Today's the day I submitted books into my third bookswap. For those who've never heard of a bookswap, it's got nothing to do with exchanging good novels, it's actually an event/activity/challenge (you get what I mean) organised by a Bookswap-master (ok, now I'm making words up) who sets a particular 'theme' whereby participants design and make books in response to that theme. And when I say 'make books' I literally mean you construct the little buggers yourself, based of course, on a concept derived from the theme. You, the participant, nominate how many books you'd like to make, and that is how many books you will receive back in the 'swap' (books from other participants that is). So the joy is not only in the making of your books, but is also in the surprise of what you receive back.
The theme this time around was 'shape' (previous bookswaps I've been involved in were themed 'letters' and 'pattern'), and so my concept was based on the idea of making the books (and containers for the books) from materials that were 'shape-able' (sculptor's foam, clay, handmade paper, ribbon, potato stamps, words...).
The books are only 5cm square. Titled 'Giving things shape', the text throughout the book talks about artists as 'shapers' giving things form through the shaping of materials. But it is the book's construction that is typically of more interest to the receiver than the text inside. With my 3 books, I made the covers from air-dry clay and stamped the title of the book into the wet clay using old metal-type letters. The pages are blue paper that I handmade about 10 years ago when I was given a papermaking kit as a Christmas present, and on these I stamped stars cut from a halved potato (just like being in preschool again). The container is carved from sculptor's foam, and any Product Designers out there will recognise this stuff because they use it for shaping small prototype mock-ups. I cut the foam into blocks and carved out a niche big enough to fit the book, and filled the bottom of the cut-out with air-dry clay to make a smooth base and to tie it in with the book's cover. For the word 'shape' I used letter-punches heated with a lighter and pressed them into the foam.
So there you go. Bookswaps are all about experimenting and playing with ideas and materials, and it's always interesting to see what new techniques you learn in the process. So now, I just sit and wait to see what books I get back in return...