The Makings of a ‘Bee’utiful Book

Hard cover hand bound journal with sculpted bee and honey comb
Honey, I’m home, Hand bound, leather spine journal. Contains 176 pages of three different types of artist’s quality paper. 8″x 9″x 1.5″, SOLD

I love how this book turned out, but it was definitely a process to get to the finished product.

After talking to the client and coming up with a vision for the book, I knew I had stepped onto a bit of a learning curve, but I was excited to see what I would come up with. Let the process begin!

As most of my books do, I started with the paper. After cutting each sheet to size and folding them into signatures, I then measured out and cut the book boards to the appropriate size. I poked holes into the signatures, and then sewed them all together onto 3 cords. These cords create the ribs along the spine, and a way for the text block (the chunk of papers, now sewn together) to attach to the book covers later in the process. A string is attached to the stitching, which will later be a bookmark.

text block in book press
The signatures are sewn and ready to be shaped!

The text block is then carefully put into a book press, where the spine will be shaped. A rounded spine is achieved through a process of hammering the papers to shape, applying glue to the text block, and then leaving it to set in the press.

For the covers, many, many layers of colours and textures are applied until I’m happy with the look of it. Throughout that process, I am also drawing a bee image which will be featured on the cover. Once satisfied with my bee drawing, I scan it onto the computer where I test out different sizes.


The bee drawing and a couple of the test transfers

I had various ideas on how to transfer the bee drawing onto the book cover. After testing out a bunch of them, I decided on using acrylic skins. This required further experimenting with different methods and mediums until I achieved skins with a desired feel and transparency. I applied a special medium and printed the bee drawing onto the skin. Once I had a successful print, I cut out and retouched the printed image with ink and then painted colour onto the bee.

Focusing again on the painted and textured covers, I had to do more experimenting to figure out how to achieve a raised honeycomb pattern. I tested out a variety of ideas and methods, including sculpting, carving, pouring, and peeling. Finally, I decided on a tinted pouring medium applied with a syringe which was very tricky. I sketch the pattern onto the painted book covers and carefully applied the tinted pouring medium, cleaning up the lines along the way. Once dried, I decided on the placement of the bee and glued it down. Finally, I sealed the book boards with a protective finish.

Maroon toned textured book covers
Pre-bee painting progress on the covers

Once the book covers are finished, everything gets put together. The text block is attached to the boards, and the end papers are glued down, which further stabilizes the book.

I prepared a strip of leather and carefully glued it onto the spine and book covers. Finishing embellishments get put on the bookmark, and the book is officially finished once I sign it.

Front, back and spine photo of ‘Honey, I’m home’, Hand bound journal.

As I said before, I really love how this book turned out, and it was well worth the lengthy process, although they all seem to end up being lengthy processes. I must say, I’m sad to ship this baby out, but I know its going to a loving home, where it will be cherished for years to come. Thanks Brooke!

His Name Was Slim

My grandmother was a big horse lover, and her favorite was a white gelding named Slim.

Hard cover hand bound journal with horse skull
His Name Was Slim, original hand bound journal by Jilene Schafers 8″x 9″x 2.5″ 

I wanted this book to be a bit more personal, and since I was never lucky enough to own a horse, I decided to give that honor to my Oma’s beloved four-legged friend, Slim. Morbid? Maybe, but that’s just how I roll sometimes.

Ironically enough, despite the name, this journal is anything but slim! At 336 hand cut and stitched pages, the text block (bookbinders term for the sections of paper) is a heavy 2 inches thick, my biggest journal yet. 

Once I had finished sewing the text block, shaping the spine and cutting the cover boards to size, I drew out the design for the cover. It took many painted layers to get the background on the covers just right, playing with different rustic hues that I felt went well with the image. Once I was satisfied with that, I transferred the drawing onto the front cover and continued to work it until I was satisfied with the how it looked. 

Horse skull drawing
Slim, Pencil on paper, 8.5″x 11″ by Jilene Schafers

I attached the painted covers to the text block, and carefully adhered the strip of leather to the rounded spine. After attaching the end papers to the cover I added some finishing details. The beaded page marking ribbon, and the quote printed on distressed paper wrapped it all up quite nicely.

Inside cover of His Name Was Slim, Quote by Trish McCagh

All in all, this beast took me over 40 hours to create. I lost track of time somewhere in the middle of the process, but learned a lot along the way. I’m really pleased with how this journal turned out. I just find there’s something so special & satisfying about hand made books, and once they’re filled? That’s some real magic right there!

spine and back cover of His Name Was Slim Journal
Back cover & open spine of His Name Was Slim, Hand Bound Journal by Jilene Schafers