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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. 100 Day Project // Panels 91 – 100

    June 8, 2021 by Erin Fletcher

    Here are the final ten panels in my 100 Day project. This was an incredibly challenging, yet rewarding project to embark on. It simultaneously invigorated and exhausted me creatively. But I will have these little experiments in my toolbox as I move forward with my work and that is invaluable to me. Thanks for coming along on this journey with me!

    Panel No. 91 // Cut it, Crease it, Paste it, Sew it

    I found inspiration from paper and embroidery artist Liz Sofield for this panel, which is covered in a lilac handmade paper from Katie MacGregor with circles cut from lavender handmade paper. The circles are folded along the edges to create a square in the center. Five holes are punched along the diagonal inside the square and purple cotton floss is laced through in an overlapping twist pattern.

    Photographed against a letterpress dice print from Striped Light Press.

    Panel No. 92 // Googly E

    For Panel No. 56, I created a googly-eyed portrait of my husband so I thought I’d do the same for myself. The contour embroidery is done with dark orchid cotton floss over a piece of marbled paper. The entire piece sits on sunburst yellow cowhide leather.

    Photographed against my orange couch.

    Panel No. 93 // Circuit

    After taking an online workshop with Sol Rebora through the San Francisco Center for the Book on her Paper Onlay technique, I was quite inspired to make a panel with this new decorating technique. The panel is covered with four layers of paper which include pink and light blue St. Armand paper, hedgehog purple paper from Hook Pottery Paper and muted mauve handmade paper from Katie MacGregor. The shapes are mostly cut by hand with my Olfa knife, but some areas are punched out with a Japanese screw punch.

    Photographed on a page from the Colour Out of Space by H.P. Lovecraft, an artist book created by Amy Borezo.

    Panel No. 94 // Tokyo Platform

    I love photographing the surfaces below my feet, particularly tiled floors, manhole coverings and subway platforms. This is a paper collage of a subway platform in Tokyo using a range papers including: green/gray abaca paper, teal Cave Paper, black Hahnemuhle Ingres, pebble grey Lokta paper, white Arches, yellow Moriki and fire red Canson. Keeping small scraps around allowed me to use such a range of papers on this panel. So it worth it to save those cut-offs.

    Photographed on a sheet of pastel Chiyogami paper.

    Panel No. 95 // Italian Ice

    This panel is covered in a piece of raspberry goatskin that have been sprayed with Krylon Looking Glass that is typically used on a smooth surface like glass or acrylic to create a mirror-like finish. However, on the leather it offered a textured and uneven metallic finish. Pieces of speckled light blue Zerkall paper were ripped to create a feathery, scarf tear and adhered to the sprayed surface of the leather.

    Photographed on a page from Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu

    Panel No. 96 // Positive Vibes

    This is another panel inspired by the technique I first implemented on Panel No. 57. The pattern was laid out first inside of an irregular grid and then punched into the paper. For this panel, I choose to use a repeating “+” for the pattern. Stitching with pale pumpkin cotton floss through granite Cave Paper.

    Photographed on an animation still of a flying tricycle designed by Jason Fletcher.

    Panel No. 97 // No Direction

    Using the same punching template as the panel above, I created a different pattern with the same sets of holes. This time the panel is covered with tomato red St. Armand paper with arrows stitched in light blue green cotton floss.

    Photographed on a tangram map of the United States.

    Panel No. 98 // OMG, No Way

    I had so much fun creating Panel No. 93, that I wanted to play around with looser and more organic shapes. Plus I wanted to incorporate embroidery into the panel because that’s what I do. This panel is also covered with 4 different papers that include: handmade paper from Katie MacGregor in ochre yellow and mauve with blue and tomato red St. Armand colored paper. Again I used only my Olfa knife and a Japanese screw punch to create the cut-outs. A loopy line is stitched with silver grey cotton floss.

    Photographed on a page from Ant Colony by Michael DeForge.

    Panel No. 99 // Weirdo Shrine No. 2

    This panel is playing on the same concept as Panel No. 37. The difference here is the inclusion of leather as the base rather than paper. The panel was covered with strawberry cowhide and paper onlays and then the holes for the embroidery were punched from the backside which creates these “volcanoes” of material to emerge on the surface. This burst of material was then pared off with a scalpel. Depending on the pressure or movements from the scalpel larger areas of the base materials were also removed. Finally, the holes were embroidered in a whipped back stitch with gunmetal metallic thread.

