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  1. Bookbinder of the Month: Annette Friedrich // Post Three

    February 10, 2019 by Erin Fletcher

    Orlando is the sixth book in the series and was bound by Annette Friedrich in 2016. The binding is covered in a bright red goatskin with grey hand sewn endbands and green paper edge-to-edge doublures and matching flyleaves. The tooling is made up of four shades of metallic foils which include silver, champagne, purple and green. The design has an additional seventeen shades of pigmented foils in white, grey, two shades of purple, two shades of blue, three shades of yellow, three shades of red and five shades of green. Transparent pearl and iridescent silver foils are added as accents throughout the design.

    The chemise is inlaid with light and dark green paper at the sides and red goatskin across the spine. The title is tooled in iridescent and silver pearl foil. The slipcase is covered in the same hand-dyed dark green paper used on both the slipcase and flyleaves and lined with a green Alcantara. The design was tooled by Claude Ribal.

    During the design process, you describe creating around 50 versions per binding. I wondered if you could speak more specifically about this. Are you reinventing the design each time or pulling elements from previous iterations to make your final layout. I imagine you might flip the design in all directions or look at it in reverse.
    Yes, there are many versions of a design before it is ‘just so’. It’s a little bit of everything that you just mentioned. At first I start out though and cut white sheets of paper to the exact size of the boards and get my handtools and the inkpad out. I will have read the book at that point, but normally I do not go in with a preconceived idea for a design as such. However, this book is actually an exception, as I did know that I wanted to work with a distinct historic tool as a stand-alone player. But to begin with it is just plain old doodling and letting things flow. After a while something will have perked my interest, and I will start looking at this with a more inquisitive mind. I try to understand what exactly has caught my attention, how it worked and why, and then, how the hell to develop this into a full-blown design. During all of this I will continue to dip in and out of the book. Reading the authors voice, sensing the rhythm, feeds back into my design process. So at first the steps are big, then they get smaller and smaller. And yes, sometimes I look at a sheet from the reverse or flip it into a different angle, but unless I don’t actually use it for the next sheet, I would not count this as ‘a’ step. I have a light-box that helps me to carry forward the elements that I like, but there is no real telling what will stay in the game until the very end. Once I am happy with the design in black and white, I then go out in search to find the colors that build up the atmosphere.

    Woolf wrote Orlando more quickly then her previous novels. Were you aware of this as you were designing the binding? Did you try to quicken your pace as well?
    Yes I was aware of it, but it had no influence on my own process. It takes as long as it takes to get it right.

    The design for Orlando is very playful. I love how you used the historic tool in a more atypical manner, it really evokes the feeling of the novel as it floats and dances through the design.
    You make me very happy with the words you just chose. Floating and dancing: excellent! That was exactly what I was after, and it is fabulous that you mirror this back to me. Thank you!


    A beautiful documentation has now been published, that traces the development of this project, which, as it turns out, took seven years to complete. WOOLF I – IX ! 98pp, with an introductory essay and 1:1 reproductions of the bindings, background information, and text excerpts.

    Text: Annette Friedrich, Virginia Woolf
    Design: BUCHmacher, Germany
    Photo: Shannon Tofts, Scotland

    £30 + postage / reserve your copy at www.annette-friedrich.com


  2. Bookbinder of the Month: Annette Friedrich // Post Two

    February 3, 2019 by Erin Fletcher

    The fifth book in Annette Friedrich’s Woolf I–IX series is To the Lighthouse, which was bound in 2015. The binding is covered in a tan goatskin with green hand sewn endbands and edge-to-edge doublures. The flyleaves are a light yellow hand-dyed paper. The design is executed by tooling through silver folio and fifteen shades of pigmented foils including white, mauve, two shades of grey, two shades of blue, three shades of yellow and four shades of red. Transparent pearl foil was also used within the design.

    The chemise is inlaid with blue grey paper and tooled with three shades of silver foil. The slipcase is covered in the same lilac paper used on the chemise and lined with mauve Alcantara. The design is tooled by Claude Ribal of Paris.

    In your description of To the Lighthouse, you mention that Woolf’s style of writing changes with this novel. In comparison, the design on To the Lighthouse incorporates more color than any of your prior bindings. Do you use color in your design as a means of representing something in the text or is it an aesthetic choice or perhaps a bit of both?
    Yes, next to her ongoing interest to tell a ‘story’ from the inside of her characters minds and link them together in one big flow (the stream of consciousness) she now adds another layer by weaving in a sense for the surrounding atmosphere and the general passing of time. In a weird way this is almost detached from the main plot… Anyhow! All I want to say is that it reverberates with pure poetry throughout and this did lead me to start working with color from a more painterly perspective: to create light, elusive moments, buzz and the occasional ‘clunk’.

    With this binding you introduce the “special guest” foils. Is your inventory of foils growing at this point? What characteristics are you looking for in your foils and what do you try to avoid?
    My collection of pigment foils has grown steadily over the years. I think I have approximately 60 different colors to work with at the moment. And only ‘recently’ have I discovered my ‘special guest’ foils, which are iridescent, pearly translucent or whatnot. They are used on top (or under) other foils and thus give it a kick into a direction that is beyond ‘regular’. I love them, but of course one needs to be a tad careful not to go too far down that particular route.

