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  1. Swell Things No. 53 // Black Women in Fiber Arts

    July 3, 2020 by Erin Fletcher

    1. Sarah Branch is a Brooklyn-based artist creating work inspired by artists who have pioneered black arts across all platforms. This embroidered portrait of Shirley Chisholm is powerful and amplifies her position as the first black women to be elected to the US Congress (she was elected for a total of 7 terms from 1969 – 1983). Chisholm also became the first woman and first black person to run for the Presidential Democratic nomination in 1972. You can learn more about this untold historical moment in Shola Lynch’s documentary Shirley Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed (watch on PBS).
    2. I love seeing the process behind Raven Kianna D.‘s delicately cross-stitched pieces on her instagram. The use of tiny stitches makes her work incredibly detailed and realistic. Just Like Life, Nothing Is Just Black And White is one of my favorite pieces. Raven often focuses the view on the subject’s eye or alters their portrait to obstruct their eyes.
    3. The punch needle work of @_dweba is gorgeous and captures the strength and beauty of women in Cape Town, South Africa.
    4. I’m not a knitter, but love to fantasize about knitting beautiful garments for myself. I love this cardigan from Bayron Handmade. Denise Bayron is the brains behind this amazing line of knit and sewing patterns. I appreciate that she includes videos about her pieces to speak about the construction and the best way to wear the garments. Maybe it’s time to pick up a new skill!
    5. For many, fiber art can be a therapeutic form of expression. This is how Adele Deloris Riley describes her work, especially turning the lockdown. Much of the fabric used in Adele’s work is reclaimed from vintage and secondhand shops. In a feature in The Sunday Times Home, she states, “During the uncertain times of the lockdown I found solace in my work. The laborious deconstruction and reconstruction of fabrics provided a therapeutic and joyous release.”

    6. Pretty Strange is run by Ciara LeRoy in Lexington, Kentucky. Her embroidered lettering is so gorgeous and precisely stitched. Ciara works through self care in her work as a practice-what-you-preach-kind-of-way (which I greatly appreciate). She is making work that is playful, inspiring and beautiful.
    7. Self care is very important right now and Lauren Singleton of Yes Stitch Yes is boosting my mood with her beautiful monochromatic and floral embroidered expressions. I particularly love this tribute to everyone’s favorite personal massager ;)
    8. The unique silhouettes of Niki Dionne‘s subjects are rendered in a wide range of media, including oil pastels, illustrations, rugs and knitted portraits. Even though her subjects are often crafted without faces, Niki builds so much expression into the body language, texture and color palette of her work.
    9. Charlotte Edey is an amazing artist working in print, textile and embroidery. The surrealist quality of her work stems from pulling together symbols and myths that explore an intersectionality between identity and spirituality in addition to experiences of women of color. Each tapestry begins as an illustration that is then translated into a Jacquard woven piece created in a limited edition. The softness of her work contrasts beautifully with the heaviness of her themes.
    10. Simone Elizabeth‘s tufted tapestries are part of a long history of using fiber art to highlight and investigate political, social and cultural moments. Simone’s tapestries are incredible. She transforms each portrait with bright color palettes and bold outlines. The subject in her pieces have the ability to confront the viewer, creating a moment of pause and reflection. Absolutely stunning work.

  2. Cut the Craft Interview

    June 30, 2020 by Erin Fletcher

    I was so delighted to be interviewed by Brien Beidler and Amy Umbel on their new podcast Cut the Craft. We had a really fun and in-depth conversation about making. I got the chance to talk about why making books is so important to my practice as an artist and why I love the bookbinding community.

    Check out my interview here or subscribe on your favorite podcast listening app.

  3. Announcing Online Workshops!

    June 29, 2020 by Erin Fletcher

    I am very excited to announce that Herringbone Bindery will be offering Online Workshops beginning in August.

