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  1. Bookbinder of the Month: Tracey Rowledge

    March 29, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    So far in this interview with Tracey Rowledge we’ve looked at her binding work and her works on paper, more specifically the work inspired by markings either found or interpreted. The leather panels presented in this post are a wonderful representation of art created using traditional binding and finishing techniques. The panel above is called 3 Milk and was created in 2000; the panel is covered in black goatskin with gold tooled design. The detail of this panel will awe you and make you think about tooling combinations differently.


    Many of your leather wall panels are tooled representations from found paper scraps with markings. The gold tooled marks that decorate your fine bindings appear spontaneous. Are you creating these free-form designs in response to the work being bound or do they come from found paper scraps?
    It’s a mixture. Sometimes I found I had the exact response to a book in my ‘found archive’, other times I set about creating images for a book myself, as time went on the latter was more and more the case. Sometimes though a found image was so strong a driving force that I felt I needed to make a piece of work with it that wasn’t a book. In these instances, the materials and decorative techniques I used and the proportions of the wall piece would all be guided by the original scrap of paper I’d found. Really, what I’m describing is that I created a framework for these pieces of work, whereby the decisions were half made by the found material itself.


    LEFT: Where, covered in mid-blue calfskin, gold-tooled, 2003   RIGHT: Diptych, covered in baby pink goatskin with grey goatskin recessed inlays, 2000


    LEFT: Buff, covered in turquoise goatskin with leather inlays, 2004   RIGHT: Fidget, stretched native red goatskin, tooled in carbon, 2004


    Cash, gilded gesso panel on wood, 2005

  2. Artist: Rachel Foullon

    March 27, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    Cruel Radiance is a recent series of sculptural work from artist Rachel Foullon. Each object is a collaged network of common objects. Rachel beautifully wrangles together texture, color and depth in a harmonious way.

    CruelRadiance1-RachelFoullon CruelRadiance3-RachelFoullon

  3. Bonus // Bookbinder of the Month: Tracey Rowledge

    March 26, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    To continue with the same theme from the prior post, I wanted to discuss another unique binding from Tracey Rowledge’s portfolio. The binding is of a 1929 edition of Vathek by William Beckford published by the Nonesuch Press. Bound as a fine binding in biscuit colored goatskin and feathered onlays.


    This binding is unique within your portfolio. The markings are created through feathered leather onlays instead of gold tooling. Onlays are used rather sparingly in your work, can you talk about the reason why your chose to use onlays on Vathek as opposed to a gold tooled design or colored foils?
    This book contains wonderful illustrations by Marion V. Dorn and the binding further explores my wanting to alter the language of a fine binding. The book has a rough-edge gilt top edge, the endpapers are the same colour as the text-block and are hand-coloured with coloured pencil so that when the book is open the endpapers frame the text-block with the same colours the illustrations contain.


    The leather-joints are red, the same colour as the endbands, this union I felt brought these two elements together, like an elastic band encircling the book. The natural colour of the leather is for me like a grainy blank canvas and the coloured onlays give the impression of the making of a drawing with coloured pencils: you know when you’re drawing and you lean on another piece of paper and the pencil runs off: over the edge. That’s what I wanted to create – a remnants drawing. Gold tooling wasn’t the right medium for the image, also, I didn’t want the image to be made from tooled impressions, I wanted for the image to sit on the surface of the leather. This was the only way the image felt right.

  4. Artist: Amy Santoferraro

    March 26, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    I really love the playfulness of these sculptures from artist Amy Santoferraro. Particularly the topsy-turvy use of the baskets as the platform for the plastic flora. The whimsical use of foam and found objects to create delicate forms is quite attractive.

    AmySantoferraro1 AmySantoferraro3 AmySantoferraro2

  5. Bookbinder of the Month: Tracey Rowledge

    March 22, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    The prior posts on Tracey Rowledge’s work have focused on her designs mostly inspired by abstract markings. However, there are a few pieces in her portfolio that stand out for their sheer difference in design. The above binding of The Essence of Beeing by Michael Lenehan with illustrations by Alice Brown-Wagner is bound in black goatskin with a gold tooled design.

