Kings tutorial on a do-it-yourself-book-press.
Ceropegia’s videos on bookbinding – they’re a little out of order (ok, a lot out of order), and the titles require a bit of knowledge of bookbinding language to decipher, but I learned a whole ton watching these vids.
The previously-mentioned-and-constructed work involving the killing room is almost complete, I’ll post something with a bit of an artist statement as soon as it’s finished-finished. The past nine weeks a litter of seven puppies has been destroying any and all time available for serious “work”.