Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Custom Orders for Teachers

Much of the last several weeks have been spent working on custom bookbinding projects. These three are for teachers who make a difference every day! As this school year winds down, don't forget about those special teachers in your life.

1) A teacher that I work with is expecting her second child soon. Her teaching partner asked me to create a photo album to present as a gift from the class. The children created advice to the baby and these illustrations were sewn into the book. When I photographed the book, I realized that I put the covers on the wrong sides; hence, the pictures were upside down! I felt ill - what a terrible mistake! My mentor shared that being able to fix mistakes is a key element to bookbinding (as well as many other areas of life). Realizing that I had a few days to redo it if I needed to, I cut the stitching on the spine and resewed the book, aligning the pages correctly. My obsessiveness took over and I had to complete it that evening - it couldn't wait until the next day. At first, I was concerned that I would need to flip all of the pages and worried that the holes might not match. And, what if my thread tension is different and the pages don't fit correctly. Then, I realized that I would only need to change three of the sections; a little planning and trimming fixed my problem perfectly. In fact, the book might have felt more tight and secure upon this second sewing.

2) I had a student teacher this semester; she was excellent by the way! She taught a writing project that required students to create a polymer clay character as part of their planning process. I used the left over clay and a rolling pin to create two polymer clay covers for a special book. Our students illustrated book sections advising as to what makes a good teacher. I sewed these as well as several blank sections into the book. This was my first clay covered book. I wonder how it will hold up over time. Hopefully, it will be a special memory of her time in our classroom.

3) My nephew is a second grader in Michigan. His mom asked me to make an end of the year gift for his teacher. So, I created this green hinged box structure and included the hand painted paper that is integrated into much of my work. Several handmade cards are included. These cards are what inspired me to launch art as an "obsessive hobby" in 2004. A hand cut black panel is attached to water-color paper. Several layers of coordinating colored paper frame the design. Envelopes were created by folding an outdated atlas - a great way to outdated paper from recycling. Once the teacher uses the cards, the box will serve as a special container for many years.


  1. Stephen, those two books are wonderful! Not only have you made a lovely book for each person, but they are personalised, with pages by the children too. If I were one of those teachers, I would be more than delighted to receive such a gift!
    I hope the poly-clay covers do hold up ok - they are really great. I would think this will be a book she'll mostly keep at home to look at and show to friends, so hopefully it will cope well!
    I love the way you have constructed the covers of the photo album. I haven't tried this structure before, but feel inspired to perhaps give it a go some time soon. The stitching looks great - how encouraging to discover you could fix such a "huge" error with so little difficulty. It just goes to show you did a great job with your preparation and planning (even if you did have a momentary lapse of concentration part-way through the binding process! - happens to us all!)
    The box of note cards is a lovely Teacher Gift. I may have to copy you (sorry... "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" - yes?)

  2. Lizzie, thanks for your comments! You are certainly free to find inspiration from my work. ;-) We all find things that we like and try to put our own spin on it.

  3. These too will be truly treasured by the recipients. Handmade, personalized, with a little bit of all involved included in each book. I don't think they could have imagined a better gift. I've done something similar when I was living in a small town and attending a small church. When the pastor resigned I had each person make a page about their family or memories and bound it together as a farewell gift. It was very well received.