Monday, January 25, 2010

Mica Books and Coptic Bindings

Mica is odd and intriguing material. It is most frequently used for industrial applications because of unique physical properties. Mica has a high dielectric strength and excellent chemical stability, making it a favored material for manufacturing capacitors for radio frequency applications. It has also been used as an insulator in high voltage electrical equipment, and between the bars of commutators in generators and motors.

The word "mica" is thought to be derived from the Latin word micare, meaning "to glitter", in reference to the brilliant appearance of this mineral (especially when in small scales). Ground mica is used to add the sparkle to paint and other substances like makeup and toothpaste.

Here Daniel Essig, our instructor, is working with a sheet of resin bonded mica that has been built up from splittings of mica. These had either an amber or green cast to them and could be bonded to paper and other elements with PVA glue.

We also utilized pure sheet mica that cannot be easily glued with conventional adhesives. It does however lend itself to drilling and sewn applications.

Having seen Daniel's imaginative work at numerous galleries and places around Asheville, North Carolina was an impelling motive to take his class at the folk school. My mother had attended this folk school twice, traveling all the way from Wisconsin to this corner of far western North Carolina. With the school only a four hour drive from my home I hankered for an opportunity to check out this venue, so this was the match I had been waiting for.

Specific class content had not been my main draw. From the published class description I envisioned working with smaller pieces of mica, not constructing an entire book displaying various techniques using mica. These larger pieces of mica were outside my repertoire of art supplies.

A little mica collage action from one of my classmates is shown here.

This is a fold-out spread from the book I made in class.

And the same fold-out seen from the opposite side.

Here is my completed book lying closed with its handsome Coptic binding facing you. To people who do not book-bind this looks like a simple braided closure.

Coptic binding refers to methods of bookbinding developed by early Christians in Egypt and north Africa in around the second century A.D. The term is also used to describe modern bindings sewn in the same style. Modern Coptic bindings can be made with or without covering leather; if left uncovered as my book is, a Coptic binding is able to open 360°. a Coptic binding is non-adhesive, and does not require any glue in its construction.

Artisans and crafters often use Coptic binding when creating hand made art journals or other books. Constructing the binding itself is somewhat complex and in class it took a full two hours to sew my pages together. Even knowing the binding technique well, the process would probably require at least 30 minutes. We used 4 needles and waxed linen to sew together our mica pages.

Now, I just need to repeat the process sometime soon, so I don't forget the technique entirely. Diagrams explaining the procedure are decidedly mystifying.


1 comment:

  1. Wow! Carina, your book is super cool and beautiful! Way to go on the binding!!!