Many of my books take months or years of gestation before becoming concrete. I’ve been thinking for a long time about this one, which I call “Blast Zone”. Part of the series I have been creating about the climate crisis it deals with oil train explosions and derailments. Since I always try to use my own photos I was stymied. I haven’t had an opportunity to photograph a train derailment for which I am grateful, so I couldn’t figure out what to do.
Before I ever went to Scotland the title of the workshop, Mapping our way in these dystopian times, inspired me to think about the train derailments in terms of maps. I collected information about oil train derailments beginning in 2009 and using a website, http://explosive-crude-by-rail.org I created a map for each of the oil train derailments I was able to document. The blast zones show the areas half mile to one mile that are (or would be) evacuated.
Unlike most of my books, which are one-of-a-kind, I’m looking for wider distribution of this one. I am working with a friend to call attention to the oil trains that run through Pittsburgh. They go near the Convention Center downtown, the sports stadiums, most of the hospitals, University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Google offices and the apartment buildings where my friend and I live. I have created a pdf of the book that I gave to the Sierra Club and the Fracktracker Alliance. You can download a copy here. Oil train derailments You might live near one of those blast zones too.
The second book inspired by the workshop and nothing to do with Scotland is about my hearing loss. This may also become a best seller (at least 3 copies). All of my hearing aid wearing friends are interested. Tana, the leader of the workshop, has a heavy Slavic accent and speaks in low tones almost without opening her mouth. I had a terrible time hearing and understanding her. She was very good about it and the other participants were helpful so I only missed a few things. Several days into the workshop I was looking for inspiration. Tana suggested I use text in my work. I played with a rubber-stamp alphabet them came up with a small verse and hand-printed it. Altogether not artistic, but somehow satisfying.
One of the participants suggested I make a book about my hearing problems. I took the suggestion and ran with it. Problem: how to visualize hearing loss. I revised my lament:
I can hear birds sing
I can hear bells ring
But words, words are a different thing.
I used several poems found online, in particular a plea written by a mother to her preteen daughter. So much of what she wrote resonated with me. I added photos I took in situations where I couldn’t hear or understand what was being said. Below is a sample page and you can download the pdf here. hearing book
Each of the pages are double page spreads and are bound accordion style between simple covers with only the drawing of my ear.
My trip to Scotland was rich with ideas and thoughts about making books. I made a quick, first book to bring to my book-making group for our twice yearly book exchange party. This is a simple accordion photo book portraying the wonderful sunsets I found in Scotland.
Pages are printed 2-up on 9″x12″ Co Mo Sketch, a soft finish, heavy drawing paper, trimmed to 8×5″, and tabbed together. Finished book is 8.12×5.12″. Most photos were shot as panoramas on my iPhone 6.
A second copy is printed on Accent Opaque 100lb. cover, tabbed and bound similarly. Covers are Crescent board covered in Lokta and a simple collage made from previously printed pages.
This book taught me some lessons about printing. My first attempt was on a paper called Super Max text. It’s a lovely paper, but it didn’t take the ink very well. I don’t use photo paper, which might give me the best results, but would not be best in a bound book. I tried a second printing on Epson Presentation paper, which also did not please me. Some images printed too harsh and some had strange color, especially the greens. Both the Co Mo Sketch and the Accent Opaque gave me the best results overall. I tried to adjust color management without making much difference.
My father, Morrie and his sister Florence both wrote memoirs about their lives in Austro-Galicia and their early years in Chicago. I digitized both manuscripts, scanned relevant pictures, and created 2 pdfs. Along with my Charnabook, all are available in the menu on the left under Family Stories. I never printed out the two memoirs and created actual books. Although I have a list of 15 possible topics to pursue, with one urgently calling to me, I’ve decided to make those two books first. Should be simple, no?
Aside from the novelty structures I enjoy, there are two basic ways to bind a book: folded signatures or single page. The pdfs are single page; after all, they aren’t usually bound. Single page binding, like Japanese stab bindings, can be beautiful but they don’t open flat. I’ve used this binding several times, and I’m never entirely happy.
Folded signatures allow for several types of bindings, most of which will open flat. However, they are half a page. The largest signature book I’ve done is 8.5 inches by 7 inches, half of a legal size (8.5″ x 14″) sheet. Until recently that was the largest sheet I could print. I now have a larger printer that takes a 13″ x 19″ sheet.
