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‘bookbinding’ Category

  1. My Trip to Codex

    February 26, 2017 by Erin Fletcher

    At the beginning of February, I flew to San Francisco to attend the Codex Book Fair for the first time. The Codex Foundation was formed in 2005 by fine press printer, Peter Rutledge Koch and paper conservator, Susan Filter. Since 2007, the Codex Book Fair and Symposium has run biennially, growing from 120 exhibitors in its first year to 220 in 2017. The venue has also been upgraded to the Craneway Pavilion (once known as the Ford Assembly Plant) to accommodate this ever growing event. The Symposium runs in conjunction with the fair and features keynote speakers within the field of artist books.

    The fair itself runs for four days, unfortunately I only had a chance to be there for the final two days. Needless to say, there was so much to see and so many people to chat with that I was unable to make it all the way through. If you are planning to attend in the future, give yourself four full days. You’re going to need it.

    This year, Codex hosted exhibitors from 26 different countries, who were there to showcase their artist books and fine press editions. In addition, various institutions that offer courses and programs in bookbinding and book arts were displaying work from current students and alumni. A handful of vendors could be spotted amongst the tables selling beautiful handmade papers and tools, plus leather and other binding materials.

    I had a really great time and would recommend making the trip if you are at all interested in bookbinding, book arts and printmaking. It will certainly open your eyes up to the vast levels of skill and creativity amongst our field. Below are some of the highlights from my visit to Codex.

    One of the first things to catch my eye were three bindings by Jonathan Tremblay. His work is so flawless and it was great to get the chance to handle these bindings and chat with Jonathan about his work. The best part of the raised inlay shown on the binding above, is that Jonathan hand-painted the exposed suede edges in a grain-like pattern so that it would blend in seamlessly. A truly amazing detail. Jonathan’s work was on display at A. Piroir Studio-Gallery, a fine press based out of Montréal.

    This lovely cloth book bound around brown thorns and embroidered with erotic images was constructed by Lois Morrison. Her work Leah, interprets an excerpt from the Old Testament. Lois’ illustrations are so expressive, her initial sketch in light blue pencil is still visible under the stitches (a detail that I just loved).

    Coleen Curry discussed a recent binding she completed for Nawakum Press. Her work is so textural and this piece was no exception. Combining a Pergamena grey goatskin with onlays of shark and sanded alligator skin. Really beautiful work.

    The book on the left is by Rhiannon Alpers and is such a creative and lovely way of utilizing the structure of the Secret Belgian binding. She was a delight to chat with and see her work in person. The work on the right is by the phenomenal printer and book artist Karen Kunc. Karen is from my home state of Nebraska, where she runs Constellation Studios. It was great to catch some insight on how this art form is being received in the midwest, particularly in an area that lacks exposure to book arts.

    Vellicate by Karen Hardy includes human hair and this amazing translucent clamshell box. She went through the book arts and printmaking MFA Program at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia and is currently living in Asheville, North Carolina.

    A small selection from Vamp & Tramp Booksellers.

    This binding by Sol Rébora was one of many delightful finds at her table. It was so wonderful to meet Sol in person since interviewing her for the blog back in 2014. The delicate precision of her work is inspiring and Sol was kind enough to speak about the many details of her work.

    Towards the end of the final day, I made a quick stop at Tomorrow’s Past to say hello to Tracey Rowledge and Kathy Abbott. Above are two fine examples from their table. The two bindings on the right are stone veneer staple bindings bound by Sün Evrard.

    Well that’s just a small sample of the things I saw during my trip to Codex. As I mentioned before, it’s definitely worth making the trip. You’ll leave feeling inspired and emboldened to make work, plus you might walk away with an armful of goodies.


