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Bookbinder of the Month: Mark Cockram

August 3, 2014 by Erin Fletcher


In 2009, Mark Cockram bound a two volume set of The Lives of Gallant Ladies. Bound in full leather with hand dyed elements, layers of gold leaf and tooled shapes creating brilliant texture and depth. Just like many of Mark’s bindings, you can read about the progression of the design on his blog here.

Below on the left shows the leather freshly pared with the first layer of dye carefully brushed on depicting a portion of a woman’s face. Later, after covering the binding more color is added to the skin.


After each square of gold leaf was carefully applied, the tooling was done in a free-style way offering for a more expressive design. Finally the gold was lightly rubbed away using a fine wire wool brush revealing the layer of dyed imagery.


The base layer of this binding is revealed through the series of in-progress photographs included on your blog. Much of the design of the base layer is hidden under the blocks of gold. Why do you lean towards heavy applications of gold on your bindings? How does the use of gold project your artistic concepts?
I enjoyed The Lives of Gallant Ladies. It is always nice to work on multiple volumes, more area to express and create a narrative. The images are built up with dyes then layered over with gold and cold tooled. I feel that working this way allows for great freedom in the mark making process. The gold is then re-worked to create layers that draw us into the binding.

Though the gold may look heavy in the images online, the reality is that they are very light. When viewed at certain angles the images become more or less defined, rather like looking through a silk drape. Gold like other metals we use in bookbinding is traditionally used with hot tools, glaire and so on. I wanted something that was less stiff and moved. Using gold in this way enabled me to create a soft, final layer to the finished work. I tend to look outside of bookbinding to see what other artists do with similar materials, adopting and adapting to suit my requirements.

TheLivesofGallantLadies2-MarkCockram TheLivesofGallantLadies3-MarkCockram

  1. Richard Bossons says:

    Hi Erin, just came across your very interesting blog. I was learning bookbinding with Mark when he was finishing these lovely volumes. I admired them so much I bought them! As Mark says you do need to see them to fully appreciate the miraculously transparent and layered effects Mark has achieved. Thank you for showing them.

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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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