May was Month Three in Reggie Ezell’s Primitive to
Modern Class 2017 San Diego. Our homework assignment
from Month 2 (March) was a book using vellum and some of
our newly acquire gilding techniques.
When putting together
homework for the previous month, I had looked up
ladybugs and found the universe of beetles. The bugs
look like show girls or drag queens. I thought they
would be the perfect subjects for gilding on vellum.
I started by planning a
3-page vellum book with 3 beetles, but which ones? With
so many beautiful choices, I decided to expand it and do
a Top Ten Beetles book. Well now I was in a mess. There
was not enough vellum for this. I had fig bark paper,
and I liked how it looked with the mottled vellum—crisis
averted. But now I had too many pages. Add more beetles.
And that’s how I ended up
with Beetles: A to Z.
Execution does not always
go as planned. The fig paper and a broad nib pen were
not the best of friends since the uncoated unsealed
paper acted like a wick for the loaded nib. I used a
Micron pen for much of the writing. The lyrics to All
You Need is Love were written with a Leonardt
ball-tipped pointed pen—my new favorite nib.
Winsor Newton watercolors and gouache were used to paint
the bugs and many bugs were brushed with pearlescent
pigment for a super-shimmery bug effect. I used the
paints with very little water on both the fig bark paper
and the vellum. All bugs were outlined with the micron
pen and shaded with soft graphite. My first car was a
very used VW Bug that I shared with my sister, so homage
is paid to that beetle as well. I added the words to a
Beatles song to use the remaining extra pages, and
finished with a little beetle humor.
This is my first effort in bookbinding. I will most
certainly make more; it was such fun! I used book board
covered with marbled mulberry bark paper (which is
almost impossible to tear) and assembled it using a
Coptic binding. The vellum pages were singles, so I used
a folded strip of cream mulberry bark to provide a fold
to stitch then glued the strip on either side of the
vellum after the book was sewn together. I see all the
mistakes, but I like my primitive little book. Doing
this book did not make me like bugs any better. Beetles
are well-styled but still creepy!
NOTE: In the May class, Reggie taught us that the fig
bark paper can be sealed with methyl cellulose gel or
Knox gelatin (in a special mixture). I love the paper,
so I will try sealing it in the next project!