  2. A visit to the Annual UK Bookbinding Competition Exhibit

    November 14, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

    During my visit to London, I was delighted to have my trip overlap with the 2016 Annual UK Bookbinding Competition Exhibit. A collection of bindings are on display at the St. Bride Foundation and during the opening reception on November 10th, many of the exhibitors received awards for their work. The exhibit is sponsored by Designer Bookbinders and The Folio Society, who provided the set book: La Vita Nuova by Dante Alighieri. Written between 1292 and 1294 as an innovative mix of prose and poetry, La Vita Nuova is considered Dante’s fist major work. The text is an expression on the torments and joys of young love before transcending into the ether.

    In addition to the set book, many of the binders chose to submit an additional binding. If you are in the London area, the exhibit will be on view until November 24th. Check out my some of my favorite pieces from the show. I absolutely loved Ann Tout and Glenn Malkin’s books, but the bright red leather on their bindings were difficult to photograph well (on that line, please excuse any awkward reflections and glare).

    Kaitlin Barber

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    Kaitlin Barber‘s interpretation of Vita Nuova extended beyond the book form with her 3-dimensional piece representing Dante’s dream of Beatrice in flames. The binding is covered with hand-dyed goatskin and decorated using the Sunago technique in gold leaf. Kaitlin’s binding won the St. Bride Foundation Prize for Finishing.

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    Kaitlin’s second submission was In Smoke: Ten Variations on Eugenio Montale by Gary Michael Dault. Kaitlin created another beautiful binding using a hand-dyed leather that creates so much movement.

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    The front and back boards have been debossed with leaves, with the front accented in gold leaf. The consistent themes of nature and repeated imagery of foliage and gardens within the text inspired Kaitlin’s design. The second place Clothworkers’ Prize of the Open Choice Book was awarded to Kaitlin’s second entry. I am so happy for Kaitlin, as a fellow North Bennet Street grad, it’s so great to see her skill and creativity grow. Congrats Kaitlin!

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    Bec Britain

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    Bec Britain created this gorgeous binding for Vita Nuova. As the exhibit pamphlet reads “the design reflects Dante’s evolving sense of the limitations of courtly love and its transition into sacred love.” The central design is created with crimson leather onlays, tooling and ink. Bec was awarded the Harmatan Ltd Leather Prize, which she completely deserves. Her combination of techniques created such a sleek and captivating design.

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    Jeanette Koch

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    Jeanette Koch’s binding for Vita Nuova is covered in terra-cotta and burgundy goatskin. The leather is cut-out to reveal laminated decorative paper and transparent vellum. I love the way Jeanette transformed the decorative paper in her design.

    The edges are decorated with watercolor, palladium and gold leaf. Jeanette was honored with the Lisa von Clemm Prize for this binding.

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    Jeanette also submitted a binding of the late 14th-century Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, an Arthurian story on chivalric romance.

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    This is one of my favorite bindings from the exhibit. The judges seems to agree, as Jeanette received The Judges’ Award and the Arthur Johnson Prize for this binding. Covered in green and burgundy French goatskin; Jeanette chose a beautiful green skin with stunning grain detail at the spine.

    Like Vita Nuova, this binding also has cut-outs revealing laminated decorative Japanese paper and vellum.

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    Kaori Maki

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    I was so in awe of Kaori Maki‘s binding for Vita Nuova, which was bound in alum-tawed goatskin. Kaori decorated her binding with an intricate and bold floral design using back-pared, cushioned onlays dyed red. Kaori’s binding received second place for The Folio Society Prize for the Set Book, which was so well deserved, her decorative work was so unique and captivating.

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    Yuko Matsuno

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    The most celebrated binding of the evening was crafted by Yuko Matsuno. Her binding of Through the Woods by H.E. Bates is bound in grey goatskin with decorative underlays. Ink-dotted calfskin and Zerkall paper peeks through a forest silhouette with animal onlays of colored Gampi and cushioned calfskin.

    The edges and endpapers are decorated using soft pastel to mimic the imagery from the cover. Yuko received first place for The Clothworkers’ Prize for the Open Choice Book and the ultimate prize: The Mansfield Medal for the Best Book in the Competition.

