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Posts Tagged ‘fine binding’

  1. Catching Up With Hannah Brown // No. 5

    April 30, 2017 by Erin Fletcher

    For the final installment, I asked Hannah Brown about her binding of Love is Enough by William Morris. Just like The Tempest, shown in the previous post, Hannah used fair calf and an array of colored leather onlays. The design includes four beautifully embroidered birds and five beetles. At the points of intersection on the trellis, Hannah has attached twenty-eight gold plated brass pieces. Smaller details in the design have been blind and gold tooled.

    The cover design is complimented with a patterned endpaper. The book lives in a teak box with a frosted prespex lid, which allows you to view the book.

    I had the chance to see this binding in person, while visiting last year’s Antiquarian Book Fair in NYC. First I want to say that it is absolutely gorgeous and I may have stared at it for an awkward length of time. The embroidery on the birds, is some of the most detailed embroidery I’ve seen on your work. As your work evolves the embroidery is becoming more painterly and reads more traditional in style. For the final question of the month, I’d love for you to talk about how your think you’re previous work has informed the way you build a design today, particularly how you’ve grown from simple machine embroidery to complex and layered hand embroidery.
    Thank you for your comments! It was an absolutely wonderful text block to be commissioned to bind. I am starting to see my embroidery work more like “painting” with thread. Through various social media channels I am now aware of more embroidery artists who are inspiring me to develop my embroidery skills further. I love the way that colour can by built up so subtly with the threads whilst adding a pleasing texture to the surface of the leather on a binding.

    One thing that I am very careful with though is durability, books are made to be used so I have to be very mindful of this when placing my stitches. The difference between utilising embroidery techniques on bindings in comparison to general embroidery on things like wall art is that is has to be designed to be handled. I make sure I tether down my stitches as well as possible to avoid the design catching or being abraded prematurely over time and take extra care when placing stitches over the board joints.

    During my time working at the V&A Museum I had the pleasure of looking at a variety of embroidered bindings from the National Art Library’s collection (the library housed within the museum). It was wonderful to see how the stitching had held out over time, on some better than others due to the amount of handling!

    Machine embroidery has its purposes and is good for producing lines quickly but to me now looks too rigid due to the way it punches the holes in the leather and the regularity of the stitches created. I love the layers than can be built up using hand embroidery as it has far more depth and accuracy to it and following years of practice my fingers are now toughened to it. I have a feeling that binding by binding my work will continue to evolve in this way, especially as my collection of threads grows and grows in size! I have started to teach some classes in embroidery techniques for fine bindings and hope to grow on this and therefore spread my knowledge further in this field.


  2. Catching Up With Hannah Brown // No. 4

    April 23, 2017 by Erin Fletcher

    Last year, Hannah Brown created this impeccable binding of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Bound in full leather, Hannah first dyed the fair calf in a mottled effect, which provides the perfect stormy backdrop. The rest of the design is comprised of a variety of colored onlays, silk embroidery and blind, carbon and gold tooling.

    The endpapers have a similar mottled effect as the leather cover. Yet Hannah achieved this decoration by placing the paper over  textured surface before rolling on gold letterpress ink. The book is housed in an oak box and frosted acrylic lid.
    This might be one of the most ambitious designs you’ve created thus far. First, I’d love to know how you kept track of all those little onlays as you were working.
    I worked word by word and made sure there was no draft to blow the pieces away once they had been cut out! The key to ease of cutting was to regularly change my scalpel blade. As the words got smaller and smaller they became too tricky to pierce from leather so I embroidered them instead which gave me more control.

    Many of your bindings are done in goatskin, but The Tempest is bound in a hand-dyed calfskin. Did you find the calf to be more susceptible to scuffs during the embroidery process?
    Yes, this was my first time working with calf. I bought this skin as fair calf and it was dyed in a stippled pattern which I thought might help mask any possible scuffs that would occur during the embroidery process. I always make sample boards ahead of working on a binding so I was able to test whether this was going to be an issue ahead of working on the actual covering leather. Fortunately I had no issues with scuffing of the leather and since then have gone on to bind another binding in fair calf with even less margin for error!

    I will definitely use more calf in the future as I felt the smooth nature of the surface lent itself well to being embroidered. It was tough to back-pare and work ahead of applying the embroidery but I was very pleased with the end result.


  3. Catching Up With Hannah Brown // No. 3

    April 16, 2017 by Erin Fletcher

    Hannah Brown covered this binding of David Mitchell‘s Cloud Atlas in dark blue goatskin. An embroidered outline of a world map expands across the entire binding. To create contrast between land formations and water, Hannah blinded in a short line tool in a dense sporadic pattern.

