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  1. Onward to Charleston, South Carolina

    September 10, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

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    I am on my way to Charleston, South Carolina for the annual Standards of Excellence Seminar put on by the Guild of Book Workers. My trip begins in North Carolina with fellow guest bloggers, Henry Hébert and Jeanne Goodman. This will be my second trip to North Carolina and my first to South Carolina. I’m looking forward to traditional Carolina barbecue, lemurs, exploring the southern landscape and oh, yes all things books. This year I’m looking forward to touring the Charleston Library Society, the presentations (particularly the ones given by Chela Metzger & Erin Hammeke and Betsy Palmer Eldridge) and the vendor room.

    I’ll be writing a review of the seminar shortly after I return, so look for it around the end of September.


  2. Swell Things No. 35 // Brien Beidler

    July 31, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

    I so rarely get the chance to hang out with Brien Beidler, which is a shame since he is so delightful to be around. After first meeting in Las Vegas during the Guild of Book Workers’ Standards of Excellence Seminar, I’ve come to find that Brien is also so incredibly talented, so supportive, and so very hilarious. Brien currently lives and works in Charleston, South Carolina as the Director of the Bindery and Conservation Studio at the Charleston Library Society. He’s a Jim Croft enthusiast and proponent of historical bookbinding techniques and materials.

    Brien gave me the brilliant idea of inviting contributors for the Swell Things column, joking that his own would just be various shades of brown and not the typical vibrant colors readers are used to seeing. So the idea was planted and Brien is now the fourth contributor of Swell Things. His selections for this month are especially fascinating. His witty, yet thoughtful comments will entice you to investigate each pick further. And you will find a surprising amount of color beyond the hues of brown. Enjoy!

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    1. An incredible combination of historical inspiration and contemporary setting, George Holt and Andrew Gould of New World Byzantine design buildings inspired by past practices and executed with solid materials and technique. The house in this picture, which burned down Spring of 2016, is even beautiful as a ruin, which to me serves as a testament to the timelessness of their designs.
    2. Based out of Charlottesville at the University of Virginia, Rare Book School is a one-of-a-kind academic wonderland for the book-driven flock. I just returned from an incredible week with the intrepid Todd Pattison where he taught the class 19th Century American Publishers Bindings, and I look forward to applying to many more classes in the future. Be sure to apply for the scholarships if you don’t have institutional backing!
    3. Brienne.org is a growing list of resources and research surrounding an incredible 17th century postal treasure trunk containing over 2600 undelivered letters, now located at the Hague in The Netherlands. Amazingly, 600 of them are still unopened, giving researchers and conservators an unprecedented opportunity to study the material culture of the early modern period by pushing the envelope in how to access the information without sacrificing the material that supports it, while also expanding their knowledge of early modern document security practices.
    4. Garip Ay is a Turkish artist who practices Ebru (what we would call marbling) in ways I’ve never really considered, and probably will never come close to emulating. Watching videos of him at work also give it a very real and substantial performance aspect. Thanks to James Davis for introducing me to Garip’s work.
    5. A medieval construction project in Treigny, France, where for the last 20 years (and for another 10 or so to come), scholars, craftsmen, and government funding are all combining forces to build a 13th century castle using only authentic materials and techniques. Now that’s a wall whose construction even I could get behind.

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    6. Who knew that a tent revolution was even possible? A dynamic combination between a tent and a hammock, Tentsiles have opened up a whole new world of outdoor lodging possibilities. Soon any rainy camping trips will just be ‘water under the Tentsile.’
    7. Most of the time the only thought I give to flatware is just enough to make sure I have a means to get food from my plate to my face. Well, the ocean inspired pieces designed and executed by Ann Ladson will certainly change your whole perspective on what it means to reach for a fork. Her work is a true hybrid of function and art (the hybrid of those words, functionart, is not and should never be a word).  
    8. Living in a disposable culture gets me down sometimes, and so any time I come across someone who does their part to minimize waste is as refreshing as a slice of watermelon on a summer afternoon. And when that someone someone finds a way to make minimizing waste beautiful, it positively inspires me. With his breathtaking knives made from 100+ year-old saw mill blades, Will Manning of Heartwood Forge does both of these things, and it makes me glad.
    9. Becca Barnet, proprietor of Sisal and Tow Fine Fabrication, makes anything, and she means ANYTHING. From designing children’s museum installations, to painting fried chicken on tiles, to taxiderming fish, Sisal and Tow can make even the most boring office seem like an exciting cubicle to be in.
    10. The Lewis Chessmen are 93 late 12th – early 13th century Northern European chess pieces that were found on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland in 1831. Aside from inspiring the Weasley’s chess set in the film adaption of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the Lewis Chessmen have been the subject of much scholarly ado, and many interesting books on their cultural significance and materiality have been published. I mostly just like the expressions of the Bezerkers (pictured here) – they look so scared and human. I am not sure if I pity their state of perpetual fear, or envy their long and prestigious lives.


  3. Exquisite Corpse Collaboration

    July 10, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

    ExquisiteCorpse
    As Program Chair for the New England Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers, I had the pleasure of organizing a project brought to me by one of our members. Jonathan Romain, a recent graduate of the North Bennet Street School Bookbinding Program, brought forth the idea of a collaborative project between the students at NBSS and the NEGBW. I loved this idea and so with the help of instructor Jeffrey Altepeter, we put this plan in motion.