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  3. Guild of Book Workers – Standards of Excellence Seminar // Charleston 2016

    October 24, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

    After an adventuresome time in Durham, North Carolina, where I consumed delicious local brews, lost at shuffle board, ate so many southern dishes, visited Duke’s conservation lab, toured a lemur center and discovered that I’m still allergic to mosquito bites, Henry and I embarked on our drive to Charleston, South Carolina.

    Upon our arrival we were greeted by Tropical Storm Julia, but luckily the next few days proved to be quite lovely with very little rain. After checking in, I began to rummage through my conference packet and found my name tag, which was beautifully done by local calligrapher Elizabeth Porcher Jones.

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    Day One:
    The conference began with a tour to the Charleston Library Society, an absolutely charming space that also served as the venue for the opening reception later that evening. Our tour began with Anna Smith, Special Collections Librarian, who gave us an overview the Society’s establishment and shared a few treasures from their collection. We were then led to the first floor by Kerri Harding, Director of Bindery and Conservation Studio, where she showed off their delightfully quaint bindery space. Having just relocated to Charleston, Kerri shared with us the range of her upcoming projects: a presentation leather binding, rehousing and holiday ornaments showcasing the Society’s newest titles.

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    Day Two:
    The first presentation of the conference was Drawn to the Writing given by calligrapher Cheryl Jacobsen. As a freelance artist living in Iowa City, Cheryl’s work ranges from design and lettering to illustrations and art. She began her presentation with her personal history on how her interest in art and lettering developed before going into a slideshow of her work. Cheryl is also an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Iowa, teaching courses at the Center for the Book. Over the course of the presentation, Cheryl created a certificate to commemorate the conference using a variety of letter forms. She spoke about line formation (this included pressure and hand position), nib use, ink/pigment preferences and tricks of the trade.

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    At the end of presentation, the audience was rewarded with a copy of the certificate Cheryl produced during the presentation (she even offered to add your name to the certificate). We were also allowed to handle some of her artist books.

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    For the afternoon presentation, the topic switched to bookbinding in Exploration of history and techniques for Pennsylvania German Liturgical Bookbinding before 1850. The presentation was divided into two parts: Chela Metzger, Head of Library Conservation at UCLA, demonstrated the construction of the binding and Erin Hammeke, Senior Conservator at Duke University, demonstrated the techniques used to create the bosses and clasps traditionally seen on this style of binding.

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    Chela quickly went through the construction of the binding. The book used in the demonstration was sewn in an abbreviated pattern (usually 2-on) using thicker supports (usually two supports as one), the shoulders are quite narrow and the edges were (historically) ploughed. The wooden boards (oak or beech; usually quarter-sawn) are heavily shaped along the spine and fore edge on both sides of the board. The fore edge is also notched in preparation for the clasps. The spine is lined with linen strips that extend beyond the shoulder. Unlike most wooden board structures, the boards are not laced-in. The sewing supports are frayed and adhered to the first and last leaf, then the linen is adhered to sandwich the frayed cords. The text block edge is colored after the boards are attached, then the hand-sewn or hand-woven endbands are stuck-on.

    One of my favorite parts of the presentation was the brief demo given by Chela on the technique behind the woven endbanding material. Using a make-shift back-strap loom (popsicle crafts!), she wove a traditional white and blue endband strip. A variety of endbands have been spotted on these bindings. The image below (on the right) shows just two varieties with the hand woven style on the bottom.

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    Chela’s portion of the presentation continued with the covering of the book and tying up the spine (this step ensures that the leather adheres to either side of the supports). The last step presented by Chela is one of the defining characteristics of this binding: the leather spine straps. Appearing on the spine at the head and tail (and sometimes the middle) many examples are seen adorned with brass studs or domes.

