I had the two loveliest Sundays with the women who came to my home to make journals with me. Preparing for the workshop was really good for me – I looked in detail at my journaling process and methods, and managed to describe it in somewhat formulaic terms. I was trying to break it down into step-by-step instructions for my students, and now as a result, I understand myself so much better.
A big part of my journaling process is creating the book itself. I deliberately like a book with varied-sized pages, and I have worked out a formula for what I think is the perfect number of full sized, medium sized and small sized pages. I’ve worked out exactly how many pages fit in my ultra-journal, and how thick to make the spine so that it holds all the collage I can possibly add, without bursting at the seams. I took my students through the process of making the book itself:
They assembled signatures, sewed them up on the sewing machine, and incorporated a whole mix of papers.
They made hard covers with a flexible gaffer-tape spine, upcycling old children’s books.
They painted artwork to cover their books with.
At the end of the first day, everyone had a book, personalised, with their own mix of pages and papers, with a sturdy cover and a soft-spine that lets it open flat on any page.
The next weekend, we came together again to prepare the pages. When I’m tired and lazy in bed at night, I want to write a bit about my day. I want my page to look fabulous but I haven’t the energy to thing about making it so. That’s where prepared pages come in. I like to collage on my pages beforehands, in a strategic way, so that my pages will be interesting, varied, and still have plenty of space left for writing and images.
Through the week, I made my students collage-kits. They each received a pile of papers that I have painted and assembled from maps, vintage books and other sources. I took them through a step-by-step process to fill their books with interesting and varied collage-pages.
An important part of my process involves designing a “landing page” that you arrive at when you first open the cover of your journal. This is a beautiful, complex spread full of interesting papers, collage, pockets, tabs and more. It’s there to draw you in and to be your home base from which you work every day in your book.
On the last afternoon, we spent time going through techniques for using the book. How to manage your privacy and personal expression while still ending up with a book that you can show people. When my students take their books into the world, there’s no doubt, people will be curious about them. And being able to show them springboards so many conversations and can lead to surprising opportunities… We talked about a process for using the book as a life coach, a best friend, and still making sure the pages would be beautiful in a raw, personal way.
I gave each of my students a zine, full of journal prompts and reminders for the process I use to get the most out of my journal. That way they’d have something to tuck into their journal-pockets to refer to, and they wouldn’t have to take notes during the workshop. Here’s the zine:
I’m making it available to others.. if you’d like to buy the zine, you can get it from my Etsy shop.
While my students worked, in between helping them, I made a pile of journals myself, as commissions and gifts:
So, now that the students have gone home, and I’ve posted off the books I made, what’s next? I have plans. I’m hoping to make an online course version of this workshop. Paula and Jesse video’d me making one of the books, and I’ve written up all my notes.
But.. I’m mired in technical problems now! How to make an epub book with videos, how to size them all correctly, how to export it… yikes! If anyone is in the mood to help me, is savvy with this sort of thing, please do sing out! In the meantime, I shall battle onwards, and if I ever solve the great Technological Humps before me, I shall bring to you an online journal-making coure. Stay tuned…