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  1. North Bennet Street School // The Set Book Interviews – Class of 2020 & 2021

    June 30, 2021 by Erin Fletcher

    Every year I look forward to presenting the set book interviews from the graduating class at North Bennet Street School’s Bookbinding Department. However, like many events and plans for 2020, this too had to be put on hold for a later date. Over the past month and a half, I’ve had the opportunity to meet both virtually and in-person with the recent graduates. In the past, I typically got to speak with them about their work and discuss the progress of the binding in real time. Since I didn’t get the same experience this past year, I was thoroughly wowed and surprised by all of the work the graduates were able to produce over a period of uncertainty.

    The set book for this group of graduates was Primo Levi’s The Periodic Table. This memoir of 21 short stories reflects on the author’s experiences as a Jewish-Italian chemist before, during and after being held captive at the Auschwitz concentration camp. With his background as a chemist, the stories are interwoven with connections to an element from the periodic table which is first introduced with the title of the chapter. As the contemplated their designs, this thread connected with some of the binders, while others chose to focus on a single portion of the book.

    During the interviews, I spoke with each of the binders about their design process and how they chose to execute their vision. After missing the chance to engage with them on a weekly basis, it was wonderful to sit down and see their personalities shine through their work and the way they spoke about the process. I wish them all the best of luck in their various endeavors post graduation.

    Shelley Esplin – BB ’20

    One thing that I know about Shelley is that she has a love for the outdoors and is a spirited adventurer. So it was no surprise to me that she latched onto the way Levi intertwined themes of nature into his short stories. Engaged with this theme of connectivity between human and nature both on the micro and macro level, Shelley began to develop her design. She walked me through her design process and shared with me a range of ideas before settling on this typographic-style map. I find that the design is directly representing a landscape, but also gives me vibes of a fingerprint.

    The monotone palette of Shelley’s binding intentionally highlights both the chemical process and earth tones. What is not evident in the images here, is the incredible texture she was able to add to the leather. As Shelley explained the process for creating her design it reminded me why I love conducting these interviews. I find that these students have a certain level of fearlessness that drives an ambition to create something completely new.

    After dyeing a piece of fair goatskin with bright yellow Roda dye, Shelley took a special debossing plate to create this imaginative typographic map. The plate was layered with pieces of sandpaper in 5 different grits with the coarsest grit creating the deepest part of the map. Each piece was laser cut and etched with a corresponding number by Sarah Pike from FreeFall Laser. Sarah was using a Illustrator file created by Shelley to map out the pieces. Once reassembled onto an acrylic board, the damp leather protected by a layer of saran-wrap was pressed in a standing press for about an hour.

    Some of the definition in the leather was lost after the binding was covered. However after doing several tests beforehand, Shelley discovered the benefit of back paring the low points to maintain some of that definition after covering. The edges were further accentuated with a bit dye brushed around the perimeter. The title and author snake around curves in the design and are tooled in Gill Sans in blind. The edge-to-edge terracotta goatskin doublures are embroidered in a gradation of yellow to brown in a design that mirrors the front cover. The doublures are opposite a suede fly leaf in apricot. The endbands play with the same palette as the embroidery on the doublures and sit over an Armenian boule edge. Shelley used her thumbprint to create texture on the edge decoration, which relates nicely to the cover design.

    Shelley’s familiarity with laser cutting ultimately led her down this route and I love to see how binders creatively incorporate other disciplines and experiences into their work. I found so much inspiration in Shelley’s technique for creating her binding and I hope she continues blending her design background with bookbinding. I am particularly excited to see how binders engage with new technologies like laser cutting to bring something fresh to design bindings.

    You can follow Shelley on Instagram @bs_collective.

    Lindsay Gibbons – BB ’20

    Lindsay was compelled by the progression of the story as told through inert, stable elements slowly building to the more explosive elements from the periodic table. Before landing on this concept for her design, Lindsay expressed her initial lack of interest in the text, which is a potential hurdle that we discussed during the interview. Sometime it can be difficult to draw inspiration, but Lindsay knew she wanted to create something that felt organic and contemporary. Finding inspiration from an illustration in the book, she chose a warm palette of yellow, orange and red.

    When the binding is fully opened you can clearly see Lindsay’s concept illustrated from left to right. Starting at the back cover the fuse is a pair of back-pared onlays in hand-dyed grey and black goatskin. The fuse wraps around the spine and ends right at the front cover so that it is only visible when the binding is open. The fuse also runs through the author’s name which is tooled in matte red foil. The explosion is represented with hand-dyed orange and red goatskin back-pared onlays.

    Lindsay chose to hand-dye the leather for the onlays in order to control the hue of each element, in addition to creating a mottled effect for the red and orange. This texture gives the onlays that organic feel Lindsay was hoping to capture. The title is tooled in the lower right hand corner in the same matte red foil.

    The edges of the text block are decorated with buckthorn which offers a pale yellow hue and perfectly matches the yellow variegated thread used to create the hand sewn endbands. The paste down and flyleaf bring the vibrant palette to the inside with orange Colorplan paper.

    Much of Lindsay’s design was familiar to me, since we had the chance to discuss her design before the students were disrupted by the pandemic. Some aspects of the design were removed or rearranged during that span of time, but it was amazing to see her small sketch realized into this impressive and colorful binding. Towards the end of our conversation, we spoke a lot about fine bindings and creating work of this nature for exhibits and clients. I can’t to see what Lindsay decides to bind next.

    Follow Lindsay on Instagram @lcgarts to find out what she’ll be doing next.

    Samantha Griglack – BB ’20

    After listening through the audiobook in between a busy schedule of school and work, Sam decided that her design would create a feeling for the story as a whole. Working with a limited color palette, Sam uses navy blue and silver to highlight Levi’s Jewish faith. Meanwhile the mica pulls double duty within the design, speaking to the predominant themes of nature and chemistry presented in the short stories.

    The medium blue goatskin is adorned with panels of “eggshell” mica that span each cover in a symmetrical pattern. Using the eggshell technique, Sam replaced the traditional material with sheets of mica. Working on a large sheet of paper, Sam layered on a wash of black gesso over the cracked mica before sanding. This process was continued until the right effect was achieved. The panels were sealed with wax and then cut to size before being inlaid into the covers.

    Palladium is tooled as a single border around each panel and used for the author’s name in the lower right hand corner of the front cover. The palladium offers the same shimmer as the mica and is a perfect pairing to the inlays.

    The head edge is sprinkled with palladium leaf over a graphite ground. This marries perfectly with the mica panels. The endbands are sewn in a matching blue floss with metallic fibers. The marbled paste down and flyleaves come from Pamela Smith. The over-marbled paper has a texture that mimics both the mica panels and the sprinkled edge.

    While creating a fine binding may not have been Sam’s cup of tea, her use of mica in place of eggshell is quite innovative and like nothing I’ve seen before. The organic quality of the mica panels offer a blend of light and dark, a duality threaded throughout the book. While talking with Sam, she declared a real interest in marbling which she realized during a workshop with Chena River Marblers. I can’t wait to see where she takes this excitement for marbling.

    After graduation, Sam plans to build up her bindery business that sells ready-made journals, marbled earrings and other items. Follow her on Instagram @caviidaemara and check out her website: Wildwood Bindery.

    Mitch Gundrum – BB ’21

    Mitch latched onto the overarching theme of duality within The Periodic Table. Levi weaves a thread of contrast throughout with presentations of chemistry and alchemy (or the idea of turning something worthless into something precious). Running with this idea, Mitch created a spectacular binding, illuminated by gold and palladium.

    The book is covered in a gray goatskin and blind tooled with a cubic design reminiscent of minerals and crystal formations. The title was also blind tooled into the lower right hand corner before any other design elements were added. Small flecks of gold and palladium were sprinkled on their respective halves before Mitch added a layer of surface gilding. The blind tooling created a crisp edge for the leaf and offered a greater depth to the design. All areas were tooled again, which allowed the leaf to settle in and create a more defined texture to the cover.

