Personal paper: Overcoming my fear that 3D is one more D than I’m good at

Big Heart Lede

[Alyson Kuhn] I am not much of a maker. I wrap small packages, I hand fold envelopes, I type über-tidy address labels, I arrange postage … but I don’t sketch or paint or sew. I have never spontaneously made a book. So, I was a bit apprehensive about taking a five-day bookmaking workshop. And, on the first afternoon, already frustrated by “simple” paper-folding to limber up our fingers, I did indeed announce that 3D was one more D than I was good at. But — thanks to Rachel Hazell and my classmates — I am now up to 2.5D.

No machinery was used in the making of this book. And, truth be told, no blood, sweat or tears.

Behold my little heart book, which I can barely believe I made. First, I scored a big sheet of red cover stock with the grain. Paper grain is one of my strong suits, from my days designing envelopes. And I’m not bad at scoring, using my silver ball point pen with an empty ink cartridge. I’m not terrible at tracing … but I do not like cutting on a curve. Especially cover stock. But I persevere, and ultimately have 14 red hearts folded in half.

I install, or maybe enthrone, my book in a little bag in a freshly empty bonbon box. Rachel Hazell contributes a piece of ribbon — Books in Everything is her photo-blog.

While I am cutting out my 14 red hearts, I think about die cutting and what a splendid process it is for making multiples of things. While I am stitching my 14 red hearts together, I do not think about anything except romancing the waxy orange thread. “Dr. Hazell,” as I start to think of her, is frequently paged to my side to remind me of the next stitch, or to undo the previous stitch. Finally, I am done. I put my shoulders and my needle down … and realize I want to dress my book up a bit.

I receive this valentine from my friend Stephen Thomas when my book and I return home. It will, of course, live in the bonbon box, too.

I decide to deploy my scallop shears (treasured since 1978) and cut a heart from a sheet of vintage onion skin, which has a double red rule line for the left margin and a single red rule line for the right typing boundary. It looks a little like lingerie peeking out of the book. (The finishing touch will be a red suede tassel, which I purchased at the Mokuba store in Paris many years ago. It has been waiting for the right occasion.)

Twenty-eight scalloped hearts will become an a-b-cedary, presenting 26 projects and people I love, from Alphabetilately to Zaki, Bari.

The very next morning, I resolve to make a big heart book, all of whose pages I will cut with my scallop shears. To start, I trace the lid of the gold bonbon box, light of heart and semi-sure of hand. To avoid nicks in the scallops, I cut in shortish strokes, then re-align the blades to match up with the last scallop cut. The heart’s décolletage is the trickiest part … until I get to the sewing and discover that my book is so big that the waxed orange thread would be impossibly long to work with in a single piece. So, I cut a manageable length, and when I get to the end, Dr. Hazell attaches it to the next manageable length, using some nifty bookbinding knot that I really should learn but don’t.

Look closely, and you can see the hearts printed on the other side of the covers.

What next? I consult with Dr. Hazell, who delicately broaches the subject of cutting the two half-heart covers on a curve. Then, bless her heart, she offers to perform this operation for me. I giddily accept, but decide not to watch. Before I can say, “Do I have time to stretch my legs and scoff some chocolates?” she is done. She recommends a very supple paper to cover the terrifyingly thick bookboard. We agree that I will use it inside out, with the printed hearts on the underside. I am not comfortable with the glue brush and the need for speed, but I manage. And I love cutting umpty-umpteen tiny tabs to wrap the paper around the boards. While the covered boards take a nap in the press, I dance around exuberantly. And prematurely.

Then, I learn to cut a little indentation on the inside of each cover, to lay the ribbon in. Then, I learn to glue the scalloped book block to the front and back covers. Then, we weigh the book down. And wait. And then it’s done and I am incredulous.

Photos: © 2012 StudioAlex

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Comments (8)

  1. Posted by Tom Ingalls on 02.28.12 at 3:29 pm

    They need to have a love it button on Facebook, just liking this is not enough, Kudos to Alyson and the FandW photographer for this beautiful story, and the colors!!!!!!!

  2. Posted by Bari Zaki on 02.28.12 at 9:27 pm

    Aly Love ~ You make my Heart sing & swoon with this posting.

  3. Posted by Julie Salestrom on 03.1.12 at 3:06 am

    I hope to someday see this book in person…it is bEauTiful!!!

  4. Posted by El Sí on 03.1.12 at 8:18 pm

    OMG. I wanna EAT those hearts. The paper looks scrumptious. The book looks scrumptious. Paaaaaaaaaper ….. gaaaaaaaaaaaaaa ….

  5. Posted by GinaVisione on 03.9.12 at 3:24 pm

    Ohhhh, just simply gorgeous Alyson! Fantastic work. Congratulations on mastering the heART of books …. I love the postal-like ephemera photo too!!

  6. Posted by Hannah Nunn on 04.10.12 at 4:30 am

    What a lovely post. Rachel is a start isn’t she. I love your heart shapes book. Well done!

  7. Posted by Hannah Nunn on 04.10.12 at 4:30 am

    Ooops I mean a STAR!

  8. Posted by Ali Dawson on 04.10.12 at 6:19 am

    Wow! How delightful, I love the edges and stitching….Dr Hazell helps make papery things perfect!

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