I love these abstract paintings from Dennis Congdon. His use of pastels against vibrant hues is engaging and dream-like. Each painting feels like a lost page from a graphic novel in which the story tells of displaced art and culture.
February 10, 2016 by Erin Fletcher
February 8, 2016 by Erin Fletcher
The kids just finished up their final project of the semester. In the Turkish Map Fold project, we asked the students to draw us a map to an imaginary location complete with symbols and a key describing those symbols. One of my favorites came from our student Rocco. Each island is connected by a long, wooden bridge (well except where sea monsters have destroyed the bridge). The waters are also inhabited by dangerous pirates navigating around Monster Island and Trident Island (shaped like a trident, of course).
We also got a collection of Thank You’s from our students! Some included pop-ups, cut-outs and flaps, such a great and innovative group of kids.
January 31, 2016 by Erin Fletcher
This is the first Swell Things guest post of year and I’m excited to present these collected bookmarks from my husband Jason Fletcher. As a Science Visualizer for the Charles Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Science, Jason has his radar set on stunning digital visuals and animated shorts. Check out his blog, The Fulldome Blog, to read more about interests surrounding the planetarium community. Enjoy!
1. Lake Natron in Northern Tanzania is extremely high in soda and salt content. After animals die in the lake, their carcasses are preserved through calcification as they dry, resulting in petrified “mummies” of birds and bats. Photographer Nick Brandt visited the lake and captured a series of photos that features these petrified animals. The series is aptly titled Petrified.
2. Check out this music video where you can look around in 360° while traveling through a fractal zoom.
3. This is an incredibly ambitious 3D animation of a gigantic spacecraft inspired from the book Rendezvous with Rama from Arthur C. Clarke.
4. Imagine sitting on a swing that made it feel like you are floating through the stars…
5. Preliminary Study Toward 3D Printed Media Installations. “In this electronic age we see ourselves being translated more and more into the form of information, moving toward the technological extension of consciousness.” -Marshall McLuhan
6. This is one day’s observations from Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite, animated in a loop. It shows the western Pacific, Australia, and parts of Asia, Antarctica, and Alaska as they looked on one day in mid-2015. It covers 24 hours in 12 seconds – a time lapse factor of 7,200×.
7. Andy Cavatorta’s ‘The Dervishes’ is a robotic prototype that produces angelic-like sounds through spinning corrugated cylinders. Hear about his punk rock history and get inside his cyclone of sound.
8. Photographer Aydin Büyüktas’ background in film and visual effects really shows in Flatland, a cinematic series of drone footage digitally manipulated to create shots of Istanbul which seem to fold over on themselves. He must have loved the movie Inception.
9. Seed is a short project that the Aixsponza team created to try out fresh ideas and techniques. It is stunning!
10. SIM/NEBULA is an international collaboration of expressively futuristic visual poems, shaping the emergence of cybernetic organism counting down its time code in live acoustic waves of classical music.
December 31, 2015 by Erin Fletcher
Wow, this has been a busy, busy year and I can’t believe that 2015 is coming to end. I want to extend my gratitude to the people who have helped contribute to the blog this year:Interviews:
– Kathy Abbott
– Ben Elbel
– Tini Miura
– Tracey Rowledge
– Natalie StopkaConservation Conversations Contributors:
– Marianna Brotherton
– Henry Hébert
– Becky Koch
– Athena Moore
– Jacqueline Scott
I also want to thank everyone who reads the blog, subscribes to the blog and newsletter and to those who’ve left comments. It has really warmed my heart to see the growth of interest and recognition that the blog has receive over the course of the year.
At this time I like to reflect on my year. Herringbone Bindery saw a nice shift in workflow this year. As I removed conservation and repair services, I saw more edition work come my way. A few of these projects will be finishing up early in the new year and I plan to write up a post about them. I had another successful year teaching at North Bennet Street School with roughly 85% of my offered workshops running. I also began my second year as a Middle School Book Arts instructor. It’s been so delightful to see the creativity flow from the kids, stay tuned for a new feature on the blog.
What to expect in the New Year:
– an updated website: My husband and webmaster has been working on a beautiful new and easy to navigate website. We hope to have it up and running before the end of March.