    What do I look for in my foils? Well, pigment foils are mainly created for the industry, but one has to understand that the foil is merely the clever carrier for the pigment, before heat releases it from the foil onto whatever it is meant to be on. There are two main challenges that the industry is interested in and which they have solved in a satisfactory, yet mutually exclusive, way. One is to block big and coarse areas in one go. To do this, the pigment releases easily from the foil and is not too choosy about the exact level of temperature or pressure. The downside of this is, that the edge definition tends to be blotchy and that any inner negative shapes should not be covered… well, they are very likely to get filled in regardless. So they are brilliant for the big work, but not at all good for lettering. However, no need to be depressed, for the industry has developed another type of foil that is geared up for detailed and precise work and excels in high edge definition. The problem with this one is that it is super sensitive and tricky to use for hand tooling, as the temperature window needed to pull it off is extremely narrow and the surface needs to be well prepped and super flat. So those are the characteristics one can find in foils and usually each supplier will offer the same color in the varying types. So read the description and choose the ones that fit best your needs.

    The finishing work on this binding is executed by Claude Ribal. Up until this point, you had been completing the tooling yourself, why did you decide to outsource this stage of the process moving forward?
    Yup. This is a very sad story and a big learning curve for myself as a maker. I have been working with tooled designs for years and years and am pretty good at it, even if I say so myself. However, as it turns out: not good enough! When I transfer a design onto the book, I do this in various stages, which are basically the same as for gold leaf tooling. The sole exception being that the foil is slid over the blinded in impression at the very last moment. It thus obscures the sighting and makes it extremely difficult to get the tool bang-on into the shape without fumbling around too much (lethal). Working with dots, lines and gauges is easy, but tackling complex shapes… basically blind-folded… eh!

    As we discussed earlier, this is one of the first books where I launched myself into working with color pigment foils in a massive way. Pigment foils are more temperamental to work with than metallic ones… You can guess where this is heading to? I did it once and was not quite happy. I retraced my steps, removed the leather from the book and covered it afresh. Second attempt. Again… not good enough. It only takes three or four shapes of the many to be ever so slightly off and the whole thing looks ghastly and heavy handed. I got fairly depressed, but told myself that ‘what has to be done, has to be done’. So the next time I actually bought a completely new text block and started from scratch (just in case that this particular book was doomed). When the time came for tooling, I held my breath and launched into the third round. Do you care for fun facts and figures? To execute this design in full takes 14 hours. So no small feat, particularly if it goes again pear shaped, which it DID! What was I to do? Try and try again? I felt pretty confident that if I practiced hard over the course of a year that I would be able to raise my game from my current 88% to 95%. But did I really, really want to do this? No. What I really wanted was to push on with my design work. And so I decided to get help (I still do the titling though!). A colleague recommended Claude Ribal who is a fantastic finisher in Paris, and that’s where I went. It is a little bit complicated to get everything ready for him though, for not only does he get all of my tools, foils, and my design master sheet, but also an exact guide to inform him which shape has which color. I said earlier that I have 60 shades by now and everything needs to be super clear. Nothing is left to chance, everything is specified. Claude is not only a very kind man, but he is also really good at what he does. His expertise brings the touch of lightness within the execution to the design that is absolutely needed to pull it off and that makes me very happy and grateful.


    A beautiful documentation has now been published, that traces the development of this project, which, as it turns out, took seven years to complete. WOOLF I – IX ! 98pp, with an introductory essay and 1:1 reproductions of the bindings, background information, and text excerpts.

    Text: Annette Friedrich, Virginia Woolf
    Design: BUCHmacher, Germany
    Photo: Shannon Tofts, Scotland

    £30 + postage / reserve your copy at www.annette-friedrich.com


  3. Bookbinder of the Month: Annette Friedrich // Post One

    February 1, 2019 by Erin Fletcher

    Back in 2013, I interviewed Annette Friedrich and we only narrowly touched on the subject of her ambitious project to bind all nine of Virginia Woolf’s novels. Since that interview, Annette has completed this goal, exhibited all nine bindings at the Saatchi Gallery in London and published a gorgeous catalog! For this interview update, Annette and I will focus on the final six bindings of the series.

    I struggle with Annette’s aesthetic and that is one reason why I am so captivated by her work. The designs on her bindings really take a hold of me. I am stricken by their abstract, chaotic whimsy. Her style of binding forges so many questions for me, both as an artist and a binder, so I really wanted to take full advantage of this opportunity to interview Annette again.

    Back in 2013 when I first interviewed you for the blog, you had just completed Mrs. Dalloway aka Woolf IV, putting you about half way through your journey of binding all nine of Virginia Woolf’s novels. What sparked such an ambitious project?
    Hey Erin, well, it all began a while ago, when I noticed a few shifts within my artistic practice. This may sound a little weird, but I see my books in a timeline, where one design builds up onto the next. Obviously not directly and not even that consciously so, but with hindsight I can often detect a link.

    Do you know the late Danish author Inger Christensen? When asked about her writing, she came back with something that I can directly relate to: ‘(…) it does not matter where one is. However, one has to make sure to steer directly into the impossible. Of course one has to keep the balance on the way, though only under the single condition that the balance is made less safe. Less and less safe.’

    So when I said earlier that I noticed a shift, it was exactly that. I had already stepped onto the tight rope and had done my first fumbling steps. I saw that the haughty geometric designs were on their way out, and that, somehow, ‘life’ was casually shuffling onto the scene. I was curious beyond anything to see where this would lead me to. But I have to admit that excitement and delight shook equal hands with apprehension. The fear of not being able to reach this, to stumble, fall and fail.

    I decided to bracket this journey within a set project and started to think about what it might look like. Two factors played a guiding role, one was that I needed a good run of books to pull it off (cross the rope) and the second was to find an author who offered me a helping hand along the way. Virginia Woolf it was!

