Thursday, December 31, 2009

Immanence to transcendence

Yuri Lochan's work took my breath away, the minute I got her invite in the mail. I cut it up immediately and got it ready for a coptic. It was such great fun and so satisfying to see her work in the form of a book. The inside of the invite had another art-work printed on it. I used it to make an inset on the inside of the front cover.
She loved it when I finally presented it to her on the opening night. She uses gold leafing in her work, and most of her paintings are done in sections, pieced together as a whole. The expressions on all the human forms in her work are mesmerizing.

The art-work/invite.

The spine.

A detail of the spine.

The inset. Front and back covers were covered with Midnight Blue Handmade paper from Tara DA.

The book, open to the first page.


I was recently asked to make a visitor's book for Veenu Shah's Wabi-Sabi exhibition at the Alliance Francaise de Delhi. It was a beautiful exhibition of her enamels. After having done all the collateral (catalogue, invites, posters and info tags) for the exhibition, the square format book was a pleasure to make. It filled up within three days with comments and orders, and I had to sew on 4 more signatures to the book, to make it last the rest of the week.

The book.

The book and the catalogue.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Presentation : Book Structures

Here's the presentation, finally. Lots of talking and so there's hardly any text.
This is the link for the Pecha-Kucha Delhi chapter, for anyone interested.
The link to the article on this particular Pecha-Kucha can be read here.

The Sutra (thread)
A book is the potential of anything to fall into a structure and contain information. It can be anything from a box, to leaves, to board, to a can, to cloth.
It is speculated that the book came to be because of humanity's need to create permanent records.
The Sutra is the earliest known form of the bound book. India was where this form was invented around Circa 100 BCE.
This form travelled from India to (then) Persia, Afganistan and China through Buddhism.

The Sroll
The Egyptians invented Papyrus and the Papyrus scroll in 2400 BC. The chinese had their own version in Silk which they painted on with brushes, the Ethiopians had theirs with parchment/vellum, as did the Roman empire and Greece.

The Ethiopian Scroll
The Ethiopian scroll is a very interesting form. It was made of Vellum or parchment. An ill person would commission a scroll. The cleric would then measure the ill person from beneath his feet to all the way around his head. This length would determine the length of the scroll. It would be filled with iconography and prayers and put in a case that could be slung around the person. The ill person would then, just by staring at the imagery, enter a trance-like state that would then heal him/her. Each 'healing scroll' was unique, in that it was personalized and meant only for the individual it was made for.

The Sutra/Pothi
The form that the Sutra then took on in China was of the Pothi. They adapted it using the only material widely available at the time - Bamboo. This crude form did not last very long. It was cumbersome and inconvenient. It was later replaced by paper and printed using wooden blocks. Even today, the Sutras in all the buddhist monasteries are printed, and the strips of paper are then placed between two wooden blocks that are then wrapped with cloth.

The Concertina/Accordion
Seeing as the sroll was a cumbersome and awkward form - in that it could be crushed, the entire roll had to be opened out for entire text to be read at once etc. - the natural evolution was the introduction of the fold to this form. So the scroll, folded, formed the Concertina or Accordion. The Accordions, when first made, were made based on convenience and not aesthetic. The form evolved over time and today, the folding is done quite carefully, in a scientific and well-thought out manner- making sure each length equals the previous and so on.

Stab Binding
That brings me to the Stab. Paper was cut, then pierced with precision to and then threaded through to form the Stab bound structure. The Japanese have various version of this binding. The Chinese had their own crude version called the Stab stitch and we have our own version in the Bahi Khata, popularly used in Benaras.

The codex
Which brings me to the codex. In the 1st century AD, the Early Coptic Christians of Egypt, were the first to discover, that by folding Vellum or parchment into half (folio) and placing it inside another folio/s and then threading them through, they could create a book that could be written on, on both sides. They used wooden boards as cover and made a leather slip case for further protection. This was indeed a great leap forward.
Surprisingly, the Arabs were the first ones to make a book out of paper. They used silk to sew it together, making it light and easy to carry. They made it after they learnt the craft of paper-making from the Chinese in the 8th Century.

