Monday, April 09, 2018

Feed The Bees - a new miniature engraved book.

I have made handmade books since 1991, publishing them under the name "The Isle Handpress".
My miniature books are engraved completely, including the text. This makes them a lengthy but pleasurable undertaking. I normally have a couple of  ideas for future tiny volumes.

I have wanted to make another bee related project since my stamps for Royal Mail. This time I decided to concentrate on plants which we might grow in our gardens to encourage bees to visit.
I started with a list of plants from our own garden and it seemed sensible to divide them into seasonal groups, paring each one down to a list of four or five favourites. These lists became four little sketches, whcih I then redrew, more carefully, into a line of images.

I had already decided to engrave these designs on two woodblocks, each one was divided by a careful saw cut. I darkened the surface slightly, outlined the design in ink and started to engrave:

It is a sensible idea to take the first proof before the cutting is completed as it is easier to see how the marks look once they are printed. Here are the first and second states of the first block - you can see how the right hand print has developed with an extra day of engraving:

Once I was happy with the first block, I made a start on the second. You will notice that some plants cross over between the blocks, in the same way that they might spread over more than one season.

When I was happy with the four seasonal gatherings of plants, I started to design and engrave the texts. I kept the title page simple but added a couple of bees which I based on one from the postage stamp artwork, keeping a link between the two projects:

The colophon involved more text but the boxwood block was large enough to include another bee and to make a floral flourish, based on the sunflowers from the Autumn engraving:

The four blocks had slightly different thicknesses so it took a morning to set them up on the larger albion and use paper makeready to adjust the height of each one until I was happy with how they printed:

I have a stock of Mohawk superfine paper in the studio which I used for my first miniature book, "A Prospect Of Ely". I remember this printing well and so I decided to use it again. Here is one of the printed sheets being trimmed on the hand guillotene:

I had already planned to use the top half of the title page as labels. I printed these on a cream Zerkall paper using the small Albion. Here they are before trimming:

The cream label looked good against the cover paper I had chosen, hand marbled by Kate Brett of Payhembury Marbled papers. The small scale of the book led me to choose paper with a small pattern. I liked the blue/green/grey tone of the colour:

I cut grey card to size for the boards and pasted paper over it. Like my previous two, this was to be bound as a concertina book, tied by ribbon laces. After some thought, I decided on an olive green ribbon and glued the ties on the boards, ready to attach the folded engravings:

Here is the finished book. It is small but packed with fine detail. It measures just by 8.2 x 5cm. Each one is numbered and signed in pencil:

 I settled on an edition of 120 copies. Numbers 1 - 20 will be hand coloured and each one will have small differences. Again, this links back to the stamp designs, which were hand coloured:

I usually only sell these books directly at events I attend but I have been asked if I will offer them online so I am putting some in my Etsy store. Here is the link:

Please note that I am making the hand coloured edition in groups and that the first two batches have sold out. I will list five more in a couple of days.

I will also add some of my other two miniature books: