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  1. North Bennet Street School // Student & Alumni Exhibit 2015 – Part One

    May 20, 2015 by Erin Fletcher

    It’s graduation season, which means it’s time for this year’s post on the North Bennet Street School’s Student and Alumni Show. (You can read the past two years here and here). This is an event that I always look forward to. The graduating students are each given a copy of the same book (a set book) and asked to create a design fine binding. The amount of creativity and talent that goes into each binding really displays each student’s personality. The exhibit is currently on view at the North Bennet Street School in Boston, Massachusetts until May 29th. If you are around, please pay a visit to see these bindings up close.

    The set book for this year’s graduating class is the The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. It’s a beautifully illustrated book printed in a rather large format, which is something many of the students discussed with me. After photographing each book*, I had a discussion with each binder. We talked about the inspiration behind their designs, their thoughts on the binding process and what challenges they faced.

    * I want to note that the photographs were taken in various spaces at the school under not ideal lighting. So you may see variation in color for some of the bindings.

    Kaitlin Barber

    Rubaiyat-KaitlinBarber

    Kaitlin’s approach to her design stems from her admiration of 18th century tooled panel and Cambridge panel patterns. Though in her design, she reinterpreted this look in a sleek and modern way. The binding is covered in a maroon goatskin with a raised window framing two inset panels of spalted tamarind. Kaitlin’s decision to use wood was inspired from an article by Helene Jolie and during a workshop taught by Jim Croft. In the article, Helene writes about the variety of materials one might employ as an inset panel, while Jim introduced shaping possibilities during his workshop.

    I think Kaitlin’s use of the spalted tamarind is genius, not only is it really beautiful and is elegantly shaped, but it also acts as symbolism for the message of life and death peppered throughout the book’s text. The dark abstract shapes in the spalted wood occurs when fungus enters the tree often causing it to die.

    Rubaiyat3-KaitlinBarber

    Gold tooled borders highlight the spalted tamarind as well as frame the entire the book. The title is tooled alongside the front panel. The head edge is airbrush with a brilliant blue acrylic, then sprinkled using gold leaf. The French double core headbands are sewn with silk threads. Kaitlin used a marble paper as her paste down and flyleaves.

    One of the main challenges Kaitlin faced during the binding process was working with such a large format, specifically when it came to paring the leather. Due to its size the leather included many areas of the skin such as the arm pits and backbone. These parts of the skin will react differently when being pared; the arm pits are stretchy while the backbone is a bit tougher. In the end it was a really great learning experience for Kaitlin.

    After graduation Kaitlin will continue in her internship at the Boston Public Library’s Rare Book Room, which began in January and will run through the summer.

    Lauren Calcote

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    Lauren Calcote’s interpretation of The Rubáiyát is brilliant. The text is notably one of the most famous pieces of Persian literature, which was translated into English for the first time by poet Edward Fitzgerald in 1859. Considering this relationship between its origins and the initial translation, Lauren played with the binding structure by combining a fine binding and Islamic binding.

    The book is covered in fair goat that was hand-dyed by Lauren in a beautiful mottled aubergine purple. The fore edge flap speaks to the Islamic binding structure, but sits on top instead of underneath the front cover. The flap lays inside a well securely fastened with a hidden magnet.

    Rubaiyat2-LaurenCalcote

    Decoration on the front and back covers include gold and blind tooled lines laid out in a geometric design inspired by Persian patterns. The title is carbon-tooled on the front cover. The poet’s last name appears on the front of the flap and in the well.

    Other details include the custom-made endpapers reminiscent of those found in Islamic bindings. The paste down and fly leaf are hand painted with sprinkles of gold leaf. The edges of the text block are decorated in the same fashion. The headbands follow the Islamic chevron pattern around a round core.

    Planning this hybrid structure was an enjoyable challenge for Lauren, particularly finding the right fit for the flap by making sure it didn’t sit too proud. Another issue came during covering, Lauren initially wanted to cover the book in one full piece (from flap to front fore edge). Yet to achieve the desired height for the flap, Lauren choose to cover the base of the well with a separate thinner piece of leather. This seam is absolutely flawless and I would have never known if Lauren hadn’t explained the process to me. So bravo, Lauren.

