Books Information

Additional Information on Exposed Bindings


These journals give five examples of exposed bindings.  They include two examples of Japanese stab-bindings, one of a Coptic binding, one of the Cross-Structure Binding, and one of a simple stitch-bound pamphlet.

Traditional Japanese bindings use a stab stitch to bind the pages and cover together.  Examples of these elegant stitches include the “Noble Stitch,” or “Kanji Toni,” shown on the small red marbled journal and the “Tortoise-Shell Binding,” or “Kikko Toji,” on the large journal covered with blue and orange paper dyed in the katazome method. Katazome is a method of folding rice paper and dipping its edges into dye or gouache.

The Cross-Structure Binding is a soft cover binding in which the signatures are sewn together with the cover, holding the book together.  The yellow and brown cover for this book is a heavy paper that is a dye, nature and salt print made by the artist of natural items from her yard.

A Coptic-Binding is used for the large square book with a cover decorated in a peach and gray Suminigashi paper design by the artist.  The Coptic stitch is done with a curved needle so the book has a flexible spine that is unsupported by paper or boards.  It just is connected by the threads, which are connected with a chain stitch.

Suminigashi also is used for the small pamphlet that is stitched on the outside and bound with a button and ribbon.

Birdsong Books: From the inside, Out


Birdsong Book Arts presents a collection of unique journals handmade by Alice Jane Smith, of Madison. The artist has had training at Larkspur Press, the John C. Campbell Folk Art School and Pygmalion Art Store.

The book on the sewing frame shows how signatures are sewn and stitched together and strengthened with linen tape at intervals down the spine. The book block then in case-bound into cloth and decorative papers.

All of the books and their covers have been handmade by the artist. The decorative paper covers use six different Eastern and Western techniques, which include:

  • Suminigashi, a Japanese word meaning, “ink floating,” is the oldest form of marbling. It originated in China more that 2,000 years ago before finding its own way to Japan. One floats pastel colored inks in water and blows on the inks to form the delicate patters.
  • Marbling has been practiced since the 15th century, probably originating in Turkey. Artists began floating colors on a thickened liquid similar to marbling size used today. Oils, watercolors and acrylics may be used. The thickened liquid is known as size.
  • Batik is another ancient art dating in some form to the Phoenicians, to China, Egypt, India, Greece, Peru, the Roman Empire and the early Christians. Wax designs are applied to the paper, followed by the dyes.
  • Katazome paper is folded and dipped into various dyes. When unfolded, repetitive patterns are created on the page. It is best to use a Sumi or other rice paper.
  • Paste Papers recall the childhood delight of finger painting, a close relative. A paintbrush is used to coat paper with colored paste. Found items and other objects can be used to displace the paste and create patterns.
  • Stamping papers create interesting designs when hand carved stamps or commercial stamps are applied with colored inkpads.

Four kinds of book binding are demonstrated here, including:


  • The Multi-Section Case-Binding books is stitched together using a special stitch and strengthened with linen tape at intervals down the spine (demonstrated on the sewing frame).
  • Traditional Japanese Stab Bindings use a decorative stab stitch to bind the pages an cover together. The “Yotsume Toji” binding is shown on the small gold marbled journal. The 12-hole binding, “Kikko Toji,” or “Tortoise-Shell Binding,” is the large gray stamped journal.
  • The Coptic Stitch is done with a curved needle. This book has a flexible spine, which is connected by threads and linked in a chain stitch. It is an ancient bookbinding method developed in Africa.

Additional information on the Case Bound Journals


All five journals have been sewn by hand on the sewing frame that is displayed. Papers are folded into signatures and then sewn onto linen tapes. The sewn and glued structure is strong and durable. These books are stitched together using a special stitch. The book block then is case bound into a hard cloth or board that has been covered with decorative paper The books are put in a book press overnight.

The artists used five Eastern and Western techniques to decorate papers used to cover these books, as follows:

  • Suminigashi, a Japanese word meaning “ink floating,” is the oldest form of marbling. Once floats pastel-colored inks in water and blows on the inks in older to form the delicate patters in the water.
  • Marbling has many different styles, but it has been practiced since the 15th century. One floats colors (oils, acrylics or watercolors) on a thickened liquid called “size” in order to create various designs.
  • In batik one melts wax to form a “resist,” then uses various “found” objects to apply the wax to rice paper or heavier paper; the paper is colored with various dyes. The waxed paper later is crinkled to remove as much wax as possible; the wrinkles are painted with black, and the paper is ironed.
  • Paste Papers recall the childhood delights of finger painting, a close relative. A paintbrush is used to coat dampened paper with colored paste. Found items and other objects can be used to displace paste and create patterns.
  • Stamping papers create designs when hand-carved stamps or commercial stamps are applied with colored inkpads.

Mixed Media Prints


Some of the processes used to decorate papers also make paintings to frame and hang on the wall. Most of these mixed media are “Dye and Salt Nature Printing,” which draws on the work of artist L. K. Ludwig. Leaves, feathers, fruits, weeds, grasses, and flowers can be cut and pressed into cold dyes painted onto paper and highlighted with salt. Several dye colors can be applied to the prints to add interest.

Printing with bleach is another technique that involves working with leaves, grasses and other objects from nature. Black paper is used as a substrate and common household bleach. As black paper is bleached, a variety of colors can appear. Natural materials are sprayed with bleach, such as leaves, flat flowers, or feathers, and they are pressed onto the paper, and sprayed again.

Batik is an old technique which evokes deep rich colors on rice papers as well as fabrics. Dye and a wax resist are used.