    An Exquisite Corpse is a method of illustration invented by Surrealists in the early 1910s, where each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence usually without seeing the prior portion. Upon reveal this rule to hide the previous sequences offers up an abstract and amusing portrait. Each student created a plaquette covered in neutral leather (we used Harmatan Terracotta and Brown goatskin) and also completed the “head” portion of the figure. The plaquette’s were about 18in x 6in; allowing each participant to cover a 6in square portion of the board.

    The project spanned over 3 months as each participant received and worked on their portion over the course of a month. At the end of May, the finished pieces were on display as part of NBSS’s Student & Alumni Show, an annual exhibit that showcases work from current students and alumni from the various programs.

    I had the pleasure of receiving the finished pieces and bringing them back to the students. We gathered around one another as each student revealed the unique and strange characters that developed over the course of the project. Each piece is displayed below with a brief description from each collaborator remarking on their concept and use of materials.

    Jeffrey Altepeter – Samuel Feinstein – Lang Ingalls

    JeffSamuelLang-Corpse
    Jeffrey Altepeter
    The robot head was inspired by my son’s fascination with mechanical and technological design and construction. It is made up of traditional leather decoration techniques—leather onlays, tooled with gold leaf, foil and carbon.


    Samuel Feinstein
    Chicago, IL

    Gold and blind tooling.


    Lang Ingalls
    Crested Butte, CO

    I opted for humor in my approach to the Exquisite Corpse. The design concept was to depict bird legs: the initial tests were for tooling in the positive; it became clear that the negative space would be more interesting. I used four sizes of “dots” in gold foil to produce the background behind the legs. Repetition and rhythm became the focal point.

    Emily Patchin – Barbara Adams Hebard – Athena Moore

    EmilyBarbaraAthena-Corpse Emily Patchin
    This head was created as an onlay piece. The main portion was cut out of navy blue goat skin, pared thin. The sections for the eye, ear, and ghosts were all cut out, and their edges beveled on the flesh-side. Light blue leather for the eye and ear were glued to the back before pasting to the base leather. The ghosts were cut out from parchment; their faces backed with thinly pared gold leather, and painted with watercolor before being glued in place. The outline of the original drawing was then blind tooled over the leather. The intention behind the design was to look at intense personal struggles (depression, intrusive thoughts, insomnia) through a lens of whimsy and humor.

    Barbara Adams Hebard
    Melrose, MA

    Melrose, MAWhite alum-tawed goatskin onlay with blind tooled details, inspired by the shape of an Early Cycladic marble female torso (2800-2300 BC, Keros-Syros Culture). Flanking the torso are shapes commonly found incised on Early Cycladic pottery, a spiral and a two-headed ax, executed in surface gilding.


    Athena Moore
    Somerville, MA

    My materials were leather and hand-cast paper (made by the artist). The concept was a bit literal, since I had the last portion and was finishing the body with the legs, but I was inspired by a particular set of medical prints from Yale’s collection.

    Jonathan Romain – Erin Fletcher – James Reid-Cunningham

    JonathanErinJamesJonathan Romain
    a shapeless face, 18 karat gold, palladium, and ascona onlay


    Erin Fletcher
    Boston, MA

    I wanted to created something really playful with my portion of the plaquette. When I saw no indication of where to begin, I chose to create a headless girl with comically long arms. The girl’s dress is a series of blind tooled onlays in pink and purple goatskin and white buffalo. Her skin is gold tooled. And the blood spurting from her headless stump is painted with red acrylic.


    James Reid-Cunningham
    Cambridge, MA

    The design is largely non-representational, with a vague suggestion of legs. Otherwise, there is no concept. Tooled in gold and metallic foil, with inset lines of white box calf.

    Mary Grace Whalen – Eric Alstrom – Penelope Hall

    MaryGraceEricPenelope-CorpseMary Grace Whalen
    Blue Pageboy, a leather tool-edged onlay made of goatskin is inspired by the Russian pioneer of geometric abstraction, Kazimir Malevich’s costume design and his Yellow Man painting. Blue Pageboy gives off a theatrical and mysterious vibe. Who is s/he? Only the body will tell!


    Eric Alstrom
    Okemos, MI

    After many ideas, I kept coming back to the idea of ancient Egypt and their exquisite corpses.  My design is based on various historic paintings, but did not copy any single on in particular. The design is made from various colors of goat painted with acrylics and blind tooled


    Penelope Hall
    Kingfield, ME

    Inlay consisting of glazed earthenware, scraps of Thai papers, and wheat paste. Colored with watercolor. Additional adhesives used are E-6000, and Jade 403 PVA. Finish coat on the inlay is SC 6000 acrylic polymer and wax emulsion.

    Nicole Campana – Jan Baker – Colin Urbina

    NicoleJanColin-Corpse

    Nicole Campana
    This design was inspired by nothing more than a common theme in much of my art: day and night. I’m drawn to the color palette each time presents and the way in which our perceptions of those colors change as the light does. The techniques utilized are predominantly onlays and gold tooling, however a variation of the lacunose technique and an Ascona tool were used for the hair.