    Teaching bookbinding is one of my favorite aspects of my job as a binder and I can’t wait to reconnect with students. Each of the following workshops are designed for students at all skill levels and require very few tools and virtually no equipment (minus a punching cradle). Each workshop includes a kit of quality materials that are prepped by me and will aid you in creating beautiful bindings.

    Secret Belgian Binding – Three Ways
    4 Sessions // August 4 – 13 (Tuesday and Thursday evenings)
    6:00 – 8:30pm (EST)

    This workshop will explore the Secret Belgian structure and ways to modify it. The binding is simple and easy to construct for any skill level. The binding opens flat and is perfect for thinner text blocks.

    During this workshop students will use techniques developed by Anne Goy to alter the traditional appearance of the structure through additional weaving and Tyvek.

    This workshop will be live instruction through Zoom. Open to students at any skill level, but please contact me if you have questions determining if this workshop is right for you.

    In order to receive material kits on time, please sign-up by July 24th. Register here.

    Cross Structure Binding
    4 Sessions // August 18 – 27 (Tuesday and Thursday evenings)
    6:00 – 8:30pm (EST)

    The Cross Structure binding is a non-adhesive binding that offers much freedom to the text block. This 20th century design is greatly inspired by the Long Stitch bindings of the medieval era. It is suitable in conservation or new bindings, such as travel journals or decorative bindings. The structure is uniquely constructed by interlocking the front and back cover at the spine.

    In this workshop, students will create 4 variations of the Cross Structure binding working with both handmade paper and leather to create their models.

    This workshop will be live instruction through Zoom. Open to students at any skill level, but please contact me if you have questions determining if this workshop is right for you.

    In order to receive material kits on time, please sign-up by August 7th. Register here

    Variations on Single Signature Bindings
    4 Sessions // September 8 – 17 (Tuesday and Thursday evenings)
    6:00 – 8:30pm (EST)

    Books come in all shapes and sizes. Some may span only a few pages, while others become a thick tome. In this workshop, we’ll explore the former as we create a multitude of models with both soft and hardcovers.

    Students will begin this workshop by making a series of simple softcover pamphlets using a variety of sewing patterns before moving on to hardcover structures. All of these structures allow the book to lay flat and are perfect for chapbooks, presentation pamphlets or short stories.

    This workshop will be live instruction through Zoom. Open to students at any skill level, but please contact me if you have questions determining if this workshop is right for you.

    In order to receive material kits on time, please sign-up by August 28th. Register here.

  4. Tutorial // Turkish Map Fold

    June 8, 2020 by Erin Fletcher

    In this video for North Bennet Street School, I show my co-host Colin Urbina how to fold a square sheet of paper using the Turkish Map Fold technique. Even though this video is geared towards kids, this technique is great for any age group. You can find more online content created for NBSS here.

    – 1 square piece of paper (any size)
    – Coloring and decorating supplies (markers, colored pencils, or crayons)

    Unfortunately, I don’t know the origins of this folding technique. But you can find examples of this fold being used in booklets with maps and many artists use this technique in their artist books. See examples below:

    Cartography I | Louisa Boyd

    American Breeding Standards | Ellen Knudson

  5. Maker Talk // Creating a Design Binding

    May 26, 2020 by Erin Fletcher

    I was invited by North Bennet Street School to speak about my binding in the exhibit Drop Dead Gorgeous: Fine Bindings of La Prose du Transsibérien Re-creation. It was a real joy to participate in this exhibit with so many other incredible binders, many of whom I seek out for design and technique inspiration.

    I chose to create a design that would highlight both of the original contributors: Blaise Cendrars and Sonia Delaunay-Terk. Since the text is a facsimile of the original 1913 artist book, I also wanted to give a nod to Kitty Maryatt who set about on an ambitious project of letterpress printing and traditional French pochoir.

    In my talk I discuss my general process for creating a design binding, while looking at the specific design and techniques used on La Prose. The design on the cover is pulled directly from Cendrars’ poem in a loose interpretation of 17th century star charts. Below is a slide pulled from my presentation showing how I used images of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow to design the border of my design.

