Taking the composition from large to small: NRB Cover Project Recap – Part 3

An overview of designing and printing book cloth for New River Breakdown,  Terry Kennedy‘s poetry collection from Unicorn Press . You can see the finished book covers from this project at Unicorn Press. Recap part one is here. Recap part two is here.

Taking a dip: Ready to Dye

With five layers of imagery printed and then washed (partially) away, it’s time for the most unpredictable part of this process—the dye bath.  A robin’s egg blue mixed with turquoise will take the edge off the brighter colors and solidify the concept of a riverbed patina.

fabric - after 1st wash - pre dye
A detail shot of the printed linen, washed and ready to dye.
after dye bath
The dyed linen, now a light blue.

after dye bath
A panel of dyed linen for the book cloth, drying.
after dye bath
Detail of book cloth, dyed and ready for the next step.

Cutting down to size: Taking the composition from large to small

It’s time to cut the fabric panels down to book cover size so that I can print the last layer–the book title. First I wanted to make sure the smaller compositions would work well and that I didn’t need to add additional layers to the background patina. I cut a piece of board to the final book cloth size, moving it around the panels to see if the resulting small compositions were interesting.

rough cropping samples
Checking the composition possibilities with a crop.
rough cropping samples
Looks like the cloth varies greatly from place to place, but all compositions will be engaging, especially once the book title is overprinted.
final fabric panels ready to iron and cut
The stack of finished fabric panels ready to iron and cut down to size.
final fabric panels ready to iron and cut
All ironed, I really love the variety in the cloth.
ironing/cutting fabric
Cutting the panels down to book-size.
ironing/cutting fabric
Some of the details of the cloth are clearer after a good ironing.

Final touch: Printing the title

The last stage of the process–it’s time for the title. I wanted a visual for the title print that’s organic to tie this layer to the more subtle background textures already printed. I also need a bold, clear design so that all the covers read as the same in spite of the variation in the cloth. After working through several designs and sharing them with Terry and Andrew, we landed on a layout using a silhouetted branch that wraps around the front of the cover to the back.  The title is printed in a metallic gun metal  giving it a slight pop, while making it more organic than a solid black ink would be. I love the way the branch, once cropped, mimics a river cutting across the page.

NRB mockups - Cover Option B
The final cover design.
NRB mockups - Cover Option B
The cover design mocked up on a photo of the cloth to insure readability.
printing final layer - title info
Printing the final layer!
printing final layer - title info
A close up of the title on the printed linen.
printing" New River Breakdown book cloth
Printed book cloth, hanging to dry.
Final "New River Breakdown" covers
FInished book cloth, dried, stacked and ready to deliver.
Final "New River Breakdown" covers
You can see there’s lots of variation from cover to cover.
New River Breakdown - book cloth
Each cover is a unique print, the background patina changes from cover to cover.
Final "New River Breakdown" covers
The final 110 printed covers, ready to deliver to Andrew!

The process doesn’t end here…

After I turned over my book cloth for the New River Breakdown project, Andrew took over. Each book in this project is being handmade at Unicorn Press. My version of the book cover is the hardcover version, so Andrew’s work includes ironing the cloth I delivered to a special backing paper–converting it to usable book cloth before finishing the binding process.

The finished books are lovely, the linen held up beautifully throughout the process and makes for a wonderfully tactile reading experience. And at long last the other artists translations of the same book are revealed:

new river breakdown covers
Andrew’s work table with all five covers: Artists from top left: Woodie Anderson, top right: Chuck Johnson, bottom left: Tristin Miller, bottom center: Andrew Saulters and bottom right: Matthew Brinkley.
NRB-Tristin Miller
Here’s a look at Tristin Miller’s cover design, unfolded.
NRB-Matthew Brinkley
Matthew Brinkley’s cover, with a wrap-around design.
New River Breakdown Book Release
Terry Kennedy reading from his book at the New River Breakdown book release party. (photo: Tristin Miller)
New River Breakdown Book Release
Copies of New River Breakdown at the Book Release party. (photo: Tristin Miller)
New River Breakdown Book Release
Finished, bound copies of my cover design at the Book Release party. (photo: Tristin Miller)

You can see all the cover designs and find your own copy of New River Breakdown from Unicorn Press’s website and learn more about the other artists who participated in this project on Terry’s website, just click on the “The Team” tab at the top right of the page.

It’s been a great experience. I enjoyed the opportunity to do something new and the challenge of working so large and then so small on the same project was unique. It’s neat to see how other artists interpreted the same material in different, interesting ways. Most importantly, seeing such positive, creative energy in the community is wonderful and encouraging.


2 thoughts on “Taking the composition from large to small: NRB Cover Project Recap – Part 3

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