Caterpillar, Centipede

My book arts posts seem to be living in a twilight zone that moves much more slowly than real time. This post is about a three-day class I took more than a month ago with book artist Dan Essig at BookWorks. The avowed purpose of the class was to learn the centipede stitch (a/k/a the caterpillar stitch), but the stitch was only the final touch in the thoroughly enjoyable process of creating our books. (That's one of Dan's books at top right.)

We spent the first morning learning the stitch and making a sewing card. We were working with wood, and for the next day-and-a-half we drilled, distressed, painted (with milk paint) and sanded and burnished our mahogany covers. On the final day of class, we sewed our books with a Greek Coptic binding. We finished by drilling our holes for the centipede, and stitching it in. The Greek Coptic binding is one I hadn't done before, and it's quite beautiful, adding real strength and stability to the book.

Dan demonstrated the techniques with both hand tools and small power tools. He's incredibly precise about techniques and measurements in everything he does, and he explains why he's doing what he's doing. I always appreciate this, because understanding the reasons behind the actions helps me decide what I might change to make the book more my own. I gravitated to the hand tools, which I felt gave me greater control. No doubt, with practice, the power tools would feel just as comfortable and prove faster and more efficient, but since I'll be making wooden books only occasionally, I'll opt for the simplicity and lower cost of the hand tools.

This is the third class I've taken with Dan, and I'll be taking another in October -- we'll make a papyrus book in that one. You may have seen some of his work in the The Penland Book of Handmade Books (that's Dan's book on the cover, right), which if you don't have, you must buy immediately. His books are true works of art. In addition to these, he creates sculptural pieces that incorporate books and paper, but as a secondary rather than a primary element. Locally, he exhibits lat Ariel Gallery (check out some of his work at Ariel here).

Drilling holes in the covers

Various hand tools

Painting covers with milk paint -- outside!

Couldn't resist the colors of waxed linen thread

The Greek Coptic binding on my book, almost done

The painted, sanded, burnished, bound book, minus the centipede

Drilling the hole to insert the peg that will be part of the closure

One of my classmates using the electric drill press to fashion a peg for the closure

My finished book. You can see that I've fudged a bit. If you look at Dan's book at the top of the post, you'll notice that his centipede runs across the spine. Because I was short on time, I chose to stop my centipede at the spine after the front cover and resume it on the back cover. I have a set of wooden covers awaiting my next effort.

Another of Dan's books, this one with headbands over and around the covers at the top and bottom

My friend Priscilla with her almost-finished book


Riverlark said...

Yeah! Book arts class photos!!!!
Thanks, BG, I love seeing these and hearing about your experience. You have so much patience....I love the results.

Rimshot said...




I so want to do that now! I've never even imagined making my own book, but now feel I must!

I also want to learn how to make paper.

You're officially my new hero.

Cassie said...

Your book is beautiful!

I really wanted to go to that workshop but at the moment I can't afford travel or workshops... hopefully I can catch another one.

Clara said...

RL, you're the first person who has ever said I'm patient. Steven will never believe anyone said that about me. But now I have it in writing.

rimshot, I've never been anyone's hero, so thanks! ;-)

Coco, your work is wonderful, so I take it as a high compliment that you liked my book. Dan Essig will be teaching at BookWorks again next year, so here's hoping you'll be able to make one of those classes.

MyHandboundBooks said...

the centipede looks so wonderful, i want to learn this one now. thanks for sharing!

Clara said...

Rhonda, knowing how prolific you are, you've probably already made one in the four days since you left this comment! I'll look forward to seeing the book.

Sarah said...

Every time I see a post like this it makes me wish I lived a bit nearer America! These classes are so rare in the UK. Your book looks beautiful by the way, lovely technique and what sounds like a great teacher. x

SKH said...

Oh my.Your centipede book is beautiful...one of my secret goals. Met DEssig in Asheville several yrs ago, what a fantastic craftsman. Have you created more artistbooks in this style? Very inspiring, bookgirl! How was the BookOpolis Exhibit?
SKHardee (By the Light of the Moon blog)

bestonline323 said...

You guys did a great job!
I really like this i think it looks great and i really think its brilliant you posted up on here!

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Felcy said...

Nice guide! thank you!/I love it ! Very creative ! That's actually really cool Thanks.

Felcy said...

Nice guide! thank you!/I love it ! Very creative ! That's actually really cool Thanks.

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Unknown said...

I'm totally impressed! Very nice work! Thanks for sharing

Davis Bigelow said...

I'm impressed too! Very over the top! I love the centipede look!