Studio Check-in #11: Journals, Journals, and More Journals

Journals in the works for our writing webinar participants!

The title pretty much says it all — most of my studio time this month has been spent folding paper and gluing fabric and sewing signatures and pressing covers to dry, on the first batch of 25 journals for the January Writing with the Moon webinar. A few years ago, my dad made me my own book press, with custom-cut wooden slabs that clamp to a base to press book covers and signatures flat while they’re drying (this keeps any of the pages from warping or crinkling thanks to the moisture of the glue, and helps distribute the glue more evenly). Lately the separator boards have been used more often for a base to tape watercolor paper to while painting, but now that I’ve started this little assembly line, they’ve mostly been returned to their intended purpose.

My home-made book press; these bits pictured here just came out after drying overnight. The left side shows what it looks like when the pages or covers are being actively pressed.
Side view of the clamp. I usually line the boards up a little more neatly; this was just for the demo photo.

A brief overview of the process, for anyone who’s interested; I came up with a bit of a custom design for this journal, so it doesn’t necessarily follow the “traditional” book-binding methods.

Here you can see the top two journals are completely done, while the rest of the stack are waiting to have the excess fabric wrapped and glued around the cover edges (after which I’ll glue in the sewn signatures).
  1. I start by cutting the fabric and cover stock to size and gluing them together, leaving an overlapping edge of fabric. It then goes into the book press overnight to dry.
  2. Meanwhile, I cut all the paper into 12″ x 9″ sheets, divide it up into the number of pages I wanted per journal, then fold every single sheet in half to make my signatures (I can do 3-4 pieces at a time with pretty decent accuracy; any more than that and it starts to get crooked).
  3. Once the covers are dry, I wrap the overlapping fabric around the edge of the cover stock, glue that down, and stick it back in the book press.
  4. Using an awl, I pierce all my paper signatures along the folded edge, at about 1″ intervals, then sew the signatures together and to another piece of cover stock, which will create some reinforcement along the spine, since the cover is relatively pliable.
  5. I glue the sewn signatures/cover stock piece into the now-dried fabric cover and put it back into the book press, this time with the spine just sticking out the edge, to press it all into place and leave it overnight.

If you’ve been keeping track of the time, you’ll see that each journal needs to go into the book press for a total of three nights — they spend more time drying then they do being assembled! I’ve been working in batches, as my book press can hold about seven journals at a time (it could do 10, if I didn’t have paintings taped to the other three boards). I only have two of them COMPLETELY done, but the others are all past the halfway mark. I’ll keep working on them over the next week or two, so they can start shipping out to participants in mid-December.

Yesterday I did manage to sneak in some time working on signatures for a couple of new junk journals. I’m not entirely sure how I want to do the covers for these yet, but I’ve been amassing ephemera and paper for months now, and couldn’t wait to start playing with it any longer. It’s probably going to be time for another fabric run soon, to make the covers… which, with all the good coupons the craft stores are sending me right now, I’ve just been waiting for an excuse to shop. These junk journals are vaguely art/travel-themed, but I have some ideas for more specifically-themed journals too.

I spread this signature out so you can better see what all will be inside (though I will probably add more before I decide it’s done).

I have been sketching ideas for some holiday-themed art — mainly for Christmas, since that’s what I’m most familiar with, though I’d like to do some general winter-themed art as well. I’m developing a Christmas-themed PIY kit which I’m hoping to wrap up and put on Etsy within the week. Do you have any specific scenes or items, either for Christmas or for other winter holidays, that you think would make for good paintings or drawings?

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