    You recently published a book documenting the project. In the introduction you write about how Virginia Woolf’s writing style changed over her career. I wonder if you feel like you are ready to leave behind some part of your design process and explore something new.
    Yes, I certainly was ready for a change and Virginia Woolf egged me on! Her novels are amazing. Each is a stepping-stone to the next. She started out with a very ‘linear’ take on writing and then pushed out her boat and explored new and experimental ways, becoming more and more abstract. She was the ideal (unbeknownst) partner for me. I decided to bind all of her nine novels in chronological order and follow suit.

    Mrs. Dalloway was bound in 2012 in a dark aubergine goatskin. The hand sewn silk endbands and edge-to-edge doublures are green with silver flyleaves. The design is tooled with three shades of silver folio, gunmetal and five pigmented foils in white, grey, blue and two different greens. The book is housed in a chemise which is inlaid with green paper and tooled with three shades of silver foil plus a green pigmented foil. The slipcase is covered with silver paper and lined with green Alcantara (a suede-like material).

    What I enjoy about the design for Mrs. Dalloway is that at a glance the covers appear to mirror each other, but as my eyes wander back and forth the differences begin to emerge. Each cover takes on a life of it’s own. Did you design each panel to represent the two protagonists or are you finding inspiration elsewhere in the text?
    Now this is a very good question, although I immediately wanted to cry out with an alarmed ‘Nothing represents anything, ever!’. But that is not quite right either. I am interested in space, rhythm and atmosphere, and these are the points of connection with the/a novel. So in this instance, I was taken in by the fully developed stream-of-consciousness technique, that Virginia Woolf had started to explore in her previous novel, Jacob’s Room (my Woolf III). This ‘take’ of hers is very persuasive. So no, my aim was not to represent the two protagonists as such, but rather her ‘flow’. I was interested to create something that sweeps you up and in the air, from one element to the next, with no stop, no pause, connecting everything in one big move where the small mini-events get swallowed up in the overall take.

    The nine bindings in this series of work, feel cohesive and connected. There are several obvious visual tells that make this statement true. But one aspect is your treatment as a binder, you follow a formula for the binding and for the housing. I want to ask about the choices you made for styling the chemise in particular. At the beginning you include a simple linear tooled design on the chemise that contrast greatly with the design on the binding, then by the sixth book, Orlando, the tooled design on the chemise disappears and you begin playing with the layout of the paper. Any reason for this?
    I do like to work within the three-fold combo that is the book, chemise and slipcase. Every element brings something to the table and has to work/commune with the others. Obviously the book’s design calls the tune and the others join in. However, this is not done by way of repetition, but rather by adding different layers. Sometimes they enhance and sometimes they jar. It’s like music really, the main thing is that the overall soundscape makes sense.

    At the beginning of 2018, you were a part of Crafts Council’s Collect 18, an exhibition that spanned 40 galleries over 4 continents. Woolf I – IX was on exhibit at the Saatchi Gallery in London. Can you speak about how you got involved in this exhibit and how your work was received by the public. In the US, design binding work is rarely seen in a space akin to the Saatchi Gallery, is this also uncommon in England?
    Yes, it’s the same here. Bindings tend to get shown in book related environments only, such as libraries etcetera. Collect 18 was actually presented at the Saatchi Gallery, which is a great venue right at the heart of Chelsea. Amongst all of the invited craft galleries Designer Bookbinders was the only one to show books and fine bindings. There was a lot of terrific work on display and it was great to rub shoulders for once with all of the other crafts within an art gallery setting. I think the visitors were quite stunned to come across fine bindings in such a context, with many being not at all familiar with our rare, orchid-like craft. However, they were very interested and the invigilators rarely got a quiet moment.

    I witnessed this from across the aisle, as I myself had been invited by the Crafts Council to show my Woolf I – IX group on a separate solo stand. I had just finished them and was super delighted to be able to show them at such a prestigious and stimulating cross-disciplinary exhibition.

    Now that the project has come to an end, do you feel a sense of completion, that you achieved the mission set forth from the beginning of the project?
    Yes! is the short answer. I had set out in the hope of change, and ‘change’ has come. The first design is miles away from the last and I have been able to tentatively discover a completely new direction. I am still not completely sure how I got there, but over time one thing just led to the next. Everything got more difficult and complex, and I did stumble and had to pick myself up again along the way. I think though, that I have finally grown up and found my voice, so lets see where it will take me to next…


    A beautiful documentation has now been published, that traces the development of this project, which, as it turns out, took seven years to complete. WOOLF I – IX ! 98pp, with an introductory essay and 1:1 reproductions of the bindings, background information, and text excerpts.

    Text: Annette Friedrich, Virginia Woolf
    Design: BUCHmacher, Germany
    Photo: Shannon Tofts, Scotland

    £30 + postage / reserve your copy at www.annette-friedrich.com


  4. Bookbinder of the Month: Eduardo Giménez Burgos // Post Five

    January 27, 2019 by Erin Fletcher

    This Solid Globe includes selected quotations from Shakespeare and wood engravings by Jane Lydbury printed by Camberwell Press in 1984. The binding, bound by Eduardo Giménez, is covered in black calfskin with dyed maple veneer onlays. The wood veneer letters are inset into the shape an “O” around the central veneer planks. A blue suede is used for the doublures and flyleaves.

    In 2013, your entry to the Designer Bookbinders International Competition was awarded second prize and acquired by the Getty Collection at Wormsley. The binding is another beautiful example showcasing wood veneer. In this binding, you’ve dyed the maple veneer onlays. What method are you using to dye the veneer?
    The binding process was very interesting. The idea of the design was already in a first rough sketch, but actually, when I start a work I hardly ever know very well how it will end up. And that gives me a certain margin for improvisation. And in these decisions that I’m taking along the way, the senses play a natural role, especially the visual aspect, which pursues maximum beauty for the eyes, a nice touch for the hands, or, even, the smell that comes from the materials such as the leather, the marbled and hand painted papers, or the wood.

