Materials working against you and the pursuit of the perfect circle

Angelica Anatole Our Hands  Process of Styling
Our Hands: Process of styling and beautification

For my photo essay book Our Hands, I attempted a book design that failed.  Instead of doing a simple design where the photos are the main feature, I tried incorporating different textured paper to convey the experience of using your hands based on the images displayed.  There was a textured sheet with a die-cut showing only the hands for each photo before you flipped the textured sheet to see the entire photo.  For example, I used a paper that looked and felt similar to the touch of hair to supplement the above featured photo at the hair salon.  While the textured paper was visually interesting, the paper itself was difficult to cut due to its delicate nature and its resistance for being sewn together with the other textured papers. During the iterative process of binding the book, I eventually decided to remove this paper, because it constantly shifted within the binding and would tear.  Each textured sheet had their own challenges.

As a result of using these individual textured sheets, I could not use signatures to sew the pages together.  I selected a Japanese book binding style, because it wrapped around the outside of the book spine to hold the book together.  Sewing the book together was a nightmare.  Each textured sheet had a different weight and thickness that did not allow me to easily pass the needle through a group of papers.  Each paper had to be individually threaded through to confirm that the thread found the hole.  Plus, depending on the delicacy of the paper, I had to vary my pressure interacting with the paper to avoid tearing it.  In order to accomplish this process, I had to awkwardly balance the book in my lap and peer through the book spine to confirm that each sheet was sewn successfully.  As a result of this process, the thread was never taut.  I needed to loosen the thread each time to perform the same process for the next hole.  At the end, the book is bound together, but it doesn’t look pretty.

I went back to the drawing board and have re-started the book to reflect a simpler design. At the moment, the book only has one die-cut on the book cover followed by vellum paper over the first photo.  There is currently no other textured paper in the re-design.

As a result of many die-cuts, I figured out a process that worked for me to cut out circles by hand….

1) I would lay out the textured paper on my cutting mat and gently tape it in the left, corner edge.

2) I would place my circles stencil and tracing paper over the textured paper and similarly tape it on the left side so I can easily lift them like I was turning a page in a book.

3) I would lay my photograph down over the textured paper but underneath the tracing paper and stencil. I did not tape the photograph down.

4) Using a pencil, I would trace a circle around the hands in the photograph for where the die-cut would be and removed the photograph.

5) To cut out the circles, I first cut down vertically and then horizontally through the center of the circle.  I then cut out each section of the circle as individual pie pieces.  Depending on the size of the circle, I would use a X-Acto knife or utility knife with thinner blades that were more flexible.

6) Lastly, I would use a slightly bigger circle stencil over my original cut to trim and smooth out any edges.

Although it was incredibly satisfying to cut out circles that appeared to be like 80% perfect, I have recently attended the laser cut orientation and this will probably become my default process for cutting out circles.


One thought on “Materials working against you and the pursuit of the perfect circle”

  1. Do we keep it simple or do we embellish? Or, is there a creative solution that that answers “yes” to both those questions? From experimenting with die cuts to choosing lush paper samples the most important thing to remember is the original concept. The story that the photographs were telling. A designer walks a fine line between clever and smart. We sometimes do not know when to stop or to pull back, to edit the bells and whistles. Choice should be a leaning experience to take us to the final execution of what we want to communicate.

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