BANGOR – A book’s anatomy – its cover design, its smooth white pages, its shape – is as fascinating as its contents, especially if you are the one constructing the tome. That was the unspoken message in Bangor artist Jan Owen’s book making soiree last week. The class for adults was one of the activities in Bangor Public Library’s annual Bangor Reads program this month, which features events and discussions about Stephen King’s “On Writing.” The workshop was free.
“I thought it would be fun as part of Bangor Reads to celebrate the tactile quality of books,” Owen said. The books she devises come in many shapes and sizes, including round and triangular. Some, when opened, sport strands of stiff paper in varied lengths jutting out from the binding, making the book resemble a flower. Other books are artfully folded, or equipped with pages that pop up in whimsical ways.
As the dozen men and women attending the workshop drifted around the library’s lecture hall viewing a book art exhibit featuring work by Owen, Nancy Leavitt and Walter Tisdale, the most frequently asked question was, “How did you do that?” It was precisely the question the one-hour event was designed to answer.
Janet Hooke of Bangor said she came to the class because she had seen the book art exhibit several days before the workshop was scheduled. “It’s so amazing and beautiful,” she said. “I knew it would be worthwhile.”
Materials needed to construct an accordion-fold book, were minimal – small pieces of mat board for the covers, paper in a palette of rainbow hues to cover the mat board, a 51/2-inch by 17-inch length of white paper to fold into pleats for the pages and ribbon for ties. Tools included were scissors, glue sticks and ice cream sticks used to flatten down the paper creases and smooth the glued paper onto the mat board. Owen provided all materials and tools.
Assisted by poet and book artist Walter Tisdale of Bangor, Owen gave easy-to-follow directions as she demonstrated each step in the process of constructing the book. Even so, I managed to place the back cover of my book off-kilter. But since learning the process was the object of the event, not perfection, I solved the problem by lifting the paper and repositioning it until it looked right.
“The best way to learn is repetition,” Owen encouraged.
The accordion book, she said, is her favorite because “it is tactile, open and personal.” She once collaborated with 11 other people to make one.
“It doesn’t take expensive materials to make a book,” she said. “You can use magazine photos or old maps. You can go to a copy store and buy single sheets of colored paper if you don’t want to spend a lot of money. Or you can buy expensive handmade papers.” Sturdy material for book covers can be recycled pieces of mat board, a denser product called book board or the cardboard found at the bottom of paper pads.
Everyone in the workshop successfully completed an accordion-fold book and went on to learn how to make a simple pamphlet with a hand-sewn binding.
“I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time,” said Diane O’Donnell of Holden. “I see it as a springboard to learning more about making books. I’m looking forward to sharing what I learned tonight with my two granddaughters.”
“It’s an excellent product from just paper,” Andrea Carlson of Bangor marveled. She planned to send the book she made to her daughter who is away at college.
Owen suggested the following Web sites as resources for more information about book making and supplies:
She also supplied participants with the “Little Book,” a sheet of book making instructions that had to be folded and snipped in a certain way in order for “Little Book” to take on its book shape.
Bangor Reads discussions, activities and the book art exhibit in the Lecture Hall continue until the end of January. Check the calendar on Page 2, or call Bangor Public Library at 947-8336 to obtain more information.
Ardeana Hamlin can be reached at 990-8153, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.