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The Well-Travelled Artists’ Book

travel-bk_250When my colleagues Charlie Jones and Ralph Petty decided to create a book together, I knew immediately I wanted to be involved somehow. Not that I’m a workaholic or anything, but I knew it was sure to involve 1- TRAVEL; 2- ART;  3 – GREAT FOOD; and of course 4– LOTS OF SERIOUS FUN. When I asked Charlie to include me (WILL WORK FOR LAUGHS!) he cheerfully obliged.

Charlie Jones is our local Renaissance man. He is a Regents Professor of Art in Printmaking at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, TX, with a very impressive international exhibition record. Currently he has numerous works on show at universities and museums in Russia. In addition to all that, he is an accomplished musician, so anywhere you go with Charlie, there will be music! Oh yeah – and PUNS – lots of groaners! In fact, here he is at the HARD ROCK CAFÉ, JAUJAC, FRANCE:

Ralph Petty is Professor of Art and Gallery Curator at the American University in Paris, France. He too has an impressive record of exhibitions, most recently having shown his work in Japan. He too is an accomplished musician. Put these two guys together and VOILA – PARTY! Seriously, I don’t know whether to say they work hard having fun, or that they have fun working hard. Let’s just say it’s a challenge to keep up, but too much fun to miss!


This wonderful book project is a combination of poetry and prints by both artists. Ralph’s strong suit is his celebration of the vitality of the human figure, especially female, in drawings and paintings. He has worked for many years from the live model, and has also written a number of poems and songs, many of which have been recorded. Charlie too has worked with the human figure, and has produced limited editions of original artists’ books from his home studio, Carizzo Creek Press, and from the Lanana Creek Press which he established at SFASU. Their joint project is a limited edition of 40, with half the edition to go to the American University in Paris, and the other half to remain at SFASU.

Ralph and Charlie spent many months corresponding and collaborating to produce the finished publication, and Charlie set it to press at the Lanana Creek Press with help from his assistant Terri L. Goggans.

Our task this summer in France was to take the bound signatures of the book to Jaujac where Ralph and his wife Lisa Davidson, writer, have an enchanting ancient farm house in the mountains of the Ardeche. Here we would bind the signatures and leave them for Ralph to take back to AUP for the collection there.

Before the pages made their journey to France, in Nacogdoches Charlie and crew (Corinne Jones and Maggi Battalino, both artists) sewed the signatures and prepared them for binding.

Here Charlie punches holes in the signature folds using a precise needle punch that he made to measure for this project.


Once all signatures are punched, they can be sewn into what is called the Text Block.

Here I am (Robbie) sewing signatures in Nacogdoches for the SFA portion of the edition. Thanks to Michael N. Roach for these photos of me.

Simple sewing instructions for hand binding books can be found on and in many books on handbinding.

Thread must sometimes be added to finish the set of signatures. A simple knot at the spine does the trick.


This absolutely beautiful location in the south of France is what Ralph refers to as “My Paradise!” We can see why!

Photo caption: Corinne and Robbie @ morning coffee – what a view!

It’s so easy to work in an environment like this. Each one of us, Charlie, Ralph, Corinne, Maggi and myself, will design our own personal cover for our own copies of the book, our reward for helping with the “labor”. Charlie first experimented with a bookcloth inlay design.

We all enjoyed this creative time, loosening up the right brain cells.

Maggi works away on her personal cover design.

Corinne works on hers, while my design sits to her right.

Robbie’s finished cover design for the book.

Ralph’s will become the design for the full edition to be housed at AUP.

FIRST STEP IN THE BINDING PROCESS– make Headbands for the signatures. This is very simply accomplished by taking heavy twine and wrapping it with glued strips of book cloth of your chosen color. If you sew, you know what piping is. That’s what you are making. A small tab of headband material glued at the Head and at the Tail of the Text Block will give a nicely finished look to the final product.

This is the title page of the text block.

While the glue dries, Corinne enjoys reading the poetry and savoring the prints.

The Colophon at the end of the text block gives all copyright information, and does so with grace.

STEP TWO – Time to glue on the MULL. This is a strip of gauze, fine paper or other material. Glued to the spine of the sewn signatures, it gives added support and strength to the Text Block.

Corinne preps a Text Block to receive the glued Mull.

Ralph smooths out the glued mull along the spine.

Corinne glues a Headband before attaching it to the Text Block. This may be done before or after gluing the Mull. If a long Mull is used, this should be done first.

STEP THREE –The Text Block size determines the size of cover boards, as well as the book cloth needed to cover them. Book cloth should be cut to leave at least ½ inch on all sides around the blocks and spine. Charlie measures carefully where his pre-cut Davey Board will be placed to be glued to the book cloth he has cut for the covers. He glues a Spine Support in the center of the cloth to guide him as he lines up the boards he will glue down

STEP FOUR – Gluing boards with PVA glue or Methyl Cellulose.

CAREFULLY line up the boards to your measurement marks and press.

Both boards are now glued down.

Time to turn over the cover and smooth it out before the glue dries.

Corinne smooths the cover with wax paper. Glassine also works nicely for this.

STEP FIVE – Trim the corners of the bookcloth so that enough is still in place to cover the actual corner of the Davey Board when edges are turned up and glued. Do not cut right against the board itself. Leave at least the thickness of the board in the amount of cloth extending from the corner. This will fold up and cover the corner nicely when you glue up the side flaps.

Now you are ready to glue up your edges. Apply glue and starting from the spine, turn up the edges and smooth with a Bone Folder. Once all this is accomplished, the covers should be stacked with wax paper between each one, and left under a heavy weight to dry, overnight if possible.

Next will be the task of setting the Text Blocks into the covers. That’s another article!

TIME FOR A BREAK – on the river in Jauac, and at Ralph’s after dinner.

Photography Software Workflow

Technique: One Version of Composite Art

Nature is the greatest teacher of mankind. In it we find ourselves revealed. To humbly read its lessons and thereby transform ones’ self is to give birth to the deeper soul. My montages are my meditations within this often fragile, yet persistent, living realm where our own impact is so palpable. Indeed, we are a part of nature itself, not separate from it, and our interaction within this world determines our own identity and substance. Hopefully my montages will trigger a realization of the importance of that powerful relationship.