    The division of the design continues onto the edge of the text block with gilt and sprinkled layers of leaf over a ground of graphite. The cracked effect from the gilding creates a lovely organic texture to the work. The endbands blend into their corresponding edge by being sewn with gold and silver grey threads.

    Upon opening the binding to explore the paste down, I was pleasantly surprised by the detail added to the leather hinge. Here too, Mitch has continued the design from the cover by adding layers of leaf through sprinkling and surface gilding. It’s a unique touch and not an area of the binding that is greatly utilized. The marbled paste papers perfectly match the aesthetic of the binding with threads of gold and silver running through areas of grey, black and white.

     

    I was so excited when Mitch pulled out his binding to show me. His ambition to really play with techniques matched my own experience as a student with my set book of The Songlines. He really worked outside his comfort zone and took advantage of his time at North Bennet to explore a range of techniques on his binding.

    You can follow Mitch on Instagram @a.swing.and.a.mitch and catch more of his work at Boundless. Following graduation Mitch left for D.C. to start a 3-year Conservation Technician position at the National Archives where he will be working on treatments of Civil War Era pension files slated for digitization.

    Jane Knoll – BB ’21

    After playing with many iterations of more illustrative designs that put the focus on a single chapter from the book, Jane took a step back and decided to consider the book as a whole. The act of writing a memoir pushes one to create order among the scattered tales of their life. A good memoir threads together individual tales in order to create a greater story. This process is what inspired Jane’s design. Although the process of executing the design is quite formulaic, the covers express two very different concepts.

    The binding is covered in a black goatskin with an overlapping grid pattern tooled in blind. The overlapping lines create an incredible texture giving this binding an even greater appeal. Each tooled onlay was meticulously cut from strips of crimson, yellow, blue and green goatskin. Row by row, the back cover is neatly arranged with alternating squares of yellow and crimson followed by squares of blue and green.

    The front cover is more chaotic in the placement of the colored squares. In the process of writing a memoir the author can package their life stories in a neater and more organized fashion. Yet life is rarely carried out this way and Jane wanted to express this in her design. So Jane used a number randomizer to create the layout for the design and stayed true to the pattern until she ran out of the crimson goatskin. However, the remaining portion without crimson pieces was also randomized in order to maintain that theme of chaos. The title is gilt with gold leaf in Gill Sans and spans across the spine near the head edge.

    With such a bright exterior the remaining areas are left more subdued with no edge decoration and a simple endband of black with a band of red around a rectangular core. The paste downs and flyleaves are marbled papers from Dodin’s Marbling and were selected by Jane to highlight the palette on the cover.

    It was great to see Jane’s process for experimenting with different designs and materials. Many of her designs were explored through Photoshop, which is how she prefers to work since ideas can be manipulated quickly. The binding is superb, but I would expect nothing less from Jane. Her passion for bookbinding is apparent every time I visited North Bennet, as she always had some new treasure or discovery to share.

    You can follow Jane on Instagram @mrkgnaopress and see more of her work on Mrkgnao Press. This fall, Jane will be sticking around Boston as the next Von Clemm Fellow at the Boston Athenaeum.

    Mike Miura – BB ’20

    My interview with Mike was not in person as he moved back to Colorado at the start of lock down last year. He finished the remaining months of his second year remotely, but I do recall a few conversations we had regarding his design prior to this disruption. So it was a delight to finally see his binding come through my inbox. Reading through the text, Mike felt a strong desire to create a design that would play with the elements highlighted in each chapter set over that familiar layout that makes up the periodic table.

     

    A second idea began to emerge, as Mike also jotted down the various molecules that were incorporated throughout several different chapters in the book. Upon reflection, the combination of the two designs became more than the sum of their parts. It’s no wonder with Mike’s background in science and biology for more than 12 years, that he would gravitate towards structuring his design in this way.

    The binding is covered in blackberry goatskin with the periodic table blind tooled across both covers. The gold tooling shines bright against the dark purple leather and forms molecular structures that span across the binding in a triangular pattern as a means to break out of the confinements of the grid. While most of these structures are pulled from the book, Mike incorporated a few extras, such as TNT and ammonium nitrate. A nod to the explosive quality of chemistry and some elements within the periodic table.

    When a book has themes on chemistry, I can think of no better paper to use than marbled paper. Many of the designs are explosive with color and have an organic quality to them. So it’s no surprise that almost all of the binders chose to use it in their bindings. To counter the dark exterior of the blackberry, Mike picked a marbled paper from Claire Guillot that includes hints of dark purple between the bright shades of gold, pink and white. The use of a dark leather and bright marbled paper felt like the perfect way to showcase the darker themes in the book, while also highlighting the brightness that courses throughout. The head edge is decorated with graphite with a leather wrapped endbands in blackberry goatskin.

    The calculated choices for these materials create a balance and give an overall feeling for the work inside. The design on the cover creates a spin on the layout of the periodic table and the inclusion of more explosive formulas plays to Mike’s humor. There is nothing to hide behind with his design and his execution of the blind and gold tooling is very clean and precise.

    You can follow Mike on Instagram @mike.miura and check out more of his work at Catspaw Books. Mike plans to create his own bindery where he can continue to crafts fine bindings in addition to other binding work based on commission.

    Lisa Muccigrosso – BB ’20

    The class of 2020 had a 6-month break due to COVID between the start and finish of this project. This pause gave Lisa the opportunity to rethink and rework her design. Taking inspiration from the chapter on Zinc, Lisa wanted her design to express the catalyst that can cause behavioral changes in both people and cultures by illustrating a chemical reaction. At the time Lisa was enrolled in the course Chemistry for Conservators where she was able to witness the chemical transformation of zinc to copper.

    Before the final transformation to copper, the bar of zinc will run through a gradient of blue, which led Lisa to bind her book in a teal goatskin. A color she was more than happy to use. The design has a subtle interactive element: the head edge is decorated with palladium over a ground of graphite to represent the bar of zinc. So for the design to read correctly, the binding must be flipped onto its head, so that the bubbles are emerging from the head edge of the boards (or the bar of zinc). It’s a lovely and unexpected detail.

    The bubbles begin at the edge of the board before flowing onto the covers and are tooled in palladium with a set of tiny dots and circle tools. It is not unheard of that a binder may react to their design as they are working and sway from their original intent. Using a tooling stencil, Lisa made slight changes here and there by adding or omitting bubbles. An organic process that also led to scraping away the grain of the leather to reveal the lighter suede underneath. This subtle change in color gives the design movement and texture.

    The paste down and flyleaves were hand marbled by Lisa during a workshop with Chena River Marblers and are reminiscent of a chemical reaction on a macro scale. The paper includes veins of teal and copper running through areas of black and white. The endbands are sewn in alternating bands of light grey and dark grey.

    A simple design does not mean the execution was simple. In working with a pared down design, Lisa was able to put her focus on making sure each bubble was tooled to perfection and that the leather was pared evenly smooth. With no where to hide, the work has to be flawless and I think she was able to achieve that in her binding.

    You can find more of Lisa’s work on her website. She is the current Von Clemm Fellow at the Boston Athenaeum and will continue in that position through the end of the year.

    – – –

    Thanks to the 2020 & 2021 graduating class and Jeff Altepeter, Head of Bookbinding Department. It was such a joy to get to know you all a little bit more through your work. I wish you all the best of luck in your pursuits post-graduation and how you build on your education and interests.

    If you want more interviews from past classes check out the list here.


  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. North Bennet Street School // Student & Alumni Exhibit 2019 – The Set Book

    May 9, 2019 by Erin Fletcher

    I am thrilled once again to be writing up this post after interviewing the graduating class from the North Bennet Street School’s Bookbinding Department. To catch up those who are new to the blog, every year I interview the second year students about their design bindings which go on display in the annual Student & Alumni Exhibit. And it’s my favorite time of year, I love sitting down one-on-one with each of the students to chat about their experience crafting a design binding and how their individual backgrounds tie into their work. That latter half was ever more present with this year’s set book: Rewarding Work: A History of Boston’s North Bennet Street School by Christine Compston, Stephen Senge and Walter McDonald.