    The last major design hurdle was where to tool and how to tool (mainly on the flap and well). She flip-flopped between tooling the well and leaving it bare. Lauren and I discussed how tooling the well was definitely the better decision. That the design works whether the flap is open or closed.

    After graduation, Lauren will be spending the next six months at the Boston Athenaeum as the 2015 Lisa von Clemm fellow.

    Joshua Crotty

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    On December 1, 1948 an unidentified man was found dead on Somerton Beach in Australia. This mystery was dubbed The Taman Shud Case, a phrase meaning ended or finished in Persian. Found in a hidden pocket of the man’s trousers was a printed scrap of paper, which turned out to be removed from the final page of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.

    This eerie tale is where Joshua Crotty drew his design inspiration. This simplistic design conveys a sense of heat, like being stranded on an Australian beach or Persian desert. The binding is covered in a beautiful sandy tan goatskin. The central inlaid design is created using marbled paper laminated to mylar representing a hot, golden sun. Gold tooled lines radiate from the half-circle inlays creating the rays of the sun.

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    Joshua creates a fluid design by using the same marbled paper as the paste down and flyleaf. The head edge is gilded in the rough with gold leaf. I really love simple designs that are captivating and strong. Joshua’s inspiration is intriguing and really shines through; his simple design is ambiguous and holds a little bit of mystery.

    Joshua’s talents as a binder has already landed him in an impressive position as a hand bookbinder for the U.S. Government Publishing Office. His job is to serve the needs of Congress by creating finely crafted bindings to suit their needs. Joshua relocated to D.C. during his last semester at North Bennet Street School and this became one his major challenges during the binding process. He left behind a nice large bench to working on a kitchen table while also dealing with D.C.’s humidity; experiencing extended drying time made things a bit tough. These challenges didn’t hinder his ability to create crisp, clean gold tooled lines. Beautiful binding Joshua!

    Megan Gibes

    Rubaiyat-MeganGibes

    The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám was the title given by translator Edward Fitzgerald, whom I mentioned above. A ruba’i is a two-stanza with two parts per line, hence the word rubáiyát (a word derived from the Arabic language root for “four”) means “quatrains”.1

    As Megan Gibes describes the inspiration behind her design she explains that the poems are broken up into four lines with the crescendo occurring in the third line. The binding is covered in a medium gray goatskin with stripes of onlays in tan goatskin representing these four lines. The inner onlays are tooled, while the onlays near the head and tail are back-pared. This clean, minimalistic design is exactly what Megan wanted to achieve from the beginning as a way to juxtapose the grandiose bindings generally associated with The Rubáiyát.

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    The title is carbon-tooled down the length of the spine with Rubáiyát sandwiched between Omar and Khayyám (click on the image above for a better view). The head edge is shaded with graphite and gauffered with a thin line palette. The headbands are sewn in silk over a single parchment core. Megan sourced the perfect marbled paper to line the boards and fly leaf. This large-scale marbled design works so well with the format of this binding, while also tying in the color scheme Megan chose for the cover.

    Megan and I chatted about the challenges of creating a fine binding, how overwhelming the process can seem. Megan’s strategy was to isolate each step and to only move forward when she felt completely satisfied. One challenge that arose came during the paring process and some miscalculations. By edge paring the leather a bit too short, this left with a visual drop in the leather after covering. Megan added a patched onlay, which fixed the situation and actually looks quite seamless.

    After graduation, Megan will be moving across the country to Santa Barbara, California. She’s been hired as the Head Binder for Neve Albums where she’ll be producing unique albums, guests books and custom boxes. Neve Albums brought on Megan to help establish an in-house bindery to help expand their business. Best of luck Megan, sounds like a great gig!

    Shannon Kerner

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    Omar Khayyám lived during the 11th and 12th century making a living as a mathematician, astronomer, philosopher and poet. His poetry includes several themes such as life, death and love. For her design, Shannon Kerner reinterpreted these themes using symbols found on Southwestern Native American rock wall art.

