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.