Friday, October 7, 2016

Making a little book 2 -- pasting

I wrote yesterday about how to make a very simple accordion book for your newspaper poetry.  But that was the easy part.  The hard part -- pasting the clippings into the book -- shouldn't be that hard; didn't you learn pasting in kindergarten?  And it's a whole lot easier nowadays than it was when I was in kindergarten, thanks to the invention of glue sticks.

But there's a difference between kindergarten pasting and artisanal pasting.  I wish I was better at the artisanal kind; some of my artist friends who specialize in books seem to have way better pasting skills and equipment than I do.  But I do not claim to be making books for the ages, so all I want to accomplish is to get the pieces stuck on straight and not have them fall off tomorrow.

First tip: there are glue sticks and there are glue sticks.  I want one that will go on smooth and white, not grainy and tacky and purple.  Some glue sticks are too elastic -- no sooner have you smeared them on but they pull together and recede from the edges.  Some are too dry -- you have to really scrub at the paper to get the glue to stick.  Don't buy those.

I haven't tried every glue stick on the market, so you may well have one that you love and I don't know about.  My go-to is the Staples house brand.  I have also used and liked Elmer's All-Purpose.  Whatever brand you choose, make sure you get the white, not the purple; I think they're much creamier.

Second tip: little bits of newspaper are difficult to handle with your fingers.  I couldn't do collage or newspaper poetry without my tweezers, which make it easy to pick up and place the bits.  I have also seen people do this with the tip of an X-acto knife, but I do better with the security of a two-point grip.

Third tip: don't try to be frugal with your glue.  When you put a teeny weeny bit of paper down and glue over it, don't try to just use the edge of the glue stick or try to just dab a little on.  Rub that sucker firmly over your little bit, realizing that you are applying way more glue to your work surface than you are to your clipping.

Yes, you're wasting 75% of your glue, but it's the only way to get a secure bond.  (That's why I buy my glue sticks in the 18-pack.)  If by chance you get too much glue on your clipping, and it oozes out onto the paper, clean it away with a toothpick or the tip of your tweezers.  Better to lift the excess glue, if you can, than to wipe or smear it.

Final tip: don't try to be frugal with your work surface.  If you accidentally place your clipping face down into an area with glue on it, you'll make a mess and perhaps ruin your work.  I like to cut pieces of scrap newspaper about 3 x 4 inches, make a big pile, and take a new sheet with almost every paste.

But after all these tips, I'll wind up by saying don't get too precious about it.  Newspaper is ephemeral and non-archival to begin with.  At least in my mind, these little books are more about the concept than about the execution.  I want them to be read, not locked up in a glass vitrine for the ages.  So I try to get the words pasted on straight, but I don't fret over a bit of crookedness.  This is a hand-made piece of art, and it's OK if it looks hand-made.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.  Like glue.


  1. Kathleen, a tip from a bookbinding workshop, old magazines, catalogues and just keep turning to a new page when gluing.

  2. Thank you for these last two posts. Your instructions are very clear. I'm looking forward to trying this!

  3. Thanks, Kathy. Can't wait to start glueing.