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    The shapes of each vase is derived from typical Persian styles. The first vase represents the spirit of the ancestor with the tree of good life growing from the ancestor and falling rain. The symbol on the center vase represents the virgin. The final vase includes the title tooled in gold along with the symbol for the water clan, which is represented by two inverted triangles inside of a rectangle. This final symbol, just like the vases, are symbols for water and life, which circles back around to the first vase.

    As I mentioned before, Omar Khayyám worked as an astronomer and was tasked with reforming the calendar in order to minimize seasonal errors; this was something Shannon wanted to reflect in her design. The top half of the design includes a sun created through surfacing gilding palladium and gold. The rain passes through a dreamy cloudscape and blind tooled stars representing the night sky.

    Rubaiyat3-ShannonKerner

    Shannon’s binding is bound in a bright teal goatskin with several layered onlays. Other decorative elements include surface gilding, foil tooling and blind tooling. The head edge was rough edge gilt. The paste down and flyleaf are covered with a hand marbled paper made by Shannon (detail shown above).

    Shannon employed a variety of techniques in her binding. One particular element that I found intriguing was her use of three different colored foils within the teardrop tool, which offers an elegant subtly to the design. As we chatted about her process, she pointed out the challenges presented when creating the sun. The center is surface gilt with gold leaf, while the outer rays are surface gilt with palladium leaf. Butting up these two leaves meant that the Frisket (a masking film) would be placed on the gold leaf. This film pulled up some of the leaf, but Shannon successfully mended any losses creating a striking image for her overall design.

    Come graduation, Shannon is looking forward to her next step and where it might take her. She is anxiously awaiting to hear the results of prior interviews.

    Lindsay Nakashima

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    Earlier this year, Boston College exhibited the work of Mark Esser, who was the first instructor at North Bennet Street School and is apart of a lineage of master bookbinders. His work greatly inspired Lindsay Nakashima as she approached her design for The Rubáiyát. Lindsay also planned to utilize both gouges and palettes as a challenge to work with the tools she has been introduced to over the course of the second school year.

    The binding is covered in a vibrant purple chieftain goatskin from Hewit (best represented in the image below). The other students chose to use Harmatan goatskin for their bindings, but Lindsay was attracted to not only the lush color, but the heavy grain. This was also a great opportunity to play around with a different type of leather, to get a sense of how it can be manipulated and tooled.

    Rubaiyat-LindsayNakashima

    The head edge is rough edge gilt with French double core headbands wrapped in silk. Zerkall paper was used for the paste down and fly leaf. Lindsay’s binding has quite a classic, clean look. She emphasizes the back corner, which offers a more elegant (or dare I say more feminine) feel for the size of the binding.

    Lindsay’s most challenging aspect of this process was the gold tooling, which most binders can attest to its difficulties. Yet tooling on an unfamiliar leather can heighten the challenge. Lindsay noted that the chieftain goat felt less spongy and less susceptible to making an impression. But Lindsay plowed through the process and created beautifully tooled lines.

    After graduation, Lindsay will be moving back home to Austin, Texas where she’ll be setting up a bindery space. Her intentions will be to open this space for teaching simple workshops while also bringing in restoration commissions under the name Nakashima Books. Best of luck, Lindsay.

    Jacqueline Scott

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    Death is a reoccurring theme in Khayyám’s poetry and one that inspired many of the students in this exhibit. Jacqueline combined this theme with a love story threaded throughout the text. These themes are represented by the profile of a couple embracing and bones. Jacqueline’s book is bound in a blue goatskin with over 400 parchment back-pared onlays, these parchment bones create a classic Arabic geometric design.

    Jacqueline’s work with the parchment is quite impressive and I asked about her approach to using this unconventional material as a back-pared onlay. In her initial tests she overlapped two bones, but this created too much bulk and tore during the paring process. She also backed the parchment with tissue using gelatin. Jacqueline used this tissue as a barrier between the PVA and parchment, plus the tissue increases the opaqueness of the onalys. A little setback occurred during covering when the gelatin lifted from the moisture in the paste, but Jacqueline was able to reattach any raised onlays.

    Rubaiyat2-JacquelineScott

    The shape of the couple is accented by dark blue gold tooled onlays. The title is gold tooled down the length of the spine. The head edge is airbrushed with a deep red, bone shapes are masked out revealing the white of pages underneath. The boards are lined with matching edge-to-edge doublures and cork paper fly leaves.

