I have a favorite birch grove near my city and every time I walk through it I wonder at how these fragile trees always have fallen brethren among them. When you peek inside – rot, but the bark glows. In the fall of 2019 I went with my new knife from master Mikhail Kochev to look at what I could gather.I’ve always thought to myself that I could use that bark for something.
It had been raining for two days and that day had not stopped either. I needed a tree that had neither fallen too soon nor had much rot already. In the first case, the bark is difficult to remove, and in the second there is a lot of filth on the back. I found one suitable exemplar, about 3-4 strides long. I made a long slit with the sharp knife along the lengthand then 5-6 cross sections to peel off a good amount of bark leaves.
I went home and with a wire brush and boiling water – cleaned and straighten them. For months, they stood drying in the shade while I thought about how they could be used in my books. Recently, I pulled out all the pieces from their rest, cut out all traces of studs and other irregularities. I smoothed the pieces further and cleaned them, then thinned two panels to the thickness of my favorite crimson goatskin.
My father and I teamed up on this book to combine a lot of different materials, but of course left the bark to get thet attention it deserved. The birch bark panels are inlayed in the front and back covers and then encased in 925 silver and shibuichi frames (25% silver and 75% copper).
The grove photos are by my talented friend Dimitar Tenev, who was with me that day.
May 4, 2020