One of the little rewards of being a writer is the treat of seeing your name in print, or your work in a book. I’m a great believer in pre-empting the whole publishing process by making books with your own work in them just to celebrate completing that novel, short story or limerick. I learned to make books probably ten or fifteen years ago, and I still deeply enjoy both the process and the finished pieces.
About a month before my great-nephew was born, my niece’s friends-and-relations organized that ritual celebration of impending labour, the baby shower. It was a brilliant event, fuelled with estrogen and fabulous food.
I made Sam a book. I’d mentioned to my sister Carla that I wanted to do a hand-printed book of one of my poems, a little piece called “The Goblin Baker”, illustrated with lino cuts.
“That would be a great gift for the baby,” she said. But my printmaking skills need practice, and I decided instead to do one illustrated with original watercolours.
It was a delightful pursuit from start to finish. I was thrilled to find that – contrary to my expectations – my drawing was consistent enough to illustrate a (very) short book. My goblin baker was recognizable on every page. I enjoyed designing the illustrations, then hauling out the watercolours and painting them.
I enjoyed making the book, choosing the font for the text and the papers for the cover and endpapers, and figuring out how to bind it. My friend Pauline Clark made some invaluable suggestions; she makes albums and altered books, and if there’s something she doesn’t know about paper and adhesives and embellishment, I don’t know what it is.
So I made the book, and it was well-received. I also made a facsimile with photos of the paintings because my niece was concerned about little hands on original watercolours. And, of course, I made a facsimile for myself, as well.
Because, you know, it’s always nice to see your stuff in a book, right?