julia mejnertsen

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finishing up and shipping out

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copenhagen, denmark

the last month my life has revolved around finishing the 24 copies of my book 'tell me, how do you pronounce a hyphen?' it's been a lot of work, but fun, oh so much fun, at the same time. 

well, now they are finished and i've started shipping them out to all corners of the world - tokyo, melbourne, new york, brussels, siena, london and beyond. it's pretty cool to see my babies go find a new home. i hope they will be enjoyed out there.

a couple of facts about the materials used - all of which have come directly from japan. the book is inkjet printed on OK adonis rafu, 75 gram, color white from oji paper, the silver paper comes from takeo paper and the title page has been silk screened in japan by natsuki-san. the cover is made from 2 mm thick black card board. every book is hand glued with a spine that has its book binders spine mesh exposed, so that the pages behind the mesh are visible.

24 signed and numbered copies ladies and gentlemen. i'm keeping copy 24/24 for myself, as i expect it will be valuable one day :)

copies still available at the Tipi Photobook Shop

 

 

finishing the workshop and my 6th, 7th AND 8th dummy

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before the last weekend of the workshop began, reminders photography stronghold were visited by the small french independent publishing house, chose commune. they were presenting their next project about the indian tale of ramayna, and it sounded tremendously exciting and was a very inspiring talk. i also got a chance to show them one of my earlier dummies during the evening, and while they didn't jump at the chance to publish it (but why?), they did have some valid feedback. they thought the black and white photographs worked well, there was a good flow, but the color images confused them a bit. they thought i should reconsider where and which color images to use, as it at times seemed a bit random, where they were placed. i noted their feedback and when jan came back for the last weekend's workshop, we also ended of throwing out more of the color images, as well as rearranging them slightly.

that was a couple of weeks ago, when we had the last weekend of the handmade photobook-making workshop. we were to finish up our dummies. that means more or less making as good a dummy as possible, before sunday evening. once again we had a very productive weekend, working from morning to night on our photobooks. the atmosphere in the gallery was fantastic and people worked long hours, getting coffee and icecream from the nearest 7-11 and going out for dinner. people were setting up their books in indesign, doing the last editing of images to include, and many of the participants at the workshop had also reached a stage, where their dummy needed binding. jan took us through a variation of binding methods - showing us some of the techniques explicitly, while others were presented in power point and through books already made. the techniques we were taught included saddle stitch binding, japanese stitch binding, and glue binding

as my book has japanese folded pages, it would be very complicated to do a stitch binding, so glue is really the best option for it. basically it comes down to keeping your pages very straight (you don't want to miss a page when putting on the glue), fasten the book, so the pages don't move and then apply the glue thinly - not a glue stick, but a cold glue. after the first layer of glue has been applied, you take some mesh fabric and apply it on the spine of the book, and put on another layer of glue. then you wait for it to dry and hope you've done well. the whole thing is not overly complicated, but it is difficult to get the pages 100% straight i have learned. although i tried my best the spine came out a little cooked, but i guess, like in any other field, practice makes perfect. my bound book dummy no. 7 is for instance already much better than no. 6 and no. 8 is better than no. 7. i have decided to leave the spine of my book exposed, hence the glued mesh is visible. you could also cover the spine with fabric or bookbinding tape, but i think that the naked spine speaks to the theme of the book. jan says that a meshed spine like that is unconventional, and that he likes it and so do i.

for the cover of my book, i decided on black thick 2 mm cardboard. this is attached to the book after the spine has been glued. the best way to do that is by glueing or using double-sided tape to stick the card board onto min. 200 g paper and then attach that thick paper - again with glue or double-sided tape - to the first page of the glued book. my book is app. A5 in size, but because some of the pages can unfold into A4-sized spreads, some of the pages stick out compared with the traditional japanese folded pages. with guidance from yumi, i have so far decided to let the pages that spread out into A4s not be covered by the black cardboard cover, so they essentially stick out from under the cover. this also makes sense for the story in the book, which is about not fitting in. again, nothing is done without reason. lastly, i want the cover to have a debossed hyphen on the front with glossy black finish. for now, i have settled with cutting out the hyphen in the cardboard, removing some of the layers of the cardboard to get the sunken effect and then inserting some black tape. i looks okay for the dummies. 