    Rubaiyat3-JacquelineScott

    After graduation, Jacqueline will begin the first of three internships. Starting with a month-long internship at the Francis Loeb Library which is affiliated with the Harvard Design School. I’m looking forward to seeing Jacqueline later in the summer at the University of Virginia during her second internship while I’ll be attending Rare Book School.

    Jeff Altepeter

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    The success of the student’s bindings are due to the instruction from Jeff Altepeter and I thought it best to end this post with his colorful binding. Jeff drew inspiration from The Great Omar. In 1909, Sangorski & Sutcliffe was commissioned to create a sumptuous binding for The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. Given carte blanche and a limitless budget, the infamous firm created the most ornate binding with thousands of jewels, complex gold tooled designs and leather onlays. Upon completion in 1911, the binding was shipped a year later to New York by way of the Titanic.

    Jeff pulled a single element from “The Great Omar”: the peacock (also a common motif on Sangorski & Sutcliffe bindings). His abstract interpretation of the peacock feather is laid out in a lozenge-like pattern. Instead of the traditional straight lines he employed the ogee finishing tool, which is a long, thin “S” shape. This tool created a very elegant, feather-like border around the “eye”. This center shape is made up of two gold tooled onlays. The inner one is tooled from a custom made finishing tool. Jeff is a master at crafting his own finishing tools; he made a few variations of the tool before settling on an open design rather than a closed one.

    The book is bound in a brilliant blue goatskin with an airbrushed head edge and hand sewn French double core headbands in silk. Marbled paper lines the inside of the covers and flyleaves.

    I asked the students about their challenges during the binding process and I posed the same question to Jeff. In an ideal situation, a binder wants a comfortable amount of time between each step. Yet for an instructor these steps might get rushed in order to show the process to students in a timely fashion. And there are less chances to tweak your design within these time constraints. But I think Jeff was able to capture the spirit of The Great Omar.

    So there you have it. My best to the graduating class of 2015 as you enter the world of bookbinding and conservation!

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  2. Artist: Nicholas Schutzenhofer

    May 19, 2015 by Erin Fletcher

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    These paintings are apart of Nicholas Schutzenhofer’s 2014 MFA Show from my alma mater the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. These large scale paintings incorporate a range of paint varieties such as egg tempera, oil and encaustic.

    I’m delighted by the busyness of each piece. My eye darts from side to side, following thick, squiggly strokes of bright colors (and I love bright colors!).

    Untitled-NicholasSchutzenhofer Untitled3-NicholasSchutzenhofer Untitled2-NicholasSchutzenhofer Untitled5-NicholasSchutzenhofer


  3. Artist: Maud Vantours

    May 16, 2015 by Erin Fletcher

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    Maud Vantours is a designer and artist working in Paris and her favorite material is paper! She incorporates a variety of vibrant colors layered on top of one another creating beautiful 3-dimensional designs. Her work has be found in galleries across the globe as well as advertisements for luxury brands and as apart of set designs.

    Floral-MaudVantours Tarkett-MaudVantours Triangles-MaudVantours Motif2-MaudVantours


  4. My Hand // Dune

    May 1, 2015 by Erin Fletcher

    It’s been a while since I wrote about my binding of the science fiction classic Dune. After sharing my technique for the edge decoration, hand-sewn headbands and the process of covering, I’m finally ready to unveil the finished binding.

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    So now I’ll go over the steps that led to the finished look. After covering and letting the book rest, I began working on the remainder of the design for the front cover, which included a series of concentric circles. All seven circles would be tooled using gold leaf, but only the inner circle would also include a leather onlay. In the image below (on the left) is my initial sketch of the front cover design. It includes a list specifying the size gouge for each circle. The image on the right is the final outline drawn on tracing paper, which includes fewer circles due to spacing issues. This also became the template I would use to transfer the design to the book (hence the wrinkles and cut out squares).

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    In the image below you can see the tooling template attach to the underside of the front board. At this point, I’ve flipped it off the book to check the placement of the first circle.