– I’ll be working on a fair amount of design bindings in 2016 and will be posting about them along the way
– another round of interviews
As I do every year, here is my list of favorite posts from 2015.
1. December // Bookbinder of the Month: Kathy Abbott
I am really delighted by this interview with Kathy Abbott. She is very methodical about her approach to design binding from selecting the perfect goatskin to applying her decorative techniques. Kathy’s discipline is inspiring and so are her simplistic designs.
2. Artist: Rachel Foullon
3. Client Work // Ye Sette of Odd Volumes
4. Makin’ Care of Business Interview
In July, I was interviewed by Rachel Binx at Makin’ Care of Business. It was a great way to reflect on my successes and how I’ve overcome challenges throughout the years I’ve been in business. I was honored to be apart of this collection of interviews with other talented craftsman and artisans working successfully as entrepreneurs.
5. Artist: Nicholas Schutzenhofer
6. North Bennet Street School // Student and Alumni Exhibit 2015 – Part One & Part Two
I love writing this post every year. It’s a joy to speak with the students about their design bindings; detailing their concepts and techniques, what worked and what didn’t. This year’s exhibit also included a lovely selection of bindings from alumni, which you can read about in Part Two.
7. Conservation Conversations // Making an Old Book Whole Again by Jacqueline Scott
Jacqueline Scott had a slew of internships this past summer, which offered great material for the Conservation Conversations column on the blog. I particularly enjoyed this treatment of a binding in the collection at the Newberry Library in Chicago.
8. March // Bookbinder of the Month: Tracey Rowledge
I am so awed by the art work and bindings from Tracey Rowledge. Her responses to my interview questions were so thoughtful and inspiring. There is no mistake that she is a talented craftsperson with an impeccable ability to meld her artistic capabilities into her bindings.
9. Artist: Tomma Abts
10. Seventh Triennial Helen Warren DeGolyer Exhibition and Bookbinding Competition 2015
As a first time participant in the DeGolyer Exhibit and Competition, I found the experience to be quite rewarding (despite the fact that I didn’t actually win anything). It forced me to execute an idea for a design binding in a new and more extensive way. This post goes into detail about my own proposal and the proposal from winner, Priscilla Spitler.
11. Artist: David Quinn
12. July // Bookbinder of the Month: Ben Elbel
An innovator in the field, Ben Elbel has continuously churned out variations on structures and has developed several new styles of binding. I am always looking forward to his next project; to read about the challenges posed by the binding and the elegant solutions he comes up with.
13. My Hand // Dune
This year I finished my design binding for Dune, that was then accepted into the Guild of Book Workers Traveling Exhibit: Vessel. I am very pleased with the outcome of this binding, particularly with the edge decoration and the successfully gilt concentric circles. No easy task.
14. Artist: Lily Stockman
15. Conservation Conversations // The Continuum by Henry Hébert
Henry Hébert has been writing for the Conservation Conversations post for 2 years now and has continuously delivered interesting and sometime hilarious content. The outcome of Henry’s treatment shared in this post is stunning. The new binding is well executed and is treated with respect to the binding’s historical content.
Happy New Year!
December 31, 2015 by Erin Fletcher
I am ending my interview with Kathy Abbott with a bonus post. The binding above is Winged Chariot by Walter de la Mare. Kathy completed this binding in 2012 by covering the book in full burgundy goatskin. The tooled designs are done in Caplain leaf and the head edge is gilt in the same.
When laying out a tooled design, especially one that is to be symmetrical across the book (like the design on Winged Chariot), what is your approach? Have you always employed the same method for transferring your design or has your technique changed over time?
I have been fortunate to have been taught gold tooling in both the traditional manner, whilst I was at college and then latterly, in the contemporary manner by Tracey Rowledge. Both Tracey and my traditional gold finishing tutors have used the same method of marking out a diaper pattern (a diagonally marked grid), which can be a useful way of creating symmetry across both boards.
