Communion Of Dreams


Making an impression.

My, how time flies …

I’m a little startled to discover that it’s been three years since I last posted about doing the leather bindings for the custom edition of Communion of Dreams. No, I know it’s been a while — but I have been giving this binding a lot of thought, so it seems like it was still a recent ‘pending’ project. I liked the idea of using the sewing structure to incorporate classic raised leather cords on the spine of the book, but I just didn’t like the sparseness of the rest of the cover design. The initial tests were OK, but the more I thought about them, the less satisfied I was with what the final product would be. The problem was that while the cords under leather gave a nice tactile effect, there wasn’t enough detail possible.

So I kept trying to figure out how to keep the relief I liked but to get more definition. I won’t go through all the different iterations of ideas I considered, but there were a lot, mostly along the lines of trying different ways of mounting different weights of cord/string or molding/engraving the board under the leather. But each approach failed to give me the definition I wanted. Worse, each one felt further and further removed from the image of the “Williamson Oak” by Peter Haigh I had used for the paperback/printed hardcover/website.

Then recently another bookbinding project got me to thinking about using something like a woodcut as a way to make an impression on a leather cover, and I realized that I had gotten so set on the idea of using the raised cords of the sewing structure as the basis for the rest of the cover texture I hadn’t considered the possibility of impressing the leather rather than trying to raise it. What would be required would be to make a plate which would press down most of the leather, leaving the design I wanted alone so that it would stand up (and out).

So that what I tried today. Here’s how I did a quick test:

20160529_160407

That’s my high-tech, fancy “polymer plate” … also known as a plastic cutting board. I did a quick sketch on it with a marker, then carved into it using a couple of different cutting heads on a Dremel tool.

Then I mounted a piece of goatskin and a piece of calfskin onto some bookboard, got it good and damp, and then pressed it quickly in one of my book presses. Here are the results:

20160529_160343 20160529_160355

This was just a trial to see if my press would generate sufficient pressure, and if the plate would hold up to it. I am very happy with how well they turned out, and I learned what I need to change for the final version (such as smoothing out the surface of the plate, adding more detail and title, and — oh, yeah — reversing the image).

So, progress! Hey, it only took three years for me to get past my perceptual bias … 😉

 

Jim Downey



We all need a little TLC now and then.
October 25, 2013, 10:00 am
Filed under: Art, Google | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Even 350 year old trees:

McBAINE — Five years ago, when the father-son duo of Bill and Kyle Spradley teamed up to give the state champion bur oak at McBaine some much-needed attention, they were joined by a handful of people.

Yesterday, more than 40 people gave the majestic tree a hefty dose of TLC. The gathering included representatives of 10 organizations and businesses from across the state — most of them arborists or rural electric linemen experienced in tree-trimming and pruning.

That goes to show how much people care about this tree,” said Kyle Spradley, a senior information specialist at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Spradley also has his own photography business, and many of his photos feature the McBaine bur oak.

 

I’ve written about the tree previously, for the very good reason that it is the image used on the cover of Communion of Dreams (and so, at the top of this blog).  And I’m glad to see this sort of effort to help care for the tree, and preserve it for future generations.   Seriously, if you haven’t ever seen it in person, and you find yourself in the area, it is worth a visit.

In the meantime, you can see images of the work done this week here, and a simple image search will bring up plenty of great shots of it.

 

Jim Downey



Quick pix.

Remember this?

But that doesn’t mean that the book has to have an old look. Not at all. I’m playing around with some design ideas which will incorporate the cords, but which will feel more modern. Watch for some preliminary posts on that in a couple weeks.

OK, how about this?

Well, this afternoon NPR’s “All Things Considered” had a good piece about the tree, and the drought. And already I’ve had people ask whether it was the same one I had written about/used for the cover of Communion of Dreams.

Yup, that’s the same one. Here’s from the NPR website:

Well, can you take a guess what sort of design motif I’ve decided to use? Here, take a look:

Great Oak design.

Now, if you look at those images closely, you’ll see that there are a pair of lines just to the left of the tree trunk. Those indicate where the spine will be, just as with the paperback edition of the book:

Cutting the cover sheet - this is how it would normally be laid out for a conventional book.

Now, that’s all well and good, but how to create the ‘raised cords’ effect overall? Like this:

laying cords.

So far, so good. Now let’s test how it would look with some calfskin adhered down over that:

Calfskin test.

OK, I like that. But how will it look with goatskin? Here’s that:

Goat & calf tests.

OK, keep in mind that these are just tests to see how the leather looks over the raised cords. I’m happy with the results. But now I need to convert that simple bas relief 2-dimensional effect into a fully functional 3-dimensional sculpture which also happens to be a comfortable-to-read book, using some of the cords above as part of the actual structure of the book.

Sound difficult? Yeah, but remember that this has been my profession for over two decades. I like a nice challenge.

Just thought I’d share that little progress report.

Jim Downey



Yup, that’s my tree.

I’ve written about the “Williamson Oak” previously, and specifically about the effects of last year’s drought on the tree.

Well, this afternoon NPR’s “All Things Considered” had a good piece about the tree, and the drought. And already I’ve had people ask whether it was the same one I had written about/used for the cover of Communion of Dreams.

Yup, that’s the same one. Here’s from the NPR website:

 

Compare it to the image at the top of this blog (or on the cover of my book), and you’ll see it is the same tree, though a decade or so has had some impact on what it looks like.

But then, none of us looks the same as we did ten years ago, so …

 

Jim Downey



99.29%

I’ve written before (even recently) about the tree in the image at the top of this page. It’s locally known as the “Williamson Oak”, named after the family which owns the property where it grows. It is, simply, magnificent, and the oldest/largest such tree in the world.

And it is suffering from the drought which is having a devastating effect across the whole state and region:

The tree was starting to show signs of distress, Williamson said. “The leaves are beginning to curl up a little bit, and they have turned kind of brown. I think it has aborted a lot of the acorns. And the leaves turn upside down to keep from losing moisture.”

The ongoing drought didn’t get much worse in the past week, but things in Boone County and across the Midwest did not improve much either. According to the drought monitor report issued this morning, 99.29 percent of Missouri is in extreme drought or worse. The remainder of the state, a tiny sliver of the northwest, is only under a “severe” drought designation. More than one-third of the state, including most of Boone County, is designated as undergoing an “exceptional drought.”

Typically, the older a tree is, the deeper the roots it has. So older trees tend to fare better in severe droughts. And the Williamson Oak is in the Missouri River bottoms — the river’s natural flood plain, where ground water isn’t that far below the surface. In other words, this tree should have the best possible chance to survive this drought. Still, things are so bad that this was the image on our local paper’s front page last evening:

John Sam Williamson releases 850 gallons of water at the base of the 350-year old champion bur oak at McBaine Wednesday. Six generations of his family have owned the land since the 1830s. Williamson plans to release roughly 1,600 gallons of water around the base of the tree each week for the next several weeks.

Yeah, this drought is bad. The worst I’ve ever seen.

Jim Downey