|My UK sketchbook is covered with a collage of maps and ephemera from |
places we visited.
It’s been a month since I got back from the UK, and I finally finished binding my sketchbook from the trip. Since I put all my symposium sketches in a separate Stillman & Birn sketchbook, my handbound book has fewer signatures than books from other trips of the same duration. With the space to spare, I filled some pages with postcards and ephemera. As I did with sketchbooks from previous symposiums, I bound the symposium program right into the book. In addition, my correspondent colleagues and I used two heavily annotated maps and a color-coded spreadsheet throughout the event. They were such an important part of my activities in Manchester that I wanted to keep them, so I bound those right into the book, too. I love the flexibility and versatility of bookbinding that enables me to incorporate such ephemera so easily.
|The symposium program is bound right into the book. . .|
Which brings me back to the Stillman & Birn question I raised in early July. After I saw that the softcovers had been fully redesigned (you can read all about the prior problems and their resolution), I decided to give a softcover Beta book a full trial. I started it on July 10, left it at home while I was traveling in the UK for three weeks, and then picked up the Beta again when I returned. I filled its last page Aug. 24.
After carrying it around in my bag during the time I was using it, I was mostly pleased with its
weight and bulk (certainly much lighter
and thinner than its hardcover counterpart), and yet I was constantly aware of
two things: One is that it’s still twice as heavy and twice as thick as one of
my single signatures of hand-stitched paper. And more significantly, when I’m
not using a full page spread, I can’t easily bend the cover and the opposite
half of the book backward as I habitually do with my signatures. I didn’t
realize how much I’d come to rely on folding the unused part back, making the
book so much more compact for holding in one hand while sketching on my feet.
|. . . and so are workshop maps and other guides I used as a correspondent.|
So I gave it a fair shake, and while there’s much to be loved about the Stillman & Birn softcover editions, I’ve decided to go back to rolling my own. Despite the convenience of buying off the shelf (at the cost of nearly four times that of binding myself), my handbound system still meets my needs better – and gives me bonuses like being able to incorporate oddball pieces like programs and maps.
However – all of the above is related only to sketchbooks I carry with me. Seated comfortably at home, I have none of the issues of weight, bulk and portability that I do in the field. I’ve been using hardcover S&Bs all along at home for still lifes, self-portraits and other desk-bound subjects. Beta has been a long-time favorite with watercolor, and I’ve lately grown fond of Epsilon and Zeta for use with colored pencils. One thing about hardcover S&Bs that has always bothered me, though, is that despite the company’s claims that its hardcover editions open flat, it’s still impossible to scan a page spread without a telltale gutter shadow. (That’s true of any hardbound sketchbook I’ve used.)
|Thanks to Daniel Smith, I have a nice stash of Stillman & Birn|
On the other hand, the S&B softcover binding opens absolutely flat without effort. A full-page spread scans beautifully without showing any shadow at the gutter – a huge benefit. I’ve decided to switch completely to the softcover editions for home use going forward. And to lock in that intention, I took advantage of the very generous discount coupon I received from Daniel Smith in my goodie bag at the West Coast Sketchcrawl to stock up! I’m still a tried-and-true S&B girl – at least when I’m sketching at home.
It’s also reassuring to know that if I ever decide I don’t want to roll my own anymore, or if I have some other reason not to make books, I can simply reach for a softcover S&B without having to hem and haw about what kind of book to use. Although I may appear to enjoy testing lots of products (and truth be told, I do enjoy that process), I enjoy even more knowing where my next book is coming from.