    In this comprehensive examination of the School’s history, Rewarding Work, outlines the school’s impact within the local community and how it has evolved over the years to expand that community without compromising its initial mission “to bring about meaningful lives and livelihoods for its students, who come from across the country and around the world.” You can read a more about Rewarding Work at the school’s shop page, where you can purchase a copy for yourself.

    During the interviews, I discussed with each binder how their personal history with the school may have impacted their design choices. Every binding felt perfectly unique to the student who created it, which speaks volumes to their ability to reflect upon their two years and explore it in a visually creative way. If you happen to be in the Boston area, please check out the Student & Alumni Exhibit, which will be on display at the North Bennet Street School from May 1st through June 29th. The exhibit is free and open to the public, you can find out more information on the website.

    Séphora Bergiste

    The North Bennet Street Industrial School (the original name of the school) was established as an institution to better the lives of newly arrived immigrants through training programs to develop hand skills. Séphora Bergiste really latched onto this part of the school’s history. Séphora is also an immigrant having grown up in Haiti before moving to Rhode Island at age nine. Already her design decisions felt very personal, even before she talks about her art practice outside of bookbinding and its connection to dealing with and measuring time. The design mimics the face of a clock with the numbers replaced by symbols that represent the eight departments at NBSS.

    Séphora chose a color palette which represents the school’s unofficial colors: navy blue and golden yellow. The binding is covered in a beautifully hand-dyed goatskin. Séphora applied the spirit dyes using a wet on wet method in two ways: diluting the dye with an initial layer of alcohol and by continually saturating the same areas with dye. This application of dye created a dynamic and textured effect on the leather.

    The symbols are created through either tooling or surface gilding using florentine gold leaf. Séphora represents the Bookbinding department twice through the backing hammer on the back cover and the threaded needle on the spine. Below are the symbols for the Jewelry, Violin and Locksmithing Departments. The title fits within the needle/clock hand on the spine; Séphora used Gill Sans handle letters tooled in florentine gold leaf for the title.

    Séphora used a handmade Japanese paper that she purchased during a trip to Japan for the paste down and flyleaves. The paper has a subtle striped pattern in olive green and gold. She used the same dyed leather for the hinges, so there is a lovely pop of color between the two paper pieces. The elaborately hand-sewn French double core endbands include alternating bands of green, yellow, light blue and white threads.

    I love that Séphora chose to dye her own skin; that she took a chance to make her binding unique. The mottled effect she was able to achieve creates a beautiful contrast to the precision of the gold tooling. And I love that it is subtle, only in a well lit room can you see the true brilliance of the leather dyeing. I interviewed Séphora in a dimly lit room and it wasn’t until I photographed the binding could I truly see the variation in color. It was a lovely surprise.

    You can follow Séphora on Instagram: @somedays.bindery or check out more of her work at her website. Séphora will continue in her position working on an extensive housing project at the W. Van Alan Clark, Jr. Library at the School for Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University after graduation.

    Rachel Campbell

    Reading through Rewarding Work, its apparent that the accord between NBSS and the North End neighborhood allowed both to flourish. Inspired by this idea and the surrounding architecture, Rachel Campbell gleaned elements from the neighborhood to build her design. Brick and concrete are common building materials throughout the neighborhood. The brick, in particular, felt so unique to Rachel as it presents itself more than in the architecture from her home state of Oregon. Her regular visits to St. Leonard’s Church also began to inspire aspects of her design, specifically the columns and stained glass windows. This draw to building structures and decor comes from a background in interior design.

    Rachel knew that she wanted to use a frame for the basic layout of the design. After sharing several iterations with me, I saw how she worked through her design and pared it down to it’s final stage. The shape of the columns changed from a classic Corinthian style, the detailed window design was reduced to simple line work and the overall design was reworked to be symmetrically balanced from fore edge to fore edge.

    The binding is covered in a grass green goatskin with over a 100 onlays used for the bricks and columns. The bricks are carbon tooled onlays in three shades of red goatskin: terracotta, crimson and maroon. Rachel carefully planned the arrangement of bricks to feel naturally random. The columns are also carbon tooled onlays; the grey goatskin is subtly marbled with black ink to resemble concrete. The windows are tooled in dukaten leaf. The title is laid out beautifully down the spine with hand tools to mimic an Art Deco typeface.

    A hand marbled paper made by Rachel is used for the paste down and flyleaf and has a color palette that perfectly pairs with the design on the cover. The marbling is irregular, but controlled within a linear frame which works well with the brick layout. Rachel also cleverly wrapped the bricks around the fore edge and over the marbled paper paste down. This is such a unique treatment and something I haven’t seen before. The text block edges are sprinkled with a brick red acrylic. The endbands are hand sewn around a single core in alternating bands of bright red and brick red.

    It is evident that Rachel put in so much thought and consideration into the design and execution of her binding. It’s clear to me that she worked very methodically and with precision as she laid in each of the onlays. Her carbon and gold tooling is so clean and so exact.

    In the recent NBSS exhibit, Bound Together, Rachel was awarded 2nd place for her binding of Emma by Jane Austen. She is incredibly talented and I can’t wait to see what binding she makes next. You can find more of Rachel’s work at her website here.

    Yi Bin Liang

    During the 2006 graduation ceremony, speaker Barry Moser, is quoted saying the following:

    The most important advice I can give you all–and forgive me if this seems glib–is to work. Work. Work. Work. Everyday. At the same time every day, for as long as you can take it. Work. Work. Work.

    You can’t depend on talent. Talent is as common as house dust…So remember that nothing is as valuable to solid craftsmanship as is the habit of work, and work has to become a habit. Has to become something that you cannot NOT do. It has to become bone within you.

    This quote really resonated with Yi Bin Liang as a self-proclaimed workaholic, who set out to create an ambitious design binding for her copy of the set book. Featured on the front cover is the school’s logo: a lantern. However, in Yi Bin’s design it is re-imagined as a lighthouse. The school’s strong focus in traditional crafts and hand skills became a guiding light to Yi Bin after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design. Like many of her fellow classmates, Yi Bin incorporated her own experience into her design, highlighting her transition from art school to trade school.

    Yi Bin used various shades of blue goatskin onlays for the waves and alum-tawed goatskin for the crests. The lantern is constructed with turquoise and black goatskin onlays. All of the onlays are tooled with a combination of moon gold and double gold. Behind the lantern is a sunburst of gold, all set to a backdrop of medium grey goatskin. The title is hand tooled down the spine in Gill Sans.

    As we discussed her process and design, she revealed that she worked almost spontaneously on the book. Although she worked initially from a planned design, some elements were added later on to build up the design providing depth and balance

    The light blue goatskin leather Yi Bin chose to use on her binding is notoriously known to fade over time. And since Yi Bin is quite resourceful, she collected various scraps from the communal bin which gave her a range of light blue tones. In choosing her materials discreetly, some piece came with tears, which Yi Bin decided to keep as an element of her design.

    The edge decoration beautifully mimics the handmade paper used for the paste down and flyleaf. To recreate this look, Yi Bin brushed on a dark blue goauche before laying on squares of leaf and then sprinkling small pieces of leaf. The endbands are hand-sewn in alternating bands of teal, blue and silver. I really enjoy Yi Bin’s design, it’s bright and boisterous. It really carries several emotions throughout the design, which I think, perfectly reflects anyone’s experience at NBSS.

    You can find more of Yi Bin’s work at her website or follow her on Instagram: @liang.yi.bin

    Greta Llanes

    Part of the history laid out in Rewarding Work is a timeline of the various programs offered at the school. Discussing trends and the politics on what the school should be teaching, highlighting the decisions to drop some programs and introduce others. In Greta Llanes design, she sought to capture the cultural influence of North Bennet Street School to the North End neighborhood and her own experience at the school over the past two years. These two main factors are represented as a core of energy centrally located on the spine of the binding. The veins of the marbling flow out from this point like a burst of energy.