    Photographed on my living room rug.

    Panel No. 100 // Farewell

    For the final panel in the series, I was really struggling to come up with a new idea or technique. But I finally rested on something that I hadn’t experimented with yet. For this panel, I punched through the board prior to covering and embroidered the word “farewell”. Then I covered the panel with a piece of natural handmade paper from Katie MacGregor and pressed it with a piece of foam to pick up the shape of the lettering. It was mildly successful, but sets up plenty of experimenting for the future.

    Photographed on my collection of red and pink coloring utensils.

  3. Wild/LIFE Exhibit at American Bookbinders Museum

    June 4, 2021 by Erin Fletcher

    My binding of At Low Water by Rebecca Chamlee is now on view at the American Bookbinders Museum in San Francisco as part of the Guild of Book Workers Traveling Exhibit Wild/LIFE. The work in on view from June 2 – August 7, 2021.

    The beach provides a microcosm that has the power to capture and reel you in for a closer look. For the design on Rebecca Chamlee’s book, I wanted to play on the transformation that occurs when removing specimens from the beach. There is a certain brilliance and beauty displayed beneath the water, yet once removed these same specimens dry out and become something entirely new.

    The binding is bound in pale pink buffalo skin with back-pared onlays in printed calfskin, navy blue buffalo skin and various handmade papers. Laser-cut paper sequins tacked on with embroidery floss embellish the starfish. Additional details for the anemones and coral are hand embroidered with various colors of cotton floss. The printed onlay is outlined in a couched line of sage green cotton floss and blind tooled to create texture. Metallic pink dots are tooled around the coral.

    If you are in the San Francisco area, I hope you get the chance to see this incredible exhibit of bindings, artist books and broadsides.

  4. 100 Day Project // Panels 82 – 90

    June 1, 2021 by Erin Fletcher

    These are the next nine panels in my 100 Day project.

    Panel No. 82 // Jason’s Spirit

    This panel became more of a showcase for this pink lizard skin that I picked up during a trip to Tokyo. The lizard is backed with a piece of electric blue handmade paper and is onlaid onto a peach colored handmade paper. I always joke that my husband once had a past life as a lizard, so that became the inspiration for the title of this panel.

    Photographed on the paste down of Dogs & Water by Anders Nilsen.

    Panel No. 83 // See See

    My husband has recently been creating animated loops for performing artists and thought this imagery could be interesting on a panel. He supplied me with an imagine and I printed it onto a piece of fair calfskin. The image is actually printed twice, rotated 180 degrees between each printing. After covering the panel I roughly tooled various shapes into the leather with metallic pink and purple, matte lilac and holographic foils.

    Photographed in the mouth of Sweet Duck figurine. Made while listening to M83.

    Panel No. 84 // Square Weave

    Tessellation origami is really fascinating to me and something that I’ve seen other binder’s explore in their work. I sought out the easiest pattern that I could find and landed on the square weave. Although the front is highly textured, the backside remains rather flat, making it easy to then paste onto board. This panel is made with a folded mint Moriki paper that was cut about two and a half times larger than the panel board.

    Photographed on a wooden cactus. Made while listening to Madonna.

    Panel No. 85 // Where the Sidewalk Ends

    The surface of the lavender Pergamena goatskin for this panel was sanded over the highly textured surface of the cement steps that lead to my front door. Small areas were completely worn through the leather, leaving small irregular holes. This technique leaves the leather feeling very soft with a subtle texture.

    Photographed on the steps in front of my house. Made while listening to Madonna.

    Panel No. 86 // Buttered Popcorn

    Before covering I glued down a piece of 4-ply hemp cord to the board in a wavy pattern. The panel was then covered with a decorated piece of yellow chartreuse Moriki paper and pressed with a piece of foam so that the paper would mold around the hemp cord. The Moriki paper was initially decorated with painted shapes using misty blue Acryla gouache and outlined with manganese violet colored pencil. Lines of scarlet colored pencil are drawn across the paper.

    Photographed on a Dusen Dusen bath towel. Made while listening to Madonna.