    Slide from Presentation

    Check out the presentation to learn more about my embroidery technique and what other inspirational elements from the text found their way into the design.

  6. Tutorial // Make a Book from a Single Sheet of Paper

    May 3, 2020 by Erin Fletcher

    In this video for North Bennet Street School, I follow along as Colin Urbina shares how to fold a single sheet of paper into a folded book with 8 pages. Even though this video is geared towards kids, this technique is great for any age group. You can find more online content created for NBSS here.

    – One 8.5×11″ sheet of paper
    – Scissors
    – Pencil
    – Coloring and decorating supplies (markers, colored pencils, or crayons)

    This style of folding is rooted in traditional book layouts and printing, where a single printed sheet could be folded into eight equal sections and then cut at the head edge to create a gathering of 16 pages. This process is described with the Latin word octavo, which means “in eighth” or “for the eighth time”. The final pages of the book would represent one eighth of the original sheet of paper (or roughly the size of the original sheet if the pages were trimmed down after folding).

  7. My Hand // Happy Abstract

    April 29, 2020 by Erin Fletcher

    Being lost in a state of creativity and production is a splendid place to be as an artist. William Blake, the Romantic poet, painter and printmaker, referred to this as ‘happy abstract’. This concept was highlighted in a letter written by Blake to one of his patrons in 1801, where Blake expressed his apology for the delay and that something more interesting had come along.

    This letter became the content of the set book for the second OPEN • SET exhibition sponsored by the American Academy of Bookbinding. This triennial event features finely crafted design bindings from all over the world. Binders were invited to submit their work into either category: the Open Category allowed the binder to choose their own text block and the Set Category gave each binder the same text block.

    Happy Abstract was printed by the immensely talented Russell Maret. A printmaker whose work is coveted by many and hard to obtain by many bookbinders to bind. Maret split up the letter to a single line per page descending from the head to the tail. Since this layout left a large margin around the printed text, binders were invited to add decoration to the inside of the book as well. A very exciting prospect to design throughout the entirety of the book.

    For the design on both the pages and the binding for Happy Abstract, I wanted to create something that was inspired by the beauty of unintentional marks and shadows. The inspiration for the shadows came during visits to museums and art galleries, where I captured the shadows cast by various works of art. These complex shadows add to the aura and beauty of the work, but are also captivating on their own.

    I wanted to recreate these shadows on the pages of the book. To do this I cut stencils with black paper to act as masks during the sun-bleaching process. Some of the stencils were cut down further after a certain period of time to offer the gradation seen in the image above. I taped the pages to windows at my studio and my home for a length of about 3-4 weeks. My studio gets more direct sunlight and offered a richer ‘shadow’ from the sun-bleaching.

    The stencils were placed on only one side of the folio, the chosen side was mixed up throughout the text block. This gave a disjointed display of shadows and a spread could range from no shadows, one shadow, or two different shadows. You can see views inside the book by clicking here.

    The endsheet closest to the text block was cut to mimic one of the stencils used for sun-bleaching. The cut endsheets cast a shadow on to the first and last page of the text block, giving the reader a similar experience to what first inspired me.

    I came to find the inspiration for the binding from my middle school students. My colleague Colin Urbina and I teach a Book Arts Middle School program through the North Bennet Street School in Boston. We teach a variety of artist book structures in addition to having them create their own content. They use all manner of instruments to do this: watercolor, crayon, colored pencils, markers, ink, charcoal and pastels. Each bench is set up with a piece of binder’s board to protect the surface from their flurry of creativity. The consequence of this creates a collection of abstract and unintentional marks.

    I pulled various shapes and marks from these boards to create a new arrangement for the binding. These shapes were then translated as back-pared onlays using a mix of handmade paper and hand-dyed calfskin. To capture the spirit of the watercolor markings, I layered the dyes with a paint brush (seen on green, grey and blue onlays) to make it look mottled.