the 6th dummy i made during the final stretch of the workshop. it was my first manual glue binding, cover attachment and overall finish of the book, but the printing inside was not good, the paper was wrong and some of the images were even printed on copy paper, not the right sizes or placed wrong on the page. after the workshop finished i decided to do two more dummies that would be as close to the final version (for now) as possible. the title page of the book is a silver pager, which sort of has a mirror effect. i first tried to stamp the title and my name on the page. it almost worked. as long as i had the right ink (not all ink dries), but even the non drying ink was solved with spraying the page with hairspray, which makes it stick. all of this took a little bit of time, but while i was working on this, i decided to try and print the title page. that turned out to look even better than the stamp, so now all i had to do was print the title page. easy. no, not really. because the silver paper is coated with something to give it a shiny effect, it seems very few printers can print on it. the coating sort of melts and messes up the paper. i tried printing on different kinds of silver paper, i tried printing on different kinds of printers. different printing shops, but it only worked once. i got one decent looking title page. i still haven't solved this printing issue, but have been suggested to silk screen it. apparently it is really easy to do on your own..... perhaps, but when you've never done it before, everything is challenging. i'll get back to you on how that turns out.

last week i spent doing my latest two dummies, which have turned out okay. well enough to enter into competitions at least, so that's what's next for the photobook dummies for now. for the entire project i still need to figure out how to: deboss the hyphen on the cover as well as silk screen print the silver title page.

all in all the book making process so far has been phenomenal, but tiring at the same time. it is taking one step forward and two backwards with a lot of the creation. so far i'm (almost) satisfied with what i have, but it can get even better. and that is my aim.

over and out for now.



choosing paper, test printing and binding

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tokyo, japan

i guess it's time for another update. although i can hardly find time to sit down and write it. so many things have happened since the last post, and right now i should be back at the gallery test printing. well, i needed a coffee and so i've ended up at starbucks in the skytree (not due to the quality coffee, but rather the free wifi).

paper and test printing

i have been incredibly busy the last week. while i was not expecting handmade book-making to be easy, i seem to continuously run into new challenges that need to be overcome. while printing in denmark leaves you with little choice of paper to choose from, this is not the case in japan... in fact i find myself rather overwhelmed. last week i went back to takeo paper shop to look for paper. i posted earlier all the multitudes of great paper they have in that shop, but after spending the better part of an hour i finally departed the store with 10 different kinds i wanted to test. all within the white/eggshell color scale, from thick to very thin. all in a4 size and with two sheets of each. i think it cost me around 1500 yen (10 euro) - very reasonable i think. but come on, 10 sheets of paper doesn't even begin to cut it..

thus, i ventured off to ginza, where i had been told that another japanese paper maker, oji, has a store. the rumors go that you can actually take all the sample paper you want for free (they have printed facts and test prints on one of the sides, but the opposite side is free to test print your own stuff). anyway, who gets anything for free these days, so i thought it was definitely worth a visit. as it turns out, the store wasn't a store, rather it was oji's administrative HQs in a fully owned oji high rise. although a little intimidating to enter, i quickly found myself in the reception of this pretty awesome looking office building. here all of oji's 100s of different types of papers were available in drawers. please go ahead and take as many as you like. i think i snatched around 50 different types, as i thought it could also make good referencing in the future. out of these 50 sheets of paper, i couldn't really tell you the difference of many of them, but there are some that are glossy, some are matte, some are glossy on verso and matte on recto and vice versa. some weigh 40 grams and some 90 grams, so you see, the options truly are endless.

i thought that now i had spent a day securing all my test paper, all i needed to do was a couple of test prints to see which looked the best, and then just go and buy that kind. no no no no, think again. today i went to kinko's printing services to do so. firstly they screwed up my double sided prints, so that two images were printed on top of each other rather than recto/verso. remember i only have two sheets of each kind of takeo paper, so one sheet was lost. their fault. i gave them sheet number two. they print them, it looks horrible. why? they are using laser jet printers obviously (read about the difference between laser and inkjet printing here), and it doesn't penetrate the paper properly. my own fault. so now i have no paper left and no useable prints to judge from. after that experience i needed a coffee and that is why i am currently sitting at starbucks. 

what will you do then? you might ask. well, here is my game plan. i am going back to the gallery to use the gallery's inkjet printer to print the recto pages on the pages kinko's screwed up and see how it works out. then, i'll probably rely on my gut to take me the rest of the way. i'll get back to you on that.

update! i printed on the back pages and it looks much better than kinko's - so now i've managed to cut down on paper and will choose between my 4 favorites for the b/w printing.

