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  1. Maker Talk // Creating a Design Binding

    May 26, 2020 by Erin Fletcher

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

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

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

    Slide from Presentation

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


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

    May 3, 2020 by Erin Fletcher

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

    If you are looking for even more instructional content, I have a growing list of tutorials and I also teach live workshops in-person and online. Check out my list of Upcoming Workshops.

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

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

    If you are looking for some great content for this type of structure, go to Quarantine Public Library. This free repository of finished works can be printed for free and assembled using the tutorial above. Katie Garth and Tracy Honn dreamed up this project in the early days of quarantine and by the generosity of the artists they collaborated with is making this library free for everyone. Any donations generated by this project will be given to EveryoneOn, a non-profit organization that connects low income families to computers and affordable internet. When the internet is our most important means of connection right, this organization is very important and necessary.


  3. My Hand // Happy Abstract

    April 29, 2020 by Erin Fletcher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  4. International Edible Book Day!

    April 1, 2020 by Erin Fletcher

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

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

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

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

    Even though this video is geared towards kids, this technique is great for any age group. You can find more online content created for NBSS here. If you are looking for even more instructional content, I have a growing list of tutorials and I also teach live workshops in-person and online. Check out my list of Upcoming Workshops.

    Happy International Edible Book Day!


  5. Swell Things No. 52

    March 31, 2020 by Erin Fletcher

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


  6. Upcoming Workshops // February – April

    February 10, 2020 by Erin Fletcher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  7. Swell Things No. 51

    January 31, 2020 by Erin Fletcher

    1. One of my current obsessions on Instagram is @fashion_for_bank_robbers. The account is curated by German-Iranian artist Carina Shoshtary, who makes wearable art and jewelry. Carina showcases the work of other artists in addition to her own creations on the account. Each post is thought-provoking and delightful, playing with form and identity.
    2. I am a bookbinder. My husband creates animations for a planetarium. This Book is a Planetarium marries our interests so beautifully. This pop-up book includes 6 interactive spreads including a 3-D dome that projects constellations.
    3. I’m constantly wowed by the work of Taili Wu. Her work is colorful, imaginative and filled with whimsy and humor. I particularly love her ceramic work, but her range of skill with animation is also quite engaging.
    4. Alok is a fierce dresser. I am captivated by their bold choices in color, pattern and silhouettes. But more than that Alok is an inspiring figure for the LGBTQ community and how one can express themselves in ways outside of the traditional norms or expectations. Alok travels around the world, speaking about their experiences, breaking down stereotypes and just being a completely amazing person.
    5. Magical Circle Variations is a body of work by sculptor Rogan Brown. In this series, Rogan makes a connection between the human microbiome and coral reefs. After extensive research, pastel-colored papers are intricately cut and arranged to mimic the equally vast and diverse habitats that make up coral reefs.

    6. I’ve been a fan of Michelle Kingdom‘s work for sometime now. Her dense embroidery is so expressive and lively. Michelle paints so beautifully with thread to create a perfect balance of light and shadow within her characters as they dance across the canvas.
    7. I am awestruck by the illusions make-up artist Mimi Choi is able to create on the human face. Most recently she styled Ezra Miller’s face for the Met Gala Camp in 2019. Mimi is incredibly talented and teaches her techniques at the Blanch Macdonald Centre in Vancouver.
    8. A few years ago while taking a workshop at Penland, I had a chance to visit their gallery. I was wowed by the sculpture work of Kensuke Yamada. His bulbous characters are filled with emotion and delight. I love his use of color and texture. His work is really engaging and even more rewarding to see in person.
    9. In this mesmerizing short, filmmaker Rus Khasanov developed a technique for capturing the seamless mixture of two or more droplets of pigment. This is done without any human intervention. The dazzling colors explode together and make new shimmering ones. It’s quite amazing to witness in his film Unity.
    10. The sculpture work of Susannah Montague is alluring. Her main subject is cast from toy baby dolls and adorned with bouquets of flowers, butterflies, skulls and chains. The angelic white ceramic is sparsely decorated with splashes of gold, pale pink and blue, and black.


  8. Upcoming Workshops // January – March

    January 15, 2020 by Erin Fletