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‘my hand’ Category

  1. My Hand // The New House

    August 21, 2018 by Erin Fletcher

    If you’ve ever visited your childhood home as an adult, you were probably flooded with emotional memories and feelings of nostalgia. These experiences are at the center of David Mamet’s poem in The New House. Printed in 1989 from Rebecca Press, this miniature text also includes wood engraving by Sarah Chamberlain.

    For the design of the binding, I wanted to reflect the warm nostalgic feelings felt by the poem’s protagonist. Something as simple as a color, texture or pattern could bring those memories to the fore front of your mind. I choose a floral patterned wallpaper as my inspiration and reimagined it in a soft color palette of light blues and a range of yellows.

    To create the design, my first step was to paint the branches. I wanted the design to exist on multiple planes, so I chose to paint the branches rather than create them out of leather onlays. So to do this, I hand cut a template out of frisket film first, then laid that onto the light blue goatskin. After burnishing down the edges, I painted over the entire skin with a mix of pale blue grey fluid acrylic paint.

    The frisket peels away from the leather rather easily once the paint is fully dry. It’s now time to adhere the onlays. Due to the quantity of onlays, I drew out the shapes in their exact location on both the lighter and dark yellow skins, placing them on the blue leather as I cut them out. I didn’t want to risk losing any pieces or adhereing them in the wrong place. After both yellow skins were in place, it was time to back pare the leather and prepare the embroidery.

    I always pre-punch the holes before sewing, but this time I wasn’t working off a separate template, I used the edges of the painted branches and the floral onlays to guide my pin vise while punching. Everything is outlined in a simple back stitch with cotton floss. The stamen are stitched using French knots with tails. I added additional texture and a bit of shimmer with tiny gold tooled triangles that are scattered amongst the blossoms.

    The use of wood grain as a design element is inspired from Mamet’s reference to nicks in the wooden floors of the house. All three edges of the text block are hand painted to resemble wood grain in warm brown and pink tones. The leather wrapped endbands in mauve have additional wraps in a darker mauve cotton floss.

    In the image below, you can also see that the painted branches and onlays wrap around the board, but the embroidery stops at the edge.

    The interior side of the board is covered in the same light blue goatskin doublure with a sunken walnut veneer panel that is framed with handmade paper from Katie MacGregor. The same paper is used for the fly leaves. The endpapers are comprised of additional handmade paper from Katie MacGregor, but in an ochre yellow. Working further into the binding is a folio of soft yellow unryu which has a fabric-like feel. This material is designed to continue the feeling of comfort.

    This edition includes a loose wood engraving depicting the entrance of the home. The print is mounted in a paper frame covered in the same ochre Katie MacGregor paper as the endpapers. Both the print and book live inside of a house-shaped telescoping box.

    The base of the box includes two compartments; the compartment for the binding sits within and under the spot for the print. I first cut the shape of the base tray and then cut out a cavity to fit the size of the loose print. Within the base for the print, I cut out another cavity for the box. Then I supported all the pieces with walls. The entire base is wrapped in paper, a combination of handmade Katie MacGregor paper and Bugra. The book sits on a lining of cream suede.

    The base tray is attached to a leather wrapped board and a step of walnut veneer runs the perimeter to support the lid and add an additional accent of tone and texture.

    The lid is covered in the same medium brown goatskin as the base board. The raised design on the lid is pulled from the embossed design on the title page.

    To create the delicate design of the raised structure, I first laminated a piece of 10pt. museum board to the millboard I was using to build the box. I then drew out the design and carefully cut through the 10pt. board. Then I pulled away all of the waste, leaving my complete design on the board.

    The leather was edge pared to match the pentagon shape of the box and the title was embroidered before attaching. The addition of foam was used while pressing in order to work the leather down around the sides of the 10pt. board and around the embroidered stitches. In order to do this, the walls were assembled after the leather was attached and dried. I could then proceed to attach and cover the walls on both sides and line the interior.

    The box was rather challenging to construct. My main issues were figuring out how to cut the turn-ins, particularly around the corners, and the overall fit of the lid to the base. I will admit that I made the lid twice as the fit on my first attempt was just a bit too snug for my liking.