    The longitude and latitude lines are gold-tooled and cross at six points across the map. These points are marked with brass tubing, which are inset into the boards, giving the viewer a peek of the endpapers. As you open the cover, the same longitude and latitude lines appear in gold. The background is decorated with watercolor altered by salt crystals, then painted with acrylic. The book is housed in a Rosewood box with a frosted acrylic lid patterned in the same fashion as the book.

    Lately, I’ve been thinking about the many ways a book can be exhibited. If displayed fully open, the viewer has an opportunity to collect more information on the binder’s concept. However, when parts of the book are hidden from view, how does that change the viewer’s perception of the binder’s work? When I look through your portfolio it is common to see a detailed cover paired with a custom interior that plays off your design. While working on the design are you conscious of how the different planes of the binding work as individual sides and as a whole?
    Absolutely, I love the fact that there are so many dimensions to a book, with new aspects of the design revealing themselves as you open it up – it gives a lot of scope for illustrating the content. There are so many skills required to make a successful binding, it is a three dimensional object and therefore needs to be planned and executed as such. However with that I feel you need to be a master of so many trades, especially using the variety of materials that I do on one binding paired with it’s box; a designer, a printmaker, a draughtsman, a carpenter, a juggler…the list goes on!

    I always try and make my endpapers marry in some way with the book design, whether they are just a similar colour palette or perhaps directly inspired by an illustration within the cover design, I feel it is important there is some connection between them. On a number of my previous bindings I have incorporated holes cut through the boards in the cover design so part of the endpapers can be seen. This is the case with Cloud Atlas to some degree with different diameter brass rods inset into the boards through which you can see the painted cloud endpapers. Another example of this on a larger scale was on a binding I did of, William Blake’s Watercolour Designs for the Poems of Thomas Gray where a cat was illustrated on the endpapers and also, Randall Davies and His Books of Nonsense with hexagonal viewing holes.

    In terms of the actual displaying of bindings, without mirrors or walk around cabinets it is very difficult to show all aspects of the book as a whole. When I worked as mount-maker at the V&A Museum I used to make a lot of book cradles for displaying open bindings in exhibitions. I always found it incredible that the cradles had to be made not just specific to the book, but to the actual page of the book that was to be open. They were rarely able to be reused again due to the fact that the profile of the book would change if opened on a different page.

    For Cloud Atlas in particular, how does the interior design speak to the cover?
    The design of this binding I found to be very challenging as there are so many stories and themes running through the book. The novel consists of six interconnected stories, however the main characters do not directly interact with one another but their lives are infinitely connected and affected by the actions of the others. The first five stories are broken into two parts – each being interrupted or halted at a pivotal moment. After the sixth story, which is completed in one central section, the other five stories are closed, in reverse chronological order, and each ends with the main character reading or observing the chronologically previous work in the chain. The main characters are also linked in spirit through the reoccurring image of a comet-shaped birthmark which are also depicted at crossing points on the cover.

    The cover design is based on a map of the world, the points marked by the crossing of the longitude and latitude lines are placed where each of the six stories within the book are set. Each longitude line on the cover design has an additional design element running along it to tie in with the theme of the stories as follows (from top to bottom); a train track (the character travels by train between London and Hull), stylised musical notes (the character is a composer who writes “Cloud Atlas Sextet”), typewriter letters (the character is a 1970’s journalist), troughs and peaks (the character travels across seas and over mountains), quote marks in a futuristic font (the story is based in the far future) and finally the embroidered words of the very last quote of the entire book to tie it all together, “Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?”.

    As well as being able to “spy” the clouds on the endpapers through the brass rods inset into the cover, I chose to also run the longitude and latitude lines through onto the endpapers and doublures and also show quotes from each of the stories on them. The atlas of clouds in the sky ties all the stories together therefore was a key part of my design choice.


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

    May 19, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

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

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

    Peggy Boston

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

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

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

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

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

    Nicole Campana


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

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

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

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

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

    Todd Davis

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

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

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

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

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

    Emily Patchin

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

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

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

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

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

    Jonathan Romain

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

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

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

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

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

    Mary Grace Whalen

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

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

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

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

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

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


  5. My Hand // The Nightingale and the Rose

    February 16, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  6. Bookbinder of the Month: Tini Miura

    October 4, 2015 by Erin Fletcher

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    Trees Talk includes the work of Kaii Higashiyama, a highly respected painter in Japan whose work captures the spirit of the four seasons. The reproductions in this book are a collection of trees paired with poetry reflecting the words spoken by the trees.