    The markings would be built up in three layers using the following techniques: onlays, embroidery and tooling. Some elements would stand alone, but I was really interested in how these techniques would interact with each other. The embroidery is done mostly in a random way, with varying lengths and thicknesses to the stitches. I also used back-stitch and French knot, two common stitches in my work.

    With the embroidery finished I moved forward with covering and the third layer of the design: tooling. I used a random selection of tools from my collection (including some handle letters) to build up the design further. Impressions were done over the onlays and right along side the embroidery. I used a variety of pigmented matte and metallic foils in similar tones to the onlay pieces. I love this small addition of color and shimmer that the tooled impressions brought to the overall design.

    I used a very special handmade paper for the fly leaf and paste down. Papermaker and activist Mary Hark made a trip to Ghana to aid in the building of a papermaking studio. With an abundance of kozo growing as an invasive species, the community was able to harvest this plant to benefit their environment and build their business. This Ghanian kozo handmade paper has thread inclusions collected from a nearby textile factory. The circumstances, color palette and use of thread felt like a perfect pairing to the text and design of the binding.

    To see the entire catalog of bindings in the OPEN • SET exhibit click here. Even though the exhibit will be traveling across the country, it may be challenging to see it in person for a while. The Grolier Club in New York City, which served as the opening venue, posted images from the exhibit here.

  8. International Edible Book Day!

    April 1, 2020 by Erin Fletcher

    International Edible Book Day is celebrated on April 1st. April Fools may seem like the perfect day to create literary inspired desserts and dishes, but in fact Edible Book Day celebrates the birthday of French gastronome Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755 – 1826). Famous for his book Physiologie du goût, Brillat-Savarin and his colleague Grimod de La Reynière are known as the creators of the gastronomic essay genre.

    This unusual holiday was the brainchild of book artists Judith A. Hoffberg and Béatrice Coron, who cooked up this idea in 1999 during Thanksgiving. Edible Book day was first celebrated in 2000. This yearly event takes place around the world and invites bibliophiles, book artists, binders and food lovers to combine literature with food in creative and humorous ways.

    In this video for North Bennet Street School, Colin Urbina and I offer two options for creating an edible book inspired by bookbinding techniques. Using tortillas for pages and jelly and peanut butter for glue, Colin recreates an edible version of a Drum-leaf binding.

    I was greatly inspired by Tiffany Eng’s post on the West Dean Arts & Conservation blog. I’ve been wanting to make her version of a Japanese Stab binding for a long time. Unfortunately, my twizzler thread was not long enough to create the proper sewing. My edible book has leaves of lettuce, ham and salami with swiss cheese endpapers and mayonnaise doublures. The Cambridge panel tooling was done with yellow mustard. Our books were bound, documented and then consumed.

    Even though this video is geared towards kids, this technique is great for any age group. You can find more online content created for NBSS here.

    Happy International Edible Book Day!

  9. Swell Things No. 52

    March 31, 2020 by Erin Fletcher

    1. The work of Rose Nestler can be both playful and intrusive. Using traditional sculptural and sewing techniques, Nestler manipulates fabric into these large-scale objects that speak to our ideals on clothing and how they perpetuate patriarchal standards and norms around gender and sexuality. Her pieces stand alone or become interactive elements in performance.
    2. I recently stumbled upon the beading and embroidery work of Polina ( I really love her style, it’s painterly and a little chaotic in the most gorgeous way. Been seeking out new embroidery inspirations during this time to keep my spirits and interests afloat. Looking forward to her next post!
    3. In addition to seeking out inspirational embroiderers, I’ve also been hunting down new ceramic artists. I’m charmed and delighted by Jensen of After Hours Pottery! I want to fill all of my cupboards with her dazzling pottery. The glazes and colors are bright and bubbly and so happy to see them pop up in my feed.
    4. Many film festivals have been making their films available online. Yesterday, I binged a few from the D.C. Environmental Film Festival. I finally got to see footage of what a walrus looks like underwater (a long time curiousity of mine) in addition to experiencing the thunderous cracks from icebergs shifting and breaking in the water. This was all documented in the film Under Thin Ice. I also enjoyed learning more about the Colorado River and how it was disrupted by the building of the Glen Canyon Dam in Glen Canyon Rediscovered. Finally, I got a short history lesson about the vast diversity of snails in Hawaii and how their populations are dwindling or becoming extinct due to the Rosy Wolf snail in Death of a Species.
    5. Another ceramic artist, whose work I’ve recently discovered is Sam Thompson, whose geometric designs are playful and full of whimsy. Thompson also creates these delightfully colorful paintings that seem to inspire the ceramic work or perhaps vice versa.

