books, paper, mixed media


At my Bookies Group meeting this week I was asked about my process in making a carousel book.  When I design a carousel book I try to stick with five page spreads, no more than six, because the book best displays this number when opened into the carousel form. I use this to inform the rest of my content decisions.

The Idea

Like my other artist books the process for making carousels begins with the idea. Sometimes this idea springs from something that randomly catches my interest. Sometimes the daily news will strike a chord. Other times the catalyst could be a memory, a comment made by a friend or stranger, or an event of historical importance. You get it, the idea can come from anywhere, my favorite actor or even a song on the radio. Then, I take the idea and brainstorm.

The Analysis

I break the idea, let’s say botany, down into small pieces.  I usually look up Webster’s definition of the word. 

    botany:        1: a branch of biology dealing with plant life

                         2a: plant life

                         b: the properties and life phenomena exhibited by a 

                             plant, plant type, or plant group

From there I narrow plant life down to flowers and I make a list of my favorite flowers: daisies, roses, tulips, lavender, peonies, hydrangeas, lily of the valley, iris, delphinium, chrysanthemums, etc. I research famous quotes about flowers. I love quotes. I collect books of famous quotations. A quick internet search makes this part easy. Then I write down the quotes that speak to me in the moment. I’ve had as many as three pages of quotes to choose from after completing this step.


Next I look for imagery. To me the visual is important in a carousel book because it can be displayed as a work of art.

I prefer images with intricate details, they make for a much more interesting book. However details are challenging to transfer into my drawing because I have to be sure the pages will fold and unfold properly, and that the image can be seen and read clearly through all three layers of the page spread display. Another factor to consider is how the paper will support the image, being careful to leave enough background when cutting the design.  It is a study in negative space, which after all the years I have practiced I still have to problem solve to get it correct. 

                                     image                                                   quote                                                   page spread

The Selection

So, I have a definition, a list of quotes, and images to choose from. Keeping in mind that the carousel book will contain no more than six, (ideally five) page spreads, I have some tough choices to make. Examples  I consider when tackling this part of the process are: 

1. Which quotes do I feel have the most meaning? 

2. Which images have the best detail for rendering in a solid color using positive and negative space? 

3. Do any of the quotes fit specifically with any of the images? For example:

4. What colors will be used in each layer of the page spread? 

5. Will the same colors be used for every spread or will each be different? 

6. What will be the final size of the book?  

7. What color book cloth for the cover? 

8. What will the cover image be?  

9. What will be the title? 

10. How many books will be included in the edition?

Some of my answers are fairly consistent. I generally  use one color scheme throughout the book, except in my special edition hand colored books. My books are usually 5x7 in size. I coordinate the cover with the color of the page spreads. I select an image for the cover that is not already included in the book. I keep the title simple, one word if possible. Finally, most of my editions are limited to 10 books because I hand assemble and bind each one. Now that these questions are answered I move on to the next step.

So there you have it, my process. There are many other paths to the same destination, this is just how I get there.


First I gather materials and make sure quantity is sufficient for the edition size.  Two of my favorite resources for bookbinding supplies are Hollanders and TALAS.  I use an acid free 65lb. card stock paper for page spreads. This can be found easily at craft stores, but one of my favorite suppliers is French Paper, the colors and variety they offer are spectacular.   


Next step in production is drawing. I use a program called CorelDraw. Drawing takes me anywhere from five days to three weeks depending on my creativity level and the intricacy of the images.


Then I send the images from the computer to a laser cutter. I use an Epilog.  My cutting bed is 12x18 inches so I can usually cut two images at once. 


Each piece of each spread must be folded on the centerline. 


When all parts of every page spread are cut and folded (3 layers x 5 spreads x 10 editions = 150 total pieces)  I organize an assembly line setup so I can work without having to stop and look for missing parts.


Each spread has three layers that have to be glued together. For the carousel finished book size I am referencing (5x7) the layer sizes are. 10x7 back,  8.5x7 middle,    7x7 front. This is six glued edges per spread, and another four glued edges (39 total) to assemble the final book block. Similar to a pop-up book, these glue points have to be precise for the carousel to open and close properly.


Now comes the finishing touch, my favorite part of the process. First, I lay out at the davey board pieces and insert magnets into front and back (to later hold the carousel open). Then I cover the board with book cloth. These covers go back to the laser at this point for rastering of the image, title, author’s name, etc. I like to include the title on both front cover and spine so the book can be easily found from a shelf. When the covers are complete I glue the book blocks inside. 


If you want to be really fancy, the next task is to dress the books with  jackets. The jacket protects the book and adds an interesting visual component for marketing.  If desired, a colophon can be printed on the inside as there are no other pages on which to include this information on a carousel book.

Sign & Number

The final part of the process is to sign and number each book before it goes out into the world. The production time  for ten books is approximately a week.