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    Using a 24-gauge brass sheet, Erin demonstrated the process for creating the corner pieces for the binding. Beginning with a flat piece of brass, Erin roughly traced out the design with a sharpie. Then she cut down the brass close to her design with metal snips; shaping it even further with needle files and emory paper. Supporting the brass with a lead block, Erin began to decorate the brass corner piece by striking the back with steel punches. This did not create a hole, rather pushed the brass into a shape that would be raised on the front side. In the image above (on the right), Erin uses a drill to create holes where the nails will be inserted when attaching the furniture to the book. After attaching this corner piece to the book, Erin began to bend the extended brass around the edge of the board with her fingers and finished its shape by striking the brass with a planishing hammer.

    Day two ended with a social gathering at a local pub for a Mentor-Mentee Happy Hour, those new to their field were encouraged to speak with the more accomplished participants. Afterward, I broke off with some friends for a very quick bite to eat before going on a Ghost and Dungeons tour through Charleston.

    Day Three:
    One the third and final day of the conference, two more presentations were given. The morning presentation was given by Betsy Palmer Eldridge on Paper Conservation Treatment Revisited. In 1989, Betsy gave a presentation at the Standards conference in Portland, this year she presented a revised version of that lecture.

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    Betsy was introduced to book arts during her time at Wellesley College in 1957 and further advanced her training in Germany and France. In 1973, she moved to Toronto, where she established and maintained her private conservation studio. Betsy has been an active member of the Guild since 1960 and the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild since 1983. Betsy gave an overview of a variety of conservation techniques and tricks she has picked up along the way. Many of the presentation materials she referred to were used in her original presentation 27 years ago, it was quite interesting to see how the materials had changed or retained their vibrancy over the years.

    The final presentation was on Herrnhuter Paste Paper given by Deborah Evetts. At the start of her presentation the audience received a brief history lesson paired with images of these papers collected from several sources. During the last third of the 18th century, a group of Moravian sisters living in a religious community at Herrnhut in Saxony created what came to be a very recognizable style of paste paper. The sisters traditionally used olive, bright or grayish blue, mustard yellows and reds in their papers. Deborah has seen several examples and has recreated tools to mimic the patterns seen on these historical papers. Herrnhuter Papers were used as both cover papers and endpapers on many common types of books such as ledgers and almanacs, but examples have also been found on works of literature, non-fiction and other genres.

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    After the slideshow, Deborah moved onto discussing tools and paste preparation. She began with a quick demonstration on making your own tools such as combs, rolls and mylar templates. The first image below shows Deborah marking out a small piece of plastic and then cutting out the teeth using a sharp scalpel blade. Combs can be made from binder’s board, plastic container lids or vertical blinds. The second image below shows three different styles of paper that utilize the same decorative roll and the handmade rolls that Deborah has made. The designs were carved out of linoleum and attached to craft rollers.

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    Over the course of the presentation, Deborah created several styles of the historical patterns seen on Herrnhuter Papers. She demystified so many patterns. One in particular that I was excited to see was the two-finger swirl. The crowd gave Deborah a round of applause after each paper blossomed before our eyes. Deborah was so delightful and high-spirited in her presentation and it was a great way to end this year’s series of presentations.

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    At the end of the evening, we all gathered in the Colonial Ballroom at the Francis Marion Hotel for the banquet and live auction. Also during this time, two members of the Guild are rewarded with the Laura Young Award and the GBW Lifetime Achievement Award. Catherine Burkhard was awarded the former for her dedication and long-time service to the Guild. The latter was awarded to Peter Verheyen, celebrating his achievements in the fields of conservation, bookbinding, book arts and creating a thriving online community. As the night came to a close, I allowed my nose to be traced, said my goodbyes and wished everyone  safe travel back home. Looking forward to next year’s conference in Tacoma, Washington!


  4. Onward to Charleston, South Carolina

    September 10, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

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

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


  5. Exquisite Corpse Collaboration

    July 10, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

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

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

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

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

    Jeffrey Altepeter – Samuel Feinstein – Lang Ingalls

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


    Samuel Feinstein
    Chicago, IL

    Gold and blind tooling.


