Last Saturday and Sunday I was at a popup book workshop. I love popup books and always wanted to make them. This is the third popup workshop I’ve taken and finally I think I understand how to incorporate my own images into a popup framework. In the past, I’ve made all the structures but never understood what to do next. Here is my first popup:


In another workshop I made a flag book using papers and flags previously prepared by the instructor. Subsequently I made a number of flag books I’ll post about later.


I think the same workshop also included paste papers. This is a tunnel book using the paste papers. Again, I’ll have more to say about tunnel books. I don’t think I ever made more paste papers.


Pam Susan taught a week-long workshop at the Society for Contemporary Crafts. I loved it, was totally wiped out at the end of the week, but very productive. It was all about binding techniques and even included box making.

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Travel Diaries

From 2007 to 2014 I created four books about travel in Japan and China. Day to day information appears as it happened earlier in this blog. Here I will discuss the books and how I created them.  I collected all of the emails concerning the trips, all of the blog posts and most of my photos. All pages are printed on Epson Matte Presentation paper, which produces vibrant color and excellent definition.  All four books use Japanese stab binding or some variant — a mistake. Stab binding is best used on thin books with soft covers. These are an inch or more in thickness and have heavy board covers. I was going for the ‘Japanese’ look and didn’t consider utility.

For the first one from Japan in 2007, I brought back a small package of silk scraps that I cut up and machine embroidered on Japanese Washi paper. The glued on bone bead embellishments are from my collection of beads and probably come from India.



The second book is from Japan 2008. Using silk from an Obi I first made a photo transfer and then hand embroidered the tree with French knots.


I’d like to say ‘never again’ to that, but I’m working on binding a fifth book with the title in French knots. I’ve been working on it, off and on, since 2013. The book block is finished–it may never get bound.

I also went to China for a month in 2008 and spent even longer thinking about the binding for this book. I began with a large piece of embroidered red silk. While China clearly has it’s elegant aspects my experience was much more concerned with grit and pollution. Finally I cut up the now dirty, gritty bag I had carried all month, used another photo transfer, a bit of the red silk, hand embroidery–not French knots and embellishments from my collection.


China 2008

The fourth book, from a trip to Japan in 2013, is structurally similar to the other three, but instead of the stab binding I used three brass screw posts, fittingly called Chicago posts. The book is thicker than the others and the posts provide a stronger binding.


The paper covering the boards has tiny leaves embedded; the title was printed directly onto the paper. The blue border is book cloth, which covers several mistakes I made during my initial attempt at binding.

Do pdfs count as books?

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.


Charna Book

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.

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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.