I learn to make a little book, & the teacher turns a ukulele into an accordion (fold)

[Alyson Kuhn] Last month, at the Friends of Dard Hunter western regional conference, I made my first book ever. I have loved paper my entire life, perhaps because my first job was straightening my father’s stationery rack, which included sharpening his pencils and carefully tearing 4¢ magenta Abraham Lincoln stamps from their roll. These early accomplishments notwithstanding, I have not grown up to be a book artist.

At the workshop, I (in the multiply crinkled clothing) choose a left-handed spot. Just reading the course description for Peter and Donna Thomas’ workshop had made me a bit dizzy: “a panel-covered accordion with a second accordion weaving in and out of the first.” Will I be able to get the better of my instructional inabilities and my 3D-phobia? My neighbor to the right, Kathy Bower, has a nifty little kit of tools, almost none of which I can identify. She is a research attorney for a local (Santa Barbara) court, and she takes bookbinding classes on a regular basis. These have sparked her curiosity about papermaking. Since 2000, she’s also been making prints using photopolymer plates. After the workshop, she comments, “I always learn something new and useful in a short, targeted class. Here, it was the Thomases’ paper-folding technique — the mountain and valley terminology — to get a uniform block of pages.”

I, however, am apparently better at typography than topography. The mountain-and-valley concept confounds me, and I nest my precisely-folded inner accordion perfectly backwards into its outer accordion. Fortunately, Peter Thomas materializes at my elbow before the glue has a chance to set. I have, before this mishap, already handwritten a short alphagram along the mountains and valleys of my inner accordion. It reads: Accordion book concept dimensionally exhausting for gauchaire. Hélàs! I’m just kuhnfused!

Just before class starts, I meet Jill Littlewood, president of the Friends of Dard Hunter — and she gives me her FDH business card.

My tools are quite basic, but my Bully glue stick (bought in Mexico) proves very popular with my tablemates. The tiny wood-handled punch is my newest tool, highly recommended by the Thomases, who brought extras with them.

We practice wrapping covers, which involves trimming the cover sheet’s corners to 45 degrees. I like this part a lot.

The book we make — a miniature (3 x 2 in.) nested pop-up accordion-fold — is in fact a binding Peter and Donna Thomas developed. They are superb teachers: focused, organized, reassuring, resourceful. And I am delirious to report that my trepidation turns to triumph.

One of my fellow classmates, Ken Lynn (above), owns a company that sells military-grade wire and cable to diverse customers, from prime defense contractors to inventors, custom lighting manufacturers, Fender Guitar and anyone else requiring high-temperature wiring products. He mentions spending the past three days, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., in Andrea Peterson’s class “Papermaking Studio: The Large Sheet 2-D and 3-D,” learning to use a 22 x 30-in. mould and deckle. “Anything that slows my mind down naturally and focuses it — which bookmaking and papermaking do — I truly enjoy for that quality,” he tells me. “And folks in the paper arts and book arts are generally cool people. I’ve made a couple of Coptic stitch books, and I thought this would follow nicely with what I’ve already done.”

Classmate Susan Kanowith-Klein — a retired immunologist turned university development director — has never made a nested accordion book before. She is having fun, and that’s a quote. Three summers ago, she took a papermaking workshop on Martha’s Vineyard from Sandy Bernat of Seastone Papers.This past summer, she began making paper at home in Los Angeles on her back patio. She looks forward to making more books and to attending next year’s international Friends of Dard Hunter conference in Cleveland.

At the end of class, we all put our books on the table to admire. The mood gets even more jubilant when Peter whips out his ukulele and sings a bookmaking ditty, to the tune of “Has Anybody Seen my gal?” Then, he turns over his ukulele … and it transforms itself into an accordion!


Peter and Donna Thomas live in Santa Cruz, several hundred miles up the California coast from Santa Barbara. They motored to the conference in their gypsy wagon, which you might like to tour.

Alyson Kuhn answered the question, “Who was Dard Hunter and why does he have so many Friends?” here.


Share Post

Comments (3)

  1. Posted by angela on 11.18.11 at 7:37 am

    What great class! I miss the friends of Dard Hunter and the all group.

  2. Posted by lee moody on 11.23.11 at 8:54 am

    Love making little books ! Glue sticks and scissors reside in my house along with lots of Mohawk ~ always ready to make a little book !
    And I have a cool bone folder…ahah ~

  3. Posted by Doda on 12.7.11 at 8:24 am

    Fabulous! I’m a uke player myself! And a bookmaker! Love it!

Leave a Reply

[BLOG] Champions of Craft: Sebastian Cox: We know that materials matter, and the right materials can take a p... https://t.co/NDMG0CUGIn @feltandwire - View on Twitter
[BLOG] Inspiration, education + conversation: A Maker’s Field Guide to Texture and Color: The competition for... https://t.co/WeqCJa92nr @feltandwire - View on Twitter
[BLOG] On The Wire: Designer to Watch, Mimi Kim: Today, guest blogger, Sarah Schwartz, editor of Stationery T... https://t.co/7PX5EFbFOm @feltandwire - View on Twitter
Submit a Topic or Article
We want to hear from you!
Send us your ideas for future articles, past inspirations, and present insights.
Submit a Topic or Article