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    Happy with the first circle, I continued working my way through the remaining 6 circles. Each circle was initially placed onto the leather with a plastic circle template and thin bone folder. I then used the appropriately sized gouge to make the first impression, with the tool being cold. Below is an image of all the different gouges used on the binding.

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    In the midst of winter and in an incredibly dry studio, I began to add the gold to the circles. After a few failed attempts and some adjustments I made to the atmosphere, the gold started to stick. In between the tooling process on the front cover, I moved to the spine where I tooled in the title and author’s last name.

    Inspired by the lettering seen on French fine bindings from the 1920s and 30s, I used a combination of gouges and line palettes to design my own alphabet. In the image below, I’ve finished the initial blind layer and am about to begin the gold tooling.

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    The title and author’s name are divided by a blind tooled onlay of buffalo skin in a lovely light pink, which also appears on the back cover. This design is again a play on the French fine bindings from the 1920s and 30s.

    With the outside complete, I moved to the inside of the book. The fly leaves are a soft suede in dark brown which matches the onlay on the front cover. The matching DUNEblures (a silly nicknamed coined by my witty studio mate Colin Urbina) are tooled in a design that mirrors itself on the back cover. The angle of the lines match that of the triangle on the front cover. The spacing between the lines is consistent with the spacing between the concentric circles.

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    The book is housed in a quarter leather clamshell box using the same terracotta goatskin as for the triangle back-pared onlay. The leather has been embroidered in the same fashion and tooled with the title. The rest of the case is covered in brown Canapetta cloth. The trays are covered with handmade paper I bought from Katie MacGregor and lined with the same suede as the fly leaves.

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    In mid-April, I received the exciting news that my binding of Dune will join the Guild of Book Workers Traveling Exhibit: Vessel! This will be the second time I’ve participated in a GBW show and what’s more exciting is that this exhibit will be hosted by the North Bennet Street School. So halfway through the tour, I’ll get the chance to revisit my binding.

    The exhibit will open later this year in California and I’ll be writing a post to remind those nearby.


  5. Swell Things No. 22

    April 30, 2015 by Erin Fletcher

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    1. These delicately, detailed paintings from Brian Roberston are other-wordly and quite enjoyable.
    2. A couple of delightful flip books by Scott Blake using just a hole punch.
    3. Success with watercolor is such a mystery to me, but Lorraine Loots has masterfully condensed entire nebulae and planets into miniature paintings in her Micro Cosmo Mondays series.
    4. Artist Veronika Richterová transforms plastic bottles into cartoonish plants and flowers. I’m particularly tickled by her series of cacti.
    5. Sophia Narrett creates these luscious embroidered pieces of art that greatly mimic her oil paintings. The stitching is layered and layered creating lights and darks, just like paint on a canvas.

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    6. Japanese artist Aki Inomata, crafted these 3-D printed shells modeled after real architecture for hermit crabs. His concept for the project swells from the idea of a “home borrower”: the movement of one home to the next.
    7. Dear Data is a fascinating year-long project between designers Giorgia Lupi in New York and Stefanie Posavec in London. Each week the two compiled data measuring one aspect of their daily lives and then creatively illustrated their findings. Each chart was drawn on a postcard with the key transcribed on the back. Such a inspiring series!
    8. These edgy glass sculptures project perfect gradients. Sculptor Niyoko Ikuta has created a beautiful series of glass pieces that display the wide range of translucency of its material.
    9. The Black Book of Carmarthen is a 13th century vellum manuscript that recently revealed centuries’ old hidden messages under the use of a black light.
    10. At the Prado Museum in Madrid, a very special exhibit is on view that enables the blind to touch and therefore experience famous works of art. Estudios Durero, a Spanish printing studio developed a special 3-D printed process called Didú, that transforms the flat paintings into sculptural pieces.


  6. Book Artist of the Month: Natalie Stopka

    April 27, 2015 by Erin Fletcher

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    In this final post with Natalie Stopka, we continue the discussion on her techniques that employ natural pigments for dying and image making by looking at her 2012 artist book Botanica.