    Jan Baker
    Providence, RI

    what i lost this year:
    – my ovaries
    – my fallopian tubes
    – my uterus
    – all of my hair
    – and my brother


    Colin Urbina
    Boston, MA

    When I’m sketching, I often come back to the roots of a plant. For this project I decided to attempt the same type of free flowing, loose, many-from-one nature of these sketches with traditional gouges. Using five or six tools I built up the legs of this plaquette, and then added acrylic paint into them that gets darker as the roots go lower. The dirt is represented by grain manipulation with sandpaper, changing the surface of the leather and giving it a different look and feel.

    Peggy Boston – John Nove – Shannon Kerner

    PeggyJohnShannon-Corpse

    Peggy Boston
    My inspiration for this project came from a group of mustachioed, high-collared, quirky members of the Viennese Secessionist art movement. This movement was part of the golden age of illustration and graphic design in Vienna and Germany from 1897 to 1918. Their main influences were derived from William Morris and the English Arts and Crafts movement which sought to bridge the applied and fine arts. The Secessionists favored hand-made object opposing machine techniques. Hand tooling and acrylic paint.


    John Nove
    South Deerfield, MA

    The initial description of the project attributed the Exquisite Corpse to the Surrealists. My concept was of a Magritte-ian gentleman – fine suit, hands crossed in the standard coffin pose holding the usual flower  — but then with an amphibian’s green gnarly ‘hands’. Carbon tooling and goatskin onlays.


    Shannon Kerner
    Easthampton MA

    The vivid colors on the chubby tum were used to inspire whimsy, as well as the funny shape of the legs, which took inspiration from the cartoon Invader Zim, a silly plot animation focusing on an alien sent to Earth and meant to blend in. Stars: gold and palladium mixed together is a challenging medium to tool as they are different weights, but the outcome is very rewarding and attractive. Leather onlays, gold and palladium tooling.

    Todd Davis – Jason Patrician – Jacqueline Scott

    ToddJasonJackie

    Todd Davis
    The design of this head is inspired by the sugar skulls used as part of the Mexican celebration of Dia de los Muertos (day of the dead). On that day, these skulls, made of sugar, are part of an altar made to honor and celebrate dead ancestors, particularly children. Blind tooled outline filled with raised, ascona, and back-pared onlays. It is finished with blind and lemon gold tooling, and surface gilded teeth.


    Jason Patrician
    New London, CT

    I wanted to stay true to the surrealist exercise of the exquisite corpse by combining the distorted human figure and nature. For my design I chose the octopus, the master of disguise, which doubles as the female torso. Leather onlays (Harmatan and Pergamena), vellum inlay (Pergamena) with walnut ink wash and Prismacolor marker detail, blind tooling throughout.


    Jacqueline Scott
    Somerville, MA

    Materials: goatskin leather, gold leaf
    Concept: I wanted my plaquette section to be whimsical and colorful and wanted to utilize the feathered onlay technique. Something about chicken legs appealed to me, so I ran with that, though I think they ended up looking more like reptile legs with funny leg warmers.

  4. Swell Things No. 34

    June 30, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

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    1. Painting the same portrait over and over using slight variations in scale and palette, one can get a sense of how colors can play off of one another or evoke different moods. Hayley Mitchell has done just this with the face of a woman with round cheeks, a floral headdress and large dangly earrings.
    2. In artist Richard McVetis‘s portfolio is a collection of finely embroidered pieces which a sketch-like, abstract quality. In the series, In Pursuit of Time, Richard has embroidered a collection of embroidered wool cubes with the finest stitches of black thread.
    3. Designed by the South African lighting company Willowlamp, this amazing chandelier assembled by laser-cut steel is arranged to represent a mandala. The design reveals itself as you move underneath it.
    4. Metro Queen by Swedish-based artist Jeff Östberg is a digitally rendered illustration that has qualities similar to that of a woodblock print or lithograph. He illustrations are rich in color and style.
    5. Diagonal Press, run by artist Tauba Auerbach, has a unique and irresistible collection of enamel pins. Oh, and some interesting (and affordable) artist books.

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    6. The work of Gunjan Aylawadi is mind-blowing. She meticulously crafts each piece by weaving together tightly curled paper ropes. Many times her work includes geometric designs layered and stacked into complex patterns. Her large installations are quite a sight.
    7. Transcriptions is a beautiful landscape series from photographer Kyra Schmidt.
    8. I really love Anna Hoyle’s gouache paintings of books. The titles are hilarious, but I’m particularly tickled by the little “bookmark” legs dangling from the pages of a stack of books.
    9. These are the most beautiful pencil shavings I’ve ever seen.
    10. Hyperallergic recently posted an article on the repairs done to five whaling logbooks from Martha’s Vineyard Museum. In addition to the normal wear and tear, whaling logbooks can also experience water damage. The repair work was done by the Northeast Document Conservation Center. Check out the article for NEDCC’s treatment on the logbooks and more wonderful drawings of whales.


  5. Visit Herringbone Bindery at Fort Point Open Studios // June 17 – 19

    June 13, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

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    Come visit Herringbone Bindery during Fort Point’s Spring Open Studios during the weekend of June 17th. We will have our doors open for the preview on Friday and all weekend long. I can’t wait to show you what I’m currently creating and give you a tour of our space.

    Fort Point Open Studios
    Friday, June 17th // 4:00 – 7:00
    Saturday, June 18th and Sunday, June 19th // 12:00 – 6:00

    Find our studio address by searching bookbinding in the directory of participating artists. You will find the listing of my studio mate, Colin Urbina, who will also be around showing off his bindings. See you then!