    Overall, I’m really pleased with this little gem and it’s unique presentation. The delicate design and soft color palette offers the feelings of warmth and comfort that I was hoping to convey.


  2. My Hand // Invisible Cities

    March 13, 2018 by Erin Fletcher


    I was introduced to the work of Italo Calvino through his 1972 novel Invisible Cities. I became infatuated with his writing style and imagination. The tales within Invisible Cities project so much imagery and color and emotion. And so I set forth to create a binding worthy of Calvino’s descriptive tales of fantastical cityscapes; the binding was completed in 2017.

    Bound as a traditional French-style fine binding, the book is covered in two separate pieces of buffalo skin which meet along the center horizon. The top half is busy and heavy; the collaged materials depict abstract images of buildings with gilt “scaffolding”. The abstract building structures were achieved through various onlays of suede, goatskin, stone veneer and palladium lacunose. The stone veneer and palladium lacunose were too textured and too stiff to back-pare, so to achieve the look I wanted I attached stand-in onlays in the full shape of the collaged structures before paring.

    Once pared down, the top half was attached to the book and the stand-in onlays were removed to make way for the final onlay pieces. In order to cut each onlay to the correct size, I used additional pieces of tissue drawn with the same shapes used for the back-paring. The final onlay pieces were cut out through the tissue to ensure their exactness.

    The palladium lacunose is a technique I learned during a workshop with Mark Cockram. An assemblage of goatskin and suede scraps was surface gilt with palladium. Additional texture was created through stamping, tooling, sanding and paring.

    With all of the onlays placed in the top portion, I was ready to work on the bottom half. My first step was to trim both halves at a bevel to create a seamless connection at the center of the book. The design was marked in the leather and sewn with a cotton floss in a matching light grey color. Some shapes span across both halves of leather, so it was vital to have the embroidery line up with the onlay pieces.

    The final aspect of the design to put in place was the “scaffolding”. After making my own thin line brass tools, the top half was tooled in palladium, while the bottom half was left blind.

    Despite finding the entire book inspirational, one particular city drew me in deeper than the rest. Within chapter seven under the group “the dead” Eusapia speaks of an underground city where the dead attempt to mimic the living or vice versa. These opposing forces of truth and falsehood are represented by the two opposing panels. The lower portion of the design is meant to poorly mimic the top portion. This was achieved by removing the color, texture and glisten of the upper panel.

    This theme of polarity and symmetry continues onto the edge of the book and the leather doublures. The entire edge was initially covered in graphite, then palladium was applied to just the head edge and half of the fore edge. The palladium was left looking distressed to compliment the broken palladium on the lacunose onlays.

    As you open to the interior side of the covers, more imagery is unearthed leading you back into the richness of the text. Pulling from Calvino’s references to building structures and the solar system, the front doublure depicts the orbits in our solar system with inlays representing the planets. The bottom half shows the constellation for Cancer. The stars are embroidered in a matching cotton floss with connecting lines tooled in blind.

    The back is similarly styled with a palladium tooled dome and the constellation for Pisces. The fly leaf is a metallic cork paper. The book is housed in a quarter leather clamshell box. The spine of the box hints at the design of the binding with three small inlays collaged together. The rest of the box case is covered in stone veneer. The trays are covered in handmade Katie MacGregor paper and lined in the same faux suede used on the binding.

    This binding was apart of the Student and Alumni Show at North Bennet Street School before going on display for the Society of Bookbinders International Competition 2017 in Keele, England. You can read more about my concept and see even more images here.


  3. My Time at Penland

    October 21, 2017 by Erin Fletcher

    I had the chance to spend the last few weeks of summer at Penland School of Crafts on a work-study scholarship. This was my first time attending Penland and I hope it won’t be my last. It was a truly unique experience and one that forced me to slow down and relax. It also gave me the freedom to be expressive in a medium outside of bookbinding.

    I came to Penland to take Rebecca Ringquist‘s Maximalist Embroidery workshop. Her work has intrigued and inspired me for years. The level of detail and depth she can create through embroidery really drew me in and I wanted to learn more. She uses a combination of hand embroidery and “drawing” with the machine. My goal for the taking this workshop was to see if I could incorporate any of the techniques into my binding work particularly with leather.

