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  1. My Hand // Boxes for Laura Davidson

    September 19, 2014 by Erin Fletcher


    Photo courtesy of Laura Davidson

    A while back, I had the chance to interview the artist Laura Davidson as a part of my Book Artist of the Month series. Since then, Laura and I have stayed in contact with each other, which has given me the opportunity to view some of her works in their various stages. Most recently Laura completed a set of prints illustrating various bridges across the country. These six bridges were chosen due to their close proximity to the many spaces Laura views as home. The act of crossing these bridges, Laura is filled with the anticipation of almost being home, therefore, the set of prints are aptly titled Almost Home.


    Photo courtesy of Laura Davidson


    Photo courtesy of Laura Davidson

    Laura presented me with the opportunity to build an edition of boxes to house the prints from her Almost Home series. I was quite elated. I’ve really enjoyed Laura’s work and was excited to be working with her. Laura knew she wanted a clamshell box, something sleek and clean. I’m came by her studio and we discussed material options and how the prints would fit in the box.

    After everything was settled and the materials were ordered, I began working on the small edition of 8 clamshell boxes. Clamshell boxes are pretty straight forward, but with Laura’s boxes I would be adding a few custom elements. First, the base of the interior tray would include some padding. The prints themselves had no discernible thickness, but Laura wanted the box to be at least ½” thick.  So the outward appearance of the box was the right height for Laura and the interior height of the tray was right for the prints.

    Once the binders board was cut and the trays were assembled, it was time to cover them. Laura chose silver Canapetta cloth for its durability and textural qualities. The color also complimented the prints and the industrial feel of bridges. To streamline the process I used a small paint roller and paint tray filled with PVA.


    The second custom element came as the material used on the lining of the trays. Laura provided me with 8 sheets of hand-drawn decorative paper. Using a combination of ink and markers, Laura’s custom lining paper pulled imagery from the prints and grabbed colors from the boxes and brown wrapper. Below is an image of one of the finished boxes showcasing the lining.


    Finally, it was time to make the cases, which were also covered in silver Canapetta cloth. Before covering, however, I had to create a label well on the front cover board and the spine piece. Each of these wells would be filled with a printed label that Laura had provided me. I also used a paint roller to streamline the process of making the cases.


    The hand-printed label on the front cover is an ‘A’ both acting as the support beams of the bridge and the first letter to the title of the series. The label on the spine came from extra prints from the series. Laura artistically cut down the print to isolate some compelling and inciting imagery.

    It was quite a joy to create these boxes and to work for an artist as talented as Laura!


    Photo courtesy of Laura Davidson


    Photo courtesy of Laura Davidson


  2. Free Shipping at Herringbone Bindery Etsy – Celebrate National Read a Book Day

    September 5, 2014 by Erin Fletcher


    Just in time for the school year, grab yourself a new journal or notepad. Celebrate the book this weekend for National Read a Book Day at my Herringbone Bindery Etsy shop and receive free shipping on all orders of $10 or more. Just enter code: READABOOK10 at checkout. Have a wonderful and book-worthy weekend.

  3. Swell Things No. 15

    August 31, 2014 by Erin Fletcher


    1. This is just a wonderful animation from Lucrece Andreae. It puts a bit of humor into flash dating.
    2. #5DaysOfPreservation is a project by Kevin Driedger, who invited any institution or individual to post images over a 5 day period depicting preservation. Thus creating a catalog of images for a deeper understanding of the variety of processes and skills involved.
    3. Rachel Niffeneger is an extremely talented artist and one that I’m proud to have met during our undergraduate studies at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. Some of her most recent work can be seen here. Although her figures are gruesomely painted, Rachel’s use of pastel and bright colors creates a wonderful juxtaposition.
    4. Massive yet delicate paper sculptures by Peter Gentenaar.
    5. Amalgamated is a collection of vases designed and constructed by Studio Markunpoika. Each vase is comprised of several pencils glued together at each facet and then shaped using a lathe revealing the inner structure of each pencil and different points creating unique patterns.