  6. Swell Things No. 33 // Emily Patchin

    May 31, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

    Emily Patchin will be graduating from the North Bennet Street School within the next few days. And you may recognize her name from my post on the set book from the Student and Alumni Show. In the latest installment of Swell Things, Emily offers up an interesting collection of posts. Many of them will direct you to talented illustrators and other artists. My favorite is on Kameelah Janan Rasheed, whose artwork shown below, hangs in our bindery. Enjoy!

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    1. Beth Cavener’s work has floored me since 2010. To see the raw edges of her work evolve into a style even more painterly than it began, while she maintains the searing emotion within each sculpture, is simply incredible.
    2. I love these highly stylized safety posters [from the Netherlands]. It’s interesting to be able to note the passage of time, from the 1940-1960s, through the art style alone.
    3. Whales! KNIVES! Does this really need an explanation for why they’re AWESOME!
    4. Glas is a fun, short Dutch film, documenting the nature of hand craftsmanship versus machine produced glass. I think it’s interesting to note the musical and color changes, from man to machine, that may influence the viewer’s feelings on the subject. I also can’t decide who I like more: the man blowing glass while smoking a cigarette, or the man blowing glass in a three-piece suit.
    5. Everything about Alvaro Tapia Hidalgo’s illustrations are unsettling: from his vivid color palettes, to his lidless, geometric portraits of cultural figures. I adore it.

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    6. These landscape photos [from Reuben Wu] are so beautiful and otherworldly. I love the ones that are reminiscent of deep sea exploration in particular.
    7. Kelly Rose Dancer is one of the most talented and prolific artists I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet! She’s not only immeasurably talented, but her cheeky sense of humor carries through so much of her work. In her series, Crappy Cats, she draws the cat’s clothing with her dominant hand and the faces with her non-dominant hand. It’s a perfect example of how her superb draftsmanship and sense of humor mash-up to hilarious results.
    8. Kevin Wada first caught my eye with his collaborative “X-Fashions” series, which depicts characters from Marvel’s X-Men as haute couture fashionistas. I find his stylistic reinvention of popular comic characters refreshing. With the decade long onslaught of comic-book movie adaptations, I feel all of the female characters I grew up loving, like Storm, have been left in the dust. Wada puts them center-stage: kicking ass in Balenciaga.
    9. Tyler Thraser had me at, “I crystalize dead shit.
    10. Kameelah Janan Rasheed’s public print series How to Suffer Politely (And Other Etiquette) is top to bottom brilliant. She satirizes etiquette guides while pointing a hot light on the erasure of Black suffering, oppression, and death through White respectability politics.


  7. Book Artist of the Month: Amy Borezo

    May 29, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

    SomeLines-AmyBorezo

    For the final installment in my month-long interview with Amy Borezo, I am featuring an artist book she made in 2013/14. Some Lines was printed and bound in an edition of 40 copies. The first twenty copies were printed and bound by graduate students at the University of Dallas while Amy was a visiting artist; the remaining twenty copies were printed and bound by Amy with the last 5 copies bound in a deluxe edition.

    Some Lines is bound as an accordion binding and housed in a cloth presentation box.

    Something that I enjoy about your work is the complexity behind the clean and simple imagery you employ. Can you talk about the concept behind Some Lines and the swift timeframe in which this book was first printed?
    I was doing research for another artist’s book on Artificial Intelligence. I am interested in distilling complex ideas down into their most basic form. AI is incredibly complex, but most teaching around it starts with Aristotle’s Categories in which he attempts to classify everything into a few simplified categories (substance, bodies, living bodies, animals, man). AI is doing something similar–teaching a computer how to classify everything that can be classified. From Aristotle’s classification system, the first branching tree information diagrams emerged. The Porphyrian Tree is a diagram of Aristotle’s Categories.

    SomeLines1-AmyBorezo

    I worked with the Porphyrian Tree diagram for a while and it wasn’t quite coalescing into a book. In my research I also came across another early branching diagram that showed the geneology of Christ. I was fascinated by this diagram because it contained a narrative within it, a story. I was also interested in how diagrams are often used to represent a viewpoint, not necessarily a fact. Data can be manipulated in its presentation. Those are some of the ideas behind Some Lines. I am also interested in the idea of drawing through time, a concept I explored in Labor/Movement. The roundels in the diagram each represent a person and most are linked by a line to another roundel through either birth or marriage. In this way, the geneology diagram represents a drawing made through generations.

    I designed the book to be printed and bound in an edition of 40 in 4 days during a residency at the University of Dallas. I had graduate students in printmaking helping with the printing and binding. We only ended up completing half of the edition there and I bound the second half in my studio. I didn’t know when designing the book that the University of Dallas is a Catholic university. It was a great experience to create that work there and have discussions with students about the concept.

    SomeLines2-AmyBorezo

    Within the description of Some Lines on your website, you mention an interest in AI (artificial intelligence). With the growing focus and development with AI and virtual reality, I am wondering if you plan to incorporate this topic into a future artist’s book?
    I might go back to AI in another work. I do have a partially finished artist’s book *in my mind* around this concept. But then again, it might be time to move on. I am not sure yet. I am quite interested in science fiction as a genre, as I’ve mentioned before, as I think it’s an extremely useful lens through which to examine the present. I love allegory. But of course, AI is no longer science fiction–it’s already here. Maybe that’s why I am not as interested in it as much right now! There usually needs to be a sense for me that a subject is fresh for examination.