    Mistletoe in Paradise by Rebecca Ringquist

    We jumped in right away, not on cloth, but on paper with drawing exercises. Rebecca is a collector of flash cards and we used the simple imagery as our guide for blind contour drawings. In bursts of 60 – 30 – 15 seconds, we soon had a slew of drawings to inform our embroidery. After selecting one our favorite pieces, we then free-handed the drawing onto a piece of cloth. We were limited to one hour and could use any stitch we wanted. I recreated a drawing of GIRL using bright pink thread on a peach cotton cloth. I used back stitch in various thread thicknesses.

    We continued to use our contour drawings with other techniques for transferring. After finishing GIRL, I transferred my image of DRESS onto Sulky Solvy (a starch-based product with a sticky backing that dissolves in water). This time I used the sewing machine to “draw” my image onto the fabric.

    Using these two techniques I began to build on my design. Adding machine-sewn flowers with reverse appliqué centers and hand stitched trees that were drawn by a fellow classmate. The yellow dots are just the start of a field of french knots and the dividers were created on the machine.

    As the week progressed so did my piece, I continued to layer with more drawings, found embroidered pieces, dense machine stitching, appliqué and trimmings. I also got into machine couching, which offers a faster alternative to hand couching and a different effect. The way I chose to execute this technique was with the use of the Sulky Solvy. I placed my design and used a royal blue thread to couch a royal blue scrap of yarn by stitching mainly through the center. Throughout the week, we held three small critiques to voice our compliments and suggestions. It was refreshing to be back in a setting where we could freely discuss our ambitions and struggles. And it was wonderful to see how my classmates incorporated this feedback and battled through their own fears with destruction, layering and creation.

    At the end of the week, I created a nearly finished piece. I’ve taken to Rebecca’s strategy and stowed it away for now to be reviewed later. Rebecca informed us that she will continue to work on a piece over several months or even years, keeping it in a drawer and out of sight from time to time. The following images showcase my final piece and some work from my classmates.

    left: Sophie Fields | right: Annabel Wrigley

    left: Laura Martin | from right to left: Kate Webb, Vicki Bradley, Paisley Holloway, Deb Menz

    As I mentioned before, I was able to attend with the aid of a work-study scholarship. This meant that I had to arrive and work a day before and after my week-long workshop. I ended up with washing duties in the kitchen during my week shifts. It was hard to pull myself away from the studio at times to go wash pots, but this community action is part of the foundation of the school and how it continues to thrive. Since I was able to stay a few days beyond my duties, I got to participate in the end of the season bonfire with some of my fellow work-study mates, the staff and fellows at Penland, plus the community that lives around campus. It was the perfect send off.

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  4. My Hand // Feed Sacks: The Colourful History of a Frugal Fabric

    August 4, 2017 by Erin Fletcher

    I was recently invited, along with fourteen other talented binders, to bind a copy of Feed Sacks: The Colourful History of a Frugal Fabric by Linzee Kull McCray. This project all began when Todd Pattison, received a generous gift of unbound copies from the publisher and designer of Feed Sacks, Janine Vanpool at UPPERCASE Magazine.

    The book offers insight into how a plain utilitarian fabric evolved into a highly sought after commodity that was soon crafted into trendy garments, homewares and toys by housewives and seamstresses. The book also contains a plethora of images, which include scans from the impressive collections of two vintage feed sack collectors.

    For my binding, I wanted to incorporate an authentic feed sack fabric and I just so happen to find a pattern straight from the book.

    The book itself is bound as a 3-Part Bradel binding. The spine is covered in handmade paper from Katie MacGregor. The endpapers are a combination of paper from Katie MacGregor and Hook Pottery Paper. The boards are covered in the vintage fabric and wrapped with a hand embroidered Japanese tissue. The design of the wrapper pulls elements from the labels found on feed sacks, taking cues from the language and typography used. I used Okawara tissue for the wrapper and cotton embroidery floss. The center motif was back with a piece of muslin to strengthen the area prior to stitching. The vibrant red was added with colored pencil.

