'Roll Up Books'

Five book artists try to make sense of directions (or lack thereof) at a workshop on "Roll Up Books" in which their leader offered little guidance, just samples to scrutinize.

Challenges never fail to open the mind, whether the end result is deemed "successful" or not

In the SeQuence book artists group, we rotate who teaches the quarterly workshops. After nearly 10 years and 27+ workshops, it's difficult to come up with a new binding technique or an innovative way to create covers or pages. So when my turn came up again, I had to scramble to find something fresh and novel (sorry) for fellow bookmakers.

I had seen a small black and white photograph a while back in some artist book of what looked like a long, narrow scroll with pages regularly inset that curled up at the edges. There was no information on materials or how the pages were attached to the scroll cover.

The workshop date approached with this loosely conceived idea still floating around. My cousin's son got married in California and the burlap décor was headed for the trash. Free material = Burlap Roll Up Book prototype #1. Pages from an old book of poetry - with 97 percent of the words blacked out - were ironed onto each square burlap page with double-sided fusible interfacing and then sewn onto the burlap strip cover with embroidery thread. I thought it looked pretty sharp, albeit rugged.

I had experimented with fusible interfacing of different thickness, some one-sided, others two-sided, some painted, some not. Well, it really makes a difference which side is up or down, and using an old dish towel could save your iron from becoming a sticky mess. We artists have a love/hate relationship with glue, so this new technique might prove valuable for future projects.

Prototype #2 used blue and purple acrylics on a watered-down canvas cloth cover. Another strip made from one-sided painted interfacing was ironed onto a matching canvas strip and cut up as pages. Very pretty, I thought.

The third attempt started with a strip of Naugahyde (artificial leather used as upholstery material) as the cover and pages of light cotton with stamped-on bleach designs (something I couldn't pull off well enough to teach in this workshop).

The fourth prototype I actually consider a real book and I titled it "blip." The cover was a strip of woven upholstery fabric; the pages were painted interfacing. Each page had a heartbeat waveform from an EKG running along the bottom and a foam adhesive electrode used during a recent cardiac stress test (everything checked out okay).

Usually our workshops have quite detailed instructions - cut four pieces of cardstock 6" by 4" for example. Or attach pages 1/2" from the left and 3" from the top using three stitches 3/8" each.

All I could offer were directions on how NOT to iron interfacing upside down and back to front.

I was thankful that everyone was okay with taking the materials and running with their own ideas. Each book was remarkable in its own way. Some rolled theirs up and tied them shut with ribbon. Others used a button and rubber band. Annie's book unrolled to almost seven feet long!

Although I approached this teaching experience with trepidation, I was genuinely pleased to see that my own experimentation opened new avenues for the other artists to explore. I think sometimes the less structured "instruction" is, the more room exists for others to make their own discoveries.

My 2015 New Year's Resolutions include allowing time for more research, investigation, and trial-and-error projects.

What are your 2015 New Year's Resolutions?