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‘my hand’ Category

  1. 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.


  2. 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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.
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    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


  3. 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.

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

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

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

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

    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.

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

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

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

    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.

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

    StoneVeneerWksp14-ErinFletcher


  4. 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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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  5. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  6. Client Work // Ye Sette of Odd Volumes

    October 15, 2015 by Erin Fletcher

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    It’s been a while since I’ve posted on my own work due to having a crazy summer, but I recently completed this binding of the 1904 Inaugural Address of his Oddship, Brother Silvanus P. Thompson, Magnetizer for Ye Sette of Odd Volumes. I’m sharing this particular project because it has a really great back story and is the slimmest book I’ve ever bound in leather.

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    My client who presented me with this project is a member of the Club of Odd Volumes, a private social club founded in 1887 and is a society of bibliophiles with the following mission statement:

    The objects shall be to promote an interest in, and a love for whatever will tend to make literature attractive as given in the form of printed and illustrated volumes, to mutally assist in making researches and collections of first and rare editions, and to promote elegance in the production of Odd Volumes.

    The club’s headquarters is located at the former home of Sarah Wyman Whitman in the neighborhood of Beacon Hill in Boston, Massachusetts. The Club of Odd Volumes is a direct influence of Ye Sette of Odd Volumes, an English bibliophile dining-club formed in 1878.

    As I mentioned above, this particular pamphlet is the inaugural address of Brother Silvanus P. Thompson. During the planning phase for the binding, I did some investigative work on dear old Silvanus. At the age of 27, Thompson was appointed to professor of Physics at the City and Guilds Technical College in Finsbury, England. He had a talent for communicating complicated scientific concepts in a clear and interesting manner. He is best known for this work as an electrical engineer and his most enduring publication, Calculus Made Easy, a 1910 book that teaches the fundamentals of infinitesimal calculus.

    What really spurred my curiosity was the descriptor of Magnetizer added to the end of Thompson’s name in the pamphlet’s title. In 1910, Thompson was involved in early attempts to stimulate the brain using a magnetic field. After this death this technique would eventually be recognized as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. This story really inspired me to use a sheet of the hand marbled paper that I made while I was a student at the North Bennet Street School.

    The stone pattern of the marbling has a very organic, almost cellular feel to it. The movement of the yellow veins reminded me of electric currents flowing through the brain. What a perfect fit!

    The structure of the binding is inspired by Ingela Dierick’s article Single Section Bradel Binding in The New Bookbinder (Volume 32, 2012). I’ve created a binding from this tutorial before and even posted about it on the blog. If you want to see/read more about the process, check out this prior post.

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    The single signature pamphlet is sewn on a stub of equal thickness. This stub is then shaped to create a false round, which allows you to continue with a binding suitable for a leather covering. In the image above you can see the finished binding. Below you can see the book right after I’ve shaped the spine with the help of hemp cord that create false shoulders (in the image on the right, you can see that I also painted the cord to blend in with the grey colored paper used for the stub).

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    Other details of the binding include leather wrapped headbands in mauve buffalo skin that add a small pop of color. The paste down and flyleaf are Cave Paper in granite. I also hand tooled in blind an abbreviated title onto the spine: S.O.V. INAUGURAL ADDRESS 1904.

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    I find these single signature bindings to be just as challenging as a multiple signature book. But it offers a certain level of satisfaction to turn something so thin and simple into a substantial leather binding.


  7. Seventh Triennial Helen Warren DeGolyer Exhibition and Bookbinding Competition // 2015 – Winners Announced

    June 16, 2015 by Erin Fletcher

    On June 5th, a conference was held at the Bridwell Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. During the conference, the winners of the Seventh Helen Warren DeGolyer Triennial Exhibition and Competition were announced. Established in 1997, the DeGolyer Competition is hosted every three years to inspire and encourage the craft of bookbinding in the United States.

    After a title has been selected from the Bridwell Library Special Collections, American bookbinders are invited to propose a design and submit an example of their work. Three winners are then selected and announced during the conference. The title chosen for the 2015 competition was Bernard C. Middleton’s The Restoration of Leather Bindings. The winner of this year’s competition received a $6,000 commission to bind Ms. DeGolyer’s copy of Middleton’s manual, which has been signed by the author. Middleton’s classic work is a comprehensive overview of traditional restoration techniques specifically on leather bindings.

    The winning proposal was submitted by Priscilla Spitler. Here’s part of her proposal statement: If one was to visit Bernard Middleton’s bindery in the 1970s, when this text was published, it would not have been unusual to find a cat or two curled up in a corner.