This design of this book wasn’t done using a diaper pattern. It contains one long poem, about time and to express this, I had a very fine 5mm short pallet made to create the imagery, and wanted the tooled design to be fairly random. I made a paper template the same size as one of the boards, drew out the design with a fine ink-pen. I photocopied the drawing, cut out some of the areas of the design and re-positioned them until I was happy with it. I then traced the design and reversed it. I always pin my designs up on the wall and live with them for a while before I begin tooling.
When I was ready, I photocopied the design onto thin handmade paper, attached it to the binding, tooled through the template, removed the template and blind-tooled again direct, applied the glaire and then tooled each impression with 3 layers of Caplain gold leaf (which was picked up on the tool itself).
December 27, 2015 by Erin Fletcher
This 2006 binding from Kathy Abbott is Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost with illustrations by Berkeley Sutcliffe. The binding is covered in full pink goatskin and includes multi-colored goatskin onlays. The top edge is colored pink to match the leather.
One of the reasons that I wanted to do this interview with you is that you create such striking and simplistic designs, which really push forward the beauty of the leather. What is your selection process for choosing the perfect leather?
I adore the graininess of Nigerian goatskin: every skin tells a different story through its grain. Depending on which angle you cut your piece of covering leather, you can express a landscape, a sea, a wind, trees; all sorts. I don’t often use the spine of the skin on the spine of my books: I find it much more interesting to move my template window around the skin until I find something more arresting about the grain. I also love all the faults on skins: dyeing faults, holes, scars etc.
When I have read my text, I set off to find the perfect skin to express as much of the story as possible. I have often looked through a hundred or more skins at the tannery until I find the ‘right’ one: the poor guys at Harmatan have been so patient with me over the years! Often, I have found it difficult to embellish the skin I have chosen, as the grain is saying everything I want to say about the text. I do all I can to celebrate the beauty in every skin I use.
Sadly, we can no longer get Nigerian goatskins because of the political situation there. So obtaining anything grainy now is a challenge as the grain of Indian goatskins is quite flat in comparison. Luckily I have a large stock of Nigerian skins, so I will be ok for a while, but I won’t be able to be so choosy in the future.
This is a binding of Kenneth Auchincloss’s New York Revisited that includes wood engravings by Gaylord Shanilec. The book was published by The Grolier Club of New York in 2002. Kathy covered the binding in full black goatskin and detailed the covered with handmade paper onlays. Click on the image to get a full sense of the graininess of the leather.
December 22, 2015 by Jacqueline Scott
One of the most important questions we need to ask ourselves as book conservators is how the object we are working on will be used. What is driving the need for treatment? Because there are often so many different treatment paths we can choose from for one object, this question not only helps us to narrow the path of treatment, but it also helps to make sure that we don’t over treat an object, altering something in a way that might be irrelevant to its ultimate use. If we aren’t asking this question before beginning, thoughtless and potentially harmful treatment is most likely to result.
There are three reasons for treatment that I see most often: heavy reader use, exhibition, and digitization. Each presents unique challenges and treatment options . . .
Heavy Reader Use:
If a book is expected to see heavy use, the treatment focus is going to put on making the binding functional and able to withstand handling. Often times, this means rebacking the binding in cloth, leather, or tissue, and treating the pages so that they can be flipped through without crumbling to pieces. Circulating collections conservation labs see this work most often, performing rebacks as if they were as second nature as brushing ones teeth. Special collections conservation labs see this less frequently, but if a binding is special enough, it might require a full treatment: disbinding, washing and sizing, and either repairing the original binding or giving it something shiny and new. The treatment that I described in my previous post, where a loss was filled in the front cover of a wooden boards binding, was done because the volume was expected to see use and having a complete front cover would prevent a significant amount of damage to occur in its handling.
The binding to the left was rare, and as a result likely to be requested by researchers. The above image was before treatment, and any handling would clearly be difficult as the binding had essentially been lost, save for the covers. The volume was treated by washing and sizing the pages, making them softer and easier to handle, mending and guarding, and putting the text into a limp paper case, which opens easily and protects the pages within.