    Lang Ingalls
    Crested Butte, CO

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

    Emily Patchin – Barbara Adams Hebard – Athena Moore

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

    Barbara Adams Hebard
    Melrose, MA

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


    Athena Moore
    Somerville, MA

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

    Jonathan Romain – Erin Fletcher – James Reid-Cunningham

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


    Erin Fletcher
    Boston, MA

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


    James Reid-Cunningham
    Cambridge, MA

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

    Mary Grace Whalen – Eric Alstrom – Penelope Hall

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


    Eric Alstrom
    Okemos, MI

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


    Penelope Hall
    Kingfield, ME

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

    Nicole Campana – Jan Baker – Colin Urbina

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


    Jan Baker
    Providence, RI

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


    Colin Urbina
    Boston, MA

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

    Peggy Boston – John Nove – Shannon Kerner

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


    John Nove
    South Deerfield, MA

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


    Shannon Kerner
    Easthampton MA

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

    Todd Davis – Jason Patrician – Jacqueline Scott

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


    Jason Patrician
    New London, CT

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


    Jacqueline Scott
    Somerville, MA

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

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

    May 22, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

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

    McKey Berkman, BB ’11

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

    Marianna Brotherton, BB ’14

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

    Lauren Calcote, BB ’15

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

    MiniGirdleBook-LaurenCalcote

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

    Samuel Feinstein, BB ‘12

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

    Fionnuala Gerrity, BB ’11 and Maryanne Grebenstein

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

    Barbara Halporn, BB ‘06

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

    Becky Koch, BB ’12

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

    Lauren Moon-Schott, BB ’13

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

    Wendy Withrow, BB ‘08

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


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

    May 19, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

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

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

    Peggy Boston

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

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

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

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

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

    Nicole Campana


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

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

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

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

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

    Todd Davis

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

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

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

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

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

    Emily Patchin

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

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

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

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

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

    Jonathan Romain

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

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

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

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

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

    Mary Grace Whalen

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

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

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

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

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

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


  8. Manipulating Stone Veneer with Coleen Curry

    April 22, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

    Over the first weekend in April, Third Year Studio hosted a workshop organized by the New England Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers. Third Year Studio is located in Boston and is run by Colin Urbina, who just so happens to be my friend and studio mate (Herringbone Bindery is run out of Third Year Studio). This was the first workshop we hosted and Colin was so gracious to opened his space to members of NEGBW and to our guest instructor Coleen Curry.

    Coleen traveled to a unseasonably warm, then snowy Boston to teach 10 local New England binders, book artists and conservators Staple Binding in Stone Veneer. Coleen learned this innovative structure from Sün Evrard, who developed this binding as a conservation solution under the Tomorrow’s Past ideology. We began the first day of the workshop by handing around models of the Stone Veneer binding while introducing ourselves and learning about the structure and its history. The stone veneer comes from a place in Italy where it is cut to a veneer-thickness by use of lasers. This process puts an adhesive coating on the surface, while the back is coated with a cotton-fiberglass layer. The veneer comes in two varieties: slate or quartzite. Yet within these two categories you can find a range of textures, patterns and tones.

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    left: Dorothy Africa and Coleen Curry | right: detail of  Toad Poems

    The decoration on the slate stone veneer binding of Toad Poems above was achieved by placing a gilt piece of paper behind a cut-out in the covers. The windows are aligned with the staples, an example of how to incorporate the layout of the staples with the overall design.

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    The details of the binding above are of the blank model that Coleen made during the workshop with Sün, where she learned this structure. The covers were decorated using a Japanese screw punch. The circular cut-outs were backed with various colored Japanese tissues, offering a small pop of color against the grey slate. The image on the left shows part of the interior construction.

    Another example binding that Coleen shared with us, is this binding of Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll. It was a great example of how well the stone tools and how it can handle embroidered decorations.

