Thursday, November 14, 2013

Life Lessons Learned from Bookbinding--Part 2

Today's post is a continuation of yesterdays discussion about Life Lessons Learned from Bookbinding.

6. Always check measurements before cutting.

Part of this lesson stems back from working with limited supplies. When I was first starting out with paper crafts, I only had a limited number of good supplies to use. Sure, there are many different and cheap kinds of paper around, but when I really wanted to impress someone (or was doing something for someone that was special to me), I would use more expensive supplies. Full sheets of Japanese paper can average $20 a sheet. Some of my Japanese book cloth costs as much as $50 a yard. So, in those earlier days, I was always very careful when measuring.

What I find funny is that I never used to trust my memory and I would make countless trips back and forth to my drafting table to check measurements. When I was taking a class, someone finally said "Why don't you just take your measurements with you to the shearing machine?"

7. Always start with a fresh blade.

This lesson came to me outside of bookbinding but has been reinforced through bookbinding. When I was younger, someone cut me with a butcher knife. I wasn't taken to the hositpal until several hours later. When I arrived at the emergency room, the surgeon said that the person that cut me did me no favors because he used a dull knife. My shoulder wouldn't have been as mutliated if he had used a sharp knife. As a result, the scar was extremely noticeable. I have since gotten tattoos to cover the unsightly scar.

In other words, a dull blade tears. It does not cut. When you are using expensive materials--this is a big difference. Also, blades are very, very cheap-- a lot cheaper than having to replace materials. So when I start a new project, or new take a break and return to a project, I always change blades. If I have doubts, I cut a piece of scrap paper to test the sharpness of my blade.

8. Know the measurements on the ruler you are currently using--especially if you have more than one ruler

Lordy, Lordy, Lordy have I learned this lesson the hard way. I have a bunch of rules--duplicates, different types, different styles, clear, metal, cork backed, etc. etc. etc. Plus, there are cutting guides, my paper guillotine, and my board shearer--ALL OF WHICH differ in their markings. 

Some rulers start at the edge. Some rules start at zero. Some rulers that start a zero are indented from the edge. Some rulers start with 1/32nds of an inch for the first inch or two and then break down into 1/16ths. Some start at 1/16ths and then break down into 1/8ths. I have some rulers that have 1/8ths on one edge and 1/16ths on the opposite edge. More frustrating is that I have some rulers that have inches on one edge and centimeters on the other edge.

So--take an extra second to notice the unit of measurement for each of the components you are using. For example, I might use a ruler in 1/8ths but my board shearer is in 16ths. I always make sure to take the extra second to look at the unit of measurement--especially when cutting materials.

9. Breathe

I know that this might seem strange but I tend to hold my breath before doing important parts of a project. I think part of this has to do with the certainty of dealing  with a project (explained more in #10). Some of it might have to do with not wanting to mess up expensive materials. But I had a wonderful instructor who would always wipe her hands against her jeans (to make sure she had clean hands--which is really important when doing gluing projects), take a deep breath, and then proceed to the task at hand. This is a lesson that I still utilize today.

10. Sometimes you just gotta jump in and do it.

When I first started Paper Arts classes, I would become so tense with the fear of screwing up projects. I had an excellent teacher explain to me that the classes that I was taking were for learning purposes and NOT to produce a perfectly finished project. At the end of some of the classes, I would have perfectly finished projects which were always a pleasant surprise but I learned that it should be the goal of the class--I was there to learn/reinforce techniques. This was a very liberating idea for me and one that actually made me much more confident in the long run.

A second instructor taught me that being creative is more about tearing apart (when it doesn't go right the first time) or more about fixing things that go wrong. As I continued in my studies, I was building a repertoire of techniques that I could use to make corrections or adjustments when things didn't go just right. More importantly, I learned that sometimes creating is "just figuring things out" or "how things go together."

A third instructor proved to me the importance of making prototypes out of regular materials, and how to play with the materials that I would be using (i.e., seeing how the materials would react) before delving into the actual project. By doing so, many of the measurements would be finalized (with maybe minor tweaking) and I could then concentrate on some of the unforeseen challenges of the project. I have saved more money by working with prototypes than anything else that I have done.

In closing, I think that these lessons can be applied to a variety of artistic and non-artistic endeavors. More importantly, I have learned more about myself by doing these self-assessments and have realized the effects that my teachers (in all disciplines) have had on me. So thank you to every teacher I have had to date.

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