Sunday, 30 September 2012

bookbinding on Pinterest

Thank you, my dears, for your comments on my last post. It really means a lot to me to get a response from my readers when I share something that's special to me. Today I will be sharing just links as nothing much has had the chance to be created during the past two weeks that have been filled with nausea and double vision. A while ago I wrote a long post about ambition and good work, and it inspired me to finally prowl through Pinterest in search of good examples of great handbound books, bookbinding techniques, artist books, etc. It's often a blurry line between boards, and many examples are just as much artist's books as they are great handbound books, and vice versa, but the choice of to which board to pin to was made quite randomly. Many have already found my bookbinding related boards but here's a small list of links just in case you haven't.

It is truly autumn here. Mushy leaves on the ground and puddles that suggest wellingtons as the only reasonable footwear for months to come. Despite the foul weather and lousy spirits I took V to the Craft Museum of Finland to see an exhibition by Anu Tuominen which we both enjoyed. I had already seen the exhibition with my parents in the summer but it's hard to grow bored of things that are fascinating...

Sunday, 23 September 2012

What rhymes with Schmasperger?

Last Monday I got officially diagnosed with Asperger's. And that's one reason why I'm sharing all the above photos with you. My visual hypersensitivity usually takes the form of me being allergic to ugly (on some level I'm not even kidding you) but then there are these moments. The moments where I get to see everything come together just right: subject, light, textures, the stories behind them all. (the bowl and saucer belonged to Saima, the urchin was in the bowl when I received the parcel full of treasures so the bowl is now the urchin home, the window sill is cracked just right and it is the perfect example of the little things I love about my home. also, I love to organize things. I am definitely not organized but I love the act of organizing things.)

I know some of you are familiar with Asperger's syndrome but I'd like to share a bit about my Asperger's and how it affects my life. Just because I like talking about myself and because you can never know too much about something interesting. To me it's always interesting when there's a blip in the system, and this blip is in my brain and it makes me experience the world differently. I've always thought no one experiences the world the same but I hadn't realized my experiences were on a level of their own. I don't want to use the word unique, because it makes me feel like I'm hogging something that's not really anyones to take. (This is often a problem: finding the right words and expressions for abstract feelings. Being aware of connotations is frustrating.)

Being aware is frustrating. Reading between the lines doesn't come naturally to me but it's something I know how to do, it just takes a lot of effort. I am conscious of all sorts of rules that apply to just about every social situation, whereas "normal" people know how to behave based on the rules embedded in their subconsciousness. I strive to do right to everyone and in the jumble of conversation and non-verbal communication I often tend to get a bit lost with my own thoughts, either out of fear of offending someone or out of pure confusion. Also, my segues are far from smooth because I apparently forget other people don't read my mind. But when I'm with the right people, it's not too hard for me to take part in conversation since I'm not worried about being an idiot in front of them. Currently I'm having great fun with V and my friends spotting situations where my Asperger's is providing us with unintentional entertainment.

Possibly the main reason I ended up in the Asperger diagnosing process was how irritated I get over seemingly irrelevant things. I absolutely hate it when people disobey rules (in the traffic, especially) even when it doesn't affect me in any way. I do my dishes in a specific order, I set them out to dry in a specific order (in a dish draining closet). Again, organizing things. I need order, outside home most of all. At home order is less important since the items I'm surrounded by are undisturbing in their familiarity. Mistakes and irregularities catch my eye like nothing else and sometimes they prevent me from seeing the big picture. (V makes me watch X-Files with him and I keep interrupting with resentful comments about the laws of physics. I can handle the alien stuff but when there are actual mistakes in the script I can't keep my mouth shut.)

I have to deal with sensory overload every day. Visual things affect me the most so I try to surround myself with pretty things and spend a lot of time online viewing things that make me feel good. I try to avoid crowds where there is a lot of movement and an overall lack of harmony. I don't like blurry reflections, I don't like blue and most of all, I don't like ugly. I have overly strong opinions about ugly. There is a very small area that I count as neutral or beautiful and all the rest is ugly and ugly makes me grumpy and tired. I smell and hear things you probably don't. If I go to a lecture at the university, I hear the shuffling papers and the pencils writing and the people breathing throughout the class while I should be focusing on listening the lecture only. And sometimes I smell the people too. I'd rather not. Touch can be the most difficult to handle if I'm having a bad day since you can't switch off your itchy skin like you can close your eyes (there are days when I just choose to sleep instead of trying to stay on top of things) but sight is still the most sensitive of my senses. Before I was thoroughly interviewed I hadn't realized there was something strange with my senses because it's not like you can compare yours to someone else's. But apparently you're not supposed to get grumpy because of ugly and you're not supposed to be a vegetarian because meat feels stringy in your mouth (I don't like pineapple or other stringy foods either).

