I had the opportunity to teach a bookbinding workshop at my friend’s place in Mississippi. The binding I taught is very complicated so I decided to make a workbook to outline each step. I wanted this to be a skill my students could go home and replicate.
Some 50 hours later I birthed a comprehensive workbook on the Coptic binding that has been in my head and at my fingertips for the last 20 years. I tried to find a tutorial to use as a skeleton and no one else seems to sew the Coptic stitch quite like this.
I love this binding because the book naturally opens flat. Coptic bound books make really great sketch books and photo albums. The binding is sewn without any adhesive which makes Coptic binding very durable. Most paperback books are glued into a text block, without any sewing. It is very difficult to repair a paperback book who’s spine has been cracked. Once that glue breaks, it’s pretty much over. Coptic binding is my perfect binding.
In my Mississippi class everyone was having a blast gluing the paper to the covers and poking the holes in each signature. Then came the real challenge- sewing to the covers. It’s tough, counter intuitive the first time or two- but well worth it once your book is done and beautiful.
I plan to teach a class here in Denver some time soon. I’ve considered approaching the library to see if I can teach in their new maker space… I would probably teach simple bindings and ways to print your own book using your desktop printer. I’ll get the word out soon.
I have taken quite a bit of time away from my blog. I’ve ignored you, poor baby. I’ve been too busy with the Holiday rush and life to make any updates. Often I wonder if anyone even reads blogs anymore. Do you? Let me know… otherwise I’ll just assume I’m talking to air, which is cool too.
This month I’m offering a Photo 101 Course. I figure this time of year is a great time to learn something new, become better at a skill. It’s when we all resolve to be better. See, I’m resolving to not ignore my blog.
If you’d like to become a better picture taker, I’ve got you covered. We’ll spend a good part of a Saturday together and you will finally sort out what the heck an f-stop is and how to see light and photograph your kids without pulling out your hair. It’ll be great. I’m only allowing 8 participants to keep things small and intimate and personal. You can even tell me what you struggle with or what you love to photograph when you register. That way, this class will be catered to you. Besides, hangin with me for a few hours on a Saturday is exactly what you want to do, right?
Buy an awesome, museum quality mat board that includes backing (not required, but it will protect the back of your piece when you close the frame… especially if the fame backing is plywood or some other non-archival material, which you could potentially chuck if you have backing). Nielsen Bainbridge has 8 ply boards. THE best.
-Tape the boards together along the length of the mat that will be at the top of the frame. Your window cut may be weighted (a little higher then center). There are a few different reasons. 1, our brains see prints that are centered as being low… even if measured exactly in the center. 2, it leaves a bit of space for a signature. Some weighted mats are a bit too weighted, IMHO. So buy one that suits your tastes.
– Make sure the beveled edge is facing out, or down on the table. The beveled edge is the cool slanted edge of the window cut. This is one part of the reason mats are pricey… that and the fact that good ones are archival and 8 ply.
-Find the top of the boards. When you open the package, if you purchased the NB precut board, just lift the window cut board and line it up against the backing board. You will lift the board from the bottom to adjust the print in this process so make sure you put the tape at the top. Also, many artists stamp the backing boards with their seal. Taping on the top allows you to lift the mat and see any additional information that might have been written there (date, time, story of what happened before and after the photograph was taken, whatever you want to document there). More on writing on the board later.
-Cut a fairly long piece of tape. Then, using the wet rag in the bowl, wet the tape. Make it good and damp, but not completely soaking. Linen tape tastes terrible. I learned early on to save my taste buds by wetting the tape with a wet rag. No death-by-adhesive on my watch.
-Once wet, center the tape between the two boards and from side to side.
– Give the tape a second to dry then fold the top board down. You will want to encourage the boards to align. Press down on the top “fold” of the taped edge to ensure the adhesive sticks.
-Place the print. Start by placing the print in the general area of the window mat, trying your best to get it straight. The window will overlap the print. You can choose to center the print in the window, or optimize your crop so, for example, the tops of heads won’t be cut off.
-Fine tune and make straight. This is when I lift the board up and down, up and down to make sure the print is straight. If you mount the print crooked all the effort to get a good, straight horizon line was for nothing. When you lift the top board up, the print will go with it. You’ll want to place your weight in the center of the print. I’ve used all sorts of things to weight the print- erasers, stamp pads (clean!!), piece of matboard, etc. It doesn’t have to be too heavy but it does have to clear the window when you lift the matboard up and down.
-T hinge. Cut 2 pieces of linen tape one a little longer than 1″, the other a little under 1″. Cut these in half the long way so you end up with 4 skinny pieces of linen tape. Like this:
don’t judge my ratty old wet rag.
-Take the shorter set and lick (just this once, I promise) the very tip of one piece of tape on the short side. Place the wet tip at the top right edge of the print (about 1/4″ in) so the tape is stuck to the underside of the print. You want most of the tape to poke out from under the print. We are making a tab to tape down. Do the same thing for the left side of the print.
-Double check!! You’ve heard measure twice, cut once? Ya, that applies here. Double check that the print hasn’t moved. We are getting ready to tape it down. Lift that window over and let it hover halfway so you can see both the edge of the print and the edge of the window. That’s the best way, I’ve found, to line things up. Keep that weight on the print. If everything looks perfect you can…
-Tape it down. Wet the longer pieces of linen tape (with the rag) and press over the tabs. When taping it down I will press gently onto the weight to keep the print in place. Rub the tape to help it adhere.
-Sign it. If this is your art, be sure to sign it. The standard way to sign is with the title on the left and signature on the right… or title in the middle and signature on the right with 1/25 or however many prints were made of a single image… or however the heck you’d like to sign it. Signatures and places art have been signed have run the gamut from hidden on the piece to no signature at all. Use a pencil. That is the most archival writing utensil. If you would like to add more information on the board as mentioned above, go for it. An artist will have a stamp made with their name and space for serial number, title and all sorts of other things that I only vaguely know about. This stamp is often used on the back of the print itself.
-You’re done! This print I matted is ready to place in a ready made 11×14″ frame. Clear glass is my favorite. UV glass is great, but quite pricy. If you don’t place your print in direct sunlight, it will last a lot longer. Even with UV glass, direct sunlight can effect the image color over time (bleach it out, make it yellow/green/weird). If you really want to keep your print forever, don’t put it on your wall. Place it in an archival album or box. But what’s the fun in that? Just have a smaller print made for an album and one made for your wall. Then all your bases are covered.
This print had afternoon side light hitting it for about 6 or 7 years.
If you like this post, comment here to subscribe to my feed. More photography, bookbinding, image transfer tips and tricks to come!