05 Nov 2018

It might not be the most exciting thing that comes to mind when you think of a wedding but creating a wedding album by hand is certainly one of my favorite things. I call it a labor of love, because it requires bucket loads of both labor and love. Many people have asked how I do it so I wanted to take some time to walk you through the very basics of it (and I mean the basics). This is not a "How To" but will give you a little behind-the-scenes peak at what makes it is so meticulous and time-intensive and, most of all, why I love it!

Much like a painting or drawing (which I also love doing), you are composing. A slew of choices must be made and each decision catered specifically to the book you are creating. Which paper would best suit the project? What type of bookcloth do I need and which color(s)? What about shape and size of the overall album? How many spreads? What can I add to this that I haven't done before? And, of course, how shall I curate the images on each page? The latter is the very first step in the process of making an album and is where I spend most of my time with it. It involves hours upon hours and days upon days of mixing and matching hordes of mini work prints on a table, transferring those ideas into InDesign and subsequently flipping forward and backward through the pages to see how they work together.

Once I get it juuust right, I can start printing the completed layout.

At this point, bookbinding is all about two things: precision and patience. Everything must be just right, from the print quality to the each and every measurement, and one must also do a whole lot of "hurry up and wait". You're constantly switching back and forth between the two. Patience for the prints to dry. Precision when you score, crease, and fold the spreads. Patience as you double and triple check the order and orientation of each page before binding. Precision as you stack and re-stack the text block, as it is called, into the book press for binding. Patience as you wait for the glue to dry 24 hours. More patience as it dries another 24 hours after the second coating of glue. Patience again as the third and final binding layer of glue dries another 24 hours.

The act of physically binding the papers together ranks second place out of three for scariest moments in the entire process because once that glue hits the spine there is no going back. If you mess up, you start over with printing. That wouldn't be the end of the world, since the meticulous editing is already out of the way, but it's most certainly a waste of time and resources. The loose pieces of paper I used on the binding is glued down and I wait yet another 24 hours for it to dry. Four whole days for a whopping total of maybe 10 actual minutes of work.

The day after all that gluing is complete when I can get back into the mind set of precision and feel like I'm really getting somewhere. The text block comes out from drying in the book press and I chop it down to size. Coming in third place for top three scariest moments in the bookbinding process, this one isn't actually all that bad. With a proper stack cutter, it's quite simple, just needing to triple check that I have the correct measurements laid out for each cut and that I'm chopping off the side of the book I want to be chopping off.

making an album

Once it is cut down to size, I can make the actual covers for the album. This requires some more precision-based measuring and cutting but isn't the end of the world if I mess up since it doesn't require me to start all over, though I'd still rather get it right on the first try. Measure twice, cut once, as they say! My choice of book cloth is properly applied to the covers and are placed in the book press to dry nice and flat for another 24 hours.

This next step is the top ranking scariest moment in the entire bookbinding process: adhering the text block to the front and back covers. Oh, man, I can't tell you the amounts of anxiety this causes each and every time! You might not know it by looking at my face but you will when I let out a huge sigh of relief once it's done and I didn't botch it. I've yet to discover the absolute perfect method for doing this without all the cause for concern but I haven't messed it up thus far, so I'm doing something right!

The worst of my fears behind me, it goes back into the book press for another 24 hours. The spine for the album is then measured, cut, and applied to the album with my choice of accent book cloth/paper. The album itself is constructed at this point, though there are two final steps: taping and waiting. Due to the style of binding, Drum Leaf, one must tape the backs of the pages together since each page is laying on top of one another, instead of being laid into each other like we're used to seeing. Once taped, the album will sit inside the book press under high pressure for four weeks, ensuring flatness.

This quick explanation glazed over many things and completely nixed out others but, unless you're wanting to actually do this, those tidbits aren't necessary for getting the basic idea of what bookbinding involves! I was an art student through and through while I was growing up so being able to combine my love of Photography with my love of creating something with my own two hands is beyond rewarding. I am so thankful to have learned this skill from some of the best in the industry so that little 'ole me can provide something so unique to her clients as opposed to the typical, run-of-the-mill albums that anyone and their Uncle can order online.