    I really enjoyed my discussion with Greta, it became quite apparent that her design was driven from a thoughtful examination of her time at North Bennet and the surrounding community. Although her design may read as simplistic, Greta experimented greatly to achieve such a seamless design. The main component of her design is the marbling, which resembles 17th century Spanish-style marbling. Greta used acrylic pigments to marble on a blackberry goatskin.

    The color purple was very important for Greta’s design. It was her way of connecting with the color’s interesting history of discovery; that revelations can be discovered through mistakes and error. In many ways the binding embodies Greta and her experiences both leading up to and during her time at NBSS. To fully connect her design on the binding, she added gold leaf through surface gilding and by painting on shell gold to bridge the veins of the marbling to the central core on the spine. The title is tooled in moon gold down the spine using Edinburgh typeface.

    Greta created a “marbled” effect for her edge decoration. After applying a layer of graphite, she put down different varieties of gold leaf and wrinkled them to create a vein-like effect. She continued to build up the edge in this way; the added graphite toned down the gold in the previous layer creating depth and levels of vibrancy. All edge are tooled with a single line in dukaten gold leaf. The hand-sewn French double core endbands have alternating bands of blue, light blue and two shades of grey. The marbled paste down and flyleaf are from Chena River Marblers. A really nice detail, are the marbled leather hinges which match the marbling on the cover. This creates a continuous flow from the paste down to the flyleaf.

    I really love Greta’s binding. The colors are sumptuous, the design is elegant. After speaking with Greta and being able to connect the design with her personal history makes it even more electrifying. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

    In June, Greta will be at Harvard’s Francis L. Loeb Library for a 1-month internship before teaching week-long classes on decorative paper techniques at a summer camp for kids of all ages. She’ll be rounding out the summer with the Lisa Von Clemm fellowship at the Boston Athenaeum for the following 6-months. Check out more of Greta’s work on her website here.

    Liz McHugh

    As America’s first trade school, North Bennet Street Industrial School focused on training programs for immigrants in the North End neighborhood in the late 19th century. This connection to the North End resonated with Liz McHugh as she began to plan out her design. Being the oldest neighborhood in Boston, the North End has a unique old-world architectural feel. Liz walked around the windy, narrow streets capturing photographs of various buildings that caught her eye, which she then compiled into an imaginary landscape with the help of Illustrator.

    Liz used a selection of goatskin onlays to highlight each individual building ranging from royal blue, grass green, blackberry, terracotta, maroon and turquoise. Each onlay is tooled with moon gold using a range of hand tools. It is undeniable that the most captivating structure is her depiction of the Old North Church. Easily recognizable to anyone familiar with the North End. Yet even if you can’t place it, your eyes are immediately pulled to its unique silhouette and bold color. The Old North Church is located near NBSS’s original location and has continued to serve as the venue for the school’s annual graduation ceremony.

    Liz also added subtle details through the use of blind tooling, choosing more traditional finishing tools to represent the finer architectural details without adding too much decadence. I love this element of her design. It elevates her design, creating more depth and interest. The maroon goatskin title piece is treated in the same manner as the buildings with a frame of gold and blind tooling. The edges are splattered in blue, purple and gold acrylic paint, which is paired with French double-core endbands in alternating bands of blue, purple and a pinkish red.

    As I opened the book, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the brightly patterned marbled paper which is used for the paste down and flyleaf. Marbled by Liz, the paper pulls colors from the cover making it an easy transition as you move from outside to inside. I also love the energy of the paper, I think it resonates with the spirit of the school and its continued success building a vibrant community.

    The color palette and playful perspective of the buildings really speaks to the intensity of the neighborhood. Liz manages to balance the colors of the landscape, while creating a central focus. She knew where to add subtle details and when to retract. I think her binding has a lovely illustrative feel and really encapsulates the feel and look of the North End.

    Liz plans to move back to her hometown of Philadelphia to start her career in field of bookbinding. You can follow her next move on Instagram: @exmchugh

    Jennifer Pellecchia

    The colorful design binding that Jennifer Pellecchia is holding was not her original design, far from it. Taking her initial inspiration from a section in the book on lap joints, Jennifer’s plan was to mimic a dovetail joint with a grey chagreen goatskin laid over a hand-dyed skin which was decorated to resemble the floor around her bench. However, the chagreen skin proved to be too difficult to work with in the paring machine. Hitting an impasse, Jennifer had to decide whether she would push forward or scrap her entire idea. She decided on the latter and I think she ended up with a spectacular binding that showcases both her skills and personality.

    Honoring the her time at NBSS, Jennifer chose to incorporate a variety of techniques she learned during her second year. This includes her unique application of leather dye, which is a technique she learned from guest instructor Nicky Oliver. The fair goatskin is dyed with spirit dyes applied with cotton balls and pom-pom applicators. Dye was also dripped through a pipette and sprayed with an atomizer. The division of color follows the blind tooled design, which resembles the paneling on the ceiling in Windgate (an area of the school that was built during the renovations to connect two existing buildings). The blind tooling pulled out a variety of shades from the various colors of dye, making the overall effect more dynamic.

    The leather was pressed with lead shot and salt, which created small irregular divets in the leather. This is quite subtle, but effective at creating depth and an interesting texture. The panel rivets are done with itty, bitty tooled onlays in complimentary colors. The gold is applied with leaf and foil in specific areas. Jennifer chose to use foil for the solid dots, since it was challenging to differentiate between the tooled dots and the impressions created by the lead shot. The title is hand tooled down the spine in Gill Sans in the same gold leaf as the design.

    The endbands are hand-sewn around a single parchment core in alternating bands of dark grey, pink, tan and off-white. Jennifer embellished the handmade Bhutanese paper used for the paste down and flyleaf by stamping the paper with dye soaked bubble wrap. The dye permeated into the paper in a spontaneous way, creating soft splotches of color. Jen was quite innovative in her solution to add a pop of flair to the interior side of her binding and I really love the results.

    I commended Jennifer on her perseverance as she struggled with her initial idea, she really tried to make the best out of a difficult material. But, in the end that battle forced her to reshape her concept and design. She created one of my favorite bindings of the bunch. I’m drawn to the wonderfully saturated colors, the playfulness of her design and the ingenuity of material use (lead shot, salt and bubble wrap). Looking forward to her next design binding.

    After graduation, Jennifer will continue in her position as Preservation Assistant at MIT working on their music collection. Follow Jennifer on Instagram: @jenn1cakes.

    Clair Emma Smith

    When I spoke with Clair Emma Smith about her binding, I was intrigued not only by the gorgeous geometric pattern, but also by her design process. It was very indicative to the way binder, Annette Friedrich works to create her designs. Clair Emma worked within a set of parameters as she drew various linear designs on graph paper; penciling in lines as her mood saw fit. After building up a collection of illustrations, Clair Emma pulled elements from multiple designs in order to create what would become the final template for her binding. Her binding has a very Art Nouveau feeling and in a strange route to compliment her binding, I mentioned that it reminded me of an elegantly decorated elevator. I beam with delight at a an exceptional design in an elevator.

    This year, the second year students really experimented with a variety of leather dyes through workshops with guest instructors Nicky Oliver and James Reid-Cunningham. Roda dyes, which are metal-based dyes, were introduced to the students through the lens of conservation. Clair Emma wanted to see how these dyes could be used for creative, artistic purposes.

    By blending pink and yellow dyes with cotton balls, the pigments merged to create rich orange tones. These diamond shaped tooled onlays evoke jewels set in the leather. Clair Emma used a navy blue goatskin for the base leather with the geometric design tooled in dukaten gold leaf. The title is beautifully balanced into the design on the spine in Edinburgh handle letters.

