Small Editions, Made By Hand

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday March 28, 2013

New York City is currently a paradise for artist’s books afficionados. From an installation of Dieter Roth’s Snow, 1964/69 at MoMA to Paperwork: A Brief History of Artists’ Scrapbooks at Andrew Roth, from Books & Co. at Gagosian to the open door at Printed Matter, and the special artist’s books and prints exhibition at MoMAAbstract Generation: Now in Print, the city has gone book-crazy.

If you’re ready to take a stab at creating small editions or one-offs, and join the ranks of this growing, yet hard to define practice, there are many ways to proceed. You can find helpful tutorials on YouTube and sit at your desk following along. Or you could join a class and work with other aspiring and advanced book artists, as I did last weekend.

A group of seven artists, including one who had flown in from Newfoundland for a week’s worth of courses, gathered at The Center for Book Arts to work with Benjamin Reynaert. The two-day workshop promised that we would leave with a handmade, exposed spine, coil-stitched book and a slipcase. Benjamin, who received his BFA and BARCH from The Rhode Island School of Design, has developed a fail-safe method for doing precise work without much measuring. This might seem counter-intuitive, but it is, in fact, simply another approach to the intricacies of book making. At one point, Benjamin allowed, “It’s very Zen.”


We started out by creating cloth-covered boards, with an inlay for tipped in art, so that the pieces could dry overnight under pressure. By the end of Day One, we had also sewn the pages and glued the coil-stitched spines of our 160-page blank books. On Day Two, we created our cloth-covered slipcases. Because Benjamin had created kits for our pages, we were able to take our time on aesthetic decisions such as selecting the book cloth for our covers and slipcases. By 4:30 on Day Two, our projects were ready for their close-ups, and new friendships had been formed. (My book has the blue boards and slipcase.)

To find out more, visit The Center for Book Arts online. Better yet, stop in to see the current exhibition, Brother Can You Spare a Stack. On Saturday, March 30, CBA is hosting an open house and gallery tour with artist Micki Watanabe Spiller, and a book and zine workshop for children age 3-10 with their parents. Information about upcoming classes. Information about the upcoming CBA benefit.