    The second binding featured in this post is a copy of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which was bound by Jen Lindsay in a red native-dyed goatskin with rough-edge gilding. Tracey completed the binding by gold tooling the title in 2012.

    Even though letterforms can be viewed as markings in their own right, I wanted to find out why Tracey veered toward a typographic design for these particular bindings.

    I love your use of typography as the single design element on these two bindings. The texture you create by overlapping a word or building up a letter with several impressions of a single tool is really genius. What draws you to use typography over the abstract markings you often employ in your designs?
    With The Essence of Beeing I was interested in combining my handwriting, the nature of the crosshatched images in the book and the wonderful title, to create an image that was the title – to see how far a fine binding could be simplified in appearance – to see if at first glance it could look like an art book. I don’t know if this makes sense, but to try to explain it another way – I really enjoy the look and feel of a fine binding, but I sometimes wonder if they look to others overly laboured. I was exploring in this work, whether I could remove this element.


    Hamlet was bound by Jen Lindsay in 2002 and it came to me in 2012 to be lettered. Although there was a ten year gap in between the time Jen completed the binding and I gold tooled the lettering, it was very much a collaborative process. We felt it was really important that the lettering worked with the incredible grain of the native red goatskin Jen had bound the book in. The Hamlet lettering is gold tooled using Jen’s handwriting, it being uppercase and superimposed, creates an image that also evokes something about Hamlet itself.

  6. Conservation Conversations // Tools of the Trade

    March 19, 2015 by Athena Moore

    As anyone who works with their hands can attest, tools are the key to good work. They also happen to be one of the most satisfying to seek out, collect, and choose favorites from.

    Nearly all tools used by conservators will be easily recognized by bookbinders and are particularly suited to their respective tasks.


    First, there are brushes:



    We use them every day: to adhere materials, to tone cloth and Japanese paper, to apply water strategically or smooth out fibers on a bit of tissue. For PVA and mix I really love using round Anza brushes (second image) and for paste, especially detailed mending, I go for any kind of flat filbert. Toning brushes are one-purpose too, since the risk of them being a tad dirty is always there. We use über beautiful Japanese brushes to apply size and tamp down linings (they’re fairly expensive so we share one large, very nice set). Static-dissipating brushes are used to clean dust from surfaces, hake brushes to remove loose material from bindings, and this clever little guy in the stand is used to pick up all the debris that gets caught in my bench corners (turns out, his true purpose is to clear away baguette crumbs!).


    Two other forms of tool that I find myself having quite a few of and utilizing pretty much every day are folders and spatulas.


    In my personal studio I have probably more bone folders than any other single tool, but at work I show more restraint. A bone folder with a point is useful for scoring lines and forming endcaps, while a nice flat bone folder is great for creasing sections or consolidating a spine. Teflon folders come in handy when smoothness is key or there’s concern over too much burnishing. A flat, super thin Teflon folder is especially good for floating material apart in a bath or removing adhesive with local humidification (be super careful if you choose to shape your own Teflon folders – breathing in the dust is dangerous!).

    Spatulas are a must. Stainless steel ones are great for working with wet materials, since there’s no risk of rusting and the edges are duller and therefore less likely to tear through potentially fragile paper. Casselli spatulas can be used to remove dry adhesive or accretions, to separate uncut pages when necessary, or to carefully unfold corners and edges. The large ones can easily be shaped (and re-sharpened!) to your preference on a sharpening stone and come in handy for muscling tough spine glue off.

    Some tools are not only super handy, but also super beautiful (thanks, Starrett).


    Best for taking and transferring measurements…


    …and for actually measuring with numbers, obviously.


    Dahlia sprayers are the absolute best for spraying out an object for humidification!