    I was pleasantly surprised when I opened Clair Emma’s binding to discover a vibrant and ornately patterned paper used for the paste down and flyleaf. This bold and lavish paper broke from the rigor of the cover design. Clair Emma noted how this paper created a nostalgic connection to her home town and felt like the perfect paper to incorporate into the binding. The French double core endbands are hand sewn with alternating bands of navy blue, gold and maroon silk threads.

    Although Clair Emma’s design may appear as a simple geometric pattern, I want to point out the precision it takes to lay out tooled lines in a straight and even fashion. Her design is beautifully balanced across the entire cover. I love her choice of color, the brilliant orange onlay leather dances against the navy blue forcing the eye to move around the cover. Her design choices are on point and they surprisingly bring me to my love of elevator interiors.

    Matthew Lawler Zimmerman

    As I’ve mentioned already, Rewarding Work is about the history of NBSS and its impact on the community in the North End. Because the text is so site specific, Matthew Lawler Zimmerman wanted to emphasize this in his design. The school recently underwent a massive change when it moved from the original location on North Bennet Street to it’s new home on North Street. Matthew chose to capture this transitional point in the school’s history by recreating the blueprints of the original location and the new location with traditional decorative techniques.

    Influenced by the brick buildings in the North End, Matthew chose to execute his design on a gorgeous vintage oxblood goatskin. A portion of the school’s original location is tooled on the back cover in dukaten gold leaf, while the new building adorns the front cover and bends around the doublure on the inside. The new building is tooled in moon gold, which is softer and less yellow than the dukaten gold leaf. I particularly love the slight overlap of the two blueprints at the spine.

    In order to engage more of the school, Matthew incorporated a variety of materials as both tooled onlays and inlays to represent all eight programs currently offered at NBSS. These include various wood veneers, such as bird’s eye maple, cedar, aspen and walnut, metals, ebony, elk bone and hand-dyed leather.

    Matthew chose the ambitious route of adding leather doublures and leather flyleaves to his design binding, using the same oxblood goatskin for the doublures and a terracotta goatskin for the flyleaves. There is a subtle difference in tone, with the terracotta being slightly darker, and has a more even grain pattern. This transition from light to dark is so seamless, especially since the design on the doublure floats onto the flyleaf into an abstract pattern. The head edge is rough edge gilt with moon gold and the board edges are tooled with a single line in dukaten gold leaf. The French double core endbands are hand sewn with grey and two bands of maroon thread.

    The students graciously allow me to handle their bindings so that I can survey every detail and lend them a critical eye. Matthew’s execution of his binding is exceptional. Crafting a full leather binding, with leather doublures and flyleaves is quite a challenge and Matthew rose to the occasion. The leather doublures in particular are flawless, which can be quite a task. I think he is quite observant and has a keen eye for detail, which really shone through in his binding. There will certainly be more design bindings in Matthew’s future and I look forward to it.

    Matthew plans to merge his printmaking background his newly honed bookbinding skills by crafting editions of work from the printed page to the custom binding. However, he also plans to pursue a career by working with other printers and binders. You can check out more of Matthew’s work at his website.

    – – –

    Thanks again to the 2019 graduating class and Jeff Altepeter, Head of Bookbinding Department. It was such a joy to get to know you all a little bit more and speak candidly about your work. I can’t wait to see how you all take your skills and apply them to our community. I wish you all the best.

    If you want more interviews from past classes check out the list here.


  4. Bookbinder of the Month: Annette Friedrich // Post Five

    February 24, 2019 by Erin Fletcher

    With Annette Friedrich’s binding of Between the Acts we wind up both the series and the interview. Bound in 2018 in blue goatskin, the binding also has hand sewn endbands in green silk with champagne (with a purple tint) paper edge-to-edge doublures and yellow fly leaves.

    The design on Between the Acts is made up of an impressive number of foils and might be my favorite out of the bunch. There are three metallic foils in two shades of silver and gunmetal with an additional twenty-three pigmented foils in the following colors: white, four shades of grey, purple, three shades of blue, two shades of yellow, five shades of red, four shades of green and three shades of brown. Also making an appearance are the special guest foils: transparent pearl and transparent neon yellow.

    The chemise is inlaid with green and purple hand-dyed papers with blue goatskin across the spine. The title is tooled in green and purple foil. The slipcase is covered in the same green paper and lined with an equally green Alcantara. Tooling on the binding is done by Claude Ribal.

    The final binding in the series, Between the Acts is so playful in both the design and color palette. The design is explosive and feels like a celebration; it contains more pigment colored foils than the preceding eight. Did you incorporate every tool that had been used prior?
    Thank you! Gosh, it feels as if I might just have used all of them, but I do not know for sure? Actually, no. There are no dots and only very few lines. But it does not matter, it had not been my intention anyhow.

    In the last post, we discussed the choices you made regarding the titling. In this binding and Mrs. Dalloway, you chose not to include Woolf’s name. Is there any significance to this?
    Same answer as above: artistic license. The need to come up with the best possible design for titling over-rides the rules of accuracy and correctness. So there!

    You embarked on this project in the hopes to find change and freedom outside of safety nets. You choose Virginia Woolf as your guide. I imagine you’ve developed a unique bond to Virginia; that the two of you have now walked a similar journey to discover your voices. I think the depth of what you’ve achieved is so incredible. Some binders may revisit the same title or author throughout their career; one can’t help the lure of an exceptional book. In fact, you’ve bound The Years at least three times and Mrs. Dalloway twice. Do you think you will revisit Virginia again at some point in your career?
    Thank you Erin! It is wonderful to share the results and even better to observe, via your perceptive quizzing, that the things I tried to achieve seem to communicate themselves. It was the first time that I tackled such a vast project and loved digging in as deep and all immersive as that. YES! I think it is highly likely that I will revisit her books at some point in the future. There is just so much in there and I bet that each time something else will surface at my end. But for now… I will give it a little break. Phew! New things to come!


    A beautiful documentation has now been published, that traces the development of this project, which, as it turns out, took seven years to complete. WOOLF I – IX ! 98pp, with an introductory essay and 1:1 reproductions of the bindings, background information, and text excerpts.

    Text: Annette Friedrich, Virginia Woolf
    Design: BUCHmacher, Germany
    Photo: Shannon Tofts, Scotland

    £30 + postage / reserve your copy at www.annette-friedrich.com


  5. Bookbinder of the Month: Annette Friedrich // Post Four

    February 17, 2019 by Erin Fletcher

    In this post, you get two for one with a discussion on the seventh and eighth book in the series. Starting with The Waves, which Annette Friedrich bound in 2017. The binding is covered in a dusk-rose goatskin with blue silk hand sewn endbands, dark green edge-to-edge doublures and light green flyleaves.

    The number of foils is ever increasing with each design. On The Waves, Annette incorporated two metallic foils in gunmetal and matte silver with nineteen pigmented foils in the following colors: two shades of white, four shades of grey, purple, two shades of brown, two shades of yellow, five shades of red and three shades of green. Special guest foils include neon yellow, transparent pearl and iridescent silver.

    The chemise is covered in two shades of hand-dyed bluish-silver paper and dusk-rose goatskin. The title is tooled in the matte silver foil. The slipcase is covered in mauve paper with an equally mauve Alcantara. The design on the binding was executed by Claude Ribal.

    I noticed the introduction of a “V” tool on The Waves. It made me wonder, is there any significance to the shape and the novel?
    Yes, you are picking up on the fact that I am expanding my range of tools, adding to them as I find fit. I mostly do this by filing ‘blanks’ into the shapes I need. There is no real significance to the “V” shape as such, except that it is distinct and weighted. I actually cut three ever so slightly different “V” tools, all of which are on the book! Sometimes on their own, sometimes in conjunction with others, creating more complex figures.

