My art books “Der Sandmann” from 2017 (inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmanns wicked story) require a lot of work before they are sold.
Each copy is partly printed, partly handmade. Limited edition of 150.
If you want to know more about the project: www.sköne-oke.de/en
Here’s an insight on how the physical production of a copy looks like.
More photos in the full article.
A lot of manual work to make it look unique.
The finished book includes a ton of photographs printed on foil, old book page replicas, fictional notes of Nathanael and a lot of sticky tape.
The books aim to look like they are put together spontaneously and impulsively – but they aren’t (behind the scenes… – they follow a strict production system).
Each of the two books takes approx. 4 hours to make, the whole process takes around 12 hours (including printing, shopping for material and shouting at the printer for not working properly).
Step I: Printing the foil photographs.
First step is to print all 52 pages of foils with my HP deskjet ink printer on plastic projector foils. This takes a lot of time, as the foils need to dry for a few hours and can’t be touched. I have to sit next to the printer and take each finished one out by hand so they do not stick together.
It is still my favorite part as I love the images so much.
Step II: Printing the Notes of Nathanael and all vintage book pages.
Same thing with Nathanaels typewriter notes: they look like they are written with the typewriter – but in reality they are printed on different types of paper to create the same effect. It is easier and it is faster. But it can still fool the eye.
Step III: Cutting all pages / notes & ripping the edges
To make all the printed vintage book pages look like they are ripped out from a real book, they need some manual adjustments. Mostly I cut 3 sides with the paper-cutter and rip one by hand. That way it looks like Nathanael ripped them out himself.
This process takes 1-2 hours as there are around 120 pages to cut. (not only fake book pages, but fake photos and other paper work).
Step IV: Glueing & sticking all paper in place
This is the longest part of the production and causes me perpetually back pain. I sort out all the pre-printed pages and images and – by looking at my original book – I place them in the same way as they are in the original version.
Hairpins help to keep some papers, pictures and pages in place. They are meant to work like paper clips without looking like one.
Step V: Treating the cover of the books
After the inside is finished, I have to prepare the cover. I glue some white paper rectangle on and stamp them with the letter “N” and some cryptical numbers.
On the back go my self-made “Hoffmann asylum” stamps. It gives off the paper-work-office vibe of an old hospital and I just love the way they look. Especially if they do not catch the stamp color perfectly and look beautifully incomplete.
Step VI: Preparing the clipboard of Dr. Coppelius
The books aren’t complete with the Doctor’s clipboard, which is added to each set of book copies. The clipboard tells the reader to explore the books, while looking like a letter from one Doctor to another (who has to analyze the documents).
I use silver curtain holder clips and thin wood, which I cut in the right size. Some grinding on the edges and it’s done!
Step VII: Preparing the leather cover for the books
To give the books the vintage post-man package-delivery vibe, I bought some textured leather which I cut into the right size.
It already looks kind of ‘vintage’ and aged, but the white back side is not really working for the mood. So I pour myself some peppermint tea (into a bucket) and soak the leather for a few hours in it.
After the leather has soaked up the yellow color, I add some stamping onto the cover to finish the look.
Now: everything can be wrapped up into a neat parcel and there – that is it!
A lot of work, but it is worth it all.
By now, I have produced this book more times than I can count on my two hands… and yes: sometimes it really gets tiring. I stop to recognize all the pretty old book pages I once fell in love with. I get angry at the printer for splattering and spitting ink all over the place (instead of being happy I produced those photos). I get annoyed by the back pain I have the end of the day.
Yes, that happens. That is called work. I guess?
But then, after I finish the whole process and have those two books in my hand, I am reminded of the truly amazing gift: I can live a life with art and I can actually make some money from it. It allows me to be free from (too many, too ugly) restrictions and the best thing is:
I can make people happy with my art. I am lucky enough to give them something they can enjoy for a very long time. Something that sits silently on their book shelf and waits for them. Something that sparks curiosity in them and makes their imagination go wild.
There is nothing, I repeat nothing better in my life, after all – and I have so many, so beautiful things, people, moments, memories in my life!
It is worth it all, each time I sit down and glue together all those pages.