    6. Book artist Jen Bervin found inspiration in the imitable Anni Albers. In Draft Notation, Jen recreates weaving patterns through the use of a typewriter, which is commonly done by weavers and documented in Anni Albers’ On Weaving.
    7. Breakbot’s music video for Baby I’m Yours featuring Irfane, is a watercolor animation. Each frame is hand-painted one by one. I’m continuously amazed at the lengths people will go to create a unique music video.
    8. So I’ve mentioned this video before, but it’s just too cool. Metal band Throne created an animated music video for their song Tharsis Sleeps. Each frame was machine-embroidered and are up for sale through their website. This video was made possible through a successful Kickstarter campaign.
    9. The MTA Zine Residency organized a group of participants to ride the F train for hours, creating content for a zine that would be printed and published and later put up for sale. The organizers of the residency are a librarian and an archivist working at Barnard College library, which holds the largest collection of zines in an academic library.
    10. Until a few months ago, Lilli Carré, existed in my mind as a talented graphic novelist. I’ve recently discovered that her talents expand into a variety of other mediums such as ceramics, film and illustration (outside the book format). You can check out her work here.


  4. Conservation Conversations // An Additional Form of Documentation

    August 26, 2014 by Lauren Schott

    No one likes to think about all the little things (or, heaven forbid!, big things) that can go wrong as we work on our conservation projects. We are trained professionals. Our hands are steady. Our minds are sharp. And yet, as we work, any number of things could go wrong. A hand may slip as we lift adhered materials; a fragment may fall to the floor and crumble into a thousand irretrievable pieces. It’s sometimes intimidating to think about, but we all know in the back of our minds the myriad things that could go wrong.

    This, of course, is why we take the preliminary photos so often considered as “simply routine.” With them, we preserve a record of what the book once was. Imperfect though they may be, photographic evidence is better than no evidence at all. But what if a photograph doesn’t show just what we were hoping?

    I recently had the opportunity to fulfill the role of the William Reese Fellow at Rare Book School in Charlottesville, VA. The fellowship provided a week of class for a week of service to RBS. In my case, specifically, I acted as an on-site conservator for some of their most in-need collections. The class I took was Jan Storm Van Leeuwen’s “Introduction to the History of Bookbinding,” which coincidentally was the same class attended by Erin Fletcher, the proprietor of this blog. The conservation projects were wide and varied, as RBS’s large collection is intended for teaching students of the book with countless focuses and interests.

    One of the books I was presented with was a first edition of Joel Barlow’s The Columbiad—A Poem. Of course, RBS valued this copy not only for its edition, but for its binding. The binding was original; in full calf, decorated in gold and blind tooling, it was an exquisite example of early American deluxe binding.

    The upper board was entirely detached, and the bottom was in imminent danger of becoming so. The tight back spine was cracked and suffered redrot, and it was evident that a leather reback was necessary to preserve the book’s utility to the school. The danger of this treatment, of course, is that, should anything go wrong with lifting the spine, its beautiful panel tooling might be lost.

    I photographed the book before commencing work, documenting individual tools as well as the overall patterns in which they were used, and then I began.

    First, of course, was consolidating with redrot cocktail, a combination of SC6000 and Klucel G. This in and of itself revealed a new element to the book. With the darkened leather characteristic of redrot cocktail, blind tooling was revealed on the spine where originally it had appeared as an empty intermediary panel. I re-photographed the spine to document this tool, but it was difficult to make out even with a naked eye, let alone through the lens of my camera.


    I then realized I could make use of one of the techniques taught to me in Van Leeuwen’s class. This is something Van Leeuwen made use of frequently in his time as Keeper of the Book at the Dutch Royal Library in the Hague, and which I now hope to employ more regularly in my documentation. In short, he took rubbings of the decorative covers of the library’s books.

    Van Leeuwen uses an artist’s soft graphite pencil and a light wove paper he commissioned specially for the practice. He lays the paper over the area to be documented, plants one hand firmly to keep the assembly in place, and begins his work. Holding the pencil at a nearly 45 degree angle, he rubs gently horizontally, vertically, and to every angle. He changes the angle of the pencil as he works to capture the specific aspects he wishes to be revealed in the tooling, sometimes circling the pencil, sometimes pressing harder or softer. Varied depths and lacework lines reveal themselves in great detail as he works, rendering a copy in shades of black and white of the book’s decoration. Van Leeuwen takes care to note the book being documented, to what portions of the book each image belongs, as well as the date and the taker of the rubbing to provide a good record for researchers.


    It was with great excitement that I was able to use this technique in a real-life situation so shortly after having learned it. I experimented with various tissues intended for repair. Their soft texture and flexibility offered a good medium for capturing the imagery of the tooling that the camera would not. It took several trials to find a suitable paper that would provide the suppleness to sink into the tooling, yet not tear with the use of the graphite pencil, but once the proper paper was found and the rubbing taken, the image of the tool was revealed in greater detail even than could be seen simply by the eye. A satisfying result indeed!


