my first book binding class was during my senior year of college, and in addition to learning different binding techniques, we also learned how to make double-tray clamshell boxes. we made our boxes following the library of congress instructions, boxes for the protection of books.
as the end of the year neared, our instructor told us our final project should be a portfolio of some sort, something to hold work we’ve created. i decided to make a giant clamshell box. dimensions:18 x 14-1/2 x 3-1/2 inches.
it took me a full weekend to make, and it was all i did that weekend. i remember sitting on the floor of my tiny apartment in loring park, surrounded by pieces of book board, carefully cutting and measuring, gluing boards together (the tray walls of the clamshell are 2 boards thick), pressing the boards and waiting for them to dry, covering every piece with paper, and all the while keeping track of the paper and board grain to reduce tension that could cause my box to pull apart after a few years.
when i brought it in to class on the day our portfolios were due, my instructor’s eyes widened a bit when she saw my clamshell. apparently i had taken the project too literally, and she was expecting simple folios. i had gone much farther with the project than expected. but it didn’t bother me that i had probably worked harder than anyone else in the class. while creating my portfollio was an intense and complex and nerve-wracking process, i had loved every minute of it.
it’s been stored in the back of a closet for over 15 years, and hasn’t been treated well. it’s dirty, has a little water damage, has been banged around… and when i pulled it out recently the weight of the project boards within it were just too much for the hinges and the top separated from the bottom. i’ve said my goodbyes.