The first portfolio I ever made was done quite a few years ago for the 16×20 [darkroom] prints/portfolio I had made in Blountstown, Florida. Since I was at the university, I had access to large printing presses. I decide to make two woodcuts for the outside of the portfolio, and layout and make the slip case out of corrugated cardboard. I have no idea as to exactly why I decide to use corrugated cardboard, I certainly had not seen anybody else do it, and I was pretty concerned about being able to make a print on it from my woodcut. I was afraid the printing press would simply flatten the cardboard. In addition to that, corrugated cardboard is of course not archival, and the exposed edges look pretty rough.
Nevertheless I went ahead and laid out the the slip case on the backside of a piece of cardboard. One advantage, if I messed it up, the cardboard is really cheap. As I recall, I had no ‘blueprint’ for how to lay out the slipcase, but if you think about it, it is pretty much common sense. You have to have two sides big enough to accommodate the prints, a spine wide enough to do the same. Then, on the top and bottom you need extra cardboard that, when folded over, is the same thickness as the spine. This is all done on a single sheet of board without any gluing or adding additional pieces[of course, once the cover is printed, the back side is scored, and the top and bottom pieces are folded over and glued together]. Once I had laid everything out, I inked up my woodcuts, placed the plates on the printing press, positioned the cardboard on top, and ran the whole sandwich through the press, and much to my surprise it worked. The cardboard did not crush. The only thing I had not thought about was that the ‘ribs’ in the cardboard would show up as blank stripes in the woodcut. However, after looking at it for a while it did not bother me. I then made another folio cover for the set of prints, sized so that it would slip into the portfolio case. My other brilliant ideas was to cut notches into the front and back cover of the portfolio so that I could easily pull out the prints. I have kept that little detail in most of my subsequent portfolios.
Now that I do not have access to large printing presses, I use my inkjet printer to print images on the cover. Of course that means that the whole case, when laid out on the back of the material can be no wider than what the printer will accept, and of course, regular corrugated cardboard is too think. However I have found a thinner version that works quite well when front-loaded into the printer. In my case it means that I cannot make 16×120 portfolio covers that way anymore. All this so that in my next post I can talk about how I now lay out and print portfolios using my inkjet printer.