    I also began to wonder more about your design process. At the very beginning of the design stage, how are you selecting your tools? Do you pull a combination from the cabinet and force yourself to develop a design with only those tools? Or do you allow yourself to swap out tools that don’t quite work?
    To begin with, I pull out the ones that I think I will want to work with. However, if I feel the need for others I just go and have a look if something else fits the bill, or, if I cannot find what I need, I just go and cut the shape(s) that I am missing. For example, I noticed that when I work within a cluster that a variation within size is crucial to give it ‘life’. One can observe that my toolbox has expanded steadily over the duration of the project. I have now two sizes of the ‘3’, four variants in different sizes of the “(” and three “o” etc.! Only two books earlier I would have only been working with a single shape for each… All part of the learning curve, right?

    As I mentioned in a previous post, the bindings visually appear to be part of a series, that they follow a formula. We discussed this topic with the chemise already, but I wanted to bring up another element that ties the work together: the use of hand-dyed papers. Can you speak about the reasons for using hand-dyed papers for the enclosures, doublures and fly leaves? Were these papers dyed by you and if, so what is your process?
    The reason for me to hand dye my papers is that I seem to be a complete nerd who needs to be in control of everything, down to the exact shade of color for within the bigger scheme. The process is easy, I use offset printers ink and dilute them down with turpentine. I have the four CMYK at my command, as well as screaming signal yellow and signal red, as well as silver. That’s all I need. The rest is just mixing it to the shade that you want and then use a cloth to soak up the color and apply it to the sheet of paper with circular movements from one edge to the other. The beauty of this process is that there is no visible brushstroke etcetera, just one smooth surface.

    Also bound in 2017, Annette used a grey goatskin for her binding of The Years. The binding also has hand sewn endbands using grey silk with silver edge-to-edge doublures and matching flyleaves.

    The number of foils is dialed back significantly on this binding with five shades of metallic foils, which include four shades of silver and blue. Seven pigmented foils were chosen, which include the following colors: two shades of red, grey, blue, two shades of yellow and green. Special guest foils are present with transparent pearl and transparent iridescent.

    The chemise is covered in silvery-green and silvery-blue hand-dyed papers with grey goatskin on the spine. The title is tooled in matte silver and silver foils. The slipcase is covered in the same silvery-blue paper and lined with red Alcantara. The design on the binding was tooled by Claude Ribal.

    Up until this point we’ve mainly discussed the design of the binding, I want to get into the way the books are titled. The spacing varies with each title, with The Years the spacing speaks to the agony Woolf encountered when writing this novel. For the bindings you chose to title, did you chose a layout to reflect the text or the design in some way?
    No, the titling does not reflect the text in any shape or form (but if you see a connection, feel free to do so). Neither does it reflect the design, but is rather part of the design. The title links the two sides of a book and I find it fascinating to find different ways to do this. It is only since Orlando that I cottoned on that it might be helpful for me to start taking basic typographic variants into consideration. They are spacing, direction/placement and the size of the font. Coming up with sexy titling solutions is my new hobby-horse. Thank you for noticing!

    Virginia appears as V. on The Years. This treatment is unique to this binding. Is there any reason for this?
    Yes. The trouble with titling is that you are stuck with the title and the author and that you have to work with what you’ve got. I usually design the titling after the design is executed, and normally I only work on one book/design at a time. In this instance though, for reasons of timing, the last three books of the project had gone to Claude together and, after having picked them up again, I worked on the titling for all three books at the same time. The Waves and The Years have a very similar appearance, and I think I just wanted to get some leeway by at least tightening up the length of the authors name a bit. So ahem… the answer is artistic license! I have actually done this before within the project, not with V. Woolf’s name, but for Night and Day where I exchanged the ‘and’ with a ‘+’ to get a more distinct change within the length of lines.

    The tone for The Years has darkened. The palette is heavy and moody with minimal colored foils. You mention reading Woolf’s diaries and letters in addition to biographies written about her during this project. How did Woolf’s own practice as a writer and creator inform your approach? Were you pulling influences from her thoughts as well as the novels?
    I have a whole bookshelf dedicated to Virginia Woolf, her books, her letters, her diaries, her essays… as well as the mind-blowing and insightful biography by Hermione Lee. It was wonderful to sort of get-to-know the person behind those fairly dense and abstract novels. And there are many parallels between her quest as a writer and me as a maker. The looking around, the searching, the time when one feels super apprehensive and down, as well as those where one jumps up and down with excitement and glee when one thinks that one finally has clocked something. I loved that!

    I don’t think though, that reading about her life and delving into her thoughts influenced my approach as such (the novels did!). Maybe I have just not yet noticed though? Who knows.


    A beautiful documentation has now been published, that traces the development of this project, which, as it turns out, took seven years to complete. WOOLF I – IX ! 98pp, with an introductory essay and 1:1 reproductions of the bindings, background information, and text excerpts.

    Text: Annette Friedrich, Virginia Woolf
    Design: BUCHmacher, Germany
    Photo: Shannon Tofts, Scotland

    £30 + postage / reserve your copy at www.annette-friedrich.com


  6. Bookbinder of the Month: Annette Friedrich // Post Three

    February 10, 2019 by Erin Fletcher

    Orlando is the sixth book in the series and was bound by Annette Friedrich in 2016. The binding is covered in a bright red goatskin with grey hand sewn endbands and green paper edge-to-edge doublures and matching flyleaves. The tooling is made up of four shades of metallic foils which include silver, champagne, purple and green. The design has an additional seventeen shades of pigmented foils in white, grey, two shades of purple, two shades of blue, three shades of yellow, three shades of red and five shades of green. Transparent pearl and iridescent silver foils are added as accents throughout the design.

    The chemise is inlaid with light and dark green paper at the sides and red goatskin across the spine. The title is tooled in iridescent and silver pearl foil. The slipcase is covered in the same hand-dyed dark green paper used on both the slipcase and flyleaves and lined with a green Alcantara. The design was tooled by Claude Ribal.

    During the design process, you describe creating around 50 versions per binding. I wondered if you could speak more specifically about this. Are you reinventing the design each time or pulling elements from previous iterations to make your final layout. I imagine you might flip the design in all directions or look at it in reverse.
    Yes, there are many versions of a design before it is ‘just so’. It’s a little bit of everything that you just mentioned. At first I start out though and cut white sheets of paper to the exact size of the boards and get my handtools and the inkpad out. I will have read the book at that point, but normally I do not go in with a preconceived idea for a design as such. However, this book is actually an exception, as I did know that I wanted to work with a distinct historic tool as a stand-alone player. But to begin with it is just plain old doodling and letting things flow. After a while something will have perked my interest, and I will start looking at this with a more inquisitive mind. I try to understand what exactly has caught my attention, how it worked and why, and then, how the hell to develop this into a full-blown design. During all of this I will continue to dip in and out of the book. Reading the authors voice, sensing the rhythm, feeds back into my design process. So at first the steps are big, then they get smaller and smaller. And yes, sometimes I look at a sheet from the reverse or flip it into a different angle, but unless I don’t actually use it for the next sheet, I would not count this as ‘a’ step. I have a light-box that helps me to carry forward the elements that I like, but there is no real telling what will stay in the game until the very end. Once I am happy with the design in black and white, I then go out in search to find the colors that build up the atmosphere.

    Woolf wrote Orlando more quickly then her previous novels. Were you aware of this as you were designing the binding? Did you try to quicken your pace as well?
    Yes I was aware of it, but it had no influence on my own process. It takes as long as it takes to get it right.

    The design for Orlando is very playful. I love how you used the historic tool in a more atypical manner, it really evokes the feeling of the novel as it floats and dances through the design.
    You make me very happy with the words you just chose. Floating and dancing: excellent! That was exactly what I was after, and it is fabulous that you mirror this back to me. Thank you!


    A beautiful documentation has now been published, that traces the development of this project, which, as it turns out, took seven years to complete. WOOLF I – IX ! 98pp, with an introductory essay and 1:1 reproductions of the bindings, background information, and text excerpts.