When a book is slated to go into exhibition, this typically means that it is going to sit in a case, opened to one angle for at least a couple of weeks. In this case, it is not so much necessary to treat the entire binding as it is to make sure that the binding will be stable when it is on display. Making sure that the binding doesn’t open past where it is comfortable by fitting a cradle to it is paramount. Treating the pages that it will be opened to, for handling and aesthetic purposes, is also important. There are some great photos here from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s 2015 three-day symposium on book cradles for exhibition.
In the short time I’ve spent working in this field, digitization has quickly emerged as the most common reason for treating a volume. Initially, I saw digitization as something that might eventually make conservation work unnecessary. Often the work that is done on an object slated for digitization is quick, with the goal of stabilizing the volume so that it can be handled by the photographer. If something is being put online, presumably where most people will access it, why spend time and money conserving the actual object? However, I hope that digital access will instead serve to peak interest in physical books, resulting in a need to spend more time conserving the bindings so that they can be used. Increased availability of collections will hopefully result in more people being aware of the books that are available to researchers, and after finding them online will want to see them in person. Because digitization is such a new component to conservation, only time will tell how it will affect treatment decision-making.
December 20, 2015 by Erin Fletcher
The 1926 Nonesuch Press edition of Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno with illustrations by E. McKnight Kauffer was bound by Kathy Abbott in 2013. The book was bound in full grey goatskin with recessed paper inlays. The head edge was gilt in Caplain leaf to appear distressed.
I would love to talk about your aesthetic. Your designs are compelling because of their simplicity, where does your inspiration come from? Are you drawing from the book itself or outside influence?
I am a passionate reader, so the inspiration comes from reading and re-reading the text until I get a ‘sense’ of the book. A colour usually is the first thing that comes to my mind and then I write down the key themes of the text, which stay with me after I have finished reading: that’s my starting point. I then search for the skin of leather that best expresses the essence of the text or that will emphasise my idea for the design.
My ideas usually get distilled down to their absolute essence: I want to lure the reader in to my books, to entice them to discover what the book is about.
For Benito Cereno I wanted to express the extreme savagery of the text. The story is set on a shipwrecked boat that has been mutinised by its slaves, who have slain most of the crew with cutlasses. I chose the skin because the grain looked windswept and stormy and I also wanted to continue the feeling of a windy storm within the endpapers and in the scratches to the Caplain-gilded head of the book.
After practicing the slash marks many times, I found that the only way to make them look savage and frenetic, was to actually slash the book very fast with a scalpel, once the book was covered. This was hugely stressful, as I only had one chance to get it right: once the first one was done, I had to hold my breath and repeat it three more times!
In addition to Kathy’s binding of Benito Cereno, I also wanted her to speak about her design for A Stitch in Time or Pride Prevents a Fall. This binding was created in 2010 and is also a Nonesuch Press edition published in 1927.
A Stitch in Time is quite a silly poem about a 1930’s girl about town, who finds herself a slightly dangerous situation when she is duped into having lunch alone with a man who has sexual intentions towards her. She gets herself out of a potential sexual assault because she can’t bear the thought of her assailant seeing a tear in her green petticoat, which she had hastily sewn up with pink thread before leaving her house.
I tried to make the pink leather onlays on this binding look like they were sewn through the green leather.
December 13, 2015 by Erin Fletcher
In the interview at the beginning of the month, I asked Kathy Abbott about Tomorrow’s Past, an exhibit inspired by Sün Evrard’s article in The New Bookbinder, Volume 19. The idea is to rethink the approach of repair work in a contemporary and more visible way. In this post Kathy explains the treatments for two bindings and why she chose to do these repairs in an unconventional way.
I’ve chosen a selection of bindings from your Tomorrow’s Past portfolio. I find the treatments to be delightful yet still respectful to the bindings historic value.
Thank you. I could never undertake this sort of conservation treatment if I hadn’t worked for 9 years as a book consevator and bindery manager at the antiquarian booksellers: Bernard Quaritch Ltd. I learned so much there about antiquarian books and from working on such a wide variety of them, each with very individual needs. I continue to conserve antiquarian books as well as Islamic manuscripts, where I constantly have to stretch my skill base in order to do the right thing for the book in my care. This allows me to have a lot of tacit knowledge at my fingertips when I approach my Tomorrow’s Past work.