    Some tools seem to be suited for something else entirely:


    Scalpels are great for cutting previous sewing or paring edges of leather or paper, Bakelite folders are especially good for securing cloth around board edges, the bamboo comes in handy when separating sized leaves and folios from Hollytex safely, the butter knife makes an excellent cord-frayer, and the nail file is a handy little sander.

    Some tools and equipment appear to be better suited to a kitchen…


    From left to right, we have a fry stirring wok for making paste, blender for thinning paste, and SodaStream for iron gall phytate treatment.


    And the ever-present Pyrex custard dish, used for basically everything – predominantly paste, in our case.

    …or a doctor’s office…


    These are syringes sans needles for holding reserve paste.


    And cotton-tipped applicators for testing ink solubility.


    Also an assortment of ace bandages for holding previous spines in place during re-backs.

    And then there are weights:


    and more weights…


    and things that aren’t technically weights, but sure get used as such:



    We really like to hold things in place, so essentially anything heavy will do.

    Just like bookbinders, conservators have got to be resourceful. Labs tend to be equally outfitted with purpose-designed tools and cleverly re-purposed miscellaneous. It’s easy to get carried away with having just the right device for the job, but we’re faced with “make it work moments” every day. Anything you need is probably there, it just may take a bit of ingenuity to figure it out.

    And finally, for when just the right thing is eluding me, my emergency “tool” kit:


  7. My Hand // Goose Eggs & Other Fowl Expressions

    March 16, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    At the Guild of Book Workers’ Standards Conference in DC, I picked up a couple miniature text blocks from Gabrielle Fox. One of the them being Goose Eggs & Other Fowl Expressions printed by Rebecca Press in 1991. The letterpress printing was done in a vibrant purple with hints of mint blue and bright yellow. The image below is a spread from the book.


    For the binding, I decided to test the limitations of the Dorfner binding in a miniature format. Last year I had the chance to learn this very special binding structure. Unfortunately not from Edgard Claes himself, but from Colin Urbina who had the opportunity to take a workshop from the celebrated Belgian binder. The Dorfner-style binding was originally developed by German binder Otto Dorfner.

    I sadly did not take any images during the process of creating this binding as it was the first miniature I’ve ever bound and was delighted by how quickly I was able to move through each step. So needless to say, I forgot to stop and take images, but I will explain the binding process a bit in this post.


    The book is sewn on two silver snakeskin tapes (initially lined with silk) before being rounded and backed. The edges were properly prepped for a layer of mint blue gouache paint. Leather wrapped headbands decorate the head and tail in a skin that perfectly matches the purple ink from the text block.

    The spine piece is wrapped in mauve buffalo skin, which was shaped and the headcaps were formed off the book. After cutting away to expose the tapes, the spine piece is attached to the text block and then the light grey suede flyleaves are put in place.


    Now comes the fun part. The MDF boards are carefully shaped, first with a power sander and then by hand to offer an elegant cushioned edge. Afterward, the boards are laminated on both sides with a wood veneer. For this binding, I used an unknown wood that I found in a sample pack of domestic and exotic woods (so if anyone can identify this wood, please let me know). A channel is cut out of the veneer and the tapes are glued down to attach the board. To hide the tapes a second veneer is cut and glued down. For this binding, I cut four tabs out of Karelian birch in the shape of a goose egg.


    The book is housed in a tiny clamshell box. The spine is covered in the same mauve buffalo skin and silver canapetta cloth that mimics the veneer on the cover boards. The trays are covered in a yellow handmade paper from Katie MacGregor, which was also used as the book’s endpapers. The book is protected with a light grey suede lining.


    Goose Eggs is the second Dorfner binding that I’ve made to date. I really love this structure, it has a unique elegance and it can be assembled rather quickly. So I’m looking forward to working with this structure again and hope to incorporate some common elements of my work like gold tooling and embroidery. I also hope to learn more about marquetry in order to create intricate designs in the veneer.

