If you had told me 20 years ago that I’d spend a weekend trying to fashion a DIY tarot cards in my living room, I’d probably have said, “Yeah, that sounds about right.” Tarot as a means of divination is not something I’ve ever really considered and any knowledge I had of it has been peripheral until a month ago. In much of Europe they are simply used to play games, but instead of the 52-card playing cards familiar in the US, there are 78 total. Both decks have shared origins. Looking at the various styles over the centuries sent me down a rabbit hole of research. It reminded me of the nights I spent in the family library reading about Egyptian mythology in the World Book Encyclopedia.
The Rider-Waite deck, featuring the artwork of Pamela Colman Smith, is one of the most common decks out there. One thing I didn’t care for were the color schemes. One weekend I started playing with watercolors and making my own colors.
My preference was for an ethnically neutral version, so all the figures have blue and green skin.
In April 2016 I produced this 2-color print of a Zenith 3M Russian 35mm camera. I bought the camera from a store in Ukraine because I thought it looked interesting and I might end up getting into some old school analog photography. As if I had time for another creative pursuit.
The Zenith Camera print is one of few prints I have done using a photograph as the basis for the print. The Silo also used a photographic reference for making the films, but the films were all hand inked. The films for the Zenith Camera were modified digitally in the computer and printed. But just as much work went into staging the photograph.
After the my initial development of Vari-Dot ruling, I looked into having notebooks produced for sale. Many papers were tested. I reached out to binders and printers for quotes on getting various forms of notebooks produced. The prospect of spending $5000 or more on notebooks in this age of tablets and smartwatches was daunting. Instead I turned to prototyping small batch handmade notebooks.
I went on to purchase some modest supplies to craft the books myself. I have sold a few and given many away. Most have been prototypes, but I still kind of dream of producing a line of consistent handmade notebooks with quality heavy paper.
While I was brainstorming ideas for a line of notebooks, the name Operator is the one that stuck out the most. We all operate something whether it is a motor vehicle, buttons in an elevator, or electric hairdryer.
One of my favorite logo designs features a spoke wheel on a faux marbled pattern that hearkens back to the classic composition notebook. The wheel has a classic 36-spoke design, but erroneously (and intentionally) features an extra 37th spoke. (I turned 37 the year I was working on this project and I’m also fond of prime numbers.)
Dozens of mock ups have been done. Part of what has held me back from producing notebooks in this style is that it is challenging with my modest tools to trim books that are the same size and consistently square. The idea that someone might purchase two books that would sit next to each other on a shelf where one is a millimeter taller than the other does not sit well with me..
Furthermore, the amount of time that goes into putting together a handmade notebook is substantial. In order to bring that time down, I have some jigs and fixtures in mind. I still won’t be able to compete on price with notebook makers that churn out millions of books from factories overseas, but I can offer something unique and niche to discriminating stationery nerds like myself.
Personally, I just like the feel of a good pen or pencil scribbling across a quality sheet of paper. However, beyond the aesthetics or tactile sensation, studies show that writing and taking notes by hand promote a better kind of learning.