    Panel No. 87 // You Got Something in Your Teeth

    This panel is made from a piece of sturdy woven brown paper that was painted with ash green, coral red and opera pink Acryla gouache. I then couched on a piece of dark salmon cord with long stitches of light beige brown cotton floss. I typically create very small, tight couching stitches, but with this panel I wanted to explore using them in a more visible way.

    Photographed on a paste paper pig from Hook Pottery Paper. Made while listening to Mika.

    Panel No. 88 // Jaxson

    This panel is inspired by a drawing from my amazingly talented 7-year old nephew Jaxson. The original drawing is of this little red boat bravely sailing through a ferocious sea. For the base of the panel I used a piece of Indigo day Cave Paper cut to perfectly capture the shape of the waves beneath the boat. The waves are stitched and outlined with purple, dark violet, lilac and dark blue cotton floss. The red boat is cut from a piece of red Lokta paper and outlined with pewter grey cotton floss.

    Photographed against a transparency of the moon.

    Panel No. 89 // Salty Cosmos

    The paper on this panel was decorated with a diluted blue sumi ink sprinkled with table salt. Once the ink dries the salt crystals are left behind and create a rough, rocky texture to the surface of the orchid handmade paper. A swirl is embroidered along the left hand side with magenta cotton floss.

    Photographed in a ceramic bowl made by Helen Levi.

    Panel No. 90 // Teals

    I wanted to continue to play with the texture created in Panel No. 85, specifically how embroidery would look over the sanded leather. This piece of teal Pergamena goatskin was also sanded over the cement steps in front of my house. Then I embroidered four different species of Teal (ducks) into the leather with dark teal cotton floss.

    Photographed on my studio bench with a strip of handmade paper and a vintage stag feather brooch.

  5. 100 Day Project // Panels 73 – 81

    May 25, 2021 by Erin Fletcher

    Here are the next nine panels in my 100 Day Project.

    Panel No. 73 // Marbled Tile

    This panel is paying homage to a graduate of North Bennet Street School. Every year, I interview the graduating class about their set books. One year, Joshua Crotty created his design with a mylar laminated inlay. This technique has lingered in the back of my mind and I thought this project gave me the chance to test it out. Before covering the millboard in a coral red abaca handmade paper the board was laminated with 10pt. museum board first so that I could cut a well out of the center. I laminated a piece of marbled paper to mylar with PVA and placed it inside the well.

    Photographed on a page from The Woven and Graphic Art of Anni Albers.

    Panel No. 74 // Perpetual Abyss

    My brother and I recently spoke about a shared memory from our childhood, where I almost fell into an uncovered manhole after dropping from a mountainous snowbank. It was interesting to see how we both felt at the time and how we reflected back on it over the years. This panel best represents my brother’s account; it is covered in a piece of black suede with flecks of silver paint. A circle is partially painted within a blind tooled outline with Black 2.0 (Stuart Semple’s version of Vantablack that is available for all consumers except Anish Kapoor).

    Photographed on my winter coat.

    Panel No. 75 // Ricotta

    My Nana is a first generation American with her family coming from Sicily. Unfortunately, she was not taught much Italian in the home as her family chose to assimilate into American culture. But a few traditions and words have trickled down into future generations. One particular word is ricotta or as my family says rih-gutha. This panel is covered in orchid handmade paper from Katie MacGregor with the word tooled with a tiny triangle through metallic orange foil.

    Photographed on a page from The Geometry of Pasta by Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kenedy.

    Panel No. 76 // Double Hemisphere

    This slice of vintage 70mm film shows Earth from outer space. I wanted to create a panel reminiscent of a slide so that the image would be visual from both sides. This panel is made from two separate sides of 20pt. museum board covered in neon orange and lilac Lokta paper. After laminating the panels to the film, I stitched through all of the layers to create a two-color saddle-stitched border in magenta and light lemon cotton floss.

    Photographed against the sky.

    Panel No. 77 // For the Girl in HK

    In 2018, my husband and I made a trip to Hong Kong and Tokyo. It was an incredible trip, but the best part was being at our dear friend’s wedding. This portrait is of my friend Isa on her wedding day. She looked radiant with her bright orange hair. The panel is covered in flanelle buffalo skin with onlays in ochre, orchid, orange and natural handmade papers. Her portrait is a contour line drawing and is embroidered in lilac, golden olive, light golden brown, light peach and light beige brown.