  8. Book Artist of the Month: Amy Borezo

    May 22, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

    ToddWebb-AmyBorezo

    So far this month, the focus has been on Amy Borezo‘s artist books. Beyond that work, Amy is also a talented edition binder working with several fine presses and the level of craftsmanship she brings to this facet of her work is not to go unnoticed. She has worked with 21st Editions on variety of projects including the binding shown above. Todd Webb: New York 1946 was published by 21st Editions in an edition of 37. The spine and fore edge are covered with alum-tawed goatskin with a letterpress printed graphic that reflects the photography of Todd Webb.

    What is the creative process like when working with an artist or printer on an edition project? Do you often work collaboratively when developing the binding?
    It is usually a collaborative process to varying degrees. My goal is always to elevate and further the content of the work through the binding. To that end, I first take in as much information about the project as I can including looking at imagery and reading the text of the work if there is one. With some clients I will then come up with two or three options, usually as a digital sketch that I create in Indesign. We’ll have a meeting, look at material samples, and they will choose which direction to go in. Then we will make refinements or edits of the design together. With other clients, they pretty much have the design/vision and just need someone to execute it.

    SouthernLandscape-AmyBorezo

    Southern Landscape showcases the photography of Sally Mann with text by John Stauffer, another publication from 21st Editions. This edition of 58 is bound in the modified Bradel structure. The spine is goatskin and the boards are covered in a beautifully textured silk. The book is housed in a full buffalo skin presentation box that opens with a gatefold. The two halves meet together in the center and overlap slightly to make a seamless and secure closure.

    AberrationOfLight-AmyBorezo

    Sedimental Records approached Amy to create housing for a DVD of Aberration of Light: Dark Chamber Disclosure, a site-specific live projection performance at the 36th Toronto International Film Festival. The project was performed by Brooklyn-based artist Sandra Gibson and Luis Recoder with audio composed by Olivia Block. Amy created two styles of packaging, an edition of 30 clamshell boxes covered in linen with a four-color relief print and an edition of 30 cases covered in paper with the same four-color print.

    Do you tend to work within a limited number of structures for edition work?
    Yes and no. Budget constraints, client desires, and intended audience limit the structures to a large extent. I am open to making anything from highly experimental to very traditional (and labor intensive) structures, according to what is right for the project. For fine press clients, it is mostly a modified Bradel structure with an Oxford hollow, sewn on tapes or cords. For artists, the needs are more variable. I’ve done editions of drum leaf books, sewn board bindings, accordion books, and others.

    TheKingOfTheAlps-AmyBorezo

    Amy has also worked with Abigail Rorer of The Lone Oak Press on several projects. Shown above is On the Hunt for the King of the Alps, which Amy bound in both a regular and deluxe edition. The regular edition is shown in the image on the left-hand side and is bound as a quarter leather binding with a faux stone paper covering the boards. The deluxe edition includes the book with an extra suite of prints housed in a 4-flap, an original watercolor of the plant, a herbarium specimens sheet and a short essay about attempting to grow the plant. Everything is housed in a black clamshell box.

    Extinction-AmyBorezo

    Extinction memorializes five animals that have unfortunately ceased to exist or are nearly extinct. Another work from Abigail Rorer, Amy bound this edition of 100 as a Sewn-Board binding. Vellum is used to cover the spine, which is stamped with the title and airbrushed with a bright, blood-like red towards the tail. A subtle addition that makes Amy’s work truly unique. The boards are covered in a handmade Spanish Arpa paper and stamped with the project’s logo (and X within a circle). You can view the inside of the book here at Abigail’s website.


  9. North Bennet Street School // Student & Alumni Exhibit 2016 – Alumni Work

    May 22, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

    The Annual Student and Alumni Show at North Bennet Street School displays work from both current students and alumni. In this post, I will be focusing on some of the outstanding work exhibited by those who have graduated from the full-time program. If you missed my previous post reviewing the Class of 2016’s design bindings of 1984, you can check that out here.

    McKey Berkman, BB ’11

    BooksWillSpeakPlain-McKeyBerkman

    When I looked at the headband and endcap on McKey’s binding of Books Will Speak Plain by Julia Miller I was in awe. Each thread is wrapped with perfect tension and her endcaps are formed so evenly creating a beautiful crescent shape. The binding is covered in full green goatskin. The tooled orange onlay is stamped in a matte grey and outlined with a single brown tooled line with small squares at each corner. The head edge is colored with graphite. The details on this binding are subtle, but done with such a high level of craftsmanship.

    Marianna Brotherton, BB ’14

    ElementsOFGeometry-MarianneBrotherton

    This binding from Marianna is spectacular. I love the how the leather onlays pop away from the cover. Marianna’s binding of Euclid’s Elements of Geometry is bound in full green goatskin with suede doublures. The onlays are gilt in the center to highlight a specific shape. The title is tooled in gold down the spine. The edges are sprinkled with green pigment. The headbands are hand sewn with white and green silk. The book is housed in a beautiful 4-flap lined in suede. Each pointed flap wraps around the book to meet at the center. Check out more of Marianna’s work at her website.

