Conceptual Notebooks

I entered the field of book arts via paper making. It wasn’t long before I wanted to do something with my stacks of handmade paper. David gave me a copy of Kojiro Ikegami’s Japanese Bookbinding  and I began producing a variety of notebooks. My favourite structure was the multi-section binding.

I went on to learn simple hardcover binding (from a number of different books) but it wasn’t long before I got bored. I wasn’t yet brave enough to start making real artist’s books, so I eased into it by making what I think of as ‘conceptual’ notebooks. They had content of a kind: made for particular (imaginary) individuals, they were physical manifestations of ideas. They fulfill my idea of Form Follows Content.

Even Cowgirls Get The Blues was, as the title indicates, inspired by the Tom Robbins novel. The diary was designed for Bonanza Jellybean. Since she is an unmarried cowgirl, and likely to stay that way, the paper for the pages contains petals from Centaurea cyanus, commonly known as bachelor button, and horse manure. (It is not that disgusting: I will post about making paper from horse shit sometime!)

The book is covered in denim fabric onto which I sewed a pocket like the ones on blue jeans. The pocket holds a genuine cotton bandana and a blue pencil.

The character of Bonanza is further represented by the fact that the pencil will not write well on this paper. I don’t think that would bother her much. She doesn’t seem to be a great diary writer.

I discovered that I could not (with one exception) enter this work in book arts exhibitions as almost all of them exclude blank books. I don’t think this book is blank, but I couldn’t seem to convince most other people. It was also not a great journal from a commercial point of view: the paper doesn’t take writing well with anything other than a very soft pencil, and the cost —remember all that lovely handmade paper for the text block— is prohibitive for the average diary purchaser. The book languishes in a box in my basement.

I had an imaginary series of books like this: a banker’s diary with a text block made from shredded money, endpapers made from annual reports, a silk hanky and fountain pen in the pocket; a doctor’s notebook with pages made from medical reviews and exam table covers, a rubber glove and thermometer in the pocket. You get the idea.

Instead, given the apparent impossibility of selling Even Cowgirls … , I made some conceptual journals where the text block was made from commercial paper and handmade paper was restricted to the cover and endpapers.

This is one of my Bipolar Dream Journals. 

The concept is simple, and the dos-a-dos structure works perfectly for it.

By the time I made these, however, I was starting to make ‘real’ artists books which are more fun (for me at least), so I don’t do ‘blank books’ much anymore.

About Byopia Press

I have been working in the book arts field for more than twenty years, and operating Byopia Press with my husband David since the late 1990s. I began producing artist's books and altered books in 2004. I also create prints and drawings that are frequently text-inspired or text-based.
This entry was posted in artist's books, book arts, Design and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Conceptual Notebooks

  1. Lestaret says:

    Beautiful books, simply beautiful – (as usual!)

    I too went through a phase of making sketchbooks from beautiful paper and cards and couldn’t bring myself to use them. I gave a few away to people who I thought would appreciate them, and they too, later admitted that they could not use them also! It’s nice to think we can create things that are viewed as ‘special’ or ‘precious’ but also sad to think that these things won’t ever get used as books. I’ve kept mine packed away since and only made simple books using scraps, leftovers and anything I can’t envision doing anything else with. The end results are not as beautiful, but they have all been well used. Weird, eh?


    • Byopia Press says:

      People seem to have a fear of ‘spoiling’ the book. “My handwriting/drawing isn’t good enough.” I suspect that most of the journals that I sold during that period were bought as gifts and are probably sitting, unused, in drawers and cupboards around the world!


  2. I like the idea of that series (money shredded paper – banker’s journal, etc.), but can imagine very well that they probably are unsellable. But the idea is so intruiging… If you didn’t leave the paper blank, but teamed up with a letterpress printer who would then use the paper to print, a significant text on it, maybe in this case a speech of someone in the context of the bank crash, or whatever you feel matches shredded money,- well, this might put it in a different league and render it very much sellable and desireable by collectors.

    P.S.: Btw. wordpress just installed some update that randomized the images used in my header on my blog. The same seems to have happened to yours. It is easy to fix, you just have to tell them once more that you really want to use the images you uploaded as header.


    • Byopia Press says:

      Yes, letterpress printing a text would turn it into something more people would recognise as an artist’s book, but my work seems to be headed in a different direction now. ;]
      Thanks for the warning about wordpress headers. I read it very late last night and decided to wait until morning to fix it. This was a good idea, as by the time I got to the computer this morning the people at wordpress had apparently fixed it for me.


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