    And so the colours and reliefs of the Shakespeare covers started to emerge gradually as I was working in the binding. In fact, the central element of the decoration was wood, a light maple wood. I applied some first aniline dye layers to give it a soft background color. Later I went on adding very thin layers of acrylics of different colors in different areas, in a somewhat random manner. After each coat I let it dry for some hours and used a very fine sandpaper, also on some areas. This process lasted several days but with no appealing results. But then, one day, approximately after about twenty layers, I sanded all the surface again, and a very rich palette of colours appeared, without losing the texture of wood. My Shakespeare was there! I only had to add a bit of wax and burnish it in order to obtain a surface slightly gloss finished like the black calfskin of the cover.

    The lettering for the title and author are cut with such precision. Do you hand cut your veneer?
    All the pieces of wood that I have used in my bindings were cut by hand, except the letters of Water which are cut with laser. And in all cases there is also a further process of very thorough dyeing, as the one I have described.


  5. Bookbinder of the Month: Eduardo Giménez Burgos // Post Four

    January 20, 2019 by Erin Fletcher

    Eduardo Giménez entered his binding of L’oeuvre de Pierre Lecuire: La Nuit into the Society of Bookbinders 2015 International Competition. It is bound in the Dorfner-style in black calfskin with pale blue suede onlays and orange paper inlays. Black and orange Nepalese paper are used for the doublures and flyleaves. Eduardo’s binding won the Harmatan Leather Award for Forwarding in the Case Binding Category.

    You studied in Belguim with Edgard Claes and in this binding you employ the Dorfner structure. The description in the Society of Bookbinders catalog refers to this as a Dorfner-style case binding. I’ve had the opportunity to learn this structure as well and would love to know how you modified the structure into a case rather than attaching the boards to the sewing supports?
    Indeed, in this binding I used the Dorfner style, a leather version of the model developed by Edgard Claes for his polycarbonate bindings. In this binding, as it is usual, the black-stained parchment ribbons are glued to the recto of the covers, although they are barely visible as they are hidden by the suede onlays at the level of the spine. I think the confusion is in the definition of the term ‘case binding’. For us, case binding has a broader meaning and defines the bindings whose covers are just covered independently to join the body of the book afterwards.


  6. Bookbinder of the Month: Eduardo Giménez Burgos // Post Three

    January 13, 2019 by Erin Fletcher

    This binding by Eduardo Giménez is of Paper Constructions: Two- And Three-Dimensional Forms for Artists, Architects, and Designers by Franz Zeier. Eduardo described the style of binding as Origami Bradel binding using grey and brown paper. The diamond tessellation is constructed from one piece of paper for each cover. The endbands and endleaves are also in grey paper.

    The cover of Paper Constructions is impeccable. The paper is folded to create a sturdy, three-dimensional shell around the covers. I have seen another example of this style of paper folding on Spanish binder Elena Sánchez Miguel’s binding for the American Academy of Bookbinding’s Open/Set exhibit Inside the Book. Where does this technique come from?
    The first time I had the idea of passing an origami or paper folding piece into the book covers as a decorative element, was in 2013, on the occasion of an invitation from the ARA Association (Les Amis de la Reliure D’Art) to participate in a collective exhibition at the Bibliothèque Carnegie of Reims, France. The intention there was to exhibit hand bookbindings with only paper and cardboard. For that purpose I decided to work jointly with my partner Elena Sánchez, who has an extensive experience in origami.

    Folded paper opened a great range of possibilities, but I still had to design a procedure which would allow me to integrate origami in the binding process in a harmonious and natural way – something never intended before, I believe. After numerous trials, we achieved to complete two books: Paper Constructions by Franz Zeier and The Book of Paper by Oliver Helfrich and Antje Peters – both present at the exhibition.

    The good reviews that both of them got in France encouraged me to continue with our experiment. For more than one year we prepared some twenty books which were exposed for the first time in the Histories Centre’s Museo del Origami in Zaragoza, Spain, in 2016. I called the exhibition “Libros en papel” (Paper Books) – a title that refers both to the material used to put them together and to the common theme of the chosen texts: books for children about origami, treatises about design and paper constructions, essays, exhibition catalogues, etc. Books written in Spanish and also in English, Italian, French, Russian and Japanese.

    We chose different folding paper techniques, like corrugations, mosaics, tessellations, modular origami, pop-up and some others, to achieve these paper bindings, object-books, artefacts or whatever these might be called. We have mostly looked for geometric figures, volume and abstraction. We used a wide range of papers from different sources, qualities and grades, always with a view of achieving the best structure and the greatest possible beauty.

    The books you mentioned were bound with a single piece of folded paper in each cover; but in some cases, even 120 pieces of paper have been inter-weaved together, or in a few others the paper has been die-cut. Elena participated later with two origami books of her own to the Open/Set and the Designer Bookbinders International competitions.


  7. Bookbinder of the Month: Eduardo Giménez Burgos // Post Two

    January 6, 2019 by Erin Fletcher

    This is a binding of Los cachorros by Mario Vargas Llosa bound by Eduardo Giménez in the Oriental binding using dark brown shagreen leather. The design includes inlays of dyed wood veneers and brown calfskin, with red suede onlaid dots. Eduardo used grey Fabriano Roma paper for the endleaves.