Also, my sense of time is sometimes a bit funny. And it's extremely difficult for me to get started, and once I've gotten started it's difficult to stop. I'd rather things stayed the same all the time. (So, imagine me, sitting on a sofa, with a laptop on my knees, my hair getting gradually longer and longer and uglier and uglier... luckily I'm not that far gone, yet.) On the days when I bind books I tend to forget to eat if V doesn't remind me to take a break. And on the days like today when I don't do anything, I literally don't really do anything. So that's why I haven't written you that email or asked you how you're doing or left a comment to your awesome blog post. Things that take very little effort can be just as difficult to me as something really important, there really isn't a big difference to me.

So, that's the really long short version of my Asperger's, and I can't be bothered to spell-check this. The long version is quite a bit longer. I am lucky to be talented in ways which help me compensate in my daily life. If you met me, I doubt you could tell there was something more weird than general weirdness going on with me. Now that I know (instead of doubt) what I'm facing, it's time to find new ways to make use of the things that work and develop the things that don't. Still, I promise not to find most jokes amusing in the future too, and avoid you if I don't like your hair, or if I just can't understand why you're doing whatever it is that you're doing and I think it's just plain dum. Oh, wait, I think this black-and-white thinking was one of those things I'm supposed to work on.

And I'm almost certain I left something important out. Whatever. If you want to ask me a question about my Asperger's, feel free to do so. Also, please remember this is just how my Asperger's presents itself,
there are others with an entirely different set of symptoms.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Family of cyclists

The handsome man is my greatgrandfather (my mother's Ukki), the fair young lady in the light dress is my greatgrandaunt Saima and the serious lady is my greatgrandmother. The last photo is actually an accidental double exposure, Ukki was neither a giant nor see-through. This week I had a bunch of old negatives I got from my mother scanned. Maybe these photos were taken by Emil, too.

Going through some emotional turmoil. I find it hard to go out into the wild.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Not quitting on learning

I've been thinking intensely about different kinds of handbound books lately and browsed both Pinterest and Etsy what feels like endlessly. Last night I said aloud something that really made sense - if I had a super power it would be understanding what works and what doesn't structure-wise, especially in books but also in other things. Not the greatest super power to have but it's still something. It does lead to focusing on the things that are wrong much more than I'd hope. I'm now going to tell you about my thoughts when facing the small horrors I saw while venturing out to the wild that I generally try to avoid, also called "books bound by others". Naturally I saw things great and wonderful, too, but they were unfortunately scarce, and there definitely is a need for more attention on the fine work available.

Like some of you know, I live in a fairly black-and-white world and I have this problem that I care, too much, about things being just right (still, I can't imagine my home not being a bit messy at all times) and it frustrates me to see books for sale that are poorly made. It makes me want to bang my head against the wall when I see some basic mistakes and bad constructions over and over again*. Of course we all start somewhere and it takes time to learn - it is people who seem to stop wanting to learn that I frown upon. My post may read a little harsh, that's not my true intention, but I want to be straight with you guys and that starts with me being myself and not going around the subject matter in far too large circles. I'm starving for some proper conversation and facing the reality. The blog world often gets way too pretty.

Some time ago I exchanged long e-mails with my Chinese friend Huhu, whom I met through this blog and who just opened a store on Etsy for her international customers, about becoming a real bookbinder and what it takes to get there (for those who are not familiar with my background: I'm a master bookbinder, still on my way to the real part). I wrote to her that it's not necessary to travel abroad to study bookbinding but to keep on learning new things and to feed creativity in your everyday life. It is also my message to my readers: you learn by observing and working. It is by observing that you realize you still probably have a long way to go wherever you want to go, and also that it is possible to get there by working. I wish people wouldn't give up on learning more. It is important to look at your own creations with a critical eye and always aim to make it better. After you've learned how to make nice corners for you book covers, learn how to make corners that are actually really awesome. Also, pay attention to the materials you're using and work accordingly (leather, it can be pared down to avoid bulky corners and if that isn't your thing, find another way). Just because there are buyers for books of all sorts of quality standards doesn't mean you shouldn't aim for better. Naturally all this applies to other work too, not just books, not just creative work. When you're better, raise your prices to match the quality of your work. When you're not that good yet, try to not pretend you are, and that most definitely doesn't mean practically giving away your work for nothing on Etsy. Know where you stand in the market and always aim for better quality. Not for the sake of money but for the sake of self worth.

How about you try to do better? Would it make you feel lousy to put in a little more effort? Do you think it would be time wasted if you acquired a new skill? (As a burnout person I'm not suggesting you to work at your absolute limits, I'm just saying it could help you keep motivated and moving along your creative path if you did push your limits a bit)

*bulky corners, coptic bindings with covers extending past the spine of the book block, covers so 3D that it impairs the functionality, books that look floppy in a bad way due to poor understanding of materials, copyright infringement, bad choice of materials in terms of usability and durability

Please note: None of the above are necessarily bad things (oh, actually the copyright infringement is) as long as the binder knows what she/he is doing. I'm with the team that says it's fine to break rules as long as you know what the rules are. It is crucial to understand causality so that you don't end up selling a book that gets damaged in use due to your thoughtlessness. Experiment and test drive all your book structures before you begin to make items for sale.

Also: this post wast not inspired by any particular person nor book. Mere random observations. And I'm sure you make wonderful books since you're reading this and all, but you know, you too could probably do better still.