The Third Annual Portrait Party is over! It went fantastically well! Twenty eight people created content and layouts, then printed and bound an edition of 35 books to commemorate the event. And it all happened in 2 hours and 40 minutes.
(It would have happened on time in 2 hours and 30 minutes, but we all had some trouble with the available awls! No blood was drawn, I'm happy to report.)
If you're an artist and a book maker it really doesn't get any better than this. An almost immediate gratification—and something every participant can take home.
I can't thank the participants enough—for showing up, for sticking with it, for taking orders, for jumping in for specific tasks. We had a crew of 14 volunteers who shared some pre-assigned tasks: door watching (because it was a holiday and the building doors were locked so we needed to let in people), cutting, trimming, running the photocopier, running the masters upstairs to the copier and the printed pages down to us, collating, cutting thread, passing out supplies…I know none of the volunteers will be slighted when I give special thanks from all of us to Ken Avidor.
If you are going to throw a portrait party be sure to invite Ken Avidor (or his clone). Ken functions as the wild card—if you have odd numbers he can sketch in any pair he wants or simply circulate and sketch everyone. And even when he has a partner (we had 28 participants) he circulates afterwards and captures the essense of the event. He created two additional images—the one shown at the start of this post which became our inside back cover image. See Ken Avidor's last page image for the Portrait Party book at Urban Sketchers—Twin Cities. Thank you Ken, for inspiring us all again this year.
Below are some photos from the party. I didn't get photos of everyone together, and often the rooms look empty because people were in more than one room and because they were in groups doing some set task!
Below: Myra and Thersa also catch their breath by looking at some journals during the down time. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Above: Party goers talk while the final pages are printed upstairs. The supplies for binding the books have been passed out. Left, counterclockwise, Karen (cut out), Rachel, Jean, Barb, Karen, and Susan. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Left: Binding supplies included an awl, bone folder, two clips to hold the papers while punching, light linen thread for the hidden stitches, colored Irish Waxed Linen thread for the decorative cover stitching, a needle, a mat board (for punching), and a paper template for each of the sewing holes (hidden and decorative). Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Left: The completed Japanese stab bound editioned book is shown in the center of this image. Top left, some layout pages ready to be copied. Top right a corner of a stack of copied pages. Bottom right the loose cover and pages folded and ready to be punched and bound. Bottom left, page templates, tops visible. Center left, templates for sewing before they have been trimmed for use. Click on the image to view an enlargement. (Portrait visible is ©2011 Karen Engelbretson.)
I elected to use a Japanese stab binding as this year's book structure. I got the idea from my friend Linda Koutsky when I saw a travel journal she made with her niece. She used legal size paper folded in half, loose ends sewn together. This allowed her to take her niece's pages (which were temporarily sewn for working on), unfold them, and copy them flat on a color copier to create an edition of the travel journal that could be given to the grandparents and parents. I loved the simplicity of not having to copy of two sides of a sheet.
In 2009 I designed a pamphlet structure for the party and had to do a quick dummy to work out imposition before creating the masters—the goal is always to have the two portraits of a working pair facing each other across the spread. I couldn't do this ahead of time as we never know how many folks will show up. I thought that using the Japanese stab binding would speed up the layout process, which is my task at the party. It did. The only problem is that since the pages fold at the fore edge it is disconcerting for a book designer to be placing the verso and recto pages on the "wrong" side of the master sheet. I had to keep reminding myself how they would fold up into position.
The positives of taking this approach include no show through of copier toner (because the page is printed only on one side; no difficulty keeping two-sided pages copied correctly (we do a quick layout that isn't completely stuck down so the masters can't be put through the automatic feeder or they will stick); and of course, quick and easy collating. The other advantage to using this style of binding is that bulk is not an issue (except for punching holes) if you have a lot of participants. In 2009 I even had a back-up plan for a double pamphlet in case we had too many participants for a single pamphlet to handle well.
For me, the downsides of a Japanese stab binding are the amount of space taken up at the gutter by the binding and the fact that the book doesn't open flat—but that's coming from a journaling perspective. If the book already has content and you aren't going to be drawing in it, then the latter doesn't matter.
To accomodate the margin requirements I did have to create templates that took into account the margin needs depending on whether it was a recto or verso page. (2009 only needed one template as verso and recto page were the same margins.)
All in all I loved this structure for this purpose so much more than the pamphlet that I'm going to be using the same structure for the 2012 Portrait Party. Start practicing now (or don't practice, one participant had never drawn a portrait before and created a lovely Matisse-esqe image that totally worked). I want to see you there!
Again, a special thank you to everyone who attended. It was an honor and a privilege to create a book with you. And thank you to the folding elves who some how found time to fold pages for the "extra" books so that I only have to bind them!
(The "extra" books were generated for MCBA and other specified uses and are not for sale. If you want a copy of one of our Portrait Party books please attend our next party.)
Note: I will try to post a video flip through of the edition on the weekend. I'll update this post with a link when that happens. I'm also thinking of writing up the process used for this party so other people can throw their own portrait party and make an editioned book—but I have to carve out a little time to do that.
Read about The MCBA Visual Journal Collective's 2009 Portrait Party here. For our 2010 Portrait Party we did not make an edition, but simply sketched in our own journals. The idea for the portrait party was inspired by Rama Hughes' blog Portrait Party.