    Lauren Calcote, BB ’15

    FamiliarLecturesOnBotany-LaurenCalcote

    Regulars to the blog, know my admiration for embroidered bindings. Lauren’s work has always impressed me and balances between contemporary and traditional. This embroidered binding of Familiar Lectures on Botany is bound on raised cords that are laced through the covers, which are covered in Galaxy Cave Paper. This richly dark handmade paper is filled with flecks of mica offering a subtle dazzle of shimmer. The embroidery is achieved with linen and metallic threads. The center motifs are designed with gold leaf for the sun and a piece of vellum for the moon.

    MiniGirdleBook-LaurenCalcote

    Lauren is also highly skilled with creating miniature bindings of historic models. This mini Girdle Book is sewn over raised cords and laced into cedar boards, which are covered in a crimson goatskin. The covers are blind tooled in a traditional lozenge pattern. There are even miniature brass clasps and a small linen knot to secure the book underneath your teeny, tiny belt.

    Samuel Feinstein, BB ‘12

    StoryOfTheEye-SamuelFeinstein

    It is so great to see work from a former classmate of mine. Samuel is one of the most talented binders of my generation. Story of the Eye by George Bataille is bound as a Millimeter binding in the Rubow-style. A strip of black goatskin runs across the entire head and tail edge of the book. An exquisite marbled paper (made by Samuel) covers the remainder of the binding. The marbled area is isolated to the spine with threads of color sprawling onto the covers. The head edge of the text block is decorated with gold leaf over graphite. The endpapers are also marbled, but on white paper instead of black. Check out more of Samuel’s work at his website.

    Fionnuala Gerrity, BB ’11 and Maryanne Grebenstein

    Butterfly-FionnualaGerrityandMaryanneGrebenstein

    During our time at NBSS, Fionnuala gave a presentation on back-painted vellum; a decorative technique seen on Cosway and stiff-board vellum bindings. It was clear to me that she was hooked by this niche area of bookbinding. Maryanne Grebenstein is a very talented calligrapher and teaches workshops at NBSS. Together they created this lovely rendition of a haiku by Matsuo Basho, a famous poet of the Edo period in Japan.

    Barbara Halporn, BB ‘06

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    There are so many things I love about Barbara’s binding of Webster’s Pictorial Dictionary by John M. Carrera. The leather from Pergamena has been distressed and is absolutely alluring. In these three bindings, Barbara references a historical Coptic binding. She even includes details such as headbands that wrap from cover to cover across the spine and leather toggles to keep the book securely closed. The title is blind tooled across the spine of the largest book. Check out more of Barbara’s work at her website.

    Becky Koch, BB ’12

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    Becky was also classmate of mine and I was so thrilled to see her work in the show. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge is bound as a simplified binding with black goatskin for the spine and a deep red buffalo skin for the covers. A surface gilt seagull adorns the front cover. The red buffalo skin is puckered over raised triangles on both covers. The title is tooled in gold down the spine. The buffalo skin offers such a distinct texture, but Becky managed to amplify the skin through her manipulation of the leather. Check out Becky’s website: Dog Eared Bindery.

    Lauren Moon-Schott, BB ’13

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    Lauren is an incredibly talented binder and conservator. She currently holds a position at the Rare Book Room in the Boston Public Library and she is also one of my studio mates. She bound this amazing model of a Stationer’s Binding over Julia Miller’s Books Will Speak Plain. The covers are goatskin with toggles and ties in alum-tawed pigskin. The complexity of the binding is not to be under-rated. Each cross-tie has to be meticulously laced through the covers.

    Wendy Withrow, BB ‘08

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    I met Wendy for the first time at the Standards of Excellence Conference last year in Cleveland, Ohio. I was so excited to meet her, not only is her work well executed and her craftsmanship clean, she was one of the few alumni that I reached out to when applying to NBSS. Her words were so encouraging and her work inspiring. As the only artist book in the show, Nine Months to Bear Fruit, is quite attractive. Each object is sculpted from clay and held shut with magnets. The exterior is painted with acrylic. Hidden inside each piece is a miniature accordion, which you can read by clicking here.


  10. North Bennet Street School // Student & Alumni Exhibit 2016 – The Set Book

    May 19, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

    As I walk through the bookbinding department at North Bennet Street School, I am greeted by that familiar mixture of excitement and anxiousness as the school year comes to an end. The students are working busily to finish their projects before stepping out in the larger bookbinding community. I always look forward to this time of year, that is, the Student and Alumni Show. The exhibit opened on May 16th and will run until June 2nd (click here for opening hours). If you are around the Boston area, you must stop by to truly appreciate the craftsmanship of each binding.

    The show will be highlighted in two posts, with this one focusing on the Set Book. Each graduating student is given a copy of the same book (a set book) and asked to create a design binding. I was incredibly impressed by the level of craft and creativity that each student employed in their binding. The set book for this year was 1984 by George Orwell, a literary classic and a story that many are familiar with. I had, in fact, never read the book. So in preparation for the following interviews, I read through an old 1984 edition that I had lying around. After photographing each book, I spoke with each binder about their inspiration behind their designs and how they chose to execute it. We candidly discussed the challenging and rewarding aspects of creating one’s first design binding.