    You often incorporate wood veneer into your designs. What draws you to use this material?
    I discovered very soon that wood and leather were working very well together. Wood veneers offer a big warmth to the covers. Each wood is different, has different grain and textures, and allows dyeing, polishing and the application of waxes or varnish, which adds a very pleasant visual and olfactory component as a whole with the skin. Nevertheless, wood is a living material and it is difficult to work with.

    You used the new Oriental binding structure for Los cachorros. This is not a structure that I am familiar with and have only seen a few other binders use. Can you talk about the structure and why it was a suitable choice for Los cachorros.
    The Oriental style binding is actually a Western version of the classical Chinese and Japanese binding. It uses hard covers and leather, contrary to its counterparts, but the form and its aesthetics are somehow preserved. I have always considered this form very beautiful. It is also a conservation binding, since the signatures are sewn on guards and they are not rounded with the hammer, neither are touched by the glue. In addition the book can be opened flat.

    side view of Don Quijote Samurai bound in the Oriental-style binding

    I think that I would not be able to give an explanation to your question of why it is a suitable choice for this book particularly. I always try that the binding is pleasant to look at. We might possibly think that an Oriental binding must only be good for an Oriental book. But, if we have adapted the structure and the materials in the Western world: why shouldn´t we also use it for a Western book?

    Eduardo bound this copy of Pablo Neruda’s Una casa en la arena with a striking design where black calfskin meets black Morocco goatskin at the center of the front cover. The central design is a collage of perfectly fitted pieces of dyed wood veneer onlaid between the two skins. This binding was awarded the Best Creative Binding for the International Bookbinding Competition of the National Library of Scotland in 2011.

    Upon first glance, the central design on Una casa en la arena acted as a distraction from the two distinct leathers. But I really love the use of both calf and goatskin on the covers. When working with wood veneer, are you treating them as inlays or onlays? I notice that on Una casa en la arena (left), the veneer sits proud of the cover, where as on Mozart (right), the veneer appears flush to the cover.
    The use of two skins of the same colour and of different texture to get a good effect was the result of experimentation. The design rests on both covers over a central axis divided by the two skins that are placed at the same level. The book by Neruda contains a few beautiful photos of his house in Isla Negra (Chile). In them it is possible to see his collection of ship wooden figureheads with their straight bearing and their rich adornments. My work with small irregular pieces of dyed wood veneer, placed in the shape of a puzzle, was trying to produce that effect.

    I work interchangeably with both options, inlays and onlays. In Mozart, I played with different levels in the mosaics, and I believe they gave a more dynamic aspect to the composition. In Una casa, I treated the wood veneer proud of the cover to form a more stylized, more linear figure. The pieces were there, on my table, I only had to give them an order. I often try to find an appropriate way of composing my materials placing instinct before reason.


  8. Bookbinder of the Month: Eduardo Giménez Burgos // Interview

    January 1, 2019 by Erin Fletcher

    Eduardo Giménez participated in the 2009 Designer Bookbinders International Competition, where binders were asked to bind a copy of A Selection of Poems on the Theme of Water. Eduardo’s binding is covered in black buffalo skin with painted acrylic silicone drops inset into the boards. Using blue leather onlays to create the title, which runs down the spine from head to tail with small red leather onlay dots separating the letters. The doublures are also black buffalo skin paired with red suede fly leaves.

    Eduardo’s binding was among other works selected as prizewinners.

    I remember being in my second year at North Bennet Street School and seeing the catalog for this exhibit. Your binding stood out as a favorite and even influenced my design for Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. I would love to have you walk through the construction of the cover. How did you incorporate the painted silicone drops into the cover?
    Water was one of my first International Competitions. I worked on this book with great dedication, and the result was very positive. Feeling satisfied is not very common when I finish a book. But I did with this one and is one of my favorites. Although you might find it difficult to believe, the idea of the design comes from the image of a movie: that of HAL’s brain room, from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, where the core processor is stored. It is a magic place with its monitors of geometric forms and illuminated grids. My binding uses a set of colours inside a precise geometry. The transparent silicone drops are painted with acrylics on its base and inset one by one in the cover previously hollowed out with a leather hole punch by means of a paper template. When the book closes and is observed sideways from the spine, the colour disappears and transparent drops of water emerge, held on the vertical surface of the covers.

    The books of poetry are full of images that offer a bigger freedom of design for the bookbinder. Perhaps this binding is a little daring. I am really happy to know that you have liked it. Some people have told me that this is my best work, but surprisingly, I have to say that it is one of my few books that I have not sold yet…

    – – –

    With this interview, the lens is focused on Spain, with binder Eduardo Giménez. As I mentioned above I first came across his work in the DB catalog Bound for Success, since that moment his work has been on display in several other international exhibitions that have made their way to America. Eduardo’s work is sleek from his designs to use of multiple textures. Throughout the interview we discuss bookbinding in Spain and the techniques Eduardo likes to employ in his work. And since this interview is coming out on January 1st, I want to wish Eduardo a very Happy Birthday!

    Check out the interview after the jump for more about Eduardo’s training and creative process. Come back each Sunday during the month of January for more on Eduardo’s work. You can subscribe to the blog to receive email reminders, so you never miss post.

    read more >


  9. North Bennet Street School // Student & Alumni Exhibit 2018 – The Set Book

    May 8, 2018 by Erin Fletcher

    It’s that time of year again, when the next group of future bookbinders and book conservators will leave their cosy benches at North Bennet Street School and enter the next stage of their journey. And I’m happy to be back with another round of interviews with the graduating class on their set books, which will be on display during the Student & Alumni Exhibit along with work from students and alum of the other seven programs at NBSS. This year the Student & Alumni Exhibit will be on display at two locations: from May 7 – 23 at Two International Place and from June 4 – 30 at North Bennet Street School (both located in Boston). Check out the website here for more details and opening hours.