    In 1985, Tini Miura bound an impressive 23 editions of Trees Talk in full leather decorative bindings.

    The designs are a mix of geometric patterns to more organic shapes, but the color palette is limited to shades of blue and green with pops of pink and neutrals such as white, gray and black. Was it challenging to reinterpret a set of work 23 different ways? Was the assembly done like an edition or did you work on each binding separately?
    This edition is showing the work of Kaii Higashiyame, the most famous Japanese artist when I arrived. The main colors used for this book’s illustrations by the artist were: blues, greens, white on every page. I followed the feeling of these images by mainly using his color range.

    I bound the book during a 4-month period, from book block preparation until covering and another 5 months for the execution of the design.

    I often hear: oh, I can tell your designs are influenced by Japanese art. My professor in Paris complained that my colors were too sad, I had guests who came to my slide shows leave, shaking their heads: too colorful.

    My color choice always has to do with the content (in my mind ) colors in Scandinavia are mainly: blue, green, white, grey, violet….usually the literary themes there are not the same as in Spain for example. Colors in the North of Europe are different than those in the Mediterranean region, so are the feelings evoked by colors.

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  7. 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.

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    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).

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.


  8. Bookbinder of the Month: Sol Rébora

    November 30, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

    CantoGeneral-SolRebora

    This binding of Pablo Neruda’s Canto General is the most recent binding Sol Rébora has completed and the most important book she has worked with to date. This first edition copy was printed in a limited 500 copies. This particular copy is number 52 and is signed by Pablo Neruda, Diego Rivera and David A. Siqueiros with additional signatures by Cesar Chavez, Carlos Fuentes and Baldemar Velasquez (American labor union activist).

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    The text is printed in black and red with original color printed endpapers illustrated by Diego Rivera (left/front endpaper) and David A. Siqueiros (right/back endpaper). (Click image to enlarge)

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    Why the book is so important to Sol:
    This epic book consists of 15 sections and over 300 separate poems tracing the history of Spanish America. Canto General is considered by many to be the most important work of political poetry of the 20th century in Latin America.

    About this work, I may say this book was sent to me at a perfect time.

    I had been working with the inlay technique used on this binding for the last two years. I had the feeling that I had worked with it enough as to feel free to create any design I wanted, without any fear of the inlay process, but also because I decided to trust my capacity to find solutions to any problem.

    The other important point is: I had spent 15 days in Mexico in February, for bookbinding reasons, sharing time with wonderful people who taught me a lot about their history. Two months later I went to Guatemala, to the Francisco Marroquín University to teach bookbinding. There I had been in contact with their culture, almost completely with the history of Mesoamerica.

    My feeling coming back to Argentina was that I had to make a book, may be an art book, to convey all of my experiences and my feelings on these wonderful trips.

    Two months later, I got this binding commission from Heritage Book Shop and I could believe in such a great opportunity. Pablo Neruda, Canto General, first edition. [As Sol mentions again] The book considered by many to be the most important work of political poetry of the 20th century in Latin America.

    – – – – – – – – – – –

    The book is bound in full leather in the French-style of fine binding. The design is created using thirteen different colors creating the several levels of relief and low relief. The thirteen colors come from goatskin and buffalo leather supplied through Argentina, Mexico, England and France. The title is tooled in green on the spine. The doublures are French goatskin with a design of inlayed circles.

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    The front and back flyleaves are made from Argentinean suede. The book is housed in a matching custom clamshell box covered in orange goatskin leather with the title tooled in turquoise.

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    The design for Canto General is quite beautiful and energetic. The complexity of the design is displayed in the various recessed and raised layers. When you approach a design of this complexity, how detailed and thorough are your steps leading to the final bindings? Are you creating multiple drawings and models of the design?
    To make a design for any binging, I prepare sheets of paper, many are the size of the full cover. I make a fold to place the spine and to have clear sense of where the hinge falls. I start the drawing by composing the three planes (top, back and spine) separately and together simultaneously.

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    After several drawings, I put a selection of them on the studio wall. After mediating over the selection, I choose a final design. Then I scan the design and I start to make color tests in Photoshop.

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    So then I start to work over the book. To place each of these inlay pieces I need a map. This map is the replica of the design, on a translucent (60 gr.) paper. It will help me locate each piece and put it in its rightful place.

    I always use the same map, I do not combine it with another, with this method I can be quite sure the pieces will find the right place. The first pieces of leather on the covers needs to be compensated with paper to make it all level, so I get a flat surface again and start to place the next pieces.