    Photographed on old letters from Isa.

    Panel No. 78 // RI

    Rhode Island has become a destination for my husband and I to relax, cook good food and play games with friends. Talking solo walks along the harbor is also something I love doing down in Rhode Island. This panel is inspired by the stacks of lobster traps that pepper the docks. The panel is covered in a green-gerey abaca handmade paper with strips of periwinkle Khadi paper. Ties are modeled after the rope on the traps and are embroidered with light tawny, light peach and kelly green cotton floss.

    Photographed on a page from The Rise by Marcus Samuelsson. Made while listening to Madonna.

    Panel No. 79 // Tension Arm

    On a separate trip to Rhode Island to visit my friend Jackie at her studio on the RISD campus, she shared with me her knitting machine. I loved the shape of the various components of the machine and chose to highlight the bend of the wires that float above the main body. These wires are embroidered with light blue green, light and dark teal green cotton floss over a peach handmade paper from Katie Macgregor. Pieces of lilac and orange handmade papers accent the embroidery.

    Photographed on a page from A Little More Like Water by Jackie Scott. Made while listening to Majical Cloudz.

    Panel No. 80 // Homonym

    This panel is a redo of Panel No. 50 that I felt didn’t capture the look I had envisioned. This panel is covered in natura buffalo skin with a wide grain pattern. A trapezoid shape was removed and replaced with the same buffalo skin with a tight grain pattern. This is the subtle effect I hoped to create and here it was successful.

    Photographed on the cover for Islands by Brendan Monroe.

    Panel No. 81 // Jumble

    When I title projects, I will group the individual characters into groups of three. This can create some silly and fun combinations. I choose to continue with the technique on Panel No. 75 and used a combination of matte and metallic foils with three different tools. The words are tooled on a piece of mango Khadi paper.

    Photographed on a page from Ice Ice Baby by Carolin Löbbert and Marcus Lucas.

  6. 100 Day Project // Panels 64 – 72

    May 18, 2021 by Erin Fletcher

    Here are the next nine panels in my 100 day project.

    Panel No. 64 // A Step Forward

    This panel is a throwback to Panel No. 57 in that I used a similar structure for the punching template, which is an irregular grid pattern. Within each square I punched four holes to stitch this “leg” pattern that was pulled from an old doodle. The embroidery is done with burnt orange cotton floss over a dark orchid handmade paper.

    Photographed on Binary, Lowercase by Tauba Auerbach. Made while listening to Lorde.

    Panel No. 65 // A Step Back

    As I was creating the panel above, I was beginning to fall in love with the backside. Using the same punching template and sewing in reverse, I created this panel with burnt orange cotton floss over handmade lilac paper. The ends are left exposed on either end.

    Photographed on Binary, Uppercase by Tauba Auerbach. Made while listening to Lorde.

    Panel No. 66 // Casserole

    This panel is constructed from a single piece of sturdy woven paper that has been embroidered in a spontaneous and geometric pattern with pale pumpkin, burnt orange, dark straw and burgundy cotton floss.

    Photographed on a heavily used oven mitt. Made while listening to Louis Armstrong.

    Panel No. 67 // Knight Wiggles

    The pattern for this panel came from some mathematically minded friends who found inspiration in the infinite moves a knight can make on a chess board (well the board has to be infinite, too). This panel is covered in light blue St. Armand paper and tooled with holographic and metallic orange foils.

    Photographed on my husband’s face. Made while listening to Lower Dens.

    Panel No. 68 // Party Cancelled

    This panel is covered in a mauve buffalo skin with a design that has been drawn in with a heat pen. When the pen was left to dwell it would burn through the leather and create a singed mark. The remaining portion of the line is painted with Acryla gouache in misty blue and leaf green.

    Photographed on a page from Hard Boiled by Frank Miller and Geof Darrow. Made while listening to Lowell.

    Panel No. 69 // Lima, Peru

    The vintage feed sack fabric is drummed onto this panel and has been couched with various threads to create a contour drawing of a cat. The goal was create something chunky and messy and also very quickly. For this I used pink and teal yarns with strands of red and light grey wool threads.

    Photographed on my cat Lima.