binding

another thing i have been trying to figure out is which kind of binding i want on the book. here's the tricky part, my book doesn't give a shit about what i want. instead it is about what is feasible and doable. yumi-san of reminders photography stronghold has been a great advisor, spending amble time with me discussing what can be done and what will work the best. to start with i really wanted some kind of stitch binding, but because my pages are japanese folded (fold a piece of a4 into an a5 and have the binding of the book be in the end of the opening - really it's the opposite of normal pages and you kind of get two hidden pages. however, it is not possible to stitch them traditionally. since there is no reason for my book to be japanese stitched and a japanese stitching would result in the margin eating about 1 cm of the book, which i'm not interested in, i won't do that either. eventually yumi-san and i ended with glue binding probably being the best option, and we decided to try it on one of my dummies. however, yes there is a however, because my book consists of different types of pages i.e. japanese folded pages in a5, a4 pages as well as normal a5 pages, the glue binder told us that the result may not be satisfactory and thus was reluctant to do it. we were invited out to his small factory (douchi-do, murayama book binding) to see the process, so we could better understand why he was hesitant. sunday morning, yumi-san and i biked through eastern-tokyo to get to the small factory, where we should try to glue my dummy. it was a simple process, but with a lot of steps. one would normally cut all four sides of the pages of the book at the same time to get them even and completely straight for gluing. because of the many page formats in my book this cannot be done, and only the side where the glue was to be put was cut. the end result looks pretty good anyway, and i'm sure that when it is the final copy and not just a dummy made with copy paper, it will look even better. one thing to keep in mind though, is that the glue might work differently depending on the paper type I use. that means that while the copy paper works fine, it might not end up working as well on my chosen paper. yes i know, it is a continous battle to get this right.

i just have to mention though that this guy, who did the glue binding was absolutely amazing. not only did he glue my dummies for free, he also made two notebooks for me while we waited for my glue to dry and gave us samples of both glue, mesh and tape to take home, so we could experiment with the glue binding ourselves at the gallery. totally worth spending sunday morning this way, and once more i am humbled by the warmth and service level of the japanese!! plus as you can see from the pictures below, a lot of the glue binding process is still made by hand at his factory. pretty cool! 

all the other stuff 

the past week i also visited a printer that can make blueprints from drawings and copies. it looks pretty awesome, so i got my architectural drawings made as a blueprint, as well as my 'blondes in denim shirts' grid (that doesn't look as awesome as the architecture drawings though). i also visited my next stop in tokyo - 3331 arts chiyoda - to have my first meeting with the staff, who will help me out during my residency. this i do not doubt will be an equally amazing experience as the bookmaking workshop has been so far. i am learning a bunch and feeling very inspired. the area i live in (sumida) is old tokyo, cultural and historical - apparently i'm right in the middle of an old red light district - many old, traditional japanese houses and small shops, restaurants and factories. 

i haven't been anything but happy for the past 3.5 weeks, while i've been in tokyo. just when I think that an experience cannot get any better, it gets a little better. miki hasegawa has taught me japanese stitch-binding and hajime kimura has spent a day teaching indesign. the weather is great, the food is great, the beer is fantastic and the company is pretty cool also. 



getting to the point of creating a dummy

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tokyo, japan

last weekend the handmade photo book workshop began full speed. 3 days of intensive book-making from morning to late night. the aim: to create one or two book dummies (if you don't know what a book dummy is, please refer to this previous blog post) that can be used as a starting point for our photo book creation. the next 2 weeks i'll fine-tune the result of the first weekend of workshop before the workshop concludes with one more weekend of intensive creativity on may 29th - 31st. 

just to recap, the workshop is run by belgian photographer jan rosseel and gallery owner yumi goto of reminders stronghold photography in tokyo. we are 10 participants in the workshop; 8 japanese, 1 new york-based spanish woman and then me. it is a bilingual workshop conducted in both japanese and english, and as confusing as that may sound, it actually works quite well. people come from diverse backgrounds working with photography, but also film-production, translation, dark room printing and so on. the projects accepted into the workshop contain subjects of great diversity, such as the tokyo rockabillies, dealing with the suicide of one's parents, the dutch japanese children of the 2nd world war and the development of williamsburg, brooklyn over the past 2 decades. before coming to tokyo and starting the workshop, all the participants have had two skype consultations with jan to discuss our projects and clarify the main story, its points and the feelings that we want our books to convey. this proactivity and preliminary research ensured that last friday, when the workshop began, we were all clear on the direction in which to take our books. 