    Text: Annette Friedrich, Virginia Woolf
    Design: BUCHmacher, Germany
    Photo: Shannon Tofts, Scotland

    £30 + postage / reserve your copy at www.annette-friedrich.com


  7. Bookbinder of the Month: Annette Friedrich // Post Two

    February 3, 2019 by Erin Fletcher

    The fifth book in Annette Friedrich’s Woolf I–IX series is To the Lighthouse, which was bound in 2015. The binding is covered in a tan goatskin with green hand sewn endbands and edge-to-edge doublures. The flyleaves are a light yellow hand-dyed paper. The design is executed by tooling through silver folio and fifteen shades of pigmented foils including white, mauve, two shades of grey, two shades of blue, three shades of yellow and four shades of red. Transparent pearl foil was also used within the design.

    The chemise is inlaid with blue grey paper and tooled with three shades of silver foil. The slipcase is covered in the same lilac paper used on the chemise and lined with mauve Alcantara. The design is tooled by Claude Ribal of Paris.

    In your description of To the Lighthouse, you mention that Woolf’s style of writing changes with this novel. In comparison, the design on To the Lighthouse incorporates more color than any of your prior bindings. Do you use color in your design as a means of representing something in the text or is it an aesthetic choice or perhaps a bit of both?
    Yes, next to her ongoing interest to tell a ‘story’ from the inside of her characters minds and link them together in one big flow (the stream of consciousness) she now adds another layer by weaving in a sense for the surrounding atmosphere and the general passing of time. In a weird way this is almost detached from the main plot… Anyhow! All I want to say is that it reverberates with pure poetry throughout and this did lead me to start working with color from a more painterly perspective: to create light, elusive moments, buzz and the occasional ‘clunk’.

    With this binding you introduce the “special guest” foils. Is your inventory of foils growing at this point? What characteristics are you looking for in your foils and what do you try to avoid?
    My collection of pigment foils has grown steadily over the years. I think I have approximately 60 different colors to work with at the moment. And only ‘recently’ have I discovered my ‘special guest’ foils, which are iridescent, pearly translucent or whatnot. They are used on top (or under) other foils and thus give it a kick into a direction that is beyond ‘regular’. I love them, but of course one needs to be a tad careful not to go too far down that particular route.

    What do I look for in my foils? Well, pigment foils are mainly created for the industry, but one has to understand that the foil is merely the clever carrier for the pigment, before heat releases it from the foil onto whatever it is meant to be on. There are two main challenges that the industry is interested in and which they have solved in a satisfactory, yet mutually exclusive, way. One is to block big and coarse areas in one go. To do this, the pigment releases easily from the foil and is not too choosy about the exact level of temperature or pressure. The downside of this is, that the edge definition tends to be blotchy and that any inner negative shapes should not be covered… well, they are very likely to get filled in regardless. So they are brilliant for the big work, but not at all good for lettering. However, no need to be depressed, for the industry has developed another type of foil that is geared up for detailed and precise work and excels in high edge definition. The problem with this one is that it is super sensitive and tricky to use for hand tooling, as the temperature window needed to pull it off is extremely narrow and the surface needs to be well prepped and super flat. So those are the characteristics one can find in foils and usually each supplier will offer the same color in the varying types. So read the description and choose the ones that fit best your needs.

    The finishing work on this binding is executed by Claude Ribal. Up until this point, you had been completing the tooling yourself, why did you decide to outsource this stage of the process moving forward?
    Yup. This is a very sad story and a big learning curve for myself as a maker. I have been working with tooled designs for years and years and am pretty good at it, even if I say so myself. However, as it turns out: not good enough! When I transfer a design onto the book, I do this in various stages, which are basically the same as for gold leaf tooling. The sole exception being that the foil is slid over the blinded in impression at the very last moment. It thus obscures the sighting and makes it extremely difficult to get the tool bang-on into the shape without fumbling around too much (lethal). Working with dots, lines and gauges is easy, but tackling complex shapes… basically blind-folded… eh!

    As we discussed earlier, this is one of the first books where I launched myself into working with color pigment foils in a massive way. Pigment foils are more temperamental to work with than metallic ones… You can guess where this is heading to? I did it once and was not quite happy. I retraced my steps, removed the leather from the book and covered it afresh. Second attempt. Again… not good enough. It only takes three or four shapes of the many to be ever so slightly off and the whole thing looks ghastly and heavy handed. I got fairly depressed, but told myself that ‘what has to be done, has to be done’. So the next time I actually bought a completely new text block and started from scratch (just in case that this particular book was doomed). When the time came for tooling, I held my breath and launched into the third round. Do you care for fun facts and figures? To execute this design in full takes 14 hours. So no small feat, particularly if it goes again pear shaped, which it DID! What was I to do? Try and try again? I felt pretty confident that if I practiced hard over the course of a year that I would be able to raise my game from my current 88% to 95%. But did I really, really want to do this? No. What I really wanted was to push on with my design work. And so I decided to get help (I still do the titling though!). A colleague recommended Claude Ribal who is a fantastic finisher in Paris, and that’s where I went. It is a little bit complicated to get everything ready for him though, for not only does he get all of my tools, foils, and my design master sheet, but also an exact guide to inform him which shape has which color. I said earlier that I have 60 shades by now and everything needs to be super clear. Nothing is left to chance, everything is specified. Claude is not only a very kind man, but he is also really good at what he does. His expertise brings the touch of lightness within the execution to the design that is absolutely needed to pull it off and that makes me very happy and grateful.


    A beautiful documentation has now been published, that traces the development of this project, which, as it turns out, took seven years to complete. WOOLF I – IX ! 98pp, with an introductory essay and 1:1 reproductions of the bindings, background information, and text excerpts.

    Text: Annette Friedrich, Virginia Woolf
    Design: BUCHmacher, Germany
    Photo: Shannon Tofts, Scotland

    £30 + postage / reserve your copy at www.annette-friedrich.com


  8. Bookbinder of the Month: Annette Friedrich // Post One

    February 1, 2019 by Erin Fletcher

    Back in 2013, I interviewed Annette Friedrich and we only narrowly touched on the subject of her ambitious project to bind all nine of Virginia Woolf’s novels. Since that interview, Annette has completed this goal, exhibited all nine bindings at the Saatchi Gallery in London and published a gorgeous catalog! For this interview update, Annette and I will focus on the final six bindings of the series.

    I struggle with Annette’s aesthetic and that is one reason why I am so captivated by her work. The designs on her bindings really take a hold of me. I am stricken by their abstract, chaotic whimsy. Her style of binding forges so many questions for me, both as an artist and a binder, so I really wanted to take full advantage of this opportunity to interview Annette again.

    Back in 2013 when I first interviewed you for the blog, you had just completed Mrs. Dalloway aka Woolf IV, putting you about half way through your journey of binding all nine of Virginia Woolf’s novels. What sparked such an ambitious project?
    Hey Erin, well, it all began a while ago, when I noticed a few shifts within my artistic practice. This may sound a little weird, but I see my books in a timeline, where one design builds up onto the next. Obviously not directly and not even that consciously so, but with hindsight I can often detect a link.

    Do you know the late Danish author Inger Christensen? When asked about her writing, she came back with something that I can directly relate to: ‘(…) it does not matter where one is. However, one has to make sure to steer directly into the impossible. Of course one has to keep the balance on the way, though only under the single condition that the balance is made less safe. Less and less safe.’

    So when I said earlier that I noticed a shift, it was exactly that. I had already stepped onto the tight rope and had done my first fumbling steps. I saw that the haughty geometric designs were on their way out, and that, somehow, ‘life’ was casually shuffling onto the scene. I was curious beyond anything to see where this would lead me to. But I have to admit that excitement and delight shook equal hands with apprehension. The fear of not being able to reach this, to stumble, fall and fail.

    I decided to bracket this journey within a set project and started to think about what it might look like. Two factors played a guiding role, one was that I needed a good run of books to pull it off (cross the rope) and the second was to find an author who offered me a helping hand along the way. Virginia Woolf it was!