    This first post will focus on the Set Book bound be each of the seven graduating students. My next post will highlight some of my favorite alumni pieces from the show. Each student was given a copy of the same book (referred to as the set book) and asked to create a full leather design binding. The set book for this year is Randall Davies and his Books of Nonsense published by Incline Press in 2014. This edition compiles both Davies’ original Lyttel Book of Nonsense published in 1912 and Cayme Press’ production of A Little More Nonsense into one volume. Each page contains a woodcut illustration along with a charmingly inaccurate limerick written by Davies.

    The text block is printed on Wookey Hole mould-made paper which has a beautiful pale grey hue. The introduction was machine set in Garamond and the limericks were hand set in Italic. The 15th – 16th century woodcut illustrations are reproduced from Davie’s books and printed from line blocks. According to the introduction by historian Dr. Paul W. Nash, the original woodblocks were collected by Davies from London-based printers and bookbinders. During the interviews, I spoke with each binder about the inspiration behind their designs and how their chose to execute their concept.

    I was blown away by the range of styles brought forth by the students and the level of craft. Many of the designs were quite tricky to execute and certainly caused some challenges along the way, but their efforts certainly paid off.

    Rachel Jackson

    The word nonsense is the most vital part of the title and had the most influence over many of the student’s designs. In Rachel Jackson’s design, she flips the idea of nonsense to find structure. In reducing the word down to its consonants, she could focus on the orderly process of printmaking. Each letter is composed of a different material to represent each step in the printing process. The woodblock used to carve the illustrations is represented by an inset piece of bleached oak veneer. Next in line is a paper onlay followed by a hand marbled letter s, which is marbled with suminigashi ink on the suede side to represent the ink of the printing press.

    The final n is a piece of indigo Cave Paper coated with graphite inset into the board to represent lead type. The printed result is depicted in the final s. Instead of an onlay, Rachel cut out a window in the shape of an s to expose a printed page below and to invite the viewer into the book. What you see is a piece of tissue printed on both sides showing a specimen of the typeface used in the text block. The entire design sits upon a base of navy blue goatskin.

    The French double-core endbands were hand sewn in alternating bands of navy, dark grey and light grey. The head edge is gauffered in the most unique way, Rachel used this portion of the binding to place the majority of the title using Edinburgh handle letters agains the bare pages.

    In simplifying her design, Rachel creates curiosity which is only heightened by the cut-out window. Chaos and structure commingle beautifully within the five thoughtfully placed letterforms. Each hinting to something specific, but when read to together complete both the title of the book and the technique of crafting the content within the book.

    Upon graduation, Rachel will be focusing on her building her own business. You can check out more of Rachel’s binding work in addition to her calligraphy here.

    Sarah Kim

    Sarah Kim used her love of typography to help grapple with the chaos and to bring a sort of order to this senseless content. Her binding is covered in a medium blue goatskin with onlays in light blue and fair goatskin. By layering the fair goat over the light blue, Sarah creates a dimensional effect to the text. Each layer also receives its own special treatment. The gold tooled fair goat onlays contain a blind tooled line running through the center of the letter. The light blue onlays are blind tooled and are textured with blind tooled lines running at an angle. These subtle additions really added more depth and balance to the design.

    Sarah created the “of” through gouges and line palettes and sandwiched the word between two ornate tools. To anchor the design of the front cover, Sarah incorporates a commonly used design motif: the ribbon banner. A light blue tooled onlay, the banner contains the name of the author and is also complimented by two ornate tools.

    The French double-core endbands are hand sewn with strands of light blue and grey. The endbands sit over a gilt and gauffered edge. I think it was really smart for Sarah to add little touches of decoration with hand tools. In addition to the gauffered edge, the spine is also minimally tooled to help balance the overall design of the binding. When Sarah opened her binding to show me the inside, I was pleasantly surprised by the boldly patterned chiyogami paper. At once you leave the stillness of the cover to only be put on alarm before entering the text of the book.

    Sarah sought to convey her concept through the use of typography; to have the viewer read beyond the words and understand that it was communicating much more than the title of the book. When paired with the decorative paper on the inside, her concept really delivers. Her design was skillfully executed and beautifully laid out. You can follow Sarah on instagram and stay apprised of her work.

    Allie Rosenthal

    Many of the students reflected that Randall Davies’ limericks were loosely inspired by the woodcut illustrations they were meant to reflect. But every once in a while, Davies’ would incorporate a flaw from the illustration into the composition. For example, interpreting a crack as a bullet whizzing through the drawing. Allie Rosenthal found her inspiration in this and chose to incorporate the flaws and rough edges of the terra-cotta goatskin into her design. This abstract, landscape-esque design is formed by presenting the flaws in a leather skin. Putting a spotlight on the irregular coloration, tears, toggle marks from stretching the skins and flattening folds in the skin. The individual pieces were attached as back-pared onlays and laid down over hefty boards.

    The title is hand-tooled in moon gold and playfully wraps along the edge of an onlay. Allie chose the modern typeface Gill Sans for the title. Other elements of Allie’s binding include French double-core endbands hand sewn in stripes of maroon, grey and brown. The head edge is rough edge sprinkled with lemon and moon gold over a ground of Armenian boule. Prior to decorating the edge, Allie mixed up the signatures. So the final result was even more chaotic in appearance than a traditional sprinkled edge.