    Having taken the rubbing, I faced the spine with solvent set tissue, lifted it in one solid piece, performed the reback, readhered it, and once again removed the tissue. In all, the added precautions of taking the rubbing were not strictly necessary, but it was a reassuring way to expiate the danger of losing this piece of early American tooling in its entirety.


  5. My Hand // Recreating the Stepped Roofs of Bermuda on a Book

    August 25, 2014 by Erin Fletcher


    A client of mine presented me with a copy of Residence in Bermuda, a promotional text published by Bermuda Trade Development Board in an edition of 2,000 copies. This particular book was copy 591 and bound as a quarter cloth binding with a simple stamped label. My client wanted the book to be rebound in a more artistic binding, extracting colors and inspiration from one of the many photographs printed in the text.

    In search of inspiration I began to page through the book when I came across one image of a watercolor painting of an iconic Bermuda home. The imagery became my direction for the exterior of the binding; the exterior walls of the house were painted a sherbet pink, which popped against the white stepped roof. The vibrancy and brushstrokes of the surrounding landscape became my inspiration for the label on the spine.


    Since the binding needed to be completed in a fairly short time period and I wanted to work the boards separately, I chose to use a variant of the Bradel structure. Peter Verheyen published an article and tutorial titled Der Gebrochene Rücken: a variation of the German case binding, which was my guide throughout its construction.

    But before any binding could take place, the book had to be removed from its original case. The spine was cleaned by removing the lining and adhesive. The pages showed sign of age with some scuff marks here and there, which called for a bit of surface cleaning. The exterior folio was guarded with tissue to stabilize the paper in preparation for sewing. The original endpapers were quite beautiful and richly printed. However, they were not salvageable for the new binding, but I’ll come back to that later. So I created some new endpapers using three sheets of Canford paper in blush, plum and forest (all colors derived from my inspiration source).

    With the forwarding complete, I attached a piece of pared buffalo skin in the same sherbet pink of the house to the spine. The benefit of this particular binding allows the binder to use a specific material on the spine and another for the boards, so the cover is completed in three parts. This German-style of binding is very similar to the French simplified binding.

    While the book lay to rest, I started working on the boards (which in my opinion are what make this binding superb). In order to best represent the iconic stepped roofs of Bermuda architecture, I decided to create stepped boards. Once I had the final size of my boards, I went to work figuring out the proper dimensions of each layer. I made a single template of each layer which I used to draw out their placement on the boards. Each layer was attached with PVA and pressed. Finally, I glue out a piece of white Hahnemuhle Ingres (which was pre-dampened with a sponge), laid it over the board and put it in the press with some foam which helped sculpt the paper around each layer or step.

    Before attaching the boards, I placed the two labels on the spine which curved down around the shoulder and onto the flange which connects the boards to the binding. Using two separate leathers with matching metallic foil, I stamped the word RESIDENCE and BERMUDA in Gill Sans using a Kwikprint. The leather was then pared away to offer a rough silhouette of a brushstroke. The word IN was hand-tooled directly on the spine in palladium.


    A large book with white covers needs a box or it will never appear in such pristine condition again. The clamshell box was simply made with a cloth spine sided up with paper. The spine of the box includes a long paper label stamped in metallic pink with the title. The decorative paper label is a strip of the original endpaper. The trays are lined with a frame of Volara foam for the book to rest on, preventing it from teetering side to side.

    Bermuda-ErinFletcher Bermuda2-ErinFletcher

    My client was thrilled with the book’s transformation. He plans to present it as a wedding gift to the Governor of Bermuda’s daughter. I hope she is equally thrilled with my interpretation of her rich and colorful surroundings.

  6. Bookbinder of the Month: Mark Cockram

    August 24, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

    Die Nibelungen arrived in Mark Cockram‘s studio bound together with staples. After removing the pesky binding material, Mark transformed this book into an intriguing sculptural object.

    What’s the inspiration behind this sculpted binding? The additional panel almost appears to swing between each cover, although I believe it is attached to the lower cover.
    This is a charming book with fantastic illustrations. One aspect of the illustrations are the backgrounds, often of buildings. The outlines of the buildings create a framework for the rest of the illustration. I wanted to explore this with the binding. You are correct to say that the panel is attached to the back board. The concept is simple, but like a lot of simple things it works well. The edge of the binding is extended beyond the normal square. When the book is partially open the panel gives us an angular perspective, again a reflection of the illustrative style.

