Mauch Books

Discovering an Honest Architecture Through Books

Image for bridge design for the Iowa State University Cemetery in Pammel Woods


A collage of images. Source images not mine

Finished Focus Grant Project

Finished Focus Grant project
Between Page and Stone
Part One: The Library

Here is my spring break.
Had some difficulties making it but it was a lot of fun. Luckily the weather was beautiful.

Decided to simplify things and make it focused on The Library of Babel and Exeter.
Could potentially be a part of a series paring one Borges story to one Kahn building.

The whole goal was to use a Borges’ tale to generate a Kahn-esque form. In order to do that I looked at the similarities between the works of the two. An earthbound sense of place, where a part is seen in reference to the whole, is felt in many of their works. In fact, it seems that both men created works which as a part are strange and fantastic but fit reasonably well with the whole (some better than others) and are still able to make a comment about the whole. They are rooted in the real. Yet they reside in between the expected order and the bizarre. Perhaps something closer to a greater order.

Exeter Library by Louis Kahn was chosen as a spring point for the form of the sculpture because of it’s hulking timelessness. It is a space which feels like it is right out of the Library of Babel story. Kahn’s building plays with void, and in the sculpture what was void above floors is now mass. It expresses Kahn’s ability to give void mass and give it a life of its own. It is also interesting to mention that Borges visited the library during his life, the only record of any meeting between the two, if only indirect.

I tried to make the structure the sculpture. This is something Kahn felt strongly about. I spent an obsessive amount of time trying to find the right looking nuts for the bolts. Not exactly what I was after but Lowe’s didn’t have enough specialty nuts.

Anyway I’m rambling so I’ll end this by saying that it was a fun project to have the chance to do. I would like to thank all that helped, especially Karen Bermann and the Focus Committee at Iowa State University.

New books! Coming…when I can get an industrialized process up and running

Lets just say that in a world where someone would like to fund me this is the book I would love to make. Mauch Books would become a leader in sustainable notebooks, and possibly even print on demand books. It needs work yes, but it’s a start. Even if I don’t get funded (ehem…) look to see some of these advances coming into normal book production.

Conceptual design for a sustainable notebook

New And Improved Book (PDF)!

Sad to see the pap-leather cover go? well then find me a viable gelatin that isn’t animal based! (not that I’m vegan, it’s just that using animal gelatin uses a food source. Also animals take a remarkable amount more energy than plants use up to produce a product. Better to save the gelatin for gravy, sitting on a nice pile of potatoes, atop a slice of roast beef, perched on a thick slice of sourdough bread)

Turkey sandwich with chalk pastel

Any Takers?

Explaination of Between Page and Stone

Iowa State University has a program called the Focus Grant Exhibition. I applied and was accepted. My proposal is a monument to Louis Kahn and Jorge Borges. For me,  Kahn evokes the words of Borges while Borges evokes the spaces of Kahn. The monument would also be a chance to study the nature of a memorial and the the monumental. It would be a sculpture made of concrete, paper, and text. A small object with a presence.

Books would be the point of entry. So, to get the feel of the project I made this poster.

Conceptual illustration for the structures of books

My research led me to a reference to Borges actually visiting one of Kahn’s buildings, the Exeter Library. This is perfect, the surreal space of that building whose organizational structure was based off of the solo monk reading in a window speaks deeply to the world of Borges.
This is a mock up I did of one “floor” of the sculpture.

Conceptual illustration for plate on Borges' Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius
It is based on a basic diagram of Exeter made of concrete slabs. Graphics depicting Borges stories would be imprinted on the slab and text would be super imposed. In this way, the words of the story would radiate out to become the form of Kahn.
Here is a computer rendering of the object if placed on my desk. It looks like an ash tray, very disappointing. Maybe it will look better in real life, only way to tell is to build the thing. One lucky bit though came from this experiment. The shadows of each slab make a circle of shade on the facade of the sculpture. This is leading to exciting possibilities…

Bio Plastic

Today we were giving presentations in a Sustainable Communities class. One group presented on bio plastic, specifically stuff being developed at the Iowa State Bio Renewables Lab on campus. They passed around some samples and you know what? It is identical to the stuff I’ve been using to cover my books. Maybe I should go talk to them, we could share a piece of knowledge or two.


Black Book Tuesday


 Sebastian Alvarez over at Recycled Krafts ( creates some pretty sweet books. Each one is a work in its self. I have been tempted to buy a few myself. He sells them through his Etsy shop. Still not the perfect book, but getting closer than Moleskines that’s for sure.

Imitation Leather Book

So here they are. The books made from the material from the previous post.

Black book and glassesBlack book and glasses

Kind of sexy huh? The gelatin coating not only gives a nice texture, but also protects the cover from water damage. I am usually against materials imitating one another. But this material seems to stand on its own. It isn’t quite paper and it isn’t quite trying to be leather.

So there it is. Mauch 2.0. You can check out this book and another smaller version at

Black book and glasses

What Have I Done: Paper Leather?

Paper Leather

What Have I Done

Today I was developing a cover material for a new set of notebooks. I was just planning on painting a brown paper bag with some tempura and then giving it a nice gloss coat with my gelatin glue I’ve been working on.

The Result –

Paper Leather

Paper Leather - PapLeather?

The roller and the gelatin created a nice texture that resembles leather. I had a good time manipulating the texture and learning about the gelatin as it rolled and bubbled. At first, while the paper was still wet, it was floppy and very much resembled leather, but as it dried it stiffened quite a lot.

I am really pleased with the new material. I will be uploading some books made with it soon.

Why Paper Leather? Because the processes used to make leather use a lot of chemicals, the industry is getting better but not soon enough. Faux leather isn’t much better. Some companies have made steps to make environmentally conscious faux leather but again, the industry is not quite there. Many faux leathers use solvents and chemicals, but also the material is made from petroleum products. So they will “degrade” into a fine powder, but that powder is still faux leather (really Polyurethane) and will remain so for many, many years.

This material will biodegrade completely under the right conditions (the ground) and is non toxic. It is made of tempura, gelatin, glycerin, water, and paper.