    The interior is covered in matching edge-to-edge doublures with gold tooling that perfectly mimics the erratic lines and tears created by the onlays on the cover. The style of tooling emulates the technique employed by Tracey Rowledge and Ivor Robinson where the impressions are laid with a stepped effect. The paste papers were created by fellow classmate, Liz McHugh. The texture of the paper compliments the terra-cotta beautifully.

    Following graduation, Allie will be starting her Von Clemm Fellowship at the Boston Athenaeum followed by the Driscoll Family Fellowship. Her fellowship will span over 15 months.

    Ned Schultz

    As mentioned in the introduction, Davies collected woodcuts dating back to the 15th and 16th century. To pay homage to this period in history, Ned Schultz created a spectacular reflection of a 16th century English-style binding. Working with a historical color palette, Ned chose a medium brown goatskin for his binding. The outer frame and knot work are achieved with several black gold tooled onlays. I imagine getting the size of the gouges just right, particularly in those small, tight turns was tricky, but Ned achieved the look flawlessly. The center is adorned with a red tooled onlay and features the title on the front cover. The spine is tooled to mark the placement of bands with black tooled onlays in the spaces between.

    Additional floral hand tools and a large fleur-di-lis were used as accents to the knot work. On the outer black frame, Ned used a decorative roll to nearly cover the entire space in gold. This perfectly symmetrical design glimmering in gold is so attractive to the eye and recreating work from this time period is quite impressive for someone so new to finishing.

    Opening to the interior of the book, the viewer can only be delighted by the patterned paper of gold diamonds against a bright red background. Ned coated the paper with vermillion before painstakingly applying each diamond (twice) through the application of heat. The endpapers work so beautifully with Ned’s cover design and harken to the Dutch Gilt papers of the 16th century.

    I am so impressed with Ned’s binding and can not express it enough. I look forward to seeing the next historical binding reproduction that comes out of his studio. Ned plans to pursue a career in conservation, but also hopes to further hone his skills in finishing.

    Jon Simeon

    Jon Simeon took the theme of chaos to heart with this binding; taking his inspiration from how Davies disregarded the illustration when writing each limerick. Jon took elements from the illustration on the title page and cropped and layered his concept into a surreal design. The base layer is dark green oasis with back-pared olive green goatskin onlays and tooled onlays in black and pink goatskin.

    Trying to decipher his actions, I asked Jon to break down his process step by step. After adhering all of the onlays, blind tooling came next. Using an ascona tool, Jon wanted to highlight the carved lines from the woodcut illustrations and did so first with the blind tooled lines and then with the gold tooled waves and swirls. The pink and black onlays are outlined and giving dimension with blind tooled lines. I love how Jon seemingly reversed a traditional image, burying the major elements behind the background.

    The title is tooled along the spine amidst a blank canvas. This break in the design was thoughtfully placed to relieve the eye. This same idea continues onto the inside of the binding. Black goatskin doublures are paired with a hand marbled paper in a moire pattern. I love how this paper evokes the movement from the front cover. Other elements of Jon’s binding include hand sewn French double-core endbands in alternating bands of green, pink and olive green. The head edge is gilt with moon gold over a graphite ground and sprinkled with palladium.

    This binding experience has really driven Jon to further focus on finishing after graduation. I can’t wait to see what Jon creates next. You can follow Jon on instagram so you don’t miss any of the amazing work he is bound to make in the future (pun intended).

    Rebecca Fisher Staley

    Rebecca Fisher Staley found the connection between the limericks and woodcut illustrations to be awkward and chaotic. To find some sense in this book of nonsense, Rebecca created an elaborately structured design for her binding. Taking inspiration from the anapestic meter, which dictates the syllabic makeup and stress pattern of a limerick, Rebecca constructed two unique grids. Each designed to represent the two opposing centuries found within the book: woodcut illustrations from the 15th-16th century and limericks from the 20th century.

    Rebecca chose a fair goatskin for the base of her design, which developed a slight pink hue over the course of the binding process. This change in the skin blends so beautifully with the rest of her chosen color palette. The grid on the front cover is sleek and modern and holds a series of small square tooled onlays in pepper red, crimson and teal. The strategic placement of color depicts the stress pattern of a limerick in addition to containing each letter of the title.

    The grid on the back board is more representative of an old English 15th century pattern. To set up this grid, Rebecca was guided by the syllable count of a limerick. The tooled crimson onlay in the center is sprinkled with moon gold to represent the chaos Rebecca found in the book and by being placed in the center of the board, the onlay physically pushes the lines of the grid closer together to create spaces of varying size. The small red dots placed just outside the inner frame are hand painted in tooled impressions. Both grids are connected across the spine in an asymmetric layout harkening back to the loose connection between woodcuts and limericks.

    The interior is covered in matching edge-to-edge doublures with a sunken panel of cherry veneer which is framed by crimson leather onlays. The hand sewn endbands are traditional French double-core wrapped with stripes of white, off-white and red.  The head edge is sprinkled directly on the gray paper in moon gold. The sheer amount of planning and reworking that was put into this design is astounding. Rebecca’s design is so striking, her color choices are spot on and I can’t wait to see what she makes next.

    Rebecca will be working to complete two commissioned artist book editions over the summer before moving back to the Los Angeles area where she plans to open a design studio with two colleagues.

    Frances Wentworth

    With Frances Wentworth’s design, she playfully arranges the title in such a way that cuts the word nonsense into two words. When the book is closed the title reads as Books of Sense. The viewer is only revealed of the true title after peering to the backside. This whimsical layout takes direct cues from the layout of the book, where the woodcut illustration sits above the italicized limerick. To create the look of a woodcut block, Frances first crafted the letterforms in 20pt. museum board pieces on a 10pt. museum board base then covered it in a medium brown goatskin. The letterforms on the front cover are rigid and angular while the typography on the back cover is more wild and playful. These are direct responses to the sharpness of the illustrations and whimsy of the limericks.