    Embroidering onto tissue was a very delicate process, but one that I had been interested in testing out for a while. In hindsight, I would have done things a bit differently. Working directly on the tissue caused warping and wrinkling, which was impossible to correct. In the future, I would attach the tissue to the covering material first, sewing through both layers.

    To see more images of my binding and the other binder’s interpretations of the text, check out the online gallery here.

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  5. New England Chapter Print Exchange

    April 5, 2017 by Erin Fletcher

    I recently participated in a print exchange with a few fellow members of the New England Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers. Our instructions were to create a print edition using any medium we desired around the optional theme of Spring. The prints were then sent through the mail to each other. So in the end I made 11 prints (plus a few extras) and received 11 different prints from everyone else.

    Erin Fletcher

    The print I created was part collaboration with my husband. He drew an image that I had turned into a metal die, which was heated and pressed into paper. I chose two papers handmade by Katie MacGregor, orange and a sort of dull algae green. Once the impression was made, I then drew several marks with colored pencils. The dots are hand-stitched french knots.

    It was fun to send these out into the world, but it was more fun to receive so much interesting mail over the course of a week. Here are the rest of prints from the exchange:

    Katherine Beaty

    Carol Blinn

    Penelope Hall | Cypripedium acaule

    Martha Kearsley

    Kate Levy | Spring Garlic

    Anne McLain | March Hare

    Melanie Mowinski

    Emily Patchin | Ostara

    Colin Urbina

    Linnea Vegh | Swag


  6. Studying in London with Mark and Tracey

    January 8, 2017 by Erin Fletcher

    At the beginning of November, I spent two and a half weeks living under the gloomy, grey skies of London. But having lived in Boston for the past six years, I felt quite at home with the overcast days and long train rides. After getting settled in my flat just outside of Tufnell Park, I spent my first day wandering around the Victoria and Albert Museum. An exhibit on Medieval English embroidery occupied most of my time during the visit. The exhibit surveyed religious garments and coverings dating from the 13th – 15th centuries. The quality of the stitchwort was breathtakingly beautiful and in such immaculate condition for their age.

    right: Panel depicting the Tree of Jesse (1310-20)

    right: The Clare Chasuble (1272-94)

    After my jaunt at the V&A (plus a quick bite at the cafe), I wandered around Soho, popping into a few shops before ending up at Mother Mash for dinner (so delicious and highly recommended). But let me get to the real reason why you are reading this post.

    DAY ONE
    The next day I traveled from my flat in Tufnell Park to Barnes for the first of nine days with Mark Cockram. I arrived promptly at 10:00 in the morning, not a minute too early or too late (as were the rules). On the first day, we focused on paring with a Schärffix (which I did standing up, a bit unusual for me) and using a French paring knife. All of the pared leather was used to create “swiss rolls”, which is a term used by Mark to describe this technique but has also been described by Philip Smith as “maril”. Mark also shared reverse cellulose printing with me, which is the process of transferring a printed image onto leather.

    DAY TWO
    On the second day, I continued to play with my creations from the previous day. I took the shavings from the swiss rolls and created an assemblage. I took my printed leather and pared it down in preparation for board attachment using Mark’s method of edge paring. The day’s final demonstration centered on laying down leather corners using a nifty tool called a tensai. The tensai is shown in the image below on the right and is used to mark the leather before trimming. Its name translates from the Japanese word for genius. And I certainly felt quite like one with this technique for finishing off corners.

    DAY THREE
    Today was the beginning of leather dying, starting with the craquelle technique (see more in Day Four). While waiting for the thick layer of paste to dry before the dye could be applied, I began working on a technique that was unnamed at the beginning of the demonstration but was eventually dubbed “dicated surface” (this name was randomly chosen from the dictionary by Mark, but is in fact the second half of a hyphenated word). This technique is implemented by creating multiple layers of leather. These layers are then manipulated in a variety of ways to alter the aesthetic and texture of the surface. After feeling satisfied with its look, I distorted the plaquette further by cutting it down into square tiles.

