Monday, January 7, 2013

Beer Coaster Book

In my quest to master the Coptic stitch, I've been seeking unusual materials to bind into books. Why not a beer coaster? It's a small flat cardboard square, the perfect size for a portable travel journal that you can bind with watercolor paper, sketch paper, or printmaking paper. Beer coasters are lightweight and—best of all—FREE, so why not use them to bind books?
Well, I discovered one reason why it might not be the best idea: Cardboard coasters are not made of durable materials. This is an understatement, by the way. The tiniest bit of mishandling will break off a corner, rip into an edge, or wrinkle or tear the surface. Coasters are fragile, folks, and they must be handled with respect.
It almost hurts to watch the wait staff at one of my favorite restaurants, the Yard House, toss a beer coaster onto the table and then—how dare they?—plop a dripping glass of iced tea onto these precious art objects. "Wait, stop!" I practically shriek. "Don't you know what that is?"
"Yeah... it's a beer coaster," says the bewildered waitress. She's looking a little fearful. What might I do next? So I calm down, and then I gently explain that I am a collector of beer coasters, thank you, and I'd appreciate it if she'd handle my treasures a little more carefully.
Mmmm hmmm, you can imagine the looks I get after that. Actually, they're pretty cool about it. I can't be the only one who nips into the Yard House for iced tea just so I can snag some more beer coasters. They're gorgeous little works of art; I can't be the only collector.
But like I said, they're incredibly fragile. So if you want to use them as a base for a collage or as artist book covers, you must first reinforce them by adhering them to book board or cardboard. I then give my covers a nice coat or two of gel medium (matte, because I don't like it shiny) on all sides, and allow them to dry for a day or so before piercing the holes and binding them into books.
After binding my watercolor journal with the Coptic stitch, I tied on a vintage button with a waxed linen thread for a wrap-around closure. Coptic is great because it allows a handmade book to lie flat, but it can cause some books to flop open and that can be tedious. Especially if you travel with your book and use it for sketching. A button closure was my solution.
I liked it so well that I added a button closure to my Little Metal Book featured in an earlier post. I teach this book and the Coptic binding technique along with my jewelry making courses, so if you're interested why not come out to Idyllwild for a workshop? Binding books is very much like jewelry making, requiring the same skill set, mental concentration, and manual dexterity, plus some of the same materials, and many of the same tools. I highly recommend it!
Happy wrapping and binding,
p.s. If you're wondering, the Yard House has the prettiest beer coasters, because they feature paintings by abstract artist Jerome Gastaldi. Check out his cool video here.


Jean said...


Eliza said...

Really amazing

Sharilyn Miller said...

Thanks! It was a lot of fun to make.

Yard House said...

Hi Sharilyn - Thank you for sharing the link to your blog and what a great coaster book! We're flattered to be apart of this art project!

Yard House