Blank books for children

With the holidays fast approaching and a sluggish economy, you may be looking for create gift ideas that are easy on your pocketbook. Blank books are great gifts for children, even those who don’t usually enjoy books or even read yet. With a little imagination you can take a blank book and make it a one-of-a-kind gift the child in your life will treasure.

  • Make it into an alphabet book they can fill with words and pictures for each letter.
  • Cut and paste random pictures and phrases as journal prompts.
  • Add pictures of things the child loves.
  • Draw in random frames for them to add their own custom art work.
  • Add pictures. The child can make up a story to go with the pictures.
  • Make a picture book that has no words. Let the pre-reader make up a new story each time.
  • Make a drawing book that has only half of each picture. The little artist can fill in the other half.
  • Add random affirmations or compliments. As they fill up the book they will come across your kind words.
  • Include some “Poetry Recipes,” simple poetry ideas (like haiku or cinquains) they can practice in their book.
  • Sprinkle “story starters” throughout the book for budding authors.
  • Include pictures of family and friends.
  • Call it something special, like a Dream Catcher or Idea Machine. Not everyone likes to journal but everyone likes to capture their ideas at one time or another.
  • Add inspirational quotes or stories to feed their passion in a subject.
  • Add library pockets with tags, envelopes, fold some pages and add other scrapbook paper goodies they can manipulate.
  • Add words at random they can add to their writing vocabulary.
  • Ask them questions about themselves on a few pages and let them talk about themselves.
  • Draw some random shapes and let them doodle them into their own creations.
  • Make your own dot-to-dots or coloring pages by tracing family’s or pets’ faces.
  • Give it to them to start a back and forth journal with a parent. Sometimes children will write things that can be hard to say out loud and it can be a great communication tool.

Make sure to include colored pencils and an eraser so they can create to their heart’s desire. My next book arts post will give you some ideas on making books from scratch for children.

Bookbinders tickets

6SmThere was a fascinating discussion on the bookarts listserv about something called a bookbinders ticket. It’s a small paper glued into the back of the book with the binder’s unique mark and it tells you about the binder and when it was made. They’ve been around for  about 400 years and give a offer a history of bookbinding.

2SmI do not make tickets but I do have a little round rubber stamp that I use to mark in the back of my books so people will know I made them. When I get to making more elaborate case bound books and such on a regular basis, I think I will make up some of these. I think it’s important for future generations to know as much about where a book came from as possible. Do you mark your books?

And for the record, I think the artist book colophon has it all over the ticket. (detailed in the next post on bookbinding).

Some links on the topic of bookbinders tickets:

Slow Books

Okay I am really excited about this project. I wanted to give away a copy of Keith Smith‘s Volume 1: Books Without Paste or Glue, and not in just a number drawing. I wanted to do something more, I don’t know, spectacular. Then Leslie Herger of Comfortable Shoes Studio gave me an idea (so if you don’t like it, you know who to bother). The contest is…

an essay contest! Yep, you write a little essay and post it on your blog or in the comments and you’ll be entered. The topic for this essay is S-L-O-W books. Slow books. It’s a post I’ve been thinking about since I first heard the term slow fabric (and then slow food) a year or more ago. The idea of slow books in a nutshell is that your materials are local if possible and you do as much of the process as you can, from making the paper to carving your own needles and spinning your own binding thread. How much of the process are you involved in? Where do your materials come from? What about chemical dyes and adhesives vs. natural? How important is the bookmaking process itself to you (as opposed to admiring the finished product most) and how would slow books help you enjoy that process more? Do you use recycled materials?

I want to hear your thoughts on what a slow book means to you, if you have ever made one, or any aspect of slow books that appeals to you. Or maybe you think it’s not necessary–or even possible–to make slow books. I think this is a topic that should be discussed more in the bookarts community. I hope you’ll take a few minutes and think about this topic and enter. We are all winners when you share your thoughts.

If you would be interested in starting up a regular slow books bloghop please leave a note in the comments. I think it would be great to connect with other books artists on this idea.

Details on the contest:

Word count: up to 2000, whatever you need to say it. But at least 250 please. Make sure you leave a link to your blog post in the comments.

Deadline: August 31, 2009 midnight CST

Winner will be announced September 7, 2009 here on my blog. If the winner doesn’t contact me in 7 days it will go to the next in line. If that doesn’t work out then I will draw randomly.

Jury Duty (you didn’t think I’d be the only one deciding this did you?): click pics to visit their sites. They are being so generous with their time to help me with this project.

Elissa Campbell of Blue Roof Designs

Alexia Petrakos, book binder (and winner of my last giveaway)


I follow them on Twitter and love their work and hope you’ll show them some love for helping with this contest.

Which came first: the content or the concept?

pink_piano_bookIn Keith Smith’s tome Non Adhesive Binding: Books Without Paste or Glue (volume 1), he discusses the relationship between idea, construction and content. This is like the holy trinity of artist books–the conceptual, the physical and the visual. They can come in any order and they are dependent upon one another. Mr. Smith believes that they are intimately connected, but binding serves content, even if the binding choice comes before the content is actually created.

