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This is a very small portion of my journal collection. The tags show the date range of each journal.

Click here to go to part 1 of this series.
Click here to go to part 3 of this series.

The Workhorse Journal Part 2
By Christine Cox

After years of journaling Iím always on the lookout for the Ďperfectí journal. Iím in the process of designing my idea of the Ultimate Journal and here are my thoughts on the design requirements for a workhorse.

  • Date everything. This one is huge. If you havenít been dating your journal entries, some day youíll thank me for this.
  • Numbered pages. Yes, youíll need to number the pages! Somehow this one strikes me as the most incompatible with the anarchic spirit of journaling but itís the one I never fail to use anymore. I find the task boring and time consuming so I only number just ahead of the page on which Iím currently journaling. Iíve found that Iím always jumping from topic to topic or wanting to go back and write about something days after I wrote about it the last time. I just write, ďContinued on page XXĒ on one page and, ďContinued from page XXĒ on the other and continue on with my thought. Numbering really helps with figuring out chronology later. OK, if you must make it pretty, stamp the numbers using rubber stamps and rainbow ink or practice your calligraphy.
  • Decorate or design the book so that itís obvious which is the front cover. After about the 90th time youíve opened your journal upside down youíll heed this little tip and hang a charm from the top of the spine or decorate the cover to make it clear that it is, in fact, the cover of the book. If I happen to choose a journal with matching front and back covers Iíll usually stick a visual clue somewhere to indicate the front.
  • The most functional journals are those that you can open flat for ease of writing or sketching. Most limp leather and exposed spine books open flat and look great.
  • Consider size. What is more important, room to stretch out and glue stuff and let your mind go wild or having a journal small enough to fit into a purse or backpack? Your journal should fit your lifestyle.
  • Iíve been making hardware for my books lately and love hinges and hasps. Plan ahead, a hasp makes a book stay closed but it also keeps it from expanding. If you are the type to save everything and glue it into your journal, a hasp closure wonít be a good choice.
  • If you are a saver but not a gluer, a journal with a flap will help corral your treasures and protect your pages. Velcro is handy for this. Itís invisible until you open the book and itís extremely durable.
  • If you make your own books, think about working envelope Ďpagesí into the design of your journal, especially if you like to save small things and to not have them glued down.
  • If you are a gluer and make your own journals, add some type of shim or section/signature wrap, depending on your structure, so that the spine edge of the book will be taller than the fore edge. As you glue things into the book it will balance out.
  • Make sure that the cover material is up to the abuse you expect to deliver. Iím really hard on a journal so I tend to use those with metal, leather or canvas covered boards for covers.
  • Put contact information in your journal so that someone can get hold of you if you leave it somewhere. I got a book back this way once.
  • If you frequently need to remove and replace pages in your journals, consider a screw-post or binder style book. Even a binder can look good if you put your mind to it. Of course if you put your journal in a binder does that cross the line into scrapbooking?
  • If you are making your own journals and you need divided sections for some reason, wrap the first section/signature of each topic section in a colored cardstock. It will be heavy enough for the book to fall open naturally at those spots and the colors can be used for design effect as well. If you wrap the sections/signatures you may have the other half of the cardstock in a place that you donít want it. Just artistically tear off the part of the cardstock you donít need. Be sure to leave at least an inch or so or it might tear out of the book and then youíd lose your divider.
  • Use journals made with good paper. Not only does a high quality paper add beauty and texture to a book, it also makes or breaks a journal on the functionality scale. If your journal is made with thin or absorbent paper and youíre learning calligraphy, you arenít going to be very happy. If youíre a writer, try 70 lb. text paper, heavier if you use markers or calligraphy inks. Watercolorists and sketch artists might like using glorious journals made with lovely, lightweight watercolor paper for the text block.
  • Make a strap for your journal so that you can sling it over your shoulder. This is especially great for traveling or conventions. The journal is out of the way but at the ready for those impromptu notes and sketches. Gluing Tyvek inside a garment leather or fabric strap will prevent it from stretching.
  • Looking for a low-impact way of keeping your journal closed? Try a huge rubber band. They come in cool colors too. Make sure yours is loose enough that it doesnít damage your book. I found mine at a local discount store (like about a million for $1.00).

Click here to go to part 3 of this series.

Christine Cox was a regular contributor to ARTitude Zine. This article originally appeared there and is reprinted here with permission. Unfortunately ARTitude is no longer produced.


Issue # 14

Christine Cox teaches metalsmithing and bookbinding classes in our Studio in Volcano, CA.