In the treatment of Sacred Dramas (1818) you’ve included this brightly hand-colored tissue that is quite a stark contrast from the original covering material. What was the prior condition of the book and why did you choose, what could be perceived as an unconventional route of conservation?
I made this work for a Tomorrow’s Past exhibition at the Aram Gallery, London, in 2013.
I found the book with both boards detached and no spine, and I spent a lot of time looking and handling the book before I decided on the course of action. The book’s sewing was intact and each edge was marbled, so I didn’t want to disturb it by re-sewing. The book didn’t open well, so I reattached the boards with linen and they now open right back and touch each other at the spine. I didn’t want a heavy spine that would impede the book’s opening even more, so decided on a sort of hollow, made from handmade paper but the head and tail of the spine has a little flap which tucks down inside the hollow, so that it doesn’t have a vulnerable cut edge. The decoration on the spine is hand drawn with acrylic inks, to relate to the decorative gold tooling on the boards. The boards themselves were quite damaged and needed to be repaired, so I decided to highlight both the board attachment and every repair, with the same bright blue colour that appears within the marbled edges on the book-block. The re-binding of this book came the year after conserving Q. Horatii Flacci Carmina Expurgata, where I first explored the concept of highlighting the repairs and it felt absolutely like the right thing to do. It has caused a lot of controversy though: people either love it or hate it.
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The repair on the binding of Q. Haratii Flacci Carmina Expurgata (1784) is subtle yet stunning. Can you walk us through the steps: was the book resewn and how was the hand-gilded paper used to repair the binding?
This poor book was in such bad shape when I found it but I absolutely loved its original binding and thought it was essential to keep every last crumb of it. My good friend is a Kintsugi restorer: this is where broken Japanese ceramics are repaired with lacquer and the repairs are highlighted in real gold or silver powder, rendering the piece even more beautiful. I thought that this particular book would really benefit from this sort of treatment.
The sewing was broken in many places and the alum-tawed thongs were very brittle and had snapped in several places, making them unusable. I didn’t want to use new, white thongs, as they would look very bright and at odds with the rest of the book, so decided to dye some alum-tawed skin dark brown to match the titling, using conservation leather dyes.
I pulled the book and then repaired the tears in the cover with Japanese tissue, the text-block did not need to be guarded nor repaired. I then re-sewed the book following the original sewing positions. I gilded a piece of hand-made paper with 23.5 carat gold leaf and the piece was then inserted under the turn-ins of the cover and was adhered to the original turn-ins only, using methylcellulose.
The sewing of the front section to close the binding was very complex: the fold of the pastedown was hooked around the first and last sections. To close the binding, (join the cover to the sewn text-block) I had to sew through the front section and the hooked fold of the pastedowns at the same time. The sewing had to go around the thongs, (which needed to be laced through the cover before the sewing could be done), without piercing through the pastedowns nor the cover. I had to make a series of needles, curved to different angles in order to achieve it. It was one of the most technically difficult things I have ever had to do but the result looks very simple. On the finished binding, the gold is only visible where there is a piece of the spine missing and a tiny bit through the lacing positions.
December 6, 2015 by Erin Fletcher
Jumping back to 2008 with this binding of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Kathy Abbott bound this 1903 Roycroft Shop edition in full scarlet goatskin. The cascading hearts are black goatskin onlays. The head edge is gilt using moon gold.
I’ve noticed that you never title your bindings. What are your reasons for this choice? Are you ever criticized for this decision by collectors or other binders?
I wouldn’t say criticized but it is often commented on! I like the reader to be curious about what’s inside the book, without actually ‘telling them’ what it’s about. For me, a book’s design must flow freely across the front board, the spine and the back board without interruption. I feel that a title would break the flow in my work. This is purely personal: I have seen many binders use titling beautifully as an essential element of their design but this is just not for me, at least for now that is! All of my bindings are housed in bespoke drop-back boxes and the title of the book is always on the box, so it’s not a problem.
The free-flowing design for this book is a nod towards the love letters that Orlando leaves for Rosalind in the trees of the forest.