Pamphlet Binding
This is a example of a two section binding, using one stitch. The cover folds in and then out covering the book completely, but leaving an element of surprise as you open the book to discover it peeping through.

The Codex/Coptic
On top is an example of the Ethiopian codex structure. It has been sewn with two needles and the spine has been further strengthened by using wheat paste. Below is the single-needle link stitch.

Vade Mecum (go with me)
This is another Ethiopian form. This form is ideal for books of reference, like - calenders, almanacs, medical references. It can contain alot of information on a page that can be folded into a sixth of its size. Priest would use it as a medical reference when healing the sick. They would sling it around their belts and carry it wherever they went.

Case Binding
This is how most books that we buy in the stores today are made. Some are still handmade, but most are made using machines. The cloth tapes/strips are what holds the book-block to the cover. The sections are sewn around the tapes, holding them in place.

This structure is similar to the Case Bound, in that it is sewn on tapes. The book pictures above has been sewn on paper tapes. The cover is made from handmade Kozo and the tapes are then woven through the cover. This binding is playful, aesthetic and beautiful.

The Flag Book
This structure is made using the Accordion form for the spine. Strips of paper are pasted in equal intervals to form the Flags of this book. It is dynamic in its form, and is always a fun surprise depending on the way it is opened or handled. Different people have thought of different uses for this book. Stories, textile swatches, flip book, character sketches, colour palettes and more.

Star Book
This structure is playful and small. There are various ways this structure can differ in its opening depending on the folding and the glueing. Each fold hides and reveals, but eventually opens out completely into a square. Each folded square is proportionally half the size of the open square.

Exposed Sewings
Another structure is the Exposed Sewing. For me, what takes the longest, apart from the actual sewing, is making the template. Making the jig to pierce the sections, the number of needles, the placing of the pattern. The end result is extremely satisfying. Pictured above as some books by Keith Smith.

Long Stitch
The long stitch is a simpler version of what is pictured above; although they can be highly complex. They have hundreds of variations.

Artists' Books

Taking books out of the realm of absolute functionality and into that of Art, are Artists' books. As far as I have observed they have traditionalist roots, but are bold and different in their final form, execution, aesthetic and content. Pictures above are Daniel Kelm's works, A book made by a number of Artist's, one of them being Catherine Nash, and others.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I have been asked to participate in the Pecha-Kucha Night at CMYK on the 16th of December at 7.30 pm.
Try and make it if you can!

>> To read an article about this Pecha-Kucha check out -

Here's a short explanation of the concept -

Pecha-Kucha is a specific format for presentation -- 20 slides for 20 seconds each -- resulting in a superfast, superengaging and superfun kind of experience for both presenter and audience. Pecha-Kucha was born in Tokyo, in the nightclub SuperDeluxe run by the architects Klein and Dytham. Since then, it has spread all around the world, to hundreds of cities where thousands of creative practitioners have used it to share their work and connect with each other.

Pecha-Kucha, in Japanese, means 'Chitter-Chatter' or 'Khus-Phus' or 'Bak-Bak' -- it can be translated and paraphrased as 'the rustle of conversation.' The point is not to exalt speakers, or to ask critical questions as in a press conference, but to stimulate conversations between artists and design practitioners from different fields. So presentations are lightning fast, one after another, and then the bar opens!

Here's a picture - taken by someone at CMYK. The place was overflowing with people. I was SO nervous and the slides were moving so fast! But it was fun by the end of it. Met a few good people and will hopefully get some fun stuff to work on.
Will upload more pictures when and if I find them.
Check back for the presentation.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Weekend workshop

The table ready to get-set and GO!

I wasn't able to take pictures of all the books that were made that day, but here are two pocket-size accordions that were worked on. The colours looked delicious in the morning light but I only ended up taking the pictures at night by lamp-light.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

November Workshop Weekends!