    DeGolyerProposal-PriscillaSpitler

    Priscilla plans to cover the book in brown Hewit goatskin with raised bands on the spine. Traditional gold tooling will accent the spine and frame the two cats on the front and back boards. The sleeping cats will be made up of several goatskin onlays recessed on large green leather panels.

    Priscilla has been submitting to the DeGolyer Competition since it was established and won the grand prize for the first time in 2009 for her proposal of John Grave’s Goodbye to a River: A Narrative. You can read more about Priscilla’s background in bookbinding and see the fine binding she submitted along with her 2015 proposal here.

    The $2,000 award went to Jana Pullman for Excellence in Fine Binding, which recognizes quality in structure and technique. In addition to the proposal, binders are also asked to submit a complete binding showing techniques similar to those they are proposing. Jana submitted her binding of William Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis, illustrated and signed by Rockwell Kent.

    DeGolyerProposal-JanaPullman

    Bound in terracotta goatskin with black and green back-pared onlays and thin leather onlays creating the outlines. Jana celebrates the artistic brilliance of Rockwell Kent by using one of his illustrations found in the text as the decoration for the binding. Copper accents adorn the head edge and endpapers.

    The $1,000 Award for Design was given to Samuel Feinstein for his proposal. This honor is awarded to a proposal that demonstrates originality, effectiveness and appropriateness to the selected book. Here is a portion of Samuel’s proposal: My design seeks to show the beauty of historical binding elements within a modernized context, a use of traditional techniques in a manner which is not strictly traditional. 

    Samuel was a classmate of mine at North Bennet Street School and I’m so pleased to see his work receive such an award.

    DeGolyerProposal-SamuelFeinstein

    During the planning stages of a design fine binding, I expect a percentage of the design to evolve during the binding process. So submitting a proposal with the design fully realized and explained was a challenge that I wanted to explore, which is how I came to send in the following proposal.

    DeGolyerProposal-ErinFletcher

    My proposed binding would be covered in brown goatskin and decorated using traditional hand embroidery techniques in gilt thread to imitate a historical gilt panel design. Other elements of the design such as the line border and motifs on spine would be gold tooled. Every aspect of the binding was influenced by the books being conversed within Middleton’s manual.

    Here’s my proposal statement:
    To conserve an object is to show patience, intelligence and dedication, qualities which Middleton emphasizes in the foreword of his book. In a way restoring a volume also pays homage to the history of the binding, as well as respect for the techniques employed in creating the binding. I propose to bind The Restoration of Leather Bindings as a design binding incorporating techniques and designs typically seen on deluxe bindings of the late seventeenth to early eighteenth century in England. The inspiration for choosing this specific period came from a particular book (mounted on proposal board) photographed several times in The Restoration of Leather Bindings. My decision to artistically imitate this binding, using period-appropriate techniques mixed with unconventional design techniques stems from the same attitude put forth by Middleton. I wish to pay homage to the book and its author by preserving a historical binding style by combining old techniques with unlikely materials.

    This year’s competition inspired seventeen other American binders to submit a proposal. You can see them all here.


  8. North Bennet Street School // Student & Alumni Exhibit 2015 – Part Two

    May 28, 2015 by Erin Fletcher

    In addition to the set books I wrote about in Part One of this post, the Student and Alumni Exhibit at North Bennet Street School includes a selection of bindings produced by current students and alumni of the full-time program. In this post, I’ll be highlighting some of my favorites.

    I’ll start with my own bindings. This year I submitted two miniature bindings, which I’ve completed within the last 8 months. The book on the left is Goose Eggs & Other Fowl Expressions bound in the Dorfner-style with wood veneer boards. I wrote about the process a few months ago, you can check that out here.

    The second binding is The Nightingale and the Rose by Oscar Wilde. The book is bound as a traditional French-style fine binding. The nightingale on the front board is created using various back-pared onlays, feathered onlays and embroidery. For those of you who know the story, there is also a small wood veneer inlay that represents the rose’s thorn. The binding includes tan goatskin doublures. The back doublure showcases the rose and was created in the same manner as the nightingale.

    ErinFletcher-NBSSExhibit

    Next up is Jacqueline Scott’s embroidered binding of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans. Jacqueline is apart of the 2015 graduating class and I featured her set book in the first post. Her work is so stellar and I had the delightful opportunity to see this book as it took a journey to became this very gorgeous binding.

    The embroidery is so delicately handled and the feather embroidered on the spine of the box adds just the perfect amount of intrigue. The swan’s wings extend beyond the fore edge and are covered on the backside with matching green goatskin leather. I can’t wait to see how Jacqueline continues to explore embroidery in her work.

