A Collection of Small Riddles

Methodically built but with an expressive and a bit chaotic exterior.

For the last three weeks, I’ve been busy making and filming six little journals. They were conceived sometime last year, but I wondered how exactly they were to be made.

I liked the small format of the Girdle Book, done a few months ago, and wanted to repeat it in some way. I had decided to make a whole collection, again with metal additions, but this time with gold decoration as well. I had even sewed 3 of them before I started the big PILLARS collection. When work on the five started, the little ones remained in the background. The decoration of the Pillars was a real challenge, not only because of the size of these books, but also because of the desire each to be different, with common features, tailored to the metal details, and so on. Many sketches were made and scraped. It was a project me and my father had taken very seriously, and after everything was done, we were to an extent exhausted.

The time came for the little ones and I decided that the approach should be different this time. I felt much influenced by some Asian potters and their free approach to work. I watched a Korean master make a big jar with great diligence and skill, but then as if in a burst of playfulness, he just flooded it with a multicolored glaze. Without worry, without unnecessary care, it didn’t matter what the end result would be. The point was that there was something made.


Square Vase – Lee Kang-hyo

I was wondering if I was also able to experience such freedom. So we decided to make a short break in which my dad would prepare for the next project, while I clear my mind with something out of the ordinary.



Once again, I decided to use the paper that I made last year from all the scraps I’m collecting in the workshop. This is my second attempt to make paper, this time selecting the shades of the cuts to be only white and creamy. In the first attempt I used any paper and the result was not as pleasant in color and texture.

The pages inside are again with the Clairefontaine cream paper, which I’m quite fond to work with.



The book body is sewn on 3 cords and the cover boards are worked to follow the curvature of the spine. This time there are some additional grooves, especially at the internal corners of the boards, to allow more space for the leather folding behind the headbands.



The headbands proved to be an interesting experiment. Firstly, a core of a twine was sewn to the body and then a Gothic braid weaved around it. Instead of using leather strips, it was done with thick linen thread. To compensate for the lack of color in the composition, warm colored glass beads were sewn in with cotton thread in between the grooves of the braid.

Very often in previous projects, I’ve put some twine in the leather cap over the headband to create a bulge that adds additional protection and enhances the look of this particular area. This time, the leather cap lies directly on the headband with no additional core in the fold.



Regarding the leather, it played a large part in the decision on how to decorate. Its surface is great as well as the color, but unfortunately the way it was processed did not allow it to be tooled properly. I figured that I couldn’t allow the leather to just sit around, nor would I make books without any decoration. It was time for a more bold experiment.



The other thing that tilted the scales was that I had about 20 silver leaves left from previous projects. I find them terribly uncomfortable to use in conventional decoration, simply because the sheet itself is thicker than gold ones and behaves in a totally different way. It is difficult to describe, but I can say say that where gold bends, silver is brakes. This, in turn, leads to far less predictable tooling results.

That’s why I thought it would be perfect to incorporate it into this type of decoration, as it would not have to go be put to the test and the underwhelming qualities would be a much lesser factor. The sealing under several layers of lacquer solved the problem of the eventual formation of a patina on the surface.



It’s the first time I decorate books in such a way and with this particular type of attitude. I was expecting to experience tranquility and disengagement, but I actually experienced an odd excitement that did not stop until the last book was finished. Excitement, as if I were playing. Playing with my profession, my life and prejudices… In the end, there was some anxiety about how this approach would be felt by other people, but somehow it did not matter. It was more like an old echo.

I do not know if I will do something like this again. Now we’re preparing for an international bookbinding competition in England and again the project is tight and structured. But it seems to me that this abstract collection was the best exercise in courage that I could do.

So, these six books are left to be interpreted by all of us. They leave me with a warm feeling of being a strange pearl in the history of my work.

Feel welcome to see how they were made:

You can take a closer look of each of them in the store here:

With wishes of calm days ahead,

STOPAN

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