    This binding consists of a series of eco-prints that are brilliant in both color and detail. Can you discuss the process behind eco-printing?
    Eco printing is the process of making a plant print using only the natural colorants contained within the plant. As opposed to nature printing in which pigment is applied to the surface of natural objects, in eco printing the plants can be smashed, pressed, bundled, soaked, steamed, or even frozen to coax the dye colorants out. There are a variety of techniques and terms to describe them. Hapa zome is the pounding of fresh plants directly onto a fiber substrate, and bundle dyeing involves tightly wrapping plant or other dye materials in fabric before burying or steaming them.

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    To create Botanica, I gathered a dozen different dye plants one August day. These included mint, yarrow, dahlia, coreopsis, and goldenrod. Each specimen was folded within alum-mordanted paper, guarded with additional paper, and vigorously smashed with a mallet to break down the plant fibers and transfer the colorants within. I lowered this sandwich, with the plant still inside, briefly into a pot of simmering water. The hot water further drew out the dyes, creating an aura of color around the plant image, and made the print as permanent as possible. I was left with two mirrored images of each plant to create an edition of two books.

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    In binding the books I adopted a flat back variation of Richard W. Horton’s light album structure, with each print mounted inside an accordion fold of naturally dyed paper. The paper as well as the silk book cloth and thread on the cover were dyed with a mix of wildflowers.

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  7. Conservation Conversations // Adhesive Pre-Coated Repair Materials

    April 22, 2015 by Athena Moore

    Mending tears is a treatment that book and paper conservators utilize nearly every day.  For this reason, wheat starch paste is one of our best friends at the bench – a dependable go-to, especially when paired with an appropriate eastern paper. Unfortunately, this reliable standard is is not always an option – the media may be soluble, the paper difficult, the work space less than ideal.

    Luckily, there are other routes to take! A possible solution to one or all of these issues may be adhesive pre-coated repair materials. Recently, I had the pleasure of taking a two-day workshop at Dartmouth College taught by Sarah Reidell, Associate Conservator for Rare Books and Paper at the New York Public Library on exactly this topic.

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    Pre-coated repair materials can be prepared with a huge number of adhesives – starches (wheat starch paste), cellulose ethers (methyl cellulose, sodium carboxymethyl cellulose, hydroxy propyl cellulose), proteins (gelatin, isinglass), synthetics (Aquazol, Lascaux 303HV and 498HV, Rhoplex, Avanse, Plextol, Texicryl) and in some cases, a combination of more than one. These adhesives can be applied to any number of repair papers with a variety of application methods. This makes the possibilities fairly endless, which is almost equally helpful and daunting.

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    Sarah walked us through the overall benefits of having these repair materials on-hand – portability, speed, control – and the specific advantages of each adhesive. One of the greatest benefits is understanding the method of reactivation for each adhesive (this is also potentially one of the more challenging elements to remember, but luckily we walked away with an extremely handy chart). If media solubility is an issue, reactivating with water is likely not an option – in this case, one would opt to use a repair material that can be reactivated with either heat or a solvent. If the scope of a project is large but solubility is not an issue, it may be helpful to have a stash of water-activated repair material and a water brush on hand. If the object to be treated is parchment, gelatin- or isinglass-coated paper is likely a good option and for plastics or clear supports, synthetics may be the best bet.

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    Pre-coated repair materials can be prepared with nearly any adhesive and paper that one has in their lab and can be done with several different approaches, depending on skill and comfort level. Many can be done with a quick hand and a piece of Mylar, while others utilize tools not always seen in a conservation lab – a bbq/oven mat, dough scraper, and/or a silkscreen.

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    As with all conservation treatments, this is one that takes some time and experimentation to gain comfort with. That said, the risk and cost are very low. These materials can be toned to match an object and stored indefinitely. As they are controllable and customizable, they also offer a great advantage over commercially available products, whose formulations can often be unknown and can change without notice.

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    Sarah has taught this workshop several times now, both solo and partnered with Priscilla Anderson, Senior Preservation Library for Harvard Library, and it shows – she’s as organized as she is enthusiastic, which is saying something. Along with being extremely knowledgeable, she has a ton of great tips and sources for additional information, clever tools and other treatment ideas.