    Panel No. 70 // Have You Seen My Beans?

    Back when I was creating my design for the binding Happy Abstract, I needed to remove an onlay because the color no longer worked with the overall design. I loved the way it effected the surface of the leather and I’ve wanted to recreate it since. For this panel, I glued down pieces cut from yellow chartruese and mint Moriki and tomato red St. Armand paper. After attaching them with PVA to a piece of dark blue goatskin and allowing them to dry I peeled them off.

    Photographed on a page from Cool Beans by Joe Yonan. Made while listening to Lucy Dacus.

    Panel No. 71 // Here Are My Beans

    The way I typically work is by adding color through use of onlays, but for this panel I did the reverse of that. I cut shapes from Frisket film and arranged them onto a yellow goatskin. Using Acryla gouache in ash yellow, I painted the entire area then removed the film. The edges can be fuzzy from this technique, so to clean it up I embroidered an outline in antique violet, ocean blue and burnt orange cotton floss.

    Photographed on a page from Cool Beans by Joe Yonan. Made while listening to Lucy Dacus.

    Panel No. 72 // Paperclip Saturn

    This panel is a bit whimsical and my only inspiration came from this strange planet drawing left behind from one of my middle school students. The panel is covered in a summer yellow cowhide with a planet blind tooled and painted with blue green Acryla gouache. A piece of checkered lace in blush pink sits atop the cowhide and is embroidered with the same planet drawing in dark teal green cotton floss.

    Photographed on my feet. Made while listening to Netta.

  7. 100 Day Project // Panels 55 – 63

    May 11, 2021 by Erin Fletcher

    These are the next nine panels in my 100 Day Project.

    Panel No. 55 // Emerick

    Towards the beginning of this project, I reached out to all of my nieces and nephews for inspiration. This simple panel was blind tooled on a medium brown goatskin from an illustration drawn by my 9-year old nephew Emerick.

    Photographed on a page from Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: Picture Book Adaptation by Sabina Radeva.

    Panel No. 56 // Googly JJ

    A while back I used this contour portrait of my husband on a design binding and I just love the goofiness of it so much, I decided to put it on a panel. The embroidery is done over a suminagashi paper onlay with golden olive cotton floss on top of periwinkle cowhide. I had a couple of googly eyes left over from a monster project I did with my Mom and 7-year old nephew. I typically don’t work with materials like this on my bindings, but I couldn’t resist adding another layer of silliness to this portrait.

    Photographed on a ceramic planter.

    Panel No. 57 // Many Spots

    For this panel I started by creating an irregular grid on a piece of tracing paper. I then punched the corners of each square within the grid through a piece of blue St. Armand paper. X’s were embroidered with chartreuse cotton floss before the paper was attached to the panel board.

    Photographed over a vintage Replogle globe. Made while listening to Lianne La Havas.

    Panel No. 58 // Parade of Ants

    For this panel, I really wanted to play with layering and distressing leather in various ways. The mulberry cowhide was initially painted with misty blue and light green Acryla gouache before I added embroidered lines using blue and mustard silk thread. The panel was then painted with a layer of orange yellow and pale pink. Finally, I sanded all over the board including the silk threads. Deeper channels were sanded into using a sanding stick.

    Photographed on a drawing from my nephew Fletcher.

    Panel No. 59 // Thinking

    The majority of the panels are pieces of millboard laminated with a piece of leather or paper. For this panel, I wanted to use a sturdy material that did not require any covering. This piece of pink gum sheet has been painted with pale pink Acryla gouache. Lines are scratched into the paint. Silk threads in blue, lite emerald and cafe au lait are couched onto the gumsheet in matching thread. French knots in mustard silk thread. X’s stitched in desert rose silk thread. V’s drawn in purple Sharpie.

    Photographed on mosaic wall at South Station (Network by Ellen Harvey).

    Panel No. 60 // Third Love – Chicago

    When I studied at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, my main focus was weaving. However, since taking a turn to become a bookbinder, I haven’t had much time to do much weaving. For this panel, I covered it with indigo day Cave Paper and pierced holes on opposite ends of the board. I then laced silver grey cotton floss through the holes to act as the warp threads. Various strands of wool and paper strips were then woven through these warp threads. Although the front side is quite raised from the weaving, the back side of the board has minimal bulk.

