Putting Together a Limited Edition

Circus book cover

Before I head back into the studio to finish off this edition I thought it would be a good idea to show all the steps that go into putting it together. This is the finished book in a series of books based on my “weekly wait for food”. Every Sunday morning we go to a particular diner in our area and as soon as we arrive our waitress gives us coffee and our silverware wrapped up with a napkin in this napkin wrapper.

I carefully remove the wrapper and can only tear it into a shape based on that years’ theme. I do allow myself to use the knife, fork or spoon as tools but find that the fork is the best for giving texture and poking an eye into something.

The somewhat complex cover of the book for the diner series was discovered on an anthology of poetry book loaned by a friend. I liked how it folded and how both sides had to be printed exactly to get the windows to line up with an image. This appeals to an engineering side of me – making something fit.

I photographed the diner’s buffet table and interior so I could adjust them in a free photo application downloaded onto my computer. Microsoft Publisher helps with the layout of pages and design. The cover has to be printed on my large Epson printer that will easily accommodate 11″ x 17″ card stock that will give me two covers inside and out when loaded properly.

This is the fifth year of making things out of the napkin wrappers while waiting for my food. The first year was insects. That was fun, making bugs in a diner. Below in an image of the center fold of that book with its own pop up insect.

Diner Time Books with pop up insects

The only text in the insect book is what our waitress says to us.

After insects came a year of garden guests, then sea creatures and then the circus. I did not do editions of garden guests or sea creatures. Well, not yet. I am tempted when I finish the circus book to go back to the sea creatures because I made a special one for my collector of these little artworks when his entire year of the sea creatures was lost with a six year old and the fire place. I made his one off book as compensation for his loss in a flag style book that sounded like waves washing in and out as the sea creatures moved back and forth. I can easily talk myself into doing an edition of twenty of that book. It too was fun. And of course fun is about all that comes from this work. It is expensive in ink and paper, let alone time. The insect book sold for $20 each and I gave away more than I sold. With the circus book I am raising the price to $35 and as of today have five spoken for.

Let me start by saying that each Sunday when I make the “object” out of the napkin wrapper it is photographed on my iphone and then the piece is given to my collector who is amazingly grateful to receive these bits of scrap paper torn into something. Once in a while he will brave an attempt at something himself with his own wrapper and seek a critique. He is also my first purchaser of a finished book. Naturally I enjoy his enthusiasm.

When we return from the diner, I re-size the photo and post it on facebook for those who are following Sandy Webster – Artist can see the latest in Napkin Wrapper work. When a year or 52 different pieces are finished I can start a new series and hopefully I have selected something that I can do 52 variations on that theme.

Here is how the circus book is being done step by step. To begin all photos have been re-sized to fit the pages and layout that must fit into the previously designed cover. They are saved carefully until the entire 52 images have been used and pages numbered.

Then the printing. Here it gets fussy with ink and expensive. I need several cartridges to start the project. In the case of the circus book, the paper is card stock like the cover. All paper from the same ream and all carefully loaded with the best side being printed on. Then it is to the board shear to trim pages to the exact size and begin assembling.

Pages being glued

This very handy glue dispenser from MicroMark makes this job so much easier as a very thin bead of glue is needed to overlap the pages by only one half inch. Pages must be kept straight along a line and squared up to each other. The whole book pages glued out is quite long and they easily fill the studio.

pages ready to be foldedPages on board shear

After the strips of pages are dried I begin the folding process. The circus book is an accordion style book that I want to be able to turn by pages or pull it completely away from the spine to give the feel of an active circus tent with lots going on at once.

pages being folded

This again is precise work. Then the book is put briefly into the press to crease the spine folds tighter together.

book spine being pressed

Then it is time to make the cover fit the text block and cut the windows in the cover.

covers with text block

cover inside ready to be cut

All cut, trimmed, folded and sized.

cover folded to fit text block

Gluing in the text block and pop up ticket.

Circus book title page

Then finally fitting in the program to a T strap inside the back cover.


There are more of the edition of twenty to finish off.

folded books piling up

Is all this work and materials being compensated for in the price of $35 each? Hardly. But I do find making them so much fun and that is worth something. I will likely quit making these books about the diner wait for food when I go back to do the year of sea creatures. I can’t think of much that will be as interesting as these three variations on the diner books. At present I am tearing out dogs and so many of them look alike. They are a bit of a come down from the circus and I have no idea what will be next. Maybe I will just start a ball of napkin wrappers just to see how large I can get it. The thought of just sitting there with that napkin wrapper and doing nothing with it is just not a good idea.

Wish me luck on selling more than five of these books!