Week 64: 2nd – 8th December
After my initial attempts at creating alchemical flexagons (in week 24), I decided to create a hard backed version. This would not only give the object greater longevity, but would also allow audiences to manipulate it much more easily. Having realised that the flexibility of the structure was completely dependant on the hinge, this would therefore potentially allow me to create structures out of any material providing that the hinge flexed fully both ways.
Creating a hard backed flexagon
My first attempts at producing a more sturdy version were reliant on understanding how I might attach the structure together. Creating the paper version had made this much easier as the paper could be folded and fastened together in such a way as to hide the join. I also realised that I would have to fold the card flexagon before securing it, which was slightly tricky, but I finally managed it. The process of creating a larger hinge to aIlow for the thickness of the card also highlighted how the space between each of the pages allowed them to turn much more fluidly, an effect which I might be able to apply to any further paper versions. I now had a working prototype. The next stage was to consider how I might cover these hard flexagons.
As the content on the paper versions had been produced through printing on the paper before folding it, I realised that I would have to reconsider how I might include any potential content on the hard version. Firstly however, I needed to work out the template for the covering material. After a few failed attempts, I managed to create a covered version, using a bookbinding paper known as linson. Linson is a strong type of paper which is treated to resemble cloth. It is often used in book covering and creates a hardwearing finish with the qualities of an old hard backed book casing, which was exactly the kind of aesthetic I’d hoped for.
However, I still had the problem of how I might transfer images and / or text onto this object. After considering the potential of letraset, screen printing or digital copy, I decided to try out foil blocking, a technique that I’d recently been introduced to through my bookbinding class. Foil blocking uses a typesetting process similar to letterpress but instead of using the type to transfer ink, the letters are heated and then pressed into foil on the surface of the book.
I set my type to print all the text on each side at once , but as my prototype had already been folded, the card created raised levels in different areas of the book, meaning that only two words at a time could be printed. I decided not to let this deter me and instead folded the flexagon out bit by bit so that eventually all of the sections had words printed on them. I’d originally set my type so that all of the text was running the same way, but working within the constraints of my object under the foil blocking press meant that the text now ran in a square, which I found more aesthetically interesting and seemed to echo the cyclical nature of the work.
Although the foil blocking produces interesting and aesthetically pleasing results, unfortunately it is limited to the brass type that is available. Therefore, I want to consider the potential for printing on covering material first, using either digital or screen print. There is also the option to use relief printing such as lino or collograph after assembling the work, although this has more potential for error.
I’m also interested in the possibility of creating flexagons using wood and metal hinges, although I haven’t found a suitable hinge that could allow this as yet. The use of more robust materials would also allow the potential to upscale the work to make game-style boards and large sculptural works. Although this seems to be moving further away from artist books, it is predicated on the work of artists such as Anselm Kiefer, whose large lead books became ‘immovable fixtures in the museums and galleries that owned them’.