  10. Upcoming Workshops // February – April

    February 10, 2020 by Erin Fletcher

    Secret Belgian Binding
    February 15 (Saturday)
    JP Knit and Stitch
    Jamaica Plain, MA

    This workshop will explore the Secret Belgian structure. Students will also be introduced to ways of modifying this structure. This binding style is simple and easy to construct; it opens flat and is perfect for thinner text blocks.

    3-Part Bradel
    March 9 – 12 (Monday – Thursday)
    North Bennet Street School
    Boston, MA

    This workshop is sold out. The 3-Part Bradel binding offers a unique aesthetic over a traditional case binding. As the name suggests, the binding is assembled in three parts, which encourages the binder to use different materials to cover the spine and covers. For this workshop, students will use leather to cover the spine and a cloth or paper of their choice for the covers. Students will be guided as they pare their own leather. Experience with leather is not necessary, but encouraged.

    Students will also be using a variety of bindery equipment such as a sewing frame, job backer, plow and Kwikprint to complete their structure. We will also cover how to create a painted edge and stamp a custom label.

    Japanese Binding – Cancelled
    March 26 (Thursday)
    Minni – Minni Design + Wine
    Boston, MA

    Grown-ups of all ages, artistic abilities and inclinations are welcomed to Minni Design + Wine – Japanese Bookbinding, a workshop covering the basics of binding with a traditional Japanese technique. Local artist + fine binder Erin Fletcher will offer instruction as participants construct a common Japanese binding model, traditionally referred to as yotsume toji or 4-hole binding. Participants will craft their books with a selection of high quality materials, including colorful linen thread and cotton paper.

    Book Cover Art – Cancelled
    March 29 (Sunday)
    Minni – Minni PaperShop – For Ages 4 – 10
    Boston, MA

    In our newest workshop little book lovers and artists alike will delight in the fluid and free-form process of making paste papers, often used as decorative book covers. Local fine binder Erin Fletcher will show participants how to use a simple paste mixture and tools to create dimensional designs and patterns on high quality paper. Completed papers can be proudly displayed as original works of art or later repurposed into book covers, collages and unique inventions.

    Shrigley Binding – Cancelled
    April 4 – 5 (Saturday – Sunday)
    Maine Media Workshops + College
    Rockport, ME

    The Shrigley is an innovative way to house loose ephemera, postcards, photographs, prints and more. The pages are folded into frames, allowing you to easily add or remove pieces from the book. In this workshop, students will learn the folding techniques to create the frames with various corner styles. Once the pages are assembled and sewn, students will finish their project by making a hardcover case with a ribbon tie.

    Fundamentals of Bookbinding II – Cancelled
    April 13 – 17 (Monday – Friday)
    North Bennet Street School
    Boston, MA

    This course will focus on hardcover structures. Students will continue with rounded back case bindings and end the course with on-set board binding. Throughout the course students will fine-tune their skills through repetition and develop a focus to details such as, endpapers structures and headband variations. Topics of discussion will include an overview of bindery equipment such as stamping on the Kwikprint and trimming with the plough.

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    My name is Erin Fletcher, owner and bookbinder of Herringbone Bindery in Boston. Flash of the Hand is a space where I share my process and inspirations.
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