I'm hoping to have a few workshops next month. I've put out an ad in First City and hopefully have enough (more than 3) people to spill over onto another weekend. The dates for the private workshop are 19-20 November. So until then, here's the flyer!

Learn about paper grain, precision cutting, stitching, pressing, decorative papers & more. Creative book-binding is taught like never before, in this two-day workshop.
Open to all levels. All materials provided.

Timings : 10 am to 1 pm | Date: 7th and 8th Nov. | Cost : Rs. 750/-
Venue: C-18 Chirag Enclave, New Delhi - 110048 | Contact: 9999005343

One night at ai

By some stroke of luck and the last moment possible, Tara asked me if I wanted to share a stall with her at ai. Yes!!! How exciting! We finally made it there, in bits and pieces, the next day, set up - Tara and her wonderful t-shirts and prints, me and my books. The flea market ran from 5 pm to midnight on the 10th.

Here is a blurry picture of Tara and her t-shirts. She managed to sell one, and a handful of hand-painted postcards as well!

Here's the stall at night, nothing much has changed, except we've begun helping ourselves to some beer.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Roopaantar: Synopsis & Making-of

The best part of the city dweller's routine is his daily walk through the forest where he catches glimpses of life's beautiful forces at work. One rainy day he decides to take shelter under a cherry blossom tree and something sublime happens that changes his life forever. Nature reveals herself with a message that opens up a new world for the man. He sees her dynamic perfection with new eyes until one day the human world begins to encroach upon his dream-life...

Within many of us today there is fundamental apathy towards the environment. The story is a creative visual response to this pervasive apathy. It presents a lack of awareness and care about nature alongside the ever-present circle of life that is connecting everything on this Earth to the vast oneness. We are a part of nature and nature is a part of us, forming us as we become and informing us about who we should be. This animation addresses the need to connect with our surroundings and better understand the world within and outside of us and its continuously emerging beauty.


The film brings together the technique of stop-motion animation, the craft of hand papermaking, and the ancient tradition of shadow puppetry. Everything seen in the film has been made by hand and constructed using wire frames embedded in paper. The paper for the characters and the trees was made using cotton fiber from recycled rags and the paper used for the background was made from banana bast. A great deal of time went into these processes before something was finally ready for its moment in the animation.

Stage 1: Planning through drawings

This step involves making thoughtful illustrations of what the final characters should look like. The design for each character, tree, plant and any other prop used in the film is done at this stage. Movements of each prop are also considered and the moving parts are planned out as separate elements to be constructed.

Stage 2: Construction of Props

All the props are made to actual size on paper, after which they are traced over with the copper wire. This forms the wire frames, which are created by two different processes. They are either delicately glued onto the paper or embedded into the paper after it has been pulled from the vat.

In the gluing process, precise gluing is essential because it determines what the final shape will look like. After the frames have been glued into place on a sheet of paper, then another sheet of hand-made paper is taken and brushed with an adhesive solution. This brushed sheet is lowered onto the dry sheet containing the wire structures and water is brushed onto the adhesive-brushed top sheet. At this stage, this whole piece (the dry sheet with wires and the wet adhesive-brushed sheet) is placed between many layers of felt. This block of paper and felt is pressed for over six hours under a heavy lead press, and is then laid out to dry.

In the other process to create the structures, the wire is embedded into the paper after it has been pulled from the vat. Another sheet is pulled, and laid neatly atop the first sheet. To complete the process, both sheets are semi-dried in a hydraulic press and are then further pressed between many layers of felt for over six hours in a lead press.

Stage 3: The Mental and Physical Shape Forming Process

Imagining the paper pieces' movements are incredibly important in this step because the paper structures in the animation are incredibly fragile. They can only be moved a limited number of times before they are damaged and must be recreated. When cutting a piece for its purposes, one must imagine the piece's use in the animation beforehand and then weigh this against the gap between the edge of the paper and the wire frame. This gap determines the strength of the entire structure. If the cut is made too close to the wire, the structure will be inherently weak, and will wear out more easily with usage. A cut farther from the wire, on the other hand, means a more durable structure but a less precise shape.