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    I especially loved the playfulness of the patched endpapers and use of embroidery to mend the edges.

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    After looking through Coleen’s examples, it was time for us to make our own model. After choosing our unique piece of stone (I chose a lovely light colored slate with splashes of yellows, pinks and purples), we were instructed to stamp a series of parallel lines into the center (or spine) of the stone. We did this by strapping our stone and a heated brass rule into a contraption and keeping it under the weight inside our large press. Afterward, we laminated a second layer of Japanese tissue to the backside of the stone. While that was put to bed, we laminated together pieces of colored Japanese tissue that would ultimately become our endpapers.

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    While our stone continued to dry, we trimmed down our endpapers to either match our text block or extend slightly behind the edges. The image below shows Coleen demoing the pamphlet stitch that we would use on the text block. The image on the right shows how I trimmed my endpapers. In the end I didn’t like how much of a square I gave the outer (green) endpaper. With the additional square from the stone, the overall square became to large for the size of the text block.

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    At the end of day one, Coleen shared with us two fine bindings on loan from a local collector. It was an unexpected and delightful treat to handle and speak with Coleen about her bindings and decorative techniques.

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    On day two of the workshop, we were all reunited with our backed stone veneer. We went through the unnerving task of stamping our veneer with the brass rule three more times to redefine the lines and make sure we had an even amount on the outside and odd number on the inside. It was very important to register the brass rule correctly each time, so that our lines stayed crisp and parallel to one another. I snapped a photograph at the very end when I was ready to take the brass rule and stone out of our jig.

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    We also advanced on the text block by attaching the wooden spine stub piece. This stub could be made from a number of materials, but we choose from a selection of basswood pieces that were cut down and laminated to match the height of the outer endpaper and thickness of the text block. The wooden piece was also shaped to match the roundness of the folded signature. I painted the ends of my spine piece to offer a bit of decoration to the head and tail. After trimming, shaping and painting, the spine piece was affixed to the outer endpaper and the fore edge was finally trimmed to the final width.

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    At this point, we were ready to attach our text block to the stone veneer. The first steps were to create a punching jig to guide our awls to punch holes in the folds of the outer endpaper and in the stone cover. The stone was easy to pierce, once you felt it was in the right place, I simply used an awl to poke through the stone. We laced our text block temporarily into the stone covers in order to fold the fore edge and trim off any excess.

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    Before laminating the folded stone onto itself, you have the opportunity to add any decorative elements such as cut-outs, sewing, tooling, etc. Due to time constraints (I had to remake a painted wooden stay that I dropped on the floor), I chose to add some simple embroidered stitches just to see how well I could sew through the stone. This was mostly done on the inside of the front cover.

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    With a pile of stays (wooden, metal and vellum) and metal staples in hand, I was ready to securely attach the text block to the stone veneer covers. In the image on the right below, Coleen is demonstrating how to use plastic tubing to make it easier to insert the staples and stays.

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    For my binding, I chose to use both metal connectors and wooden stays. I painted one set of wooden stays to match the dark purple laminated to the backside of my stone. The staple is inserted through the stay and the vellum catches the legs of the staples on the inside of the endpaper. We stuck an orange stick into a piece of cork, this strange looking tool (seen above) aided in folding over the legs of staples. And viola! The binding is complete. At this point I could still add tooling, but I loved the look of my stone, that I chose to leave it untouched.

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    We had a great workshop with Coleen, she brought so much experience and knowledge to the workshop. Her patience and persistence ensured that everyone walked away satisfied and with a finished binding.

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  9. My Hand // The Nightingale and the Rose

    February 16, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

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    This binding was featured very briefly on the blog last year in my review of the North Bennet Street School’s 2015 Student and Alumni Show. After the show, I sent it off to England for the Society of Bookbinder’s International Competition. Just last week, I was finally reunited with this macabre little binding. Its presence on my bench reminded me that this binding needed a proper post documenting the steps involved in its creation.

