Saturday, October 24, 2015

My new sketchbook, and spoon design.

I am sure all of us have had the experience of starting a much anticipated adventure, only to find that you have forgotten something crucial to getting the most out of that experience.  Like going to the Grand Canyon and forgetting to bring your camera?  Well, my most recent experience with this was arriving at Lie Nielsen for a class with Jogge Sundquist and realizing that I had forgotten to bring a sketchbook.  Thankfully my friend Dave gave me a few pages torn from his and I muddled by, but it was not the same.  I really missed having a sketchbook.
And what made this really annoying is that I had a lot of sketchbooks at home, in all shapes and sizes. I just can't seem to find one that really meets my needs, so I just keep buying more.  Sometimes the pages won't lie flat and I end up breaking the spine.  Sometimes the tooth of the paper is too fine and won't easily accept both pen and ink.  Most times the book disintegrates in my bag, the pages separating from the cardboard cover.  And where to put your pencil, ruler, eraser, etc...?  Shouldn't sketchbooks accommodate accessories?
So, I finally decided to make my own.

I chose to make a wrap-around cover out of full grain leather, secured with just a simple strap.  This offers great protection to the pages while the book bangs around in my bag.

Since I made it myself I could mix and match what paper went into the signatures, so I would never want for a particular type.  Drawing paper? Check.  Watercolor paper? Got that.  I even added vellum and brown packing paper just for kicks.  Because the signatures are stitched directly to the leather cover, the pages lie pretty flat, and if they don't I can mash them down with glee, knowing there is no spine to break.

I also added a pocket on the back inside of the cover for pencils, rulers and my drawing compass.

The compass been my new favorite tool in laying out new spoon designs (though I am enjoying using Don's SDK template.)  A while back I posted my thoughts on the book By Hand and Eye by Walker and Tolpin.  They describe how pre-industrial design was done largely by proportions as opposed to measurements, and this got me thinking about what basic measurements go into spoon design.  I have decided that bowl width is the "unit" of my spoons, so that all other elements are proportions of that.  The results of this sort of thinking look like this:

I lay out a key on the side, stepping out fractions of the diameter of the spoon bowl.  Once done, they become my "palate" for spoon design.  I still sketch the basic form, but the various circles help keep things symmetrical and in proportion.  Once done I trace onto plastic and make a template.

On a related note, Dave Fisher just posted a great bit on the importance of "Reference Sketching."

One more thing: the journal project was a great one to do with my daughters, who both wanted their own when they saw mine.  It is a relatively easy and safe project to do with kids.  While I had to cut out the leather and punch the holes in the leather for the signatures, the girls dyed the leather, punched the holes in the signatures and stitched the signatures in.  Saddle needles are not sharp, so not much risk there.  Now they are the envy of all of their friends.  Hannah chose brown, and Mazie chose the oxblood with added concho for bling.

Here is the vid that got me started:


  1. Wow!! I love it, Eric. What a motivator to sketch that would be.

    1. Thanks Dave. It has been a pleasure to use the book, which has definitely improved the time I spend thinking on these ideas. Reading up on calligraphy these days, in between grading.
      Now I just have to figure out how not to forget it...