How to Wash and Finish Conversations with the Ocean

If you've decided to purchase the Collaborative Edition of Conversations with the Ocean by Evelyn Elgie and Brianna Tosswill, congratulations! You're officially a Penrose Press collaborator! I've compiled some information below that will help you take your copy from folded black pages to complete booklets.

Here is a video if you're into that, but all of the info is also included in writing below :)



What have you received?

Inside of your shipping envelope you will find a cloth bag that is the "cover" or container for "Conversations with the Ocean". It has been screenprinted and dip dyed and has a drawstring top.

Inside the bag you will find three folded sheets of paper. You can go ahead and unfold them. The creases are important to the final structure but not the direction or orientation of these initial folds. They are essentially placeholders. 

unfold your book to a flat page

You'll be able to see that one side of each sheet has text and the other side has an illustration. The text and illustration have been printed in a water-soluble resist, and the colour on top of the resist is pigment powder that has been fixed with an aerosol fixative. 

You'll see that on the text side of each page there is a large number: 1, 2, or 3. This indicates the reading order. Once the booklets are finished, those numbers will land on the front of each.

Washing the Pages

This is the area of the project where you get to make some decisions! Where do you want to wash your book? In the ocean? A lake? A river? (don't lose it to the current!) Your bathtub? You can even wash it from your kitchen table. I haven't tried it (nor have any of my team) but hypothetically you could leave it out in the rain. Everything is an experiment! 

wash your book in an ocean, river, or bathtub!

Some conclusions from the wash-teams at the Atlantic, Pacific, and Great Lakes shores:

    • a flat surface is really handy for wiping the pages clean on. Zack, who did the Great Lakes washing says that if you wipe the cloth over a wrinkle or fold in the page, a light line appears at that crease that you won't be able to get rid of again.
    • if you're on a sandy beach, the book will get sandy. This tip is from the inagural washers on the West Coast: Tora, John, and Jen, who went in with very little instructions and paved the way for the rest of us. The sand is okay!! It adds to the authenticity, and also, it brushes off once it's dried.
      • If a part of the page isn't coming clean, add more water, don't wipe harder. 
      • wind is your enemy and will likely tear the wet paper. Avoid windy days at all costs. (This is also why I'm having you put that final cut/tear in the pages after you wash them, instead of doing it for you beforehand! All three teams said the tear made their pages very fragile and unweildy)
      • Use a rag to wipe the books (that you won't use afterwards in the kitchen or bathroom). 
        • Don't stack the pages to dry. The resist is rice-paste and when it dries it acts like a glue. Hang them up or spread them out on the ground. 

        Book pages hanging up to dry: conversations with the ocean

         You'll be able to see the areas that are supposed to wash away even before you wash them. If you can't see that ghost-image in one area or another, that likely means it isn't there, and that is a screenprinting error! That's on me. This entire project is a new process and I was screenprinting clear paste onto white paper (essentially blind). I did my best to select and send out only the pages where the text will wash out clear, but if you are unable to read it post-wash, send me and email and I'll send you a paperback copy so you can have the complete poetry (very important).


        Completing the "Instabook" Format

        1. Fold the page in half, text-side-out, hamburger fold.hamburger fold vs hotdog fold
        2. Make a tear or cut from the middle of the folded edge (this is important) to the centre of the folded page. In the diagram, I've marked the cut/tear path with a bold line. Stop at the perpendicular fold. Many of you will feel more comfortable with cutting. It's straightforward and less likely to go wrong. Thats just fine! The reason that I've torn this portion of the regional editions s that Evelyn and I decided that the ragged white edge looks like a cresting wave. cut from the folded edge into the centre of the page
        3. Pull the two corners of the cut/torn edge away from each other to make a kind of cross shape. make a kind of cross shape
        4. Remember the large numbers I called your attention to before? Separate them from the other three pages and flatten your little group neatly. group the three un-numbered pages together
        5. This last step is a bit fussy and can be skipped if you like! Just fold the cover over and youre done. However, what I've been doing is modifying the pointed spine into a square one. I wrap the cover page gently around the other three and create a little bubble or bump with the topmost sheet near the spine. I then push the bump towards the spine until it makes a new crease, about 1/8" away from the original spine crease. I fiddle with it until it's square, then I press the inconsistencies out towards the fore-edge of the book, creating an additional crease there, and causing the cover to sit slightly back from the other pages. All of this is demonstrated in the video at the very top of this page if you need to see it in action to understand!square up the spinepush the bump into the spine and re-flatten the fore-edge

        Et voila! Your book is finished! 

        Congratulations, and thank you for joining us on this adventure! Please feel free to share your unique book washing experience using the hashtag #convoswiththeocean 


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