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    There’s a helpful bibliography of pre-coated repair information on Sarah’s website to get you started. Henry Hébert made brief mention of Sarah’s presentation of this technique in an earlier Flash of the Hand post and Mindell Dubansky, Preservation Librarian at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has a nice write-up on the workshop here. If you have the opportunity to take this workshop in the future, I highly recommend it – take-away soundbites like “gel and swell” and “first pancake syndrome” should be enough to entice you.


  8. Trip to the 2015 New York Antiquarian Book Fair

    April 21, 2015 by Erin Fletcher

    On April 10th, I took the train down to New York City for the annual Antiquarian Book Fair and shadow show put on by the Fine Press Book Association. I spent the weekend ogling over a delightful selection of fine bindings, artist books and finely pressed editions amongst a sea of rare objects and books. I wanted to highlight a few of the gems that I saw, which there were many.

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    My first stop was at the shadow show, where I am afraid I was less of spectator (I only captured two images from this event). My first stop was at the Two Ponds Press table where I had a wonderful conversation with co-found Liv Rockefeller and browsed through some Gehanna Press editions and Gray Parrot bindings.

    Next, I stopped at the table of book artist Sue Higgins Leopard of Leopard Studio Editions, whose work is pictured above. We discussed the concepts behind a few of her pieces on display. After browsing through the selection of large-scale artist books on the Booklyn table, I made a point to chat with David Esslemont on his current projects. My next notable stops were with two highly accomplished and exquisite printers: Russell Maret and Gaylord Schanilec of Midnight Paper Sales. Gaylord was quite gracious with his time and walked me through this latest and most elaborate printed accomplishment, Lac Das Pleurs. It was such a pleasure to examine each print through his eyes as he pointed out subtle details, such as how each scale of one particular fish were drawn individually to capture the unique qualities of nature.

    Before leaving, I stopped by Abby Schoolman’s booth and met bookbinder Christine Giard, whose work was on display. It was such a treat to speak with her not only about her binding training, but discuss the techniques employed in her work. My goal is to get her interviewed on the blog sometime this year (Christine gladly accepted!).

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    From the Lux Mentis booth: left: Russell Maret’s Interstices & Intersections | right: a book from Nancy Loeber

    I spent one and a half days exploring the Antiquarian Book Fair, which was held at the Park Avenue Armory. As a former storage space for weaponry and tanks, the room was massive and has been transformed for several types of events and art installations. My first stop was at the Lux Mentis booth run by Ian Kahn. He always has delightfully strange and unique items on display, such as the work of Diane Jacobs and some fellow colleagues of mine Colin Urbina and Gabby Cooksey.

    As I wondered through the aisles, I stumbled upon one embroidered binding after another. If you are regular to the blog, you know my fascination with historical embroidered bindings and creating my own. So it was pure enjoyment to see such a pristine collection of historical embroidered bindings from England and France.

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    The three embroidered bindings shown above range from 17th to 18th century and were found at the  Librairie Camille Sourget booth, a dealer from France. Click on the image to see the detail of the embroidery work.

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    Over at the Musinsky Rare Books booth were three really beautiful examples of embroidered French pocket Almanacs. I choose to include my two favorites. The example on the left has a great example of couched ribbon creating a bold border. The example on the right is bound in a luscious pink silk with painted appliqué pieces that build up the central design and dots. These pieces were in such wonderful condition, I don’t think they were carried around too often.

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    At the very end of the fair, my eye caught this shelf of embroidered bindings. Unfortunately, in my haste I neglected to note anything about the bindings or the dealer who was exhibiting them.

    In addition to embroidered bindings, I like to search out design bindings and binders whose name or work I recognize. One binder that popped up again and again was Brother Edgard Claes. The two books in the image below seem like they were made on two different planets, yet the bindings are actually very similar. The book on the left was spotted at the Sophie Schneideman Rare Books booth and is an example of one of Claes’ Dorfner bindings. The covers are wood veneer with delicate marquetry and hand painted elements.

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    The book on the right was found in the Bromer Booksellers booth. It was one of three bindings by Claes they had on display. This binding of erotica is an example of Claes’ polycarbonate bindings. The color palette is inspired by the original cover which has been included in the text block.

