Monday, December 4, 2006

Steven Heighton's Paper Lanterns

I was very interested in constructing a book made with postcards. Steven approached me with an Asian travelogue he had done some time ago. His wife is an excellent photographer and took many pictures while on their travels. I decided to make Steven’s book into a travel inspired journal with postcards inside. To create the postcards I reproduced Mary’s photographs in full colour on the front, and for the back I used Steven’s prose pieces and added cancelled stamps I made on Photoshop. I carefully selected the image for each stamp by sifting through hundreds of old stamps I bought off of eBay.

Because of the Asian theme, I used traditional Asian papers and bookbinding methods. The inner binding is held together with thin pieces of paper I twisted between my fingers, known in Japanese as koyori. The outer stab binding is in a tortoise shell pattern, called kikko toji. The “postcards” are interspersed between Steven’s poetry and held together by a cover that is made to look like an envelop with a decorative lining. The liner is made with Yuzen paper and reminds me of a pattern that might be found on a kimono. The cover stock is a thick handmade paper in brown turtle. The cover proved challenging due to various paper weights and because I wanted it to look like an envelope but not compromise the exposed binding. I think that the results turned out aesthetically beautiful, while maintaining a travel-inspired feel. The Asian origins of the design have been maintained through the binding process and selection of paper. The poems are printed on a textured paper in pistachio and the end papers are handmade Lokta from Nepal in red.

The look of the letterpress title is in accordance with traditional vertical oriented cover labels found on Japanese books. It took some time to get the letterpress ink the right consistency, since I was mixing it with metallic powder. When the cover/envelope is opened, the first “postcard” acts as the title page. The Asian glyphs, found on the sign behind the woman, are the title of the chapbook translated into Chinese. The sign also mimics the look of a traditional title bar found on the covers of Japanese books. The smaller sign contains a translation of Steven’s name. I had to pay someone to do the translation. He then sent the text to me as a transparent jpeg file so I could place it on the sign boards.

My intent was to design the chapbook with the idea of a travelogue in mind, to make it suggestive of notes and postcards stuffed into an envelope. The binding did make the book somewhat stiff, and I had to score each page individually to be able to open it with any amount of flexibility. The closure on the outside was made using a bamboo button sliced in half. I wanted the chapbook to be reminiscent of traditional Japanese books, hence the tortoise-shell stab binding, Yuzen and Lokta papers, and the liberal use of metallics and bold red. In parts it does seem a little over the top, but I wanted the postcards to suggest the “emblazoned jackets” that Steven writes about.