    By Mark’s encouragement, I continued to play with the aesthetic of the tiles by using embroidery floss to enhance the texture more. I took three of the embroidered tiles and pasted them to a piece of fair goatskin. After back-paring by hand, I continued to tinker with the design by adding additional embroidery around the tiles. I continued to work on this piece throughout my time at Mark’s studio (below is the piece in progress, I have yet to finish it).

    DAY FOUR & FIVE & SIX
    Over the next few days, the focus was primarily on dye techniques with free time to collage multiple techniques onto one plaquette. I was able to finish my craquelle sample piece, which dried on Mark’s lovely tea towel patterned with steins.

    The next sample piece I created was unevenly dabbed with orange leather dye before being pressed with a leaf. The impression created by the leaf was then highlighted with gold leaf and palladium at the midrib (main vein). In the area around the leaf, Mark had me test out Sunago, the Japanese term used to describe sprinkling with leaf.

    I continued to manipulate the plaquette by employing different types of black line work using carbon paper, acrylic paint, ink and foils. The tool also changed depending on the look I wanted; I used a variety of pens, small brushes, PVA, brass finishing tools and a heat spatula.

    DAY SEVEN
    Even more dye techniques were demonstrated to me on day seven, at this stage the dye was mostly painted on with cotton swabs, toothpicks and brushes. But the most interesting type of dye application was flottage (simply put: marbling). I played around with different colors and ways of dropping the dye into the bath.

    Below is my personal favorite. One the final days I tooled some of my dyed pieces with brass tools that I made using quick tooling making techniques. You can see the tool in progress in the image below on the left. Mark also had me make a capital letter G, which was quite difficult. If you don’t believe me, then try it yourself.

    DAY EIGHT & NINE:
    The last two days were focused on tooling the various plaquettes I had. I played around with different applications of size and the order of when I made the impressions.

    The final technique we reviewed was Sunago on paper. I continued to play with dyeing and the sunago technique on the piece of leather that I printed on the very first day. Here’s where that experimentation went:

    After a few days off, I got on a bus that took me across London to Tracey Rowledge‘s studio just west of Regent’s Park. I spent two days with Tracey, learning her technique for tooling. A unique style she learned from Ivor Robinson. I chose to learn how to employ this technique on paper rather than leather. Below are some of my favorite examples from the collection of pieces Tracey laid out for me to view.

    DAY ONE
    Working with a simple swirl design, Tracey walked me through her process. We discussed laying out a design, choosing the right tools to build up the design (which may require making custom tools) then transferring the design to the plaquette. We blind tooled the design through a lightweight handmade paper before painting the impressions with glaire. Tracey pushed me to focus on my posture, making sure I approached the plaquette with accurate precision to place the tool in the right impression.

    Below is an image of how the bench was set up to streamline the tooling process (at this point the plaquette has been blind tooled and painted with glaire and my leaf of gold has been cut into very small square pieces). I continued to work on this design the entire day, taking snack and water breaks from time to time.

    DAY TWO
    On my final day, I continued to perfect my posture and technique under Tracey’s guidance. In addition to the initial plaquette, I also brought a variety of handmade papers from home that I began to play around with by testing direct tooling (seeing how the glaire would alter the appearance of the paper) versus blinding first. We also got into carbon tooling (direct versus blinding first).

    Here are the selection of papers I brought from home (and one that Tracey gave me). From left to right in the top row: Wheatstraw (black) from Hook Pottery Paper and paper from Katie MacGregor. From left to right in the bottom row: Indigo Day Cave Paper, Zaansch Bord (redbrown) from De Schoolmeester and Bugra.

    My time in London was unforgettable, Mark and Tracey are incredible tutors. There was such a stark contrast to their styles of instruction, but each were able to push and challenge me in a way that enhanced my understanding of these techniques (some familiar and some new). I am so grateful to Mark’s pushback every time I asked a question, he has instilled within me the drive to experiment more and not to play it safe with my designs. But I am also grateful to Tracey’s controlled and thoughtful way of working, she taught me how to feel the motion of tooling within my entire body and to work in a meditative way. I left feeling beholden to Mark and Tracey, I hope for the opportunity to study with them again in the future.


