Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Making of a Nag

I made a "Nag" on Saturday..... and it wasn't a horse. =:)

On March 12th, I attended a bookbinding class by local artist Roberta Lavadour at the Pendleton Center For The Arts. It was a four hour class learning how to create a replica of an Egyptian "Nag Hammadi" type of binding. This is a very primitive type of bookbinding, (basically a leather outer covering with some folded stitched paper on the inside).

Our instructor Roberta's handmade books are well known around the northwest, and she has several pieces in public and private collections:

I had never made a book before, so this was a really interesting experience. There were eight other students that attended the class as well.

The actual real historical Nag Hammadi codices are the oldest books in existence. They were found in clay jars that had been hidden in the desert for more than 1800 years. The books were accidentally stumbled upon by an egyptian peasant that was traveling through the northern egyptian village. Interestingly, if you watch the youtube video of the fellow, he openly admits that he burned some of the scripts as kindling - which is really a shame.
(Per the video above: I have no religious or political outlook on the matter - I attended this class solely to learn how to create a book....)

This is my version of a Nag Hammadi replica book. It's quite primitive and rustic, and measures roughly 5 1/2" x 7 1/2" in size. The actual real historical scripts were huge! I thought that was weird.... because they were supposed to be made to pack into camel trappings for traveling. But, I guess that the egyptians must've liked reading great big texts back in those days...? I dunno.

Roberta let us incorporate some of the original historical type of materials into our books. We were able to add some papyrus for the front and back covers, and we learned how to create and tear our own paper with bone scrapers and knives. I loved making the rough uneven edges of the paper and the ragged distressed outer leather covering. The rougher and more primitive looking, the better! I'm a huge fan of the "antiquish" look...

The inside binding plaquets and sewing strips were made from a very thinly processed goat skin for strength. It makes the primitive book very strong and durable, so it won't break down as quickly over time as normal cotton thread would.

This simple bookmaking class was very fun to attend and gave me a great idea for the future. I have grand plans (schemes, really...) to make a few one of a kind handmade books for the FOTATA program this year. I'd like to possibly create some smaller 5" inch texts with a harder type of leather binding and some interesting "surprise" reading materials for the inside. Stay tuned for more details on that....

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