Friday, December 30, 2011

BAO Tips

As a seasoned veteran of BAO projects and also as someone who has been teaching book arts with non-booky students for a while now, I thought I'd add to this wonderful flurry of introductory posts with a bit of (hopefully) helpful advice. Sorry if I'm mentioning the bleeding obvious, but it's always good to have some sort of checklist, or even reality check!


paper folding

Something to keep in mind when planning your edition is just that: it's an edition. You are making multiple copies of your one fantastic idea, so make sure you are prepare to do whatever your process is multiple times. So don't be too ambitious, keep it relatively simple.

Also, think about ways to make the editioning easier. Break the process into chunks or steps, and batch various tasks. Make jigs to help you. Jigs are tools and templates, often temporary (like a corner made of boxboard so that your page stays square), sometimes permanent (like a bookbinder's piercing cradle {snaps to Paper Chipmunk!}). Using jigs is not cheating, and you'll be surprised how many binders and artists use them. In fact, if you have a favorite one, no matter how simple, please share!

I also highly recommend making a maquette copy before editioning. This is a trial run using exactly the same materials and process as the final edition. It's no use doing tests on cheap paper only to find out during editioning that the more expensive paper runs or fluffs. Test things like paper grain and whether your paper cracks when folds before you get too invested in the process to change anything. This particular point will save you TEARS, people. In the sad sense, not the ripping sense.



In the first project, we all merrily made a only copy for each person in the group, with maybe an artist's proof copy for spare, and suddenly there were opportunities to exhibit, and a few institutions were interested in buying a set. GAH! You'll find that people will want to buy a copy of your work outside of the general project too. So what I'm saying is: make the edition a little larger than just your basic eight copies.

Let's break it down:
  • the group, which Sara B(owen) has kindly kept to 8 people
  • the author, who in this case is Sarah B(odman)
  • at least one exhibition copy
  • if you add another two for external group sales, that also allows for extra exhibitions!
  • You may find that you want to swap works with people who are in the project, but not in your group. Say, an extra 3.
That comes to 15 copies, and I'm being conservative. You also need to allow for mistakes: I'd normally make 20 to aim for a perfect 15. Or you could make 18 to aim for 15, if you're really confident. And if you do make 18/20 perfect books, HUZZAR! More for the world at large. And a BIG pat on the back for you.

So this, of course, leads back to point #1. Have fun, don't be too ambitious.


brown paper packages

Remember also that this is essentially a mail art project, so that you are posting your masterpiece all around the world. If you make a big, heavy book, you will be paying the postage and it will add up on top of all those lovely materials you used to make it. That's usually ok if you're selling the books, because you can factor these overheads into the book price. But we're swapping, so you only have the extra copies to sell.

STOP PRESS: Di made a great comment below that I feel compelled to include here because of its importance:
One thing that some folk may not be aware of: Australia quarantine laws are very strict and if they find anything containing feathers, seeds, bones or the like they will do one of two things: destroy the whole package or offer to fumigate it at the recipient's cost.
So do be mindful of what you include in your books!

Incidentally, it's totally worth it when everyone's book arrives in the mail, truly. I just want to get you thinking about size, because it matters. In fact, it matters also with your editioning process. Something very small is as difficult to produce as something very big... just saying.

I'm not in any way trying to tell you to make a small, simple book. I am trying to get you thinking about the parameters of this project and the challenges that it throws at you. It's a fabulous challenge, and I'm sure all the other former participants will agree with me that it makes you think about the practicalities as well as the more fanciful creativity.

Look at Sara B's first book: it was a very cool rotating tetrahedron, a complex folding thing of beauty, and it needed protection for transit. She made a wonderful box to go around it, and included a lot of the necessary features (title, poem, colophon) into the box structure. Ah! Which leads me to:

4. COLO...what?


I wrote a post about this right back at the beginning, and I encourage you to read it. We don't have to be quite so stringent with this particular project, but it will be worth acknowledging and including the provenance of the title you're using, since this project is, excitingly, an artist's book about an artist's book about an artist's book.

And I know this is a really BASIC point, but I have to say it, just as I say it to every student I encounter: make sure your name is somewhere on the book, even if only in the colophon, as well as your signature. I hate looking at a book or even just a print and having NO IDEA who the artist is, because the only information is an illegible signature. If you're proud of your work, own it, and make it easy for the reader/collector/institution to know who you are. They might even buy your other books as a result.

I hope that all helps!

Feel free to ask questions of me or anyone else who has been through it, and if you have additional tips, add them to the comments or write your own post... that's what this blog is all about, isn't it?


dinahmow said...

Oh! Good stuff, Duck!
One thing that some folk may not be aware of: Australia quarantine laws are very strict and if they find anything containing feathers, seeds, bones or the like they will do one of two things. Destroy the whole package or offer to fumigate it at the recipient's cost.
The cost can be quite high and also, often destructive.
So, overseas people, please bear this is mind.

ronnie said...

hmmmm - on the subject of colophon - I think it would be really great to have a unifying colophon (something we did with previous BAO editions - and like past BAO we sorta worked this out quite early in the piece, and then all stuck to it like glue) what do you think? and is so - would anyone like to propose a simple colophon that acknowledges Sarah Bodman's initial project (that inspired the 100 titles) and her endorsement of BAO using her book titles as a jumping off point (you know - a 'used with permission' thing) - also in the colophon - the BookArtObject's part: 'created as part of BAO blah blah blah'including the BAO edition that it is (ps are we going to call all the books in this round 'edition four'? - which I must say is my leaning..... )

(*ps for those new to things - this is how we communicate to one another - via blog posts and comments... and somehow we always find consensus.... ahhhh the intelligence of the mob)

ronnie said...

good point di!!!!!!

Ampersand Duck said...

Um, let's devise a group colophon indeed, but could we be mindful about wordiness? Spare a thought for us poor people who set their colophons by hand :)

Unknown said...

Deeply grateful for this post, as I've never done a book edition. The advice is very close to to what I tell my printmaking students. The funny part of it is that I am never drawn to editioning, opting instead to work in closely related series. This will be an interesting challenge, and I'm looking forward to it.
I agree about a standard colophon too.
Is this a dumb question: when is it due?
Lastly, for this time, I don't have a blog, so I'm not sure how to send an introductory posting. Suggestions?
Victoria in Toronto (

Sara Bowen said...

Great post, Duckie! And hello to Victoria - now you're an author on the blog you should be able to sign into Blogger and post straight to the blog, but if you get stuck, send me an email and I'll try and sort it out! Sara x

Abigail Thomas said...

Great post. Well done.

Anna Mavromatis said...

And the need for a ready-set-go colophon is priority #1!

Vicki said...

Thanks for the tips I need all the help I can get.

Barbara Simler said...

Thanks for the great tips -- really helpful. A standard colophon sounds like a very good idea.