    You recently published a book documenting the project. In the introduction you write about how Virginia Woolf’s writing style changed over her career. I wonder if you feel like you are ready to leave behind some part of your design process and explore something new.
    Yes, I certainly was ready for a change and Virginia Woolf egged me on! Her novels are amazing. Each is a stepping-stone to the next. She started out with a very ‘linear’ take on writing and then pushed out her boat and explored new and experimental ways, becoming more and more abstract. She was the ideal (unbeknownst) partner for me. I decided to bind all of her nine novels in chronological order and follow suit.

    Mrs. Dalloway was bound in 2012 in a dark aubergine goatskin. The hand sewn silk endbands and edge-to-edge doublures are green with silver flyleaves. The design is tooled with three shades of silver folio, gunmetal and five pigmented foils in white, grey, blue and two different greens. The book is housed in a chemise which is inlaid with green paper and tooled with three shades of silver foil plus a green pigmented foil. The slipcase is covered with silver paper and lined with green Alcantara (a suede-like material).

    What I enjoy about the design for Mrs. Dalloway is that at a glance the covers appear to mirror each other, but as my eyes wander back and forth the differences begin to emerge. Each cover takes on a life of it’s own. Did you design each panel to represent the two protagonists or are you finding inspiration elsewhere in the text?
    Now this is a very good question, although I immediately wanted to cry out with an alarmed ‘Nothing represents anything, ever!’. But that is not quite right either. I am interested in space, rhythm and atmosphere, and these are the points of connection with the/a novel. So in this instance, I was taken in by the fully developed stream-of-consciousness technique, that Virginia Woolf had started to explore in her previous novel, Jacob’s Room (my Woolf III). This ‘take’ of hers is very persuasive. So no, my aim was not to represent the two protagonists as such, but rather her ‘flow’. I was interested to create something that sweeps you up and in the air, from one element to the next, with no stop, no pause, connecting everything in one big move where the small mini-events get swallowed up in the overall take.

    The nine bindings in this series of work, feel cohesive and connected. There are several obvious visual tells that make this statement true. But one aspect is your treatment as a binder, you follow a formula for the binding and for the housing. I want to ask about the choices you made for styling the chemise in particular. At the beginning you include a simple linear tooled design on the chemise that contrast greatly with the design on the binding, then by the sixth book, Orlando, the tooled design on the chemise disappears and you begin playing with the layout of the paper. Any reason for this?
    I do like to work within the three-fold combo that is the book, chemise and slipcase. Every element brings something to the table and has to work/commune with the others. Obviously the book’s design calls the tune and the others join in. However, this is not done by way of repetition, but rather by adding different layers. Sometimes they enhance and sometimes they jar. It’s like music really, the main thing is that the overall soundscape makes sense.

    At the beginning of 2018, you were a part of Crafts Council’s Collect 18, an exhibition that spanned 40 galleries over 4 continents. Woolf I – IX was on exhibit at the Saatchi Gallery in London. Can you speak about how you got involved in this exhibit and how your work was received by the public. In the US, design binding work is rarely seen in a space akin to the Saatchi Gallery, is this also uncommon in England?
    Yes, it’s the same here. Bindings tend to get shown in book related environments only, such as libraries etcetera. Collect 18 was actually presented at the Saatchi Gallery, which is a great venue right at the heart of Chelsea. Amongst all of the invited craft galleries Designer Bookbinders was the only one to show books and fine bindings. There was a lot of terrific work on display and it was great to rub shoulders for once with all of the other crafts within an art gallery setting. I think the visitors were quite stunned to come across fine bindings in such a context, with many being not at all familiar with our rare, orchid-like craft. However, they were very interested and the invigilators rarely got a quiet moment.

    I witnessed this from across the aisle, as I myself had been invited by the Crafts Council to show my Woolf I – IX group on a separate solo stand. I had just finished them and was super delighted to be able to show them at such a prestigious and stimulating cross-disciplinary exhibition.

    Now that the project has come to an end, do you feel a sense of completion, that you achieved the mission set forth from the beginning of the project?
    Yes! is the short answer. I had set out in the hope of change, and ‘change’ has come. The first design is miles away from the last and I have been able to tentatively discover a completely new direction. I am still not completely sure how I got there, but over time one thing just led to the next. Everything got more difficult and complex, and I did stumble and had to pick myself up again along the way. I think though, that I have finally grown up and found my voice, so lets see where it will take me to next…


    A beautiful documentation has now been published, that traces the development of this project, which, as it turns out, took seven years to complete. WOOLF I – IX ! 98pp, with an introductory essay and 1:1 reproductions of the bindings, background information, and text excerpts.

    Text: Annette Friedrich, Virginia Woolf
    Design: BUCHmacher, Germany
    Photo: Shannon Tofts, Scotland

    £30 + postage / reserve your copy at www.annette-friedrich.com


  9. Bookbinder of the Month: Eduardo Giménez Burgos // Post Five

    January 27, 2019 by Erin Fletcher

    This Solid Globe includes selected quotations from Shakespeare and wood engravings by Jane Lydbury printed by Camberwell Press in 1984. The binding, bound by Eduardo Giménez, is covered in black calfskin with dyed maple veneer onlays. The wood veneer letters are inset into the shape an “O” around the central veneer planks. A blue suede is used for the doublures and flyleaves.

    In 2013, your entry to the Designer Bookbinders International Competition was awarded second prize and acquired by the Getty Collection at Wormsley. The binding is another beautiful example showcasing wood veneer. In this binding, you’ve dyed the maple veneer onlays. What method are you using to dye the veneer?
    The binding process was very interesting. The idea of the design was already in a first rough sketch, but actually, when I start a work I hardly ever know very well how it will end up. And that gives me a certain margin for improvisation. And in these decisions that I’m taking along the way, the senses play a natural role, especially the visual aspect, which pursues maximum beauty for the eyes, a nice touch for the hands, or, even, the smell that comes from the materials such as the leather, the marbled and hand painted papers, or the wood.

    And so the colours and reliefs of the Shakespeare covers started to emerge gradually as I was working in the binding. In fact, the central element of the decoration was wood, a light maple wood. I applied some first aniline dye layers to give it a soft background color. Later I went on adding very thin layers of acrylics of different colors in different areas, in a somewhat random manner. After each coat I let it dry for some hours and used a very fine sandpaper, also on some areas. This process lasted several days but with no appealing results. But then, one day, approximately after about twenty layers, I sanded all the surface again, and a very rich palette of colours appeared, without losing the texture of wood. My Shakespeare was there! I only had to add a bit of wax and burnish it in order to obtain a surface slightly gloss finished like the black calfskin of the cover.

    The lettering for the title and author are cut with such precision. Do you hand cut your veneer?
    All the pieces of wood that I have used in my bindings were cut by hand, except the letters of Water which are cut with laser. And in all cases there is also a further process of very thorough dyeing, as the one I have described.


  10. Bookbinder of the Month: Eduardo Giménez Burgos // Post Four

    January 20, 2019 by Erin Fletcher

    Eduardo Giménez entered his binding of L’oeuvre de Pierre Lecuire: La Nuit into the Society of Bookbinders 2015 International Competition. It is bound in the Dorfner-style in black calfskin with pale blue suede onlays and orange paper inlays. Black and orange Nepalese paper are used for the doublures and flyleaves. Eduardo’s binding won the Harmatan Leather Award for Forwarding in the Case Binding Category.

    You studied in Belguim with Edgard Claes and in this binding you employ the Dorfner structure. The description in the Society of Bookbinders catalog refers to this as a Dorfner-style case binding. I’ve had the opportunity to learn this structure as well and would love to know how you modified the structure into a case rather than attaching the boards to the sewing supports?
    Indeed, in this binding I used the Dorfner style, a leather version of the model developed by Edgard Claes for his polycarbonate bindings. In this binding, as it is usual, the black-stained parchment ribbons are glued to the recto of the covers, although they are barely visible as they are hidden by the suede onlays at the level of the spine. I think the confusion is in the definition of the term ‘case binding’. For us, case binding has a broader meaning and defines the bindings whose covers are just covered independently to join the body of the book afterwards.


  • Visit My Bindery
    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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