    Photographed on the back cover of Sheila Hicks: Weaving as a Metaphor. Made while listening to Lizzo.

    Panel No. 61 // Blooms

    For this panel, I wanted to do something whimsical and just play directly on the amandine buffalo skin with various materials. To make this collaged landscape, I first painted areas with Acryla gouache in misty blue and opera pink. Various papers are layered with embroidery in back stitch, French knots and whipped back stitch. I used magenta, silver grey, rosewood and mauve cotton floss.

    Photographed on a drawing by Hilma af Klint from Notes and Methods.

    Panel No. 62 // Hot Haze

    The background of this panel has been painted with a mixture of Acryla gouache in ash green, rose and opera pink directly on a piece of sage cowhide. The leather was then decorated with a couched piece of light grey wool using rosewood and pale pumpkin cotton floss. Four pieces of teal yarn are couched along the top edge with silver grey cotton floss. Bright yellow poofs are tacked on with reef knots using electric blue cotton floss.

    Photographed on a page from The Troll King by Kolbeinn Karlsson.

    Panel No. 63 // Currents

    I chose to use a single technique on this panel, which is the reef knot in magenta cotton floss. The thread is tied into a knot and stitched from the front to the back leaving long tails on the front side of the smokey mauve leather. I intentionally left the backside messy and unfinished so that the bulk would show once the leather was pasted down.

    Photographed on the cover of the cookbook pamphlet Tomatoes by Soa Davies

  8. Upcoming Workshops // Summer 2021

    May 11, 2021 by Erin Fletcher

    Making your summer plans? Consider signing up for an online workshop. No matter where you are in the world, you can now register for a workshop! All workshops will be recorded and will be available to students who register, so no need to stay up late for class if you live in a different time zone. Can’t wait to see you in class!

    Cross Structure Binding
    4 Sessions // June 8 – 17 (Tuesday and Thursday mornings)
    10:00am – 12:30pm (EST)
    Sign-up by May 25 to receive your material kit! – ONLY 2 SPOTS LEFT

    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.

    Variations on Single Signature Bindings
    4 Sessions // June 22 – July 1 (Tuesday and Thursday evenings)
    6:00 – 8:30pm (EST)
    Sign-up by June 8 to receive your material kit!

    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.

    Quick Enclosures Series
    3 Sessions // July 11 – 25 (Sunday mornings)
    10:00am – 12:30pm (EST)
    Sign-up by June 29 to receive your material kit!

    This workshop will focus on quick enclosures that can be constructed from sturdy paper and heavy cardstock. Many of the folding techniques presented in this workshop stem from origami, which have been further explored by the imitable Hedi Kyle. In addition, students will also learn how to construct paper slipcases and 4-flap enclosures often used in conservation.

    We will discuss how to cut and measure for custom projects, however the kit will include a small blank book, which will be used to construct the enclosures during the workshop.

    Box Series
    4 Sessions // July 20 – 29 (Tuesday and Thursday evenings)
    6:00 – 8:30pm (EST)
    Sign-up by July 8 to receive your material kit!

    Boxes come in all shapes and sizes. In this workshop, we’ll look at just three examples: French-Tray with Drop Spine, Clamshell and Japanese Box Case. Students will learn how to assemble these three styles of boxes while also discussing the ways to measure for custom box-making. This workshop will give you the foundational skills to build and modify your own boxes. It will also explore different ways of creating closures for boxes.

    Box Series
    4 Sessions // August 3 – 12 (Tuesday and Thursday evenings)
    6:00 – 8:30pm (EST)

    Boxes come in all shapes and sizes. In this workshop, we’ll look at just three examples: French-Tray with Drop Spine, Clamshell and Japanese Box Case. Students will learn how to assemble these three styles of boxes while also discussing the ways to measure for custom box-making. This workshop will give you the foundational skills to build and modify your own boxes. It will also explore different ways of creating closures for boxes.

    2-Day: Shrigley
    3 Sessions // August 23 & 27 (Monday & Friday)
    Aug. 23: 10:00am – 1:00pm & 3:00 – 6:00pm
    Aug. 27: 3:00 – 4:00pm
    Maine Media Workshops + College – Online

    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.

