If the above embedded video doesn't run, please see "Making a Visual Journal with Paper Scraps" on YouTube. (Sorry about the reference at the end of the video to check out a post Monday, April 2. I finished making the video sooner than anticipated and crunched it for output before I remembered I had that reference. Saturday, Sunday, and Monday there are three new and unrelated posts, I hope you'll enjoy them.)
I finally had some time to sort, collage, and sew up the paper scraps I wrote about in The Start of a New Collage Journal.
The above video shows the transformation from scraps into a journal ready for sketching and collage. As always, when the video I'm making is through crunching into its final form I think of a thing or two to add as comments, hence the notes you'll find in this post.
The good news is that though the book seemed over stuffed to my usual tastes and preferences when I made the film it has relaxed down nicely over the past several days. It's still more full than I know, having done this before, I should have made it, but it's within a tolerance range.
I would like to reiterate my recommendation that when you are creating your signatures with your scraps you try to keep it down to 4 to 6, but 4 to 5 is best, thicknesses of paper at each sewing hole. When you are gathering a signature together this might mean that you can include that lovely two sheet (8-page) mini-signature at the center of your full-sized signature if you simply move a smaller folded scrap up or down along the signature fold away from the holes used by the mini-signature, so it falls at a point there there are fewer thicknesses of paper that you'll be punching through. (Of course you're still adding bulk so you may not eliminate the problem, only you will be able to judge.)
Be sure to include at least one full-sized page set in each signature—in other words if your book is 6 x 8 inches include at least one 12 x 8 inch sheet of paper, folded with the grain (parallel to the 8 inch side in this example) into 6 x 8 inch pages (four pages since we count the front and back sides of the folded sheet).
Including a full-sized page set like this in each signature adds not only to the structural stability of the book, but it also works for the visual stability, giving your eye a WALL every so often through which you can't see the jangle of various bits. You'll come to welcome those pages as a time to stretch out to bigger vistas and images or as a place on which you can simply work "normally."
Over time as you make these journals you will get a feel for what you can get away with in filling your journals. You will be limited by your dexterity in sewing a really thick signature to the spine (by the fourth signature it can be almost impossible to get your fingers and your needle and the holes all in alignment if the signatures are really plump).
The width of your spine and the distance you like to use between your signatures will also be a limiting factor. To accommodate thicker signatures you can increase your normal distance between signatures, thus increasing the overall width of your spine, but keep in mind that since these signatures are joined to the cover and not each other you are also increasing the visible gap between the last page of each signature and the first page of the next signature. This really bothers some people so you'll want to pre-think your own tolerance for this.
Also keep in mind your typical mode of working with collage. Are you someone who really lays it on thick—lots of layers of additional paper, maybe also layers and layers of acrylic media, some of which might be dimensional? Then you might be looking at some real bulk added at the "using the book" stage. You'll want to pare back the pages you add at the sewing.
One way to accommodate more papers in your book without bulking your signatures up is to create more signatures, all of which are thinner than you might normally anticipate. So for instance if you made a book with 6 signatures each with only three thicknesses of paper at each hole, all of your signatures would be thinner than the ones in my featured book. With a little bit of finessing you could add minimal space on the spine between the signatures and end up with a book that is probably not that much wider at the spine, even though it has two more signatures. If you increase the number of signatures you also allow yourself more options for stitch variation and decoration.
Be careful, however, that you don't just use the additional signatures as an excuse to add even more papers and bulk up everything so that you're in worse shape than before!
I tend to use a medium weight book board for all my books except albums (then I use the thickest bookboard I can find). MCBA's bookboard (which is where I get mine) is something like .07. I have to check.
If you are going to do more than 6 signatures sewn to your spine, especially in a book you're going to be adding MORE to, I really suggest that you bump up your bookboard thickness, just so you have more strength on the spine. Remember all the holes you punch for sewing are actually making the board weaker, so it's best to start with a thicker, stronger board in those instances. (It will make your punching more difficult however. To save your hands you might want to experiment on scraps of bookboard using an electric drill.)
If you would like to see the filled collage journal mentioned in the above video you can read Collage and Sketching: A Look inside a Recent Journal—Wrap Up. In that post I provide some tips for paper selection as well as folding your fold outs so that they work smoothly.
Those videos will give you a sense of how I play with the different page sizes, run through mini-series of paintings, carry color through over several pages, etc.
Everyone will have a unique approach to working with a book like this. Embrace that. Don't approach it as "there is a right way." Just let the book lead you into play.
Do not worry about "ruining" pages, because it is after all play. You can always make another book.
Look for subject matter which requires a gatefold's worth of attention. At the same time keep your eyes open for those subjects which only require a brief note and can easily fit on the tiny pages sprinkled throughout your book.
Note: A gatefold is a full page spread with fold out pages on both fore edges—so a wide vista to fill.
Balance your need for working chronologically with the joy of embracing chance. Allow both in your new journal if that's a stretch for you. Conversely if you are a "fill whatever page I want" person, use the challenge of the oddly shaped pages to work through the book chronologically training your eye to see and create connections.
When faced with two pages visible at the same time, consider how you might use them as a whole, how you might use them for two types of subject that relate or don't relate to each other, but don't sweat it if relationships aren't immediately recognizable to you. In other words, enjoy the serendipity that occurs, and don't fret if it isn't appearing regularly.
Use the opportunity of smaller pages to experiment with new media. Sometimes when there is only a small piece of paper to "risk" people find themselves able to be more adventuresome. See if that's you. I recommend that you record your experiment's findings on the next full page, or on the inside back cover for useful future reference.
Fill your book and set it aside. Come back to it after a couple months have passed. Read it as if for the first time. Ask yourself what you were thinking? Why were you attracted to a certain subject? What was going on in your life (if it isn't stated on the page you'll have to recall this and I recommend that you make a note of that at the back of the journal to remind yourself in 10 years)? How does all this information shape the result?
Most of all, allow yourself to play with the new dimensions, shapes, patterns, and colors that have presented themselves in your new book of scraps.