    JaquelineScott-NBSSExhibit

    The rest of the images were taken after the exhibit was fully installed, so please pardon any glares, shadows or my reflection. I would also like to note that I had intended to include the work of Rebecca Koch and Anne McLain, but it was rather difficult to capture an accurate photograph of their bindings due to reflection and glare issues. So sorry you two but I would like to say that loved your bindings!

    The following binding was recently bound by my charming bindery mate Colin Urbina, 2011. In his binding of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, he created an abstract underwater scene with several tooled leather onlays and inlays of pearl. Other portions of the design are texturized with an open circle tool and by pressing sandpaper into the wet leather. The title and author are blind tooled on the spine.

    The head edge is painted in a vibrant purple with brushstrokes that cross over one another. Colin put in matching edge-to-edge doublures and added a frame of ascending “bubbles” using the same open circle tool.

    ColinUrbina-NBSSExhibit

    GabrielleCooksey-NBSSExhibit

    Monsters and Beasts is the work of the incredibly talented Gabrielle Cooksey, 2014. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about this piece. But I believe that everything from the illustrations to the printing were all done by Gabrielle. It’s absolutely beautiful work!

    KaitlinBarber-NBSSExhibit

    Kaitlin Barber is the master of miniatures (and there always seems to be one in every class). In this adorable and wildly impressive collection of bindings, Kaitlin has miniaturized a selection of historical bindings she learned over the course of her time at North Bennet Street School. She’ll be apart of the 2015 graduating class and I wrote more about her work in the first post.

    Continuing on with the topic of historical structures, the students were treated to a week long workshop in the spring with Dr. Georgios Boudalis. Using his extensive understanding of Byzantine culture, he taught the students none other than a traditional 12th century Byzantine structure. Todd Davis, 2016, included his binding in the exhibit. The bindings are quite massive and required a lot of detailed work, such as board shaping, primary and secondary headbands, braided straps and clasps. After all that blood, sweat and tears, the class bound some really lovely models.

    ToddDavis-NBSSExhibit

    The next binding on my list of favorites was done by another studio mate of mine, Lauren Schott, 2013. Bound in the Dorfner-style (same as Goose Eggs) with wood veneer boards and a leather spine. Lauren’s design on this binding of Walt Whitman’s Song of the Broad-Axe is so elegant.

    Lauren and I are both a big fan of incorporating shapes and symmetry into our designs. The front and back board are gold tooled onto the wood veneer; the tooling sits in the veneer so that at certain angles becomes almost invisible.

    LaurenSchott-NBSSExhibit

    And to round out the favorites is this stunning binding from Johanna Smick Weizenecker, 2010. This binding of Chairmaker’s Notebook is a quarter leather goatskin binding with semi-hidden corners. The design on the front and back cover continues onto the spine as an onlay. The title and author are hand titled using black and copper foils.

    JohannaSmickWeizenecker-NBSSExhibit

    So that concludes this year’s Student and Alumni exhibit at the North Bennet Street School. I hope you enjoyed this overview and I want to thank all of you who were able came out to see the show in person!


  9. My Hand // Dune

    May 1, 2015 by Erin Fletcher

    It’s been a while since I wrote about my binding of the science fiction classic Dune. After sharing my technique for the edge decoration, hand-sewn headbands and the process of covering, I’m finally ready to unveil the finished binding.

    Dune11a-ErinFletcher

    So now I’ll go over the steps that led to the finished look. After covering and letting the book rest, I began working on the remainder of the design for the front cover, which included a series of concentric circles. All seven circles would be tooled using gold leaf, but only the inner circle would also include a leather onlay. In the image below (on the left) is my initial sketch of the front cover design. It includes a list specifying the size gouge for each circle. The image on the right is the final outline drawn on tracing paper, which includes fewer circles due to spacing issues. This also became the template I would use to transfer the design to the book (hence the wrinkles and cut out squares).

    Dune13-ErinFletcher

    In the image below you can see the tooling template attach to the underside of the front board. At this point, I’ve flipped it off the book to check the placement of the first circle.

    Dune8-ErinFletcher

    Happy with the first circle, I continued working my way through the remaining 6 circles. Each circle was initially placed onto the leather with a plastic circle template and thin bone folder. I then used the appropriately sized gouge to make the first impression, with the tool being cold. Below is an image of all the different gouges used on the binding.

    Dune12-ErinFletcherDune9-ErinFletcher

    In the midst of winter and in an incredibly dry studio, I began to add the gold to the circles. After a few failed attempts and some adjustments I made to the atmosphere, the gold started to stick. In between the tooling process on the front cover, I moved to the spine where I tooled in the title and author’s last name.

