Tag Archives: PVA

Turning it 90 degrees: Why Having a Community of Artists Matters

You may remember how I got stuck on making the titles using embossing powder and how a visit to the Maker Faire helped me gain a new perspective: Turn it 90 Degrees.

Well after a visit with a friend and fellow artist, Don Drake of Dreaming Mind Bindery, I’ve had another 90 degree moment. This time provided by Don, “Use straight PVA.”

I do use straight PVA, but never for covering boards. I was taught to use some combination of PVA and methyl cellulose for workability and drying time and, quite honestly, I didn’t have a good understanding of what I was doing by adding the methyl cellulose – I was adding moisture/water.

So Don and I were chatting about my new quilt book (still in progress) and the covers that I’d done so far. I wasn’t happy with the way there was some glue bleed through (see original post and photo) and when Allison, via comments to the blog post, asked if I considered making the quilt pieces into book cloth I thought, “Doh! Why didn’t I do that?”

Fast forward to a conversation with some artist friends about the best way to make book cloth from the quilt pieces and Don asks me, “Why don’t you use straight PVA?” Well, because you don’t use straight PVA  on book covers, right? Don pointed out that the bleed through was because of the moisture in the methyl cellulose and maybe some from the PVA. He recommended that I try straight PVA wet and, if that didn’t work, roll the PVA on the board until it was tacky and almost dry and then use heat to reactivate it to glue on the cloth.

I haven’t actually tried to glue the quilt with the straight PVA yet, I’m still working on the content of the book, but I did try it on the covers for the most recent copies of The Heaven Project. What a dream! The paper I use for the covers is lovely but moody and when I switched from the PVA/methyl cellulose mixture to straight PVA (wet) – wow! The paper was happy, I was happy, and my covers are beautiful.

My conversation with Don reminded me that I need to get to know my materials better and not just do what I’ve been taught to do. Mix it up a bit. Try straight PVA. It also reminded me that having a community of artists to toss ideas around with and to ask questions of makes all the difference.

Do you have a community of artists to collaborate with? A great place to start is with the Book Arts Web. Join the list serv and you will instantly be part of a world-wide community of artists.

Do you have a local group? If so, make the time to go. I know, you’ll never have enough time in the studio and it’s tempting to hunker down on your own. But chatting with other artists who have the same challenges you do, who have knowledge that you don’t, who are enthusiastic about art – it is worth the time for your art and your soul.

My local group is the Bay Area Book Artists. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you are welcome there, too! Can’t find a group in your area? Email the Book Arts Web, ask if anyone knows of a group near you. Contact your local college and see if they can refer you. Take a local art class and make a friend. Find just one other artist near you and have lunch once a month. Invite artists as you go and pretty soon you’ll have your own group.

Feel free to post links to your local groups in the comments section – the more the merrier.



The Joy of Raw Materials – Wet Adhesives (Glue)

Gluing is one of the most necessary parts of bookbinding – and also one of the most stressful. Other than Saran Wrap (which always wraps around me, not whatever I want it to), working with glue is one of my biggest challenges as an artist. I’ve gotten better at it, but I still get anxious at the beginning of a gluing session. All that beautiful book cloth and/or paper just waiting to become a new book, or a glue-y mess that can’t be used.

I use four main types of glue. I’ll share my favorites with you — and look forward to your comments.  I think every book artist has very strong opinions about glues. Which ones are the “right” ones to use, which ones are archival, which ones are absolute no-nos. It seems like there is at least an annual discussion on the merits or hazards of YES! glue on the Book Arts List Serv on the Book Arts Web hosted by Philobiblon.

The glue that I use most often is PVA. PVA is, according to Talas’ website, “a general purpose, resin based, internally plasticized polyvinyl acetate emulsion that contains no solvents. It is fast drying, very long-lasting and forms a transparent, flexible film.”  It is pH neutral and acid free. In other words, it won’t yellow and it is considered archival. The brand that I use, because it is readily available at local stores and because I can get coupons for 40% off, is Sobo. I’ve been using it for six years with excellent results. No yellowing, cracking or separation. The artists’ books I created with it six years ago look as good as the day they were made. I use straight PVA to attach sections of books together – for example hinges in an accordion book.

For book covers, I mix PVA with methyl cellulose (also seen as one word, methylcellulose). Again, according to Talas, methyl cellulose “is non-staining, will not discolor paper, will not decompose in dry or liquid state and is not affected by heat or freezing. Forms a highly flexible bond but is a weak adhesive.” Which is why I use it with PVA. PVA is an excellent adhesive but dries quickly. The addition of methyl cellulose allows for good adhesion and a longer drying time. That extra time is precious when working with cover materials that need a little extra manipulation or when the weather is warm.

 Book artists use PVA and methyl cellulose in different ratios depending on preference, humidity and working conditions. I prefer a 2:1 PVA: methyl cellulose ratio. A fellow artist friend, Janice, uses 50:50 to good effect. I use Elmer’s Art Paste brand of methylcellulose after being introduced to it in a class by Laura Russell. As a side benefit the methyl cellulose can be used with acrylic paints to make lovely paste papers.

For applications where I need to bond two pieces of paper together – laminate them – and I need the glue to be extra thin and not bleed through the paper, I use Rollataq. This glue is terrific for those applications, such as flag books, where you might want to create two-sided paper – perhaps a photo on one side and a color on the other – by bonding two sheets together. Rollataq sells a hand-held applicator that I’ve found to be invaluable for laying down a thin layer of glue. According to Rollataq’s website, “the glue will not soak through thin papers, will not yellow over time, is acid free and non toxic.” In Pendulum  I bonded paper printed with photos with the same black paper used to make the accordion part of the flag book structure so that the flags look like an integral part of the structure. You can see here that the flags are straight and well-bonded using Rollataq:

Lastly, there is the glue stick. I used glue sticks often when making a mockup or sample of a book I am working on. For quick, mess free gluing, they can’t be beat. I caution against using a glue stick for any application where there will be stress or torque such as an accordion book hinge. Glue stick is meant only for lightweight applications such as a piece of paper with a title to be glued to the front of a small book. In those cases, and when making mock-ups, I use the UHU purple glue stick. I like the purple color because I can see where I’ve put the glue, and I’ve found that this glue stick has the same qualities of any other glue I want for my artists’ books. It’s non-yellowing, acid free and non-toxic.

For gluing advice for adhering almost anything, check out thistothat.com. You can choose what you are attaching (fabric, paper, leather, metal, etc.) to your substrate (fabric, paper, leather, metal, etc.) and then press the “Let’s Glue!” button to get great advice on glue options.

Do you have a favorite glue? Feel free to add your comments.

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