  7. My Hand // Into This World

    October 18, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

    IntoThisWorld8-ErinFletcher

    I recently completed a French-style fine binding around Natalie Goldberg’s Into This World. The letterpress printed text is paired with woodblock prints both carved and printed by Clare Dunne and hand-tinted by Sialia Rieke. The texture of the prints were my inspiration for the design for the binding. By combining the natural texture of the buffalo skin with embroidery and leather onlays, I hoped to capture the pops and cracks between the layers of color.

    With this plan in mind, I used a single print as my inspiration to lay out the design. For the embroidered elements of the design, I chose to play with the technique in two new ways: an embroidered title and embroidered paper doublures.

    The script used for the title mimics the author’s own handwriting taken from her signature on the title page. The title was drawn onto tracing paper and taped in place, overlapping the white buffalo back-pared onlay. I tend to pre-punch the holes for embroidery, especially when I am trying to achieve something exact. For the pre-punching, I put a thin embroidery needle in my pin vise and placed the leather onto a piece foam. Then I used the tracing paper to guide my pin vise.

    IntoThisWorld-ErinFletcherIntoThisWorld2-ErinFletcher

    The embroidery for the title happened in two steps: back-stitch to spell-out the letters with french knots for the i’s dots and then I wrapped the stitches to create a raised, more defined line.

    IntoThisWorld3-ErinFletcher IntoThisWorld5-ErinFletcher

    After the title was completed, several seed stitches were scattered around the binding with the majority of them appearing on the back cover. I used the same technique to pre-punch the holes for the seed stitches, this time using the full-scale template. The title and seed stitches were sewn with 2-ply cotton thread in an ochre yellow.

    IntoThisWorld6-ErinFletcherIntoThisWorld7-ErinFletcher

    The second embroidered element in the binding are the edge-to-edge paper doublures. The prep for paper doublures is very similar to the set-up for leather doublures; for paper I allowed a wider turn-in as I trimmed out, this would ensure a smoother surface under the paper. Below you can see the turn-ins post covering and with the leather hinge in place.

    IntoThisWorld10-ErinFletcher

    After scoring a frame around the board and spine edge, I began to trim off the excess leather at a slight bevel. In order to create a successful doublure, several layers are added to the board (one at a time) and sanded to make the board as smooth as possible. The first layer (shown on the right in the image below) was a piece of 10pt. card, first sanded along all four edges and attached with a PVA/methylcellulose mix. After allowing that layer to dry under weight for an entire day, I sanded the edges smooth (which is the state visible in the image below).

    IntoThisWorld11-ErinFletcher

    In between these stages, I began working on the embroidered paper doublures. Referencing the same print used to inspired the covers, I traced an outline of the figure from the image. I felt that her pose embodied the sentiments of the text perfectly. Using the tracing paper once again as my guide for punching the holes, I placed the paper onto a piece of foam and poked through the tracing paper into the doublure paper.
    IntoThisWorld12-ErinFletcherIntoThisWorld13-ErinFletcher

    Once the paper pieces were fully embroidered, I carefully sanded the backside of the paper to create a smoother feel along the edges once glued down to the board. Below you can see the board in it’s final stage. After sanding down the 10pt. card, I attached a medium weight smooth paper. This piece was slightly oversized on three edges and sanded down on the spine side. After allowing it to dry under weight, I sanded it down smooth. The embroidered paper doublures were attached with MIX and put under weight for a day in order to dry thoroughly and to prevent the board from cupping inward.

    IntoThisWorld14-ErinFletcher

    And here are the final results. I am so pleased with the outcome of the embroidered paper doublures, it will most certainly be a technique I use again on a future binding. To see more images of the binding and it’s embroidered quarter leather clamshell box, click here.

    IntoThisWorld9-ErinFletcher


  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.

    StoneVeneerWksp-ErinFletcher

    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.

    StoneVeneerWksp2-ErinFletcher

    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.

    StoneVeneerWksp4-ErinFletcher

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

    StoneVeneerWksp3-ErinFletcher

    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.

    StoneVeneerWksp5-ErinFletcher

    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.

    StoneVeneerWksp6-ErinFletcher

    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.

    StoneVeneerWksp7-ErinFletcher

    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.

    StoneVeneerWksp8-ErinFletcher

    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.