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    This edition of Oscar Wilde’s The Nightingale and the Rose was printed by Rebecca Press in 1985 and includes wood engravings by Alan James Robinson of Cheloniidae Press. My design for both the nightingale and the rose are drawn straight from Robinson’s engravings. The text block was sewn on two flattened cords and rounded and backed in a job backer. Which was a bit excessive for such a tiny binding, but offered me a bit a humor. In lieu of a backing hammer, I used the flat, rounded side of my bone folder to achieve the rounded shape of the spine.

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    Once the forwarding on the book was complete, I could focus on the design. I photocopied the image of the nightingale and rose from the text; enlarging them to the desired size. These photocopies became my guide for drawing out each shape of the bird and flower. Beginning with the bird, the first onlays attached to the base leather were a silhouette of the body, the beak and feet. In order to get some depth and texture to the bird’s feet, before cutting out the two shapes I laid feathered onlays of maroon goatskin over thinned out terracotta goatskin.

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    Although I would normally use PVA to place my onlays onto the leather, I chose to use paste because I was worried about staining the tiny pieces of leather when applying the PVA. After the the onlays went down, I pressed the skin between acrylic boards. Then I back-pared the leather. In the image below you can see the shape of the onlays on the reverse side of the leather (the change in color appears because more flesh is being pared from the areas with onlays, this creates a smooth transition from onlay to base leather on the surface.)

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    After paring the leather, I was free to begin with the embroidery. When I embarked on this task, I had very loose plans and approached it in a very free form way. I would build up the image with embroidery and then switch to adding feathered onlays, then more embroidery until I felt satisfied with the look of the bird. You can see this progression below (please forgive the poor photography and variation in color).

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    With the design of the bird fully assembled and embroidered, I prepped for covering. After pasting out the leather, I laid down any stray tails from the embroidery beside a stitch to hide its appearance from the front. Then I progressed with the covering, formed the endcaps, wrapped the turn-ins around the cover boards and pleated the corners. After setting the boards, I put the book to rest between a small scrap of felt in my small wooden press.

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    Once the book had dried, I carefully opened each cover and began the steps to prep the inside for the leather doublures. The back doublure was embellished with a multi-onlay and embroidered rose. The steps involved in creating the rose mimic those used to create the bird. The tricky part here happened while back-paring. It was impossible to pare to the desire thickness for doublures without slicing through the rose onlay. So the rose is not a true back-pared onlay, it actually sits on the surface of the leather. I was worried this extra thickness might impact the neighboring flyleaf or the way the book closed, but neither became an issue.

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    The Nightingale and the Rose is a tale about a nightingale who chooses to give her life so that a young man may find love. By piercing her breast into the thorn of a rose, her blood stains a white rose red. This part of the story is illustrated with a tiny wood veneer inlaid “thorn”. The red goatskin Ascona onlay runs from the top of the thorn across the spine (at the “I” in Wilde) and to the rose on the back doublure.

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    The book is housed in a miniature quarter leather clamshell box. I used the same tan goatskin on the spine of the box which was used on the doublures. The rest of the case is covered in a paper I made using cotton and leek skins, also used for the flyleaves in the binding. The author name is stamped in matte grey foil on the spine and the title is stamped on a Mohawk label that sits in a recessed well. The trays are covered in granite colored Cave Paper.

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    The trays are lined with a light grey Silsuede fabric. I prefer using a faux suede to line boxes for embroidered books and veneer bindings, I think it offers a bit more cushion and less chance of wear on the binding.

    I’m really proud of this little binding. My embroidered work is definitely evolving and I like the direction it took with The Nightingale and the Rose. I have a few fine bindings lined up to complete this year and I look forward to sharing their designs and techniques with you.


  10. Bonus // Bookbinder of the Month: Kathy Abbott

    December 31, 2015 by Erin Fletcher

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    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).