    Peggy Boston

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    Peggy Boston used a dark blue Harmatan goatskin to cover her binding of 1984. Spanning across the binding is a large lacunose relief onlay with the title applied with airbrush. Five stone veneer inlays appear at the top half of the binding. The final element to the design is the painted outline of a man. The first thing Peggy mentioned to me in regards to her design was her craving for texture. Even in the small details, Peggy managed to apply some form of texture. Lacunose scraps were used to make leather wrapped headbands. The head edge is rough edge gilt in palladium. And stone veneer was used as the paste down and fly leaves.

    For Peggy, creating her design was all about connecting the past with the present. She first read the novel back in the 9th grade and acts of oppression against individuality were as aggressive then as they are now. The most effective way to beat people down is to isolate them up against a wall.

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    The eye is often used as a symbol for Big Brother, yet Peggy wanted to indirectly suggest the looming gaze of a watchful government. To achieve this she shaped layers of tissue underneath each inlay to offer a subtle spherical dimension to the circular pieces of slate. Peggy employed paint in her design in two ingenious ways: first is the airbrushed title mimicking graffiti on a crumbling brick wall and the second is the painted outline of Winston, the novel’s protagonist, creating a shadow to suggest the character’s former existence.

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    The lacunose brick wall was achieved by sanding through several layers of leather. Peggy used red and crimson colored goatskins for the bricks and covered them with a layer of brown goatskin to represent the grout. All of the sanding was done once the onlay was attached to the binding. Peggy did indeed achieve a level of depth with her design by incorporating just the right amount of variation in textures.

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    After graduation, Peggy will be moving back to San Francisco and looks forward to integrating into the thriving bookbinding community on the West Coast. Delighted to work in this medium, Peggy plans to continue studying bookbinding.

    Nicole Campana


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    Nicole Campana used three shades of grey goatskin to capture the emotion of this bleak novel. Minimalist lines are smoke tooled on both covers to create a scene from the book. A gold-tooled onlay of marbled paper laminated to mylar sits upon the table on the front cover. The title is also smoke tooled in the upper right hand corner of the front cover. The French double-core headbands are sewn with alternating shades of grey with a stripe of pink breaking up the pattern. All three edges of the text block have been sprinkled with various shades of grey pigment; layer upon layer to build a more textured look. Nicole hand-marbled the paper used for the paste down and fly leaves.

    One of the pivotal moments in 1984, is Winston’s decision to purchase the paperweight. Unlike the diary and pen he purchases earlier, the paperweight serves no real function yet unknowingly tethers him to the past. Through smoke tooling Nicole captures this scene. The back cover is a series of lines and angles, a minimalist rendering of the antique store front. As your eye moves onto the front cover, you are instantly drawn to the brightly colored paperweight sitting on the table that is tooled in a similar fashion. The smoke tooled lines are soft and hazy; the grittiness of 1984 is captured within the soot that lays in those tooled lines.

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    Winston is drawn to the paperweight just as our eyes are drawn to the onlay on Nicole’s binding. Encased in the glass paperweight is a single piece of coral, which Nicole represents with her own hand-marbled paper. She chose bright shades of pink and gold laid out in a traditional stone pattern.

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    As you open the cover, the allure of the coral is amplified. Nicole uses the same hand-marbled paper for the paste down and fly leaves and you’re senses are flooded with warm emotions. A lovely juxtaposition from the melancholic exterior.

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    Nicole will continue to focus on bookbinding after graduation and has been building up an inventory for her Easy shop that will be launching soon.

    Todd Davis

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    Todd Davis bound 1984 in a medium grey Harmatan goatskin with blind tooled onlays in white and black goatskin. Elements within the lightbulb are both tooled in gold and palladium with a small amount of surface gilding in palladium. The title and author are smoke tooled across the spine. The back cover is adorned in a blind tooled lozenge design. The French double core headbands are sewn in blue and red silk. All three edges of the text block are colored with graphite. The paste down and fly leaves are a black, grey and white stone marbled paper from Compton Marbling.

    We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness. As a reader, we are introduced to this significant quotation only a few pages into the book. Todd found this line to be the inspiration for his design. Using a palette that is absent of color, Todd placed a black lightbulb on the front cover. The black bulb provides light with no illumination.

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    The entire design from afar has the subtle appearance of a noose, signifying the inevitable end that the protagonist will face. The lightbulb is a black goatskin tooled onlay. The interior elements of the lightbulb display three different design techniques: the filament is gold tooled, the leads are tooled in palladium and the stem press is surface gilt in palladium.

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    The headbands are the only instance of color on the entire binding. The colors that Todd chose represent the garment worn by Julia as described by Winston, her denim blue dress and red Junior Anti-Sex League sash. The endpapers are so extraordinary, they match the aesthetic of the binding to a T.

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    After graduation, Todd will be staying in Boston. Having recently purchased a bindery from a retired bookbinder, he is currently on the hunt for studio space in the Greater Boston area. The ideal space would be open for other binders to rent space and have access to the larger bindery equipment. Todd is constantly posting his handiwork on Instagram. You can follow him here.

    Emily Patchin

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    Emily Patchin bound her copy of 1984 in a medium grey French Chagreen goatskin. Six recessed circles on the covers contain a collaged watercolor drawing. The title is blind tooled on a leather circular label of red goatskin. The French double-core headbands are hand sewn in silk in grayish blue with a small stripe of red. The red stripe continues on to the head and tail edge as decoration. Emily created a unique paste paper for the binding, which she used as the paste down and fly leaves.

