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Carousel Artist's Book

For this artist’s book project, we had to design a variation of a concertina-style artist’s book. The concertina can take on many forms - from the plain accordion to multilayered and sculptural pop-up style books, such as carousel books. The concertina allows pages to be turned either individually or be spread out in its entirety as a landscape, so for this reason it is probably my favourite style of artist book (and one I’ve engaged with the most). We viewed a whole range of examples that Jazmina prepared for us - it was all too easy to get carried away with ideas! I think I drew the most inspiration from her work, though, and I loved the hand-cut collages that she builds with the carousel design. I thought I may not have the time or the resources to create a hand-cut collage (as I did this with the altered book - which took ages to complete), but I could manage with a digital collage, so I started looking for inspiration online. I decided that I wanted to go with a whimsical and light-hearted theme - something of a dreamscape, and similar to the zine that I made last year. I knew I wanted soft, cloudy colours and something that represented the weird and nostalgic. I had collected an overwhelming amount images last year for the zine - many that I had never used - so I decided that I could start somewhere with these. I noticed I had a number of Victorian greeting cards that depicted children riding or flying on animals, so I jumped back online and continued to track a few more of these down, with children flying on butterflies or riding on birds or fish. This gave me the the idea to split the layers between land, sea and sky - sky being the background, sea waves as middle ground and land (in the form of leaves and tree branches) as foreground.

I also had a few images from the Biodiversity Heritage Library - which I discovered on this Flickr website. All images are royalty free, exquisitely detailed, colourful and a bit unusual.

After speaking to Jazmina, I also realised that I needed to take a few technical details into consideration. As the concertina is meant to be folded, layered and cut out, I had to take care in the cutting-out aspect of the design so as to avoid having 'branches' of the collage sticking out or catch on other layers. For this reason, I made sure that the two layers that floated over the background had cut areas that completely connected to the main body of the page.

The 'full-sized' version of the book using 190gsm rag paper.
A 'mini' version of the book using A3 photocopy paper.

I created the entire book in Photoshop, which helped me plan where the book would fold and where each layer would sit. The first thing I did was map out the dimensions for each layer - the background being the longest and the foreground being the shortest. We were advised to to adjust the lengths according to a percentage of the background length - 80% for the middle ground and 60% for the foreground. This works really well if the book is laid out like a carousel, but I found that it can be quite springy when trying to lay it out as a landscape, so I might experiment with different dimensions next time. Having it saved as a digital file means I can go back and try this when I decide to make another one.

This is an A3 sized test print, but the layout is the same as the full-sized version. I ended up making a tiny, palm-sized book with this.

Working in Photoshop had a lot of other advantages, too. I was able to play with light, colour, rescale images, adjust the opacity, and duplicate images to make patterns - I did this for the waves and the leaves. I was also able to ‘shrink’ each previous carousel layer and place it beneath the current layer to see where the images sat.

These are how the layers appear when combined in Photoshop.

A slight disadvantage I experienced didn’t come from Photoshop, but my lack of experience with it. I decided that I did not want to ‘join’ edges of each concertina layer together - this would require more measuring on Photoshop and on paper than I had the patience for! And an A5-sized book would also require a large amount of paper and printing, so I decided, instead, to base the dimensions of the book on the full length of an oversized sheet of Somerset paper. Although it wasn’t digital paper, I found this to be an advantage as digital paper is often quite stiff - too stiff to fold. Even though the printing isn’t as sharp on smooth printmaking paper, it is quite acceptable, and no different to the quality found in picture books, which the aesthetic of the book conveys. I also had to take care to fold the book before cutting the layers! Cutting before folding could potentially lead to a disastrous (or perhaps just wonky) outcome. Once the layers were folded and cut, they needed to be glued, end-to-end, and glued with PVA at the folds. The actual book cover was relatively simple - two boards with hemp string woven through and beaded, and bound with pearlescent pink bookbinding cloth. We were informed that the university's supplier of bookbinding cloth and buckram no longer carries the product, so from this point forward, it’s going to be a never-ending search for buckram! At least, a good range of buckram.

Here is how the book looks in 'carousel' form:

And here is the book in 'landscape' form:

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