  9. 100 Day Project // Panels 46 – 54

    May 4, 2021 by Erin Fletcher

    Here are the next nine panels in my 100 Day project.

    Panel No. 46 // Junk Drawer

    I was hoping for more with this panel, but that’s what experimenting is for. The teal goatskin was covered with thread scraps layered between coats of paint. To create the distressed look, the leather was sanded. This step removed most of the thread pieces, only leaving a few remnants here and there. I had hoped that the thread scraps were create more indentation in the leather through the sanding process. To build this back into the design I embroidered three “strands” of thread with light peach, navy blue and copper cotton thread.

    Photographed on a decorative couch pillow.

    Panel No. 47 // Formidable Task

    I really love the final look of this panel and I definitely plan to explore this look further. The panel is covered in a pastel marbled paper that I got from the Minnesota Center for Book Arts shop. Drummed over the top is an embroidered piece of uterine calf parchment. The ochre yellow cotton floss runs behind the parchment and is the starting point for the cloud filling pattern done in very light antique violet cotton floss.

    Photographed on a page from Gowanus Waters by Steven Hirsch. Made while listening to Lana Del Rey.

    Panel No. 48 // Capture

    Using just the blanket stitch, I created this asymmetrical design with various colors of cotton floss embroidered on maroon goatskin. I planned out this design by drawing some wavy lines on to tracing paper, which was used as a guide to punch holes at random intervals along the line.

    Photographed on a black and white polka dot dress.

    Panel No. 49 // Greta

    This lovely and colorful caticorn drawing came from my 7-year old niece Greta. Her drawing was done with the saturated colors commonly found in a crayon box, but I chose a more muted palette. I traced her image onto tracing paper, then punched the entire piece through Arches paper. Then before any embroidery work, I colored in each segment according to her drawing and did my best to follow the direction of the crayon stroke and color outside the lines when appropriate. The entire piece is stitched with a dark pewter grey cotton floss.

    Photographed on a floral circular purse.

    Panel No. 50 // Turn

    I had been working with a client to design a cover for a series of graphite drawings. The design needed to be subtle and mimic some of the techniques used in the drawings. So, I decided to play around with an idea on this panel. I cut out a square of leather, then rotated it 180º before inlaying it back in place. The disruption of the grain pattern is very subtle, too subtle in my opinion.

    Photographed on a slab of marble.

    Panel No. 51 // Mint Slither

    This panel is another test for the client mentioned above in the previous panel and another attempt to create a subtle design. After covering the board in a plum goatskin, a portion was cut out and replaced with a full thickness piece of leather in the same color. Before this piece was inlaid, the edges were painted with ash green Acryla gouache and dots of coral red. The painted edge becomes more visible as you lean the panel forward.

    Photographed on a paste paper made by Claire Mazcarcyk. Made while listening to Laura Mvula.

    Panel No. 52 // Scrunchie No. 2

    This is a second attempt of scrunching the leather with a running stitch. Two lines of stitches are sewn with pewter grey and medium light nile green cotton floss. The latter has been whipped stitched with pewter grey. The bright orange buffalo skin was greatly warped by the running stitches which encouraged the leather to bunch and wrinkle when it was glued to the board. These wrinkles are accentuated with blind tooling and whipped stitch in pale pink cotton floss. Shapes are randomly tooled around the board in navy blue and lilac matte foil.

    Photographed on a decorative sheet of Lokta paper.

    Panel No. 53 // Kicks

    In this panel, I wanted to play around with wrapped cord. It turned out to be very time consuming which resulted in a rather simple finished panel. The neon green cord is wrapped with light orange spice cotton floss, light blue green cotton floss and dark teal wool thread. At least one of the wrapped threads anchors the cord to the board that is covered in St. Armand blue paper. The cord is surrounded with tooled rectangles in electric blue matte foil.

    Photographed on a tiger print dress.

    Panel No. 54 // Cottonball

    I have played with beading in past panels, but for this panel I wanted to couch a string of beads. Another surprisingly time consuming technique. The string of beads includes tangerine and denim blue glass seed beads. Running alongside the string of beads is a blind tooled line and a stitched line mixed with chain stitch and back stitch. The embroidery is done with lilac cotton floss which perfectly matches the lilac St. Armand paper which covers the board.

