Saturday, 30 August 2008

on learning

Since I started selling books on Etsy about a month ago, I've noticed something.

I've noticed that my standards of what's acceptable to make have suddenly risen. Perhaps its because photos can hide little faults and imperfections, and I worry so much that my books won't look as good in the flesh. Because if someone picks up a book at a book fair or in a shop or gallery, they're seeing and holding the exact thing they're going to get, and if they don't like it, if it doesn't match what they think it should be, then they put it back down and walk away. Basically, I know my work must be ok because it wouldn't get bought if it wasn't (if you see what I mean). No worries.

But online it's a bit different. For my books to sell I suppose the buyer must like what they see in the photos and price and description, but until they receive it, there's still that expectation there, will you be pleased with it when you're holding in your hands? And although the chances are high (I try to make my descriptions and pictures as accurate as possible!) there's still that worry in the back of my mind.

But this worry has had an unexpected effect...

When I'm making mock ups and experiments, it doesn't matter if a little smudge gets on the cover, or one of the pages has a mark, but now these things are quite suddenly so important to me. Small small details that before I would let pass, ignore or just didn't see are now glaring me in the face. Shouting 'you can't send that to someone', a millimeter difference stands out a mile.

And I feel like I am beginning to understand what it takes to achieve the quality I've been aspiring to in my work (Kaija, Fletcher Durant, these) Not that I feel I'm anywhere near it though, in fact I'm feeling really frustrated with myself, with how I can't seem to get things just right, just how I want them; with how everything seems to take twice as long all of a sudden. So many books that previously I would've been pleased with have ended up in the not-good-enough pile.

But I know it's a good thing :)

This brown paper book is a recent experiment, playing around with paper instead of buckram for cover material. Testing its strength. My first attempt at this hard back binding after a few months of not trying it were pretty disastrous, glue blobs galore and a far too big gap at the spine. It's amazing how much you forget when you stop doing something isn't it. This is my second attempt, and luckily it's much improved, because soon a whole new batch of students will be coming in for inductions, and I want to make sure I know how to do it right!


Gina said...

They all look pretty amazing in the photographs! I like the brown paper cover.

Kaija said...

Oh you make me blush! You sound so happy when you write about learning that it makes me happy. Maybe I should try something new; it's so wonderful to be able to see improvement all the time. The book I won from your giveaway is gorgeous. You've got quality :)

JuliaB said...

Your books are beautiful but I know what you mean about seeing the faults that others may not even notice. I have the very same problem with my sewing. One stitch out of place and it's just not good enough, though others wonder what i'm talking about!

Kim said...

Are we all so hard on ourselves? I have been dithering about starting up an Etsy store for those exact reasons. Nice to know I am not alone in my wish for The Perfect One. Your books surely look beautiful, I am sure they also feel beautiful, that the paper hisses cleanly when you riffle the pages, that they smell of purest paper and cloth, glue and (when there) ink, and I dare say if you tasted them, they would be chocolate and vanilla and buttered rum!