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    The same applies to the spine, every element is thinner, as thin as paper, and that will be strengthened by the following layers of leather. The mosaics are superimposed as well as I keep working. To cut each piece of leather I use a mold-made on heavy paper, (240 gr. in this case). Out of that mold each piece of leather is like a puzzle. Once the entire top is covered, I make the head cup and fold over the turn-ins.


  9. Bookbinder of the Month: Sol Rébora

    November 23, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

    LesRencontres1-SolRebora

    This is my favorite binding to date from bookbinder Sol Rébora. A french text bound in full goatskin with onlays that create a striking, eye-catching design. The overlapping ellipses are creating by using a combination of goatskin and calf. Combining these two skins as onlays is a technique Sol has used in other bindings (like this one or this one). I quite love the look of the textured goat against the smooth calf.

    The binding was created for Les Rencontres de M. de Bréot, which is a novel written by French author Henri-François-Joseph de Regnier in 1904.

    Although it’s hard to choose a favorite, I think this binding might be the one. Did this design stem from a love of 20th century French design binding?
    It could be, I bound this book for an Argentinean bookseller. He participates every year in the Antiquarian book fair in Paris and I specially bound this book so that he could show my work at this fair in Paris. It is a French book and so there you have the result.

    LesRencontres2-SolRebora LesRencontres4-SolRebora


  10. Bookbinder of the Month: Sol Rébora

    November 9, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

    BaladaParaUnLoco1-SolRebora

    Sol Rébora bound this special one of a kind text by calligrapher Nancy Leavitt after a serendipitous meeting. The book is bound in the French-style of fine binding in full violet goatskin. The decoration is divided into six levels with onlays in purple and white goatskin.

    The text within this binding is a special edition by Nancy Leavitt. Do have a connection with Nancy, who is a calligrapher and book artist based in Northern Maine?
    I met Nancy in New York in 2006, at the 100th Anniversary Guild of Book Workers Conference. I love her work and I like her very much; she is really a beautiful person and a great artist. I proposed to her that we make a book together and she accepted; so we started to work on it. We looked for a topic which we both like to work with and [settled on the subject of] Tango. After some research we chose [the popular song] Balada para un loco [by poet Hector Ferrer].

    Sometime later she had finished the book, she sent it to me by mail, and I worked on the binding. Both of us worked totally free on our feelings.

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    Nancy found a way to make a translation, which is very difficult for Tango. With the text and the song, she found a base to create the book.

    Later I bound the book, working with the same process I use for every design binding, but with the plus that I had been part of the creating process of the text in some way. I sent the design to Nancy before I began, (even if she didn’t ask it) and she liked it very much, so I started to work on it.

    It was a wonderful experience.

    Did you find inspiration in the text or do you draw from another source?
    To explain my way to work on a design or to find inspiration I have quite a clear process of work.

    As a starting point in the design process, I engaged in the act of reading the text of the book to be bound or I inquire about the context and history of the edition. To continue as a general basis of the process, I found very necessary to observe carefully all the aspects of the book:

    – Typography: The design of the typeface, its predominant form, size and color.
    – Print Layout: Book cover, typographic case and blank surfaces around the text.
    – Paper: Color, texture and paper weight.
    – Illustrations: Techniques used for illustrations, predominant color, size and quantity thereof.
    – Size and shape of the book: I observe the size of the book, number of booklets [signatures], leaflets or free sheets, and finally the weight of the book.

    From the evaluation of these conditions, I can begin to work on the design of the binding:
    – Structure and construction process: What may be the most appropriate structure and format and sewing by weight.
    – Materials to use: wire, paper, paperboard, leather, fabric, or alternative materials such as acrylic, wood, metal, etc.
    – Textures: Choosing textures in every material used for union or for opposition to the qualities that brings the book.
    – Colors: Colors of the materials I decide to use.
    – Design: Drawings, designs, models, colors and material testing.

    I think the openness and the preservation are the most important points on the construction process of a contemporary design binding, together with “good techniques and aesthetic criteria”.

    These are technical conditions that a binding should have to preserve the criteria that the book brings from the edition, which is accompanied by an aesthetic thought of form and color text, based on the text, work which is responsible editors, designers and illustrators.

    The design and the aesthetics or the artistic expression of the binding should be integrated to create one piece with intellectual and sensory reading from the outside. Finally, I would say the construction techniques of the structure, along with the design of the cover and applied materials, play together to achieve this unit.