Usually I come up with a concept (such as inspiration from a song or a phrase) first. Then I create content and lastly choose a binding or construction to hold it. Sometimes I find a cool construction, though, and that will motivate me to create something to put in it. Once in a while I will write a atlas_bookpoem and work back to the concept and then create a container that is appropriate. And I have to agree with Mr. Smith. Binding always serves content. If not, the results are awkward and uncomfortable. But when these three elements are in harmony, the results are spectacular.

I love thinking about how these three interact, and how different the results can be, depending on where you start. It’s a process that is exciting with each new project and starting at a different place than you are used to can result in work that is fresh and vibrant. And if you don’t have this book–or any of his other books–you need to order one (or all of them) ASAP.

Do you have a particular order, or rhythm, you usually find yourself in when making artist books?

Measurable goodness winner!

I had lots of entries for my little giveaway and was so excited to see such exuberance for these humble brass rules. I really do wish I had a set for each of you. It was so much fun that have already decided I will have another giveaway soon–maybe paper. Or a handmade book. Or a kit.

The winner is… (cue cheesy drum roll)


Congrats girl! Get in touch with your snail mail address at annahawthornebookarts at gmail dot com and I’ll get them in the mail to you pronto. Then you must blog with photos of how you use them. (Well you don’t have to, but it sure would be fun.)

In art, bigger really is better

These days in the art community there is a wonderful movement that strives to get back to handcrafted, placing a premium on pieces that are brimming with the artist’s personality. I agree, I much prefer the one-of-a-kind over the mass produced. I prefer smaller pieces that are well done over larger pieces that lack detail. That said, there are some things about your art that are better bigger.

Bigger Dreams. Goal setting is important, but don’t forget your dreams in the day to day. When you are afraid, reach even higher.
Bigger Quality. How can you improve on your quality?
Bigger Knowledge. Take a class. Call a mentor. Read a book. Get into the studio and experiment. It is amazing how learning will spark the creative juices. Learn something new already!
Bigger Reputation. What do you want people to say when your name is mentioned? Make every effort to keep your word, ship on time and offer value every chance you can get.
Bigger Body of Work. Keep on growing. Keep on reaching. Keep on working.The most successful artists are the ones who are faithful to work work work.
Bigger Circle of Friends. Get out there and make sincere connections. Not just for your career but for your sanity. Friends keep you honest, give your ego a healthy boost and make sure you keep some balance. But adding to your professional Rolodex doesn’t hurt either.
Bigger Heart. Be generous with your information. Offer freebies. Donate profits or do work to sell for charity. People love people who aren’t afraid to share their knowledge with them.

These things, added up, will add up to a fulfilling artistic career. And all that will translate into bigger dollars, but all the other “biggers” will ensure that your increasing profits are not temporary, but a natural, permanent growth. And that bigger is definitely better.

Measurable goodness giveaway

I am so geeky about all my bookbinding tools. I love my almond-scented Italian glue, my wooden bone folder, my Japanese punch. They inspire me every time I pick them up.

One tool I often reach for is my set of brass rules. They make measuring super simple, because I don’t often plan ahead and have to do things one-handed. They are incremental and super handy for all sorts of things, from books to boxes to most any craft project where you need a standard measurement. I use them for drawing lines, spacing and folding paper.

Since I have two sets I thought I would pass on an extra set to a fortunate commenter. This set is still in the package from Hollander’s.

To enter: simply leave a comment telling me that you that you don’t already own a set and that you promise you will use them. One entry per person please.

If you promote this giveaway on Twitter you can leave a comment for an extra entry (making a total of two).

Deadline: April 30, 2009 at 9pm CST. Best of luck to you all!

You can judge a book by its cover

The cover of a book, especially an antique, determines its value. A great volume with an intact spine and flyleaves is sought-after by collectors the world over.

When you make a book, keep in mind that the cover is not an afterthought. It is not simply a holder for the title or something to keep the pages inside from getting ruined. Yes it is all that too but it’s more.

It’s like the front door. It’s the readers first interaction with your work. It’s the thing they hold and manipulate to get to the “good stuff.” It’s the first stop on a journey through your work. Why not make it really count?

An article to enjoy is this one on an exhibit of the Morgan Library and Museum. A limited collection of their books spanning 1400 years displays the exquisite detail of the covers. You almost hate to open them up for fear the text won’t live up.

When you maker your next book I hope you will take the opportunity to make the cover a work unto itself.

vlog: make your own book cloth

Here’s my first ever video tutorial–on making your own book cloth. Hope you find it helpful. Please understand, it is my first shot at this. Hope it’s not too long!

Make your own book cloth from Anna Hawthorne on Vimeo.

How much fun can you fit on one page?

Books are great tools for homeschoolers. It seems there is no end to the creative possibilities. But sometimes the choices can seem a bit overwhelming, or the process is complicated and you stress about creating content that will be worthy of the container. How about trying a book that is made from one page, a little book that can be cut and pasted and scribbled to your heart’s content. Fill it with poetry or facts or drawings of plants. Use one of the directions below. Make them for friends, create a zine and sell some copies. They are fast and fun and oh so easy. I bet you can’t make just one. [Read more...]