Revisiting the Portfolio

When I started out bookbinding, the first thing I made was portfolios, or folios, for holding 5×7 photographs. I figured, simple structure, no need to worry about a book block, great! If only I had known how much more challenging the folio is than a covered journal!

My very first attempt was a huge letter sized folio which I took directly from Heather Weston’s BookCraft: Techniques for Binding, Folding, and Decorating to Create Books and More. I used a really fun cactus print gift wrap for the covering, and a coordinating olive green. So the outside, at a glance, looks OK (it’s not). The inside is a clear disaster!

fun folio or portfolio with cactus print and olive green book cloth

I switched sizes to the 5×7 folios, as they were less wasteful of materials while I was learning, and I knew they could easily be gifted to photographer friends once I improved my technique. I also thought they could eventually be used for client gifts (my wedding and family photography clients), but I’m not there yet.

These small folios were intended to hold just a handful of gift prints, vs holding a stack of prints for storage, so in order to simplify, I decided to remove the outer flap, so that the outside cover is just two pieces, front and back, with a flexible cloth spine. I then added card flaps inside to contain the photos, and used elastic or ribbons (depending on my mood, and the colors of the materials I was using) to hold it all together. The elastic, although a little fiddlier, seemed to be the better material for this.

I had huge issues with the inner flaps though. Because I was using one piece of card, with the grain running parallel to the spine of the folio, the top and bottom flaps had to be folded against the grain. Card does not like to be folded against the grain. I tried scoring the fold first, but this weakened the fold and didn’t seem to make it any less messy. Glueing it down was also tricky. Maybe I’ve been spoiled with my lovely Japanese papers that paste down so easily … anyway. I abandoned the folios for a little while, due in part to these frustrations … and also the arrival of 25 journal text blocks in the mail …

(Linguistic footnote: “spoiled” and “spoilt” are both correct however Americans tend only to use the former and Brits seem to use both; “gluing” and glueing” are also both correct. Who knew? Well, I do now. Also, linguistics was my major. Perhaps the most fascinating and useless subject after maybe art history.)

modern marbled portfolio or folio for holding photos

I’m revisiting this structure due to a special request from family, and also because I need to switch it up from journals for a little while (I’ve made around 18 in a row!) I decided to add back the outer flap from my original attempt, and completely do away with the inner flaps. This will give me a little more control over the structure, rather than being at the mercy of card stock. Instead, an elastic fastening will hold the photos in place when the folio is held vertically, and the outer board flap will hold them in at the side.

portfolio made with hand marbled paper and Iris book cloth in Celery

As you can see above, the elastic placement here is poor; it is too close to the fore edge. I will change this and shift it another inch or so further in for my next attempt. Another major error was miscalculating the difference between the two spine reinforcement pieces; you need to make the main (left) spine wider than the fore edge spine, so that the fore edge flap sits inside nicely, but I way overestimated. I added an extra 1/4″ whereas it should have been around 1/16-1/8″. Despite all this, the structure appears overall much better. My previous folios didn’t include a spine reinforcement at all, and I much prefer how it sits with these additions.

inside of a marbled paper folio

Surprise! There’s more color inside! I had a lot of fun with this model. I really love the outer marbled paper – it’s one of my very favorite prints from the past week or so – and instead of going plain inside as might be expected, I decide to go for crazy color throughout. I chose the soft faded blues because they go great with the celery Iris book cloth, and also because the print came out too faded to be used as a featured print (dirty carrageenan size, perhaps?)

Well, those are my thoughts so far on revisiting the folio. I plan to make at least two more this week, one with a magnetic enclosure, loosely based on the instructions in this post. I’ll let you know how it goes …


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