Above: Quick TV sketch (moving subjects) of a chef on Top Chef. 9 x 12 inch Fabriano Venezia Journal; fiber-tipped pilot brush pen (dull black ink) and light washes of gouache with a 3-inch wide brush. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
I can no longer recommend Fabriano Venezia Journals.
For six or more years I’ve been using them for my studio journal. I use the 9 x 12 inch size. They never leave the studio so I can use a large size and not worry about the extra weight of carrying it.
I’ve always liked the paper. It took watercolor washes and loved the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen.
But the books don’t get a lot of rough use because they stay at home. That’s why I was surprised last year when the spine gave out in one of them.
The books do get stuffed full of collage and notes. Overstuffed. I don’t cut pages out of them to make room for collage because I’ve never had problems with the spines failing. In fact there are several of these journals I used in 2011 and 2012 that are totally overpacked. Ridiculously so.
As for the book that actually failed, yes, I had opened the book “all the way” pressing in the gutter at the spine to flatten the book slightly as I worked on an illustration bleeding across the gutter.
But my pressing was gentle compared to what I’ve seen others do. And I eased into it.
Left: A peek at the spine of the Venezia I was using in 2014. The spine failed early in the book use. You can see at the left, the tail end of the book. You can see right through the signatures to the glue backing they have all pulled away from. I didn't exaggerate this result by increasing pressure. This all started from a small bit of pressure and continued. Note that there is no collage in this book bulking it up and putting additional pressure on the spine. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
I was totally surprised to find, when I closed the book, that the backs of the signatures were coming apart from the spine glue. More distressing still, throughout the use of the rest of the journal, this detaching process continued like a zipper, until the rest of the book’s signatures had done the same.
The damage was not complete along the entire spine, but only at the head and tail area. Still, it’s only a matter of time and a little use before it all pulls away from the cover.
I decided that this was an aberration as it had never happened before. Then, at the end of the year I worked in another Venezia and it too developed the same problem.
Left: Example of a breaking spine in a 5 x 8 inch Fabriano Venezia sent to me by Ted Byrom. In the top half of his image you can see inside the book where the signatures are pulling apart and held by the thread only. In the bottom half of the image you can see the head of the book (there's a bookmark ribbon on the center). There on the left you can see the signatures, which happen to be only one folded sheet each, are pulling away from the glued back. Click on the image to view an enlargement. (Image ©2015 Ted Byrom.)
At that time also, a friend wrote to tell me that he’d had a Venezia (5 x 8 inch) detach. What he described was exactly what I had experienced.
At the receipt of his note I was moving through a Venezia at the end of the year, working on it daily to fill it before 2016 (a little end of year compulsion I sometimes give in to). I noticed during this time of intense daily usage that the paper was not as amenable to all the techniques I previously liked to throw at this paper. In particular, the paper was quicker to give up structure when wet. I experienced pilling and even some bleed through of paints (not dyes).
I’ve been bad about how I store my spare books. I had purchased a number of Fabriano Venezia 9 x 12 inch journals from Cheap Joe’s a couple of years ago (maybe even three years ago). I had two or three left when Cheap Joe’s had another sale. I purchased another couple—one always needs studio journals. At least 2 had been purchased at Wet Paint during their White Sale a year or so ago. I had put them on the same shelf, with no first in, first out policy.
I didn’t mark what date they came in or the vendor, so I have no idea which batch the two defective books came out of. I don’t know if this failure was inevitable or if there was a real change during the purchase of these two books.
More Bad News
After receiving the note from Ted I went to look at all my Venezias from the past, not just the one from 2014 which I thought of as the "first failure."
I'm sad to report that almost every Fabriano Venezia journal I have used in the past 5 years has some spine damage like this. I know they didn't have it when I was working in them. I notice things like that. This means the damage happened while they were stored on the shelves. The glue is just drying out and letting go. One journal I picked up from 2010 zippered apart in my hands as I opened it to check it.
Now my studio journals are only seen by me. No one else comes by and rifles through them. I am really pretty gentle with my books, despite what some of my techniques look like. But most important the books have had a safe resting place and they have been undisturbed. You don't, however, want to use a book that starts to fall apart when left alone on a shelf, or when you open it!
While I don't live in a temperature controlled environment the books are shelved in living areas that have a constant temperature of 64 to 71 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes it is on the dry side. But there is nothing unusual happening here to these books.
What I Know and Have Decided
1. The Fabriano Venezia is no longer trustworthy to hold together as a book structure.
2. I have someone else who knows book structure experiencing the same phenomenon. And his information was for a different size, so it’s more than just the 9 x 12s.
3. The spines on older books are failing without stress or additional handling.
4. The paper isn’t not standing up to my techniques any longer.
Because of these factors I’m not going to be purchasing them any longer and have altered my information about them on my “Commercially Bound Journal” page.
I would suggest that you not use these journals if you’re looking for a durable journal with sound construction. Additionally if you enjoy mixed media techniques you might find this paper is not suitable for what you want to do.
You will continue to see my work from one of these journals in the near future, as I post the images I wish to share. I will use up the remaining purchased journals for notes and research collection. I will no longer be using them for visual journaling and I do not want you to think that seeing them on my blog indicates a recommendation.