  8. Bookbinder of the Month: Tracey Rowledge

    March 15, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    This is one of my favorite bindings from Tracey Rowledge; the tooling is brilliantly executed and in such a way that is perplexing. Which is precisely why it was included in the interview. Tracey bound this edition of Auggie Wren’s Christmas Story by Paul Auster in 1997 using native red goatskin.

    I’m really intrigued by the design for the binding of Auggie Wren’s Christmas Story that you created in 1997. I would love to hear about the steps involved in executing the design; from the detailed image of this book, the tooling appears staggered, as if the depth of the impressions varied. Were you using a series of hand-made tools to create the overall design and this effect?
    This was a pivotal binding for me, as this image dictated that I alter my gold tooling technique from using albumen glaire and laying the gold on the book, to using BS Glaire and picking the gold up on the tool (Ivor’s method). The tooling was done using a series of pallets and irregular shape brass finishing tools (which I’d made), that overlapped in order to fill various shapes in the image. This was the first time I’d used Caplain leaf (18 carat), it’s a difficult leaf to work with as it’s quite brittle. It remains a favourite leaf to use as it doesn’t tarnish and has a wonderful melancholic tone.

    This book took about 100 hours to gold tool.


  9. Sign Up for the Monthly Newsletter

    March 9, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    I’m excited to announce the launch of the Herringbone Bindery newsletter. Sign up to receive an email once a month and stay informed on all the thrilling events going on. Stuff like:
    – projects from the bindery
    – upcoming posts and interviews on Flash of the Hand
    – highlights from my Etsy shop
    – workshop opportunities
    – other newsworthy tidbits

    You can subscribe to the newsletter by signing up below.

  10. Bookbinder of the Month: Tracey Rowledge

    March 8, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    The two bindings featured in this post are earlier pieces from Tracey Rowledge, but I think they represent her core interests in melding simple marks into complex gold tooled designs. The binding above is an edition of A Satyr Against Mankind by The Earl of Rochester, which was bound in a chestnut brown goatskin in 1999.

    Below is one of two bindings Tracey has completed on Ulysses by James Joyce. This particular one being the earlier binding done in 1996. Also bound in a chestnut brown goatskin; the majority of the design is gold tooled with subtle touches of blind tooled lines.


    There is a sense of exploration in the design these two bindings. The execution itself is awe inspiring and I set out to discuss Tracey’s technique and process for creating such expressive tooled designs.

    The gold tooled design on these two bindings is reminiscent of Ivor Robinson’s work; the style is very free and uncontrived. Do you execute this form of design directly on the book in a spontaneous manner or are you tracing out the design from a planned drawing?
    Thank you for the compliment of writing that these two bindings are reminiscent of Ivor’s work, for me what we have in common is leather, gold leaf and the drawn line. Ivor’s work is majestic in its rightness, the tooled lines have a tension and a stillness, which in some works causes the image to reverberate. My interest is to capture the energy of mark-making via the non-gestural process of gold tooling, I’m interested in the play between how something looks and how it is made. How can something that was made intuitively with a pen or pencil be transcribed by the painstaking process of gold tooling – and yet it can. To gold tool a gestural image you need to transfer the image onto the cover by blinding it in through a hand-made paper template, then you blind-in direct to ensure the grain is crushed in the impression and is of the correct depth; then you paint two layers of BS Glaire into all the impressions and then you gold tool each impression with up to nine layers of gold (this is done by gold tooling three layers at a time). This means that I will go into each impression up to five times.

    For something to look spontaneous it needs to have been painstakingly planned and meticulously executed – Ivor and I certainly had that in common!

    You have been noted to incorporate several shades of gold in your tooling. What are the qualities to mixing different tones of gold?
    The different golds are my pallet of colours. Using a gold that is more yellow or more grey will alter the balance of the image and will take it away from being what I think of as standard gold tooling. Using Moongold can make an image appear playful and delicate, using Caplain can give an image a solemn feel. It depends on what I’m wanting to convey as to what colour leather or paper I use to cover the book and what type of gold leaf I use.