    Photographed on a floral folder repurposed from a Paper Source calendar. Made while listening to Led Zeppelin.

  10. 100 Day Project // Panels 37 – 45

    April 27, 2021 by Erin Fletcher

    Here are the next nine panels for my 100 Day Project.

    Panel No. 37 // Weirdo Shrine

    The inspiration for this panel came while making Panel No. 25. For that panel, I punched the holes for the embroidery through the covered panel which caused the material to “volcano” on the backside. I removed these peaks with a scalpel blade before stitching to create a smooth surface. For this panel I tiled different handmade paper onto the panel before covering it with a layer of lilac St. Armand paper. I punched the holes from the backside so that the “volcanoes” would emerge on the front side. Then I carved out the peaks with a scalpel before stitching with a gunmetal metallic thread.

    Photographed with Sweet Bee vinyl figurine. Made while listening to La Luz.

    Panel No. 38 // Dangerously Ripe

    This panel is covered in flanelle buffalo skin with naturally dyed silk appliqued with cutch/iron cotton floss. This is a technique I used recently on a design binding and wanted to play around with it some more for this panel.

    Photographed on a woven basket (where we keep our snacks!). Made while listening to Lady Gaga.

    Panel No. 39 // Fletcher

    The illustration depicted here comes from my wonderful 3-year old nephew Fletcher. These wacky figures are embroidered on a peach handmade paper from Katie MacGregor and stitched with light golden brown and dark rosewood cotton floss. The figure on the right has a brown St. Armand onlay for a dress and electric blue abaca paper onlays for ears.

    Photographed on the back cover of The Wrong Place by Brecht Evens.

    Panel No. 40 // To Being Number One

    To create the cheetah for this panel, I painted out a collage of colors using various Acryla gouache paints. To find the perfect placement, I cut out a silhouette of the cheetah and traced the best spot on the painting. Additional markings are drawn on with colored pens. The cheetah is adhered to a medium brown goatskin.

    Photographed on the page for August in a calendar made by Bloomwolf Studio.

    Panel No. 41 // Bursting

    A pile of thread scraps have been piling up on my bench, so for this panel I decided to couched them onto a base of mauve buffalo skin. Beneath the mess of threads are three pieces of mica that have been attached with French knots. The mica was scavenged from a creek near Penland School of Crafts.

    Photographed on the cover for The Plague by Albert Camus. Made while listening to Ladyhawke and Lake.

    Panel No. 42 // Screen

    This panel came to life while I was trimming the flyleaves on a design binding. I thought I might try to use the trimmed pieces rather than throw them away. The panel is covered in an over marbled paper which I made during a workshop with Chena River Marblers. Strips of mauve handmade paper are embroidered in a whipped back stitch with corn flower, terra cotta and ash grey linen Londonderry thread. The strips extend beyond the board with the edges folded inward.

    Photographed on a souvenir from Tokyo – cats on a handkerchief.

    Panel No. 43 // Squares

    For this panel, I found inspiration inside the book featured in the background. The design tiles together various colored St. Armand papers which are outlined with a running stitch in light antique violet cotton floss. The design sits on a base of red-brown handmade paper from Katie MacGregor.

    Photographed on a page from Embroidery and Colour by Constance Howard.

    Panel No. 44 // Scrunchie No. 1

    The running stitch can be used in fabric to scrunch the cloth, so I aspired to do the same with leather. For the most part, the running stitches have been obscured by various notions and scraps. Neon orange and heather copper cord are couched onto the leather with navy blue and medium golden olive cotton floss, respectively. A piece of perforated suede in the center is tacked down with light antique violet. Finally, a strand of yellow yarn loops through the piece and is couched onto the wild orchid cowhide with dark garnet cotton floss.

    Photographed on a page from Sol LeWitt Wall Drawings 1984 – 1992.

    Panel No. 45 // Making the Move

    My intention with this panel was to create a tooled design directly on the panel in response to the shape of the onlays. The two onlays are cut from yellow translucent abaca from the Morgan Conservatory, with details drawn using Caran d’Ache Luminance colored pencil in manganese violet and orange. Concentric outlines rippling from each onlay are blind tooled onto French Chagreen dark brown goatskin.

    Photographed on a vintage popcorn tin. Made while listening to Lake.

  • 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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