    StoneVeneerWksp9-ErinFletcher

    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.

    StoneVeneerWksp10-ErinFletcher

    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.

    StoneVeneerWksp11-ErinFletcher

    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.

    StoneVeneerWksp12-ErinFletcher

    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.

    StoneVeneerWksp13-ErinFletcher

    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.

    StoneVeneerWksp14-ErinFletcher


  9. Making Miniatures with James Reid-Cunningham

    March 30, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

    Last year, I took a workshop at North Bennet Street School on Miniatures Bindings with James Reid-Cunningham. Bookbinding itself has a certain lure, but miniature bookbinding can pull you in even further. There is always this challenge of how small can one actually go while still keeping some integrity to the craft. It certainly felt this way during the 3-day workshop as James had us construct smaller and smaller books for each project.

    We started off the class with a hardcover long stitch binding. In terms of size, this was the macro-mini measuring out to 46mm wide by 59mm tall. The text block was sewn through a paper spine piece which also acted as the endpaper paste down. The boards were covered in paper and then pasted to the paper wrapper. Before attaching the covers we used our bone folder to round off the board’s corners, offering a very subtle touch of softness to this miniature book.

    MiniWksp-ErinFletcher

    Our second project for the workshop was to construct a miniature quarter leather case binding. We employed the use of miniature presses to aid in the forwarding process. James brought his own contraption (two wooden slabs connected with bolts and wing nuts), while a fellow classmate brought one of Frank Wiesner’s miniature ploughs for the class to use.

    MiniWksp2-ErinFletcher

    After sewing up the text block over two tapes (cut down from ramieband) I chose to sew headbands in light and dark pink stripes. We continued with the forwarding process by lining the spine. Using a very thin piece of leather, we assembled the case with shaped endcaps. The rest of the case was covered in paper. For my miniature, I used a scrap piece of buffalo skin and handmade paper from Katie MacGregor. This binding measures 38mm wide by 46mm tall.

    MiniWksp8-ErinFletcher

    Our final project was considered a micro-mini measuring to just 13mm wide by 13mm tall. The text was supplied to use with content laid out and printed by James. The text block was printed on a variety of tissues ranging in different weights. For our last project I chose to try out two different weights and assemble one as a soft cover paper wrapper and the other as a full leather binding. The first task for both was to carefully fold the text block into a neatly squared accordion.

    MiniWksp3-ErinFletcher

    To construct the full leather binding, the components of the case were cut to size and glued down to a single piece of tissue. Once the case was assembled the fore edge was trimmed to fit the text block and the corners were rounded to accommodate the thickness of the leather.

    MiniWksp4-ErinFletcher

    The leather was pared to onlay thickness and the corners were pre-cut before covering. The covering was swift and simple. And once the leather was dry, I attached the outer panels of the accordion to inside of the case. The book can be read as a codex or the accordion can be expanded.

    MiniWksp5-ErinFletcher

    MiniWksp7-ErinFletcher

    The workshop was a delightful insight to bookbinding in miniature form. The main challenge was rethinking and reworking how to use my hands and tools in such a narrow space. I was a fan of miniature bookbinding before I took James’ workshop and I still am. However, I think I’ll stick to the macro-mini for any future work. Anything smaller is just too excessive for me.

    MiniWksp6-ErinFletcher


  10. My Hand // The Nightingale and the Rose

    February 16, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

    Nightingale1-ErinFletcher

    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.

    NightingaleAndTheRose1-ErinFletcher

    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.

    NightingaleAndTheRose2-ErinFletcher

    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.

    NightingaleAndTheRose3-ErinFletcher

    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.)

    NightingaleAndTheRose6-ErinFletcher

    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).

    NightingaleAndTheRose7-ErinFletcherNightingaleAndTheRose8-ErinFletcher

    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.

    NightingaleAndTheRose9-ErinFletcher NightingaleAndTheRose10-ErinFletcher

    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.

    Nightingale2-ErinFletcher

    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.

    NightingaleAndTheRose12-ErinFletcher

    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.

    NightingaleAndTheRose13-ErinFletcherNightingaleAndTheRose14-ErinFletcher

    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.


  • 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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