    The leather is hand dyed with traditional gold tooling, I tend to make my own simple tools and adapt them as I work. I set out to produce a simple, controlled, rather elegant book with angles and forms. As with all my work, I had fun making Die Nibelungen.

    DieNibelungen2-MarkCockram DieNibelungen3-MarkCockram

  7. Artist: Cody Hoyt

    August 20, 2014 by Erin Fletcher


    Cody Hoyt is the maker behind these extraordinary stoneware vessels, which display exteriors inspired by both organic (tree rings, Earth’s layers, bacon) and artistic patterns. They are really just beautiful and that’s why I want to share them with you. TwistedBoxII-CodyHoyt TwistedJug-CodyHoyt LargeOctahedron-CodyHoyt StonwareVessel-CodyHoyt

  8. Artist: Andrea Wan

    August 20, 2014 by Erin Fletcher


    When I was a kid, my dreams were to grow up and become a zoologist. I loved animals; I would go to the library weekly to gather books and more books about all variety of animals. I was also a member of the World Wildlife Fund. Anyway, one creature that really fascinated me was the Tasmanian Tiger, for the main reason that it had become extinct so recently and in a time when humans could have prevented it.

    Exploding Heads is a series by Andrea Wan, where she beautifully illustrates various extinct creatures exploding from the porcelain faces of young men and women. It’s rather odd, but lovely and allows my mind to travel back in time for a bit. Dodo-AndreaWan Moa-AndreaWan Quagga-AndreaWan Mammoth-AndreaWan

  9. Bookbinder of the Month: Mark Cockram

    August 17, 2014 by Erin Fletcher


    Brush Up Your Shakespeare is a limited edition accordion from the Piccolo Press in New York. The text is a combination of music and words to the song Brush Up Your Shakespeare from the musical Kiss Me Kate (which is inspired by The Taming of the Shrew) and includes charming illustrations by Seymour Chwast.

    Mark Cockram bound a chemise in full leather fair goat with a stylized image of a pair of pouty lips. The dye was applied carefully with a brush. The doublures double as a pocket which hold the first and last pages of the text. The doublures are hand-printed using soft plate off-set and colored with a layer of worked cold gold.

    BrushUpYourShakespeare4-MarkCockram BrushUpYourShakespeare3-MarkCockramBrushUpYourShakespeare5-MarkCockram

    You mention that you weigh down the lid of the clamshell box for your miniature books. How do you go about doing this?
    For Brush Up Your Shakespeare I made a two tray drop back box. The box is the last thing to be made and the first thing to be seen. It protects, it informs and I like to think of the opening of the box like the parting of theatre curtains. The box sets the scene, it can hint at the contents, tantalising us, making us want to see inside. The opening and closing, the fit of the book can tell us, from the very outset the skill of the maker.

    I have made a number of miniature books and bindings. One of the common issues is the opening and closing of the box. The way the air is expelled as the lid closes and the slight tug of the vacuum on opening. This is not only down to the accuracy of the box, but also the weight of the materials involved, the bigger the box the heavier the overall weight of the materials. The smaller the box the more difficult it is to keep the lid closed, it has a habit of just popping open that fraction of a mil. One way to counter this is to use magnets. I do not like to use magnets for the simple reason that magnets attract metal particles (it is in the nature of magnets to do this). These metal particles can, in turn begin to rust leading to all manner of issues.

    I prefer to use lead to gently weight the upper lid. After varnishing in a metal lacquer I place the small piece of lead in a recess created in the upper tray (this is done in the construction) the recess is covered on one side by the outer case of the box and the inner lining of the upper tray. Simple and very effective.


  10. Bookbinder of the Month: Mark Cockram

    August 10, 2014 by Erin Fletcher


    Bound in 2010, this is just one binding of Lysistrata that Mark Cockram has bound. Grabbing illustrations from the text for both the cover design, doublures and endpapers; Mark transforms them into a visual experience rarely seen on a book. The cover mimics that of a fresco painting.

    The book was bound in fair goat which was hand-dyed and the design was initially blind tooled onto the leather. Mark handcrafted 7 new tools for the book, which were modified throughout the tooling process. He discusses his technique more in depth below.