    Emily was intrigued by the notion of false memories which constantly plagued the protagonist, Winston. She chose to stray from her initial idea of representing the characters directly and instead focused on three objects that continually surfaced throughout the story: the diary, the paperweight and the thrush.

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    Mounted into the recessed circles on the front and back cover are a series of images representing the bird and coral (which was encased inside the glass paperweight). These images quickly degrade as your eye moves closer to the book’s fore edge. Emily cut out her watercolor drawings and laminated them to elephant hide paper. The two smaller images were slightly charred to amplify the falseness of their existence. The red label refers back to Winston’s description of the diary, his first “illegal” purchase from the antique shop.

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    The endpapers were created by layering white paint through stencils over a ground of graphite. The stencils were silhouettes of degrading buildings. Harking back to a once beautiful architecture that is now crumbling under effects of government.

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    After graduation, Emily will be moving back to California. Beginning in July, Emily will be taking Dominic Riley’s Design Binding Intensive at the San Francisco Center for the Book. You can see more of Emily’s work at her website Out West Bindery.

    Jonathan Romain

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    Jonathan Romain chose to isolate his design to the spine of the book. This design choice embraced the natural grain of the leather, which is so organic and rich. Jonathan chose a crimson colored Russell Oasis goatskin and tooled the spine in palladium with the title tooled in gold. French double-core headbands in mostly black with a fat stripe of red and yellow adorn the head and tail. The head edge of the text block is rough edge gilt. The Harmatan black goatskin edge to edge doublures are tooled in gold. Marbled paper from Payhembury was used as the flyleaves and to decorative the clamshell box.

    Jonathan played upon the concept of structure and foundation; starting from the urban landscape of 1984. Building upon the themes of crumbling architecture and walls as barriers he began to make a connection between the structure of a binding to the foundational integrity of a brick wall. In order to achieve his vision of asymmetry and the fluid-like grout lines between bricks, Jonathan handmade two finishing tools.

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    The tooling is purposefully rough, offering an evener richer likeness to a brick wall. The doublures are adorned with four gilt triangles arranged like an hourglass sand timer. Each triangle represents one of the government buildings from the story: the Ministry of Truth, the Ministry of Peace, the Ministry of Love and the Ministry of Plenty.

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    Jonathan and I spoke for some time about the aesthetics of a box. I prefer to create a highly decorated box to match my elaborately bound book. There are some issues to this desire of mine. An elaborate box can increase the price significantly and might also need it’s own protective layer (which I usually remedy with a simple 4-flap enclosure). Yet Jonathan leans in the direction of creating a simply designed box that stresses functionality. Whatever your opinion, I wanted to include Jonathan’s box as it so nicely ties in with his binding. The black Canapetta cloth is adorned with a red title piece and the same tiger’s eye marbled paper as the book.

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    Jonathan is currently interning at the Rare Book Room at the Boston Public Library. Beginning in late summer he will move over to the Boston Athenaeum’s Conservation Lab as the Von Clemm Fellow. You can find more of his work at Romain Bookbinding.

    Mary Grace Whalen

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    For Mary Grace Whalen’s binding of 1984, she opted for a somber look. Bound in black goatskin with blind tooled onlays of black and red goatskin. The title is tooled in gold on the front cover. The leather wrapped headbands at the head are a bisque color, while the headband at the tail is scarlet red. The head edge of the text block is colored with graphite. The paste down and flyleaves are printed on Nideggen and extends her concept from the cover to the interior of the binding.

    Winston’s fate begins to unravel the moment he puts words to paper in his diary with an antique nib pen. The nib icon perfectly captures Mary Grace’s design concept, which is centered around the power (or subsequently the consequence) of the word. In 1984, thoughtcrimes can be curbed by notions such as crimestop, blackwhite, and doublethink. All of these words are product of Newspeak, a suppressive language where ideas of beauty, individuality and emotion are continually redacted and soon forgotten. Winston fights so hard to recapture old memories, trying to validate this thoughts by writing them down on paper.

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    Technical issues arose with Mary Grace’s initial design, which featured a black nib dipped into a pool of red ink all on a base of bisque colored leather. Overcoming a devastating hurdle, she revised her design to black on black. The tone on tone is a design choice that I admire. This revised design captures the spirit and dread of the story more closely. The back cover features the tip a of nib with two red droplets signifying the two gin-scented tears that trickle down from Winston’s eyes in the moment of death as he concedes his love for Big Brother.

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    When you open the book you are faced with a redacted excerpt of the Declaration of Independence. In 1949, Orwell wrote about a future dystopia that has since passed. Yet the current political affairs surrounding battles over autonomy and the right to express one’s individuality begins to shift closer to a universe seen in Orwell’s fictional novel. However, Mary Grace leaves the reader with an uncompromised version of the Declaration at the end of the book. Hope is not lost.

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    Mary Grace will be staying in the Boston area and will continue to hone her skills in bookbinding.

    I want to thank Jeff Altepeter for once again allowing me to interrupt his classroom to converse with the graduating students about their set books. As always, it was such a treat to get to know each of them a bit more through their craft. Congratulations and good luck, Class of 2016!