    The “blocks” are inset into the boards and framed with separate pieces of 10pt. museum board covered in the same medium brown goatskin. I love that Frances chose to emulate the woodcut block instead of the illustration. Viewing part of the text in reverse just adds to the humor and quirkiness of the design.

    The remaining portion of the title is done in back-pared onlays in various colors of goatskin. All of the design is backed by a medium grey goatskin. Frances added a French double-core endband in stripes of blue and red silk against a graphite edge on the head. Frances chose a 19th/20th century reproduction printed endpaper with blue grey Bugra endpapers.

    Although design binding isn’t what Frances sought out to do at NBSS, her concept really worked with the book. It is compelling, thoughtfully executed and sparks a bit of humor. Frances plans to pursue a career in conservation after graduation.

    That brings us to the end of the interview. I have to say again how impressed I am with the finished bindings. Everyone’s personalities and interests really shine through in their designs. Best of luck to everyone in the Class of 2018!

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  10. Catching up with Coleen Curry // No. 5

    January 28, 2018 by Erin Fletcher

    In my final post with Coleen Curry, I want to feature her binding of Trading Eights, The Faces of Jazz. Celebrating the culture of Jazz, this Nawakum Press publication includes wood engraved portraits of eight iconic jazz figures. These engravings by James G. Todd Jr. are paired with an essay by Jazz historian Ted Gioia and a poem by Dana Gioia.

    In 2017, Coleen crafted this book as a traditional French laced-in binding covered in black goatskin. The design includes inlays of black straight grain goat, embossed and top-pared navy blue calf and perforated dark blue sheepskin plus onlays of white box calf and the same silver-grey translucent paper used for the interleaving in the book.

    The interior side of the board is covered in edge-to-edge doublures in the same black goatskin used on the covers. The endpapers were designed by Lisa Van Pelt and originally used on the publishers’ binding edition. Coleen’s binding was included in the 2017 Designer Bookbinders International Exhibition traveling throughout the UK and landing in Boston.

    Recently you’ve been binding for the Santa Rosa-based Nawakum Press, who recently suffered a great loss of their inventory and facility during the 2017 October fires in Sonoma County. How did your relationship begin with Nawakum Press and how things have changed since the devastating fires?
    In 2014, I had the good fortune to attend the Manhattan Fine Press Book Fair in New York.  Whilst browsing the tables laden with beautiful books, I spotted Richard Wagener of Mixolydian Editions presenting LOOM at Nawakum’s table and was blown away by his prints.  I introduced myself to Richard, and he in turn, introduced me to David Pascoe of Nawakum Press.  David mentioned his admiration of my binding on Toni Morrison’s A Mercy that he had seen in an exhibition and we got to talking about making books in the North Bay (area north of SF).  As we were all North Bay residents, I invited both Richard and David to visit my bindery when we returned home.  They visited in August and shortly afterward, David asked if I would be interested in collaborating on a new project he was working on for CODEX 2015.  I crafted a design binding on Nawakum’s featured release Encheiresin Naturae – an incredibly large text with abstract prints by Barry Moser and an ‘heroic crown of sonnets’ by Paul Muldoon.  This was the beginning of our collaboration.

    The Santa Rosa fires were devastating for David and his family– they lost everything including Nawakum’s entire inventory and archive. They escaped in the middle of the night with minutes to spare.  David has since relocated to the Tacoma area for a year and is already working on 2 books, one of which is about the fires. We still collaborate and I am in constant awe of the artists he brings together to make incredible fine press limited editions.

    The mood of Trading Eights is so different from your other bindings. The black on black offers a subtle contrast with spontaneous blips of subdued blue and unusual texture. The framing of these inlays with a repeating title across a wave-like path really contains the design in a way that is different from your other work. So are we seeing a new style emerge from you or is it just that the subject matter of Trading Eights demanded a more sleek design.
    Trading Eights was a delight to work on and listening to the Autumn Jazz station on Pandora got me into the groove of Chet Baker, The Monk and Charlie Parker amongst others.  I wanted to create an intimate feeling in a smoky jazz club and chose a narrow color palette of blues, greys and then black and white.

    I don’t think that you are seeing a different style emerge, rather the subject matter and the book design steered the style for this binding.  The book is clean, with hues of grey and blue.  The black and white underscores the importance of the smoky jazz club.  Jazz performance is personal, intimate: “You can follow the changes in the riffs on their faces … Look into their faces. Peer into their eyes, their souls.” Jim Todd clearly feels the same way about the faces of the great live jazz performers.  The particularly lovely translucent interleaves, with beautifully evocative smoke images, introduces the reader to each large engraving as though peering through the smokey haze in a jazz club.

    I wanted a subtle lyrical feeling in an intimate atmosphere similar to what it would be like sitting in a club listening to musicians trade eights.  The title is repeated across the bottom with 8 notes (each word being a note) and then repeated (traded) across the top, which encloses the design on the boards to create the intimacy.  Jazz is organized yet allows the musician to riff into their own exploration and the design is my attempt to do that.  The shapes on the front and back boards are clean, woven and tight, yet I wanted to explore boundaries with depth and color and texture.


  • Visit My Bindery
    My name is Erin Fletcher and I live in Boston working as a Bookbinder.  This blog is an extension of Herringbone Bindery where I can share my inspirations with you.
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