    This binding is by far my most favorite from your portfolio. There are so many artistic details I find to be rather captivating. I wanted to ask you about your technique for distressing the gold leaf?
    My glib answer would be to say that shouting at gold leaf usually distresses it, though I feel that is not the answer you were looking for.

    Though gold leaf and other metals are used in bookbinding, gold leaf and the like tend to be used in a static manner. By static manner I refer to the traditional way in which it is applied to books. Please forgive me if I do not elaborate on finishing/tooling with gold leaf, there are many books, workshops and bits and bobs on the Internet for those who wish to find out more. There is so much more to the application of gold leaf than traditional gold tooling or finishing, one only has to look outside of bookbinding to realise that.There is great skill in finishing, indeed, the training for a finisher is usually longer than for a forwarder, with the finisher being paid more. What has always made me smile is the way the layman is always amazed with the gold tooling, but fails to see the book. If it were not for the forwarder there would be nothing for the finisher to do except, perhaps, wall panels and the like. This brings to mind one lecture and one question in particular. I was asked by a very earnest student what I thought of fine binding? I asked her to tell me what a ‘fine binding’ was.  Her reply was the usual ” Well, it is full leather with gold tooling …….. of course.” After a considered pause I told her that I had seen many full leather bindings with lashings of gold tooling and that in no way would I call them fine. Any book beautifully made, balance of materials, fit for purpose, harmony of craft and art is a fine binding in my eyes. I cannot remember her response, but I do remember her looking over to a small group of people, arms folded, scowls and mumbling between themselves, whom I can only assume were her teachers. I only hope that the student began to ask questions and open not only her eyes, but ears also.I suppose that like many people, bookbinders and collectors like things to be classified to make them easy to understand. Just as a point, if one were to ask what is fine art? Would the answer be oil paint on canvas? I, of course, doubt that to be any answer that any serious artist or those appreciating the arts would give. So why is it that so many contemporary bookbinders and collectors, curators and so on appear to have the pre-impressionist salon approach to what fine binding is? To carry this forward we could argue that though both the salon artists (the establishment) and the Impressionists (non establishment) used the same materials, it was the application of the materials and the way the artists saw their work that was different. One challenged the preconceptions of what is and painted what they felt and saw, the other hid behind technique and history (I realise this is a somewhat simplified view, but I hope you get my drift). I always have half an eye on technique and history, but I will not let them get in the way or limit what I want to produce. Please do not assume that I consider myself to be in any way akin to the Impressionists, I only use them to make a point.

    With the 2010 Lysistrata I wanted to echo the illustrations in the text block. One method commonly used is to copy an illustration, have a block made and use that to do the tooling with. Another method is to transfer the image to thin paper, blind tool through that and then tool in the usual way. However, I feel that the line is static, it has no life. I know that by putting the tool down at an angle the reflected light creates an impression of movement, but there is still that feeling of it being contrived. I suppose I am of the ilk that think if you want something to look like a splash of paint then splash with paint, there is no need to spend hours, days in trying to get gold tooling to look like a spontaneous splash of paint. Are we meant to admire the technique ? That it looks so much like a spontaneous (even though it is not) splash of paint or do we admire the spontaneity of the person who is able to splash the binding with paint? The paint being an intrinsic element of the book as opposed to an applied decoration. Is this a case of seeing the technique and not seeing the book? Perhaps people find it easier to admire technique as that is quantifiable and can be tweaked, whereas the spontaneous is less quantifiable and in no way can be tweaked. The spontaneous it is less safe and one has to live with the result, in other words it is alive.

    Lysistrata6-MarkCockram Lysistrata5-MarkCockram

    I do not think that I have to say that in some of my work I am spontaneous with the 2010 Lysistrata captureing some of that working style. The leather was hand dyed off and on the book. The black line and cold gold work is loose, it is the sketch like quality of the line that creates the tension and that all so elusive movement. The gold is adhered (please do not ask me what adhesive I use, a boy has to have a secret or you could come to a workshop) to the binding after the black line work with the tooling done with a number of warmish hand tools. The gold is further worked with 000 grade, oil free, wire wool. I wanted the finished work to resemble a wall painting or fresco, I think I am somewhere near the mark. The work was a commission and I kept the client informed of progress, he would pop into the studio and watch me work. He delighted in the non formulaic approach, so far from the rest of his collection. I prefer to work with collectors that give me and the book space to breath, to expand and explore what is or maybe possible and not to rely on what has been.