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    One binder commonly found at Antiquarian Fairs is Pierre Legrain. The binding above was found at the booth of Dr. A. Flühmann of Switzerland. I took a photograph of this particular binding because it reads so differently from his other highly geometrical designs. The emphasis on typography really grabbed me.

    I truly had a wonderful experience at the book fairs in New York City. I ran into familiar faces and met many wonderful artist, publishers and dealers. I’ll finish off this post with a charming engraved tunnel book discovered at one of the booths.

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  9. Book Artist of the Month: Natalie Stopka

    April 20, 2015 by Erin Fletcher

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    Up until this post, Natalie Stopka has shared her techniques for natural dyeing, as well as her methods for marbling and suminagashi. In the last two posts for the month, we’ll look at two artist book projects starting with her 2011 book Specimens.

    Can you talk about the concept behind this work and your inspiration for the book’s structure?
    I’m very interested in the notion of fabricated histories, including artifacts of dubious or bogus provenance such as the Voynich Manuscript or Cottingley fairy photographs. In creating Specimens I bound together the textile fragment collection of the (fictional) Dorcas Little, seemingly a phony collection that she had created and catalogued in the mid-1900s. Each textile fragment was hand sewn from vintage materials to look as if the fibers were is some aspect growing or reproducing. Mounted in a petri-shaped window, each piece is visible from both sides.

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    I have a love/hate attitude towards album structures, which are very useful for a book such as this, but generally inelegant and tedious to bind. I elected to use a double guarded album binding, which has the institutional appearance I was hoping for, but a somewhat more graceful movement. As if, in order to augment the appearance of authenticity, the collection’s owner had commissioned the housing.

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  10. Book Artist of the Month: Natalie Stopka

    April 13, 2015 by Erin Fletcher

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    LEFT: Ablate | RIGHT: Vesiculate

    Then & Now: Ten Years of Residencies at the Center for Book Arts is an upcoming exhibition celebrating two of the Center’s core programs. Among the 50 exhibiting artists who participated in these programs over the last ten years is Natalie Stopka.

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    Floe (detail on left)

    Some of her recent suminagashi work, like those shown in the images above will be included in the exhibit. If you find yourself in the New York area, check out Natalie’s work in person. The exhibit will run from April 17th until June 27th.

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    Last week’s post focused on Natatlie’s technique and process for natural dyes. This week’s post will focus on her work with marbling and suminagashi.

    Can you discuss your techniques for marbling; what type of size and pigment do you prefer to work with?
    I prefer to work with caragheenan and acrylic pigments when marbling. We undertook a side-by-side comparison of caragheenan and methyl cellulose in a marbling workshop I taught, and for me the clear champion is caragheenan.

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    Of course, I have written repeatedly about my preference for natural and historically founded materials, but in marbling I use modern synthetic pigments and surfactants. What can I say? They work like a charm – but one day I would like to expand my practice to include earth pigments. It would be very satisfying to create images of stone formations from pulverized stone.

    I am often asked if natural dyes can be used for marbling, but by definition dyes are water soluble, so working around that would be too complex a process to be practicable. However, it is quite handy to marble on naturally dyed paper or fabric, as both the marbling substrate and most dyes (adjective dyes) require mordanting as a preparatory step. And whether you work with natural or synthetic pigments, the natural dyes give a beautiful base tone.

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    Suminagashi is my escape from the detail-oriented aspects of bookbinding which demand focused hand work. Because suminagashi developed within the compass of Buddhism, the entire approach is at odds with western bookbinding and marbling. Rather than formulate a plan for what each print will be, I can work intuitively. I find that allowing the work to guide me rather than the reverse is very freeing and expressive. To do this I stick to traditional Japanese washi, sumi ink and brushes, a few experimental ingredients, and Don Guyot’s sumifactant.

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    You’ve marbled a variety of materials including paper, silk and linen. What unique properties do each of these materials offer and what challenges, if any, do you find?
    The only challenge in using a variety of materials is getting to know each one, and finding some dependable papers and fabrics with the right quality of absorption. The biggest variable in the range of fabrics I use is the crispness of the print each produces. A tight, even weave like silk haboti picks up a very crisp image while a slubby, loosely woven linen makes the image appear more ‘pixelated’.