    Inspired by the lettering seen on French fine bindings from the 1920s and 30s, I used a combination of gouges and line palettes to design my own alphabet. In the image below, I’ve finished the initial blind layer and am about to begin the gold tooling.

    Dune10-ErinFletcher

    The title and author’s name are divided by a blind tooled onlay of buffalo skin in a lovely light pink, which also appears on the back cover. This design is again a play on the French fine bindings from the 1920s and 30s.

    With the outside complete, I moved to the inside of the book. The fly leaves are a soft suede in dark brown which matches the onlay on the front cover. The matching DUNEblures (a silly nicknamed coined by my witty studio mate Colin Urbina) are tooled in a design that mirrors itself on the back cover. The angle of the lines match that of the triangle on the front cover. The spacing between the lines is consistent with the spacing between the concentric circles.

    Dune14-ErinFletcher

    The book is housed in a quarter leather clamshell box using the same terracotta goatskin as for the triangle back-pared onlay. The leather has been embroidered in the same fashion and tooled with the title. The rest of the case is covered in brown Canapetta cloth. The trays are covered with handmade paper I bought from Katie MacGregor and lined with the same suede as the fly leaves.

    Dune16-ErinFletcher Dune15-ErinFletcher

    In mid-April, I received the exciting news that my binding of Dune will join the Guild of Book Workers Traveling Exhibit: Vessel! This will be the second time I’ve participated in a GBW show and what’s more exciting is that this exhibit will be hosted by the North Bennet Street School. So halfway through the tour, I’ll get the chance to revisit my binding.

    The exhibit will open later this year in California and I’ll be writing a post to remind those nearby.


  10. My Hand // Goose Eggs & Other Fowl Expressions

    March 16, 2015 by Erin Fletcher

    GooseEggs4-ErinFletcher

    At the Guild of Book Workers’ Standards Conference in DC, I picked up a couple miniature text blocks from Gabrielle Fox. One of the them being Goose Eggs & Other Fowl Expressions printed by Rebecca Press in 1991. The letterpress printing was done in a vibrant purple with hints of mint blue and bright yellow. The image below is a spread from the book.

    GooseEggs-ErinFletcher

    For the binding, I decided to test the limitations of the Dorfner binding in a miniature format. Last year I had the chance to learn this very special binding structure. Unfortunately not from Edgard Claes himself, but from Colin Urbina who had the opportunity to take a workshop from the celebrated Belgian binder. The Dorfner-style binding was originally developed by German binder Otto Dorfner.

    I sadly did not take any images during the process of creating this binding as it was the first miniature I’ve ever bound and was delighted by how quickly I was able to move through each step. So needless to say, I forgot to stop and take images, but I will explain the binding process a bit in this post.

    GooseEggs6-ErinFletcher

    The book is sewn on two silver snakeskin tapes (initially lined with silk) before being rounded and backed. The edges were properly prepped for a layer of mint blue gouache paint. Leather wrapped headbands decorate the head and tail in a skin that perfectly matches the purple ink from the text block.

    The spine piece is wrapped in mauve buffalo skin, which was shaped and the headcaps were formed off the book. After cutting away to expose the tapes, the spine piece is attached to the text block and then the light grey suede flyleaves are put in place.

    GooseEggs5-ErinFletcher

    Now comes the fun part. The MDF boards are carefully shaped, first with a power sander and then by hand to offer an elegant cushioned edge. Afterward, the boards are laminated on both sides with a wood veneer. For this binding, I used an unknown wood that I found in a sample pack of domestic and exotic woods (so if anyone can identify this wood, please let me know). A channel is cut out of the veneer and the tapes are glued down to attach the board. To hide the tapes a second veneer is cut and glued down. For this binding, I cut four tabs out of Karelian birch in the shape of a goose egg.

    GooseEggs3-ErinFletcher

    The book is housed in a tiny clamshell box. The spine is covered in the same mauve buffalo skin and silver canapetta cloth that mimics the veneer on the cover boards. The trays are covered in a yellow handmade paper from Katie MacGregor, which was also used as the book’s endpapers. The book is protected with a light grey suede lining.

    GooseEggs1-ErinFletcher

    Goose Eggs is the second Dorfner binding that I’ve made to date. I really love this structure, it has a unique elegance and it can be assembled rather quickly. So I’m looking forward to working with this structure again and hope to incorporate some common elements of my work like gold tooling and embroidery. I also hope to learn more about marquetry in order to create intricate designs in the veneer.