The physical part of this process begins after the sheets are completely dry. Once the balance of a shape's durability, functionality, and look have been determined, it is finally precisely cut out with the idea of joining the shapes together, as in the case with the two figure's knee joints, for example. Holes are pierced in all the shapes to be joined, and a thin wire is passed through. This holds the two shapes together firmly to allow for maximum movement with minimum damage.

Stage 4: Shooting

The props and characters are now ready, the scene set. They all make their way to a light table, and a camera is set up directly above the set. After working out the movements on a sheet of paper, tweezers are employed to ensure minimal movement. Each prop/character is shot separately and each of these image sequences is then composited to create an entire frame. The entire film contains a total of 7000 frames, all shot in this way.

From the germ of an idea to a final edit, the entire process took seven months.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Animation: Roopaantar - A Metamorphosis

I recently entered my film in a short film competition. The first round is based on popular vote. So it would be great if you guys could vote for it! I think the voting goes on for atleast a week.
To vote you'll have to sms "IFF(Space)01" to 54646
from any cellphone in India.

Thanks for your support!

More Books

Click on the images to do them justice.

Flag book. Made at Still Water Bindery.

Stab bound album. The paste papers were made one sunny afternoon in Vermont. I'd been dying to try the combination of purple and yellow.

The Happy Book. This is a book I'd made for a friend, to lift his spirits when they were down. It opens like a present. The inside accordion leaves have been put together in two different ways, to represent the mountains as well the ocean.

Long Stitch Binding in red and blue.

Sewn on tapes with a handmade Kozo cover.

Book Boxes

A book box I made during my apprenticeship at the Still Water Bindery with Patricia Johnson. The lid opens to reveal 8 books. Two accordions, two coptics, two exposed sewn and two double signature single sewn structures.

This book box made at the Still Water Bindery can hold upto twenty 4.5" by 6" books.

Case Bound books

This is case-bound book I made at the Auroville Paper Press. The spine is white silk, and the cover is leaf embossed cotton rag paper.

The spine of this book is block-printed hand made paper.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Pages from my old journal that I finally managed to scan.
Click on the image for detail.

The beautiful view of the Himalyas we ultimately climbed with 700 monks, from Bhan's house in Kullu.

An old tree in Mussoorie that we stopped next to while buying Litchis for our trip.

A list of odds and ends, and a curiously shaped leaf that I found that looked so much like the nymphs in The Spiderwick Chorinicles.

Remnants of paste-papers, waxed linen and a few thoughts sitting on a hillside in

'The Masks I Wear'
The side-effects of working on a rotational Artists' Book at Still Water Bindery in Vermont.

In Mussoorie, sitting in Kal-Sang with a bowl of hot soup in the pouring rain. A man passes by with a black umbrella, carrying a small trunk saying 'Body Massage'.

Sitting in an old old Fir forest in Old Manali. A work in progress of the endless trees that surrounded me.

a page on my day at the incredible awe-some and mind boggling Huntington Library in LA, followed by the extremely strong and thought-provoking trip to the Sequoia National Park. It was life altering experience. I will never forget it, and I hope I have another opportunity to repeat it.

The book-binding begins. As do the visual intruction to burn the steps into my brain.

Thinking about the anatomy of the human heart after going to the Bodies exhibit, and about how love is in the mind.

The old fir tree at the lake house in Vermont. Peaceful.

The pines of Kasauli.

A page from a comic strip I made for a friend having a bad

Colourful paper scraps and more lists!

Sitting in the Boston Common with a hot chocolate and doughnut after a mentally exhausting trip to the Museum of Modern Art, where I saw exquisite pieces of Art Nouveau jewelery.