ALERT, the next paragraph contains little information on dummy-making and more information on the research process leading up to the dummy creation. 

i don't believe i have shared with you exactly what my photo book is about. it is my personal story of 'existential migration' (a term coined by greg madison). i didn't know this term before i started my research for the book - all i had to go on then, was this feeling i had of being misplaced and not really belonging. this is a feeling that has hunted me for a good while, but it really reared its ugly head once i moved back to copenhagen a year and a half ago. the theory of existential migration hit the nail right on the head and aided me in putting that feeling into words. further research let me to 'migratory aesthetics' and lily markiewicz, which is from whom i borrow the working title of the book 'tell me, how do you pronounce a hyphen?'. the title of the book and how to decide on that, is a whole other subject that i think can be covered in a later post. anyway, i don't mean to bore you with this stuff, i just wish to highlight the fact that clarifying my subject, researching it, putting words and sentences on a feeling, visualizing it through mind maps and doing the leg work in general, helped me a great deal with moving from a hazy, introverted feeling towards a story that others can relate to as well. and in the end, it makes the dummy-work so much easier.

and now, back to the topic at hand: dummy-making. the workshop began with editing down the photos that were brought to the workshop. with the help of jan, we reduced my images from five distinct photographic series to two. archival material was discarded along with the series of blondes in denim shirts (see picture in grid below). all my digital images were taken out, leaving me with two series of images - a series of analog photos of static places around denmark and the black/white dynamic images from my dark ops series, which were to be combined in the book. the idea of combining these to series is to create a dialectic feeling of my world. i also brought to the workshop architect drawings of my childhood home, which i thought might underline the idea of home and help ask the question whether home always comes in the form of a physical structure. these drawings were piled in with the selected images.

next, i was left to do the sequencing on my own. along with the editing process of choosing images, this is probably the most difficult task. but after spending a couple of hours of consideration by laying out my test prints in sequence on a big table (this is the best way to get an overview and adapt the sequence easily), i felt that i had something viable. again this is absolutely the beauty of dummies - a dummy is just a dummy, nothing is final. so you just try things out. the first dummy was really nothing but a trial. i changed the sequence a little, after having put it into book shape, and when i felt it worked as a book, my first dummy was done. i wrapped the dummy in architectural drawings and tried to imagine that as the cover for the book. for the second dummy, i printed the images on different kinds of paper and in general tried a little harder. i included a lot of the architectural drawings (even more than in the first dummy). i tried using the drawings as back drops for the pictures and as inner liner for the japanese folded pages. i have pages in different sizes and pages that fold out. many things are happening in the second dummy.. when day 3 of the workshop concluded, i had finished two dummies. with the help of jan, the design and images were revisited and a few changes were made - among others the architectural drawings might have to go or at least be reduced quite a lot.

if we look back at my considerations regarding my book before the workshop started, it was, among other things, to have more smaller books in one. that idea was discarded quickly. the different sized pages and the fold-outs still live, as do the different paper types. but let's see, things change quickly, when making dummies, i've found out. the most important thing i've learned in this first part of the workshop is that you can make as many dummies as you want - better to try out your ideas than not. another thing i've learned is that the decisions you make for your book should be made for a reason, not just because they look good. everything needs to be considered and be in accordance with your story.

i got some assignments before next part of the workshop. before part two of the workshop, which is in 2 weeks, i need to:

  1. do a third dummy - start all over! use all the same images as in dummy 1 and 2, but change the sequence and layout completely.
  2. use white dummies (basic white copy paper folded into a book) to help decide on the binding of the book - try different binding methods on the white dummies. bindings i'm considering are hand stitched japanese binding or stud or screw binding.
  3. test print images on different kinds of paper to check, which kind to use. whoop whoop, this means i get to go paper hunting at my new favorite paper store.
  4. take the series of images 'blondes in denim shirts' and make a second book. glad to get this assignment. would have been sad not to use these at all..
  5. have an architectural drawing printed, as a building blueprint or in indigo coloring.  

so you see, i really have enough to do. besides all of this, this week's schedule goes something like this: tomorrow i'll be indesigning the layout of the book, on wednesday i'll go material hunting for paper, card board and different binding accessories, and on thursday i'll visit 3331 arts chiyoda to talk about my residency, which is coming up after the workshop is done.

life is good, i'm very happy, and i don't want to be anywhere else in the world, but here!