My first task is to decide on my page size, then decide on the binding. The pdfs are 8.5″ x 11″ with several pictures covering an entire page. Half of an 11″ X17″ sheet gives me four 8.5″ x 11″ pages, and all sheets have to be considered as four pages. Morrie’s memoir has 114 pages, Aunt Flo’s has 45 pages. So Morrie’s book would be expanded to 116 or 120 pages; Aunt Flo’s to 48 pages. Some of that is easy; a blank page at the front and back and maybe on the reverse of the title page. Next question is how many pages or sheets in a signature? Placement of the content depends on the number of pages in each signature. For me, keeping the pages straight is the most difficult part of the whole job.
Some of my happiest moments of childhood came when my father told stories. Sometimes he spoke about his childhood in Losie in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. More often he retold bible stories, making one of my uncles a villain or relating the characters to contemporary events. After he retired, in the 1970’s he wrote a memoir and also wrote and illustrated his bible stories. He was a trained draftsman and architect; you can clearly see this in his writing and drawings.
Unfortunately he chose a cheap, children’s copy book for this effort. The paper has become brown and brittle. I scanned each page and worked on them in Photoshop. Note the tape on the left edge. The book had already begun to deteriorate while he was still alive; he repaired everything with tape.
The book I made is 8.75″wide by 7.5″ high, covered in olive green book cloth that refuses to photograph, and bound with a link stitch top and bottom and long stitches between.
I still have the disintegrating composition book. Can’t bring myself to throw it out.
This is my latest book, actually the second version. I’ve been working on it for more than a year. I fell in love with the Gingko tree growing in Robin and Steve’s backyard. It’s huge and has to date from before the house was built. I’m guessing it’s at least 200 years old. I’ve been photographing it, and talking to it, for a long time. Never been satisfied with the photos and, of course, the tree doesn’t answer me. Finally decided I had to make a book.
Unlike the tree, the book is small, 5 inches by 6 inches. Most of the pages are printed on Talas unbuffered bond, trimmed to size. The cover is 100% recycled Shizen watercolor paper, a thick, mostly cloth-feeling textured material. The binding is something I saw online as I was perusing soft cover materials.
Inside the book are lots of photos, a little text, 4 sheets of prints made from gingko leaves with poems printed on them, and vellum endpapers.
I don’t like the look of the binding on the inside and probably won’t use it again.
And, if I can get more gingko prints, I may create Gingko 3; particularly since I have a new spring photo to add to it.
Male sperm carriers for pollination. Gingko trees are either male or female.
My grandmother wrote a memoir in Yiddish, called Der Gesung fun men Herzen, The Song From My Heart. It was published in Chicago in 1944 and distributed as a fund raiser for the day and night nursery she built on the Northwest side of the city. At my request, in 1996, my father translated the book, adding a little editorializing of his own. I painfully retranslated the book, removing his opinions and creating a document that I bound in cloth with photo transfers on the cover and with a stab binding. I also created a downloadable pdf that is available above in the left side menu under Family Stories.
In addition to some family photos I included relevant commentary from memoirs written by my father and his older sister, Florence laid out next to related passages in a talmudic style. At the end of the book are notes on interviews I did in 1989 and copies of some historical documents.
Pictured above is my great-grandfather, Shlomo Rieger taken in 1889. He and my grandfather came to Chicago at that time and returned to the Austrian Galician Empire. Shlomo never returned to the States. The rest of the family came from 1911-1913.
Inspired by another workshop, this time taught by Sandy Webster in 2006, this book is bound with tapes and beads, decorated with more beads and contains translucent vellum section pages, handwritten pages, printed photos, maple seeds and one of my rare drawings.
The book is about the view from my bedroom window in the back of the apartment I occupied for several years here in Pittsburgh. I called it “Drawn to the Light” because light from the window woke me in the morning and constantly called me to photograph as it changed.
Unfortunately I really didn’t understand how to bind a book. Most of the work on the book was done after the workshop was finished so I didn’t have the benefit of Sandy’s guidance. My pages were single sheet so I created a small book block with fourteen folded signatures then glued each of the sheets to the inside of each side of the signature. I made tapes out of book cloth to affix the covers and sewed each of the signatures around the tapes. I did not use good thread and probably not very good glue. Here you can see the glued on maple seeds, many of which have fallen off, and how the book is coming apart. Someday I may rebind it.
Maple seeds are printed on this page, probably before I wrote the text. On the left is an accordion-fold pull out with many of the pictures I couldn’t fit into the regular pages. Paper for the signatures was created in the workshop using some kind of rust mixture. Sandy was very big on rust at that time.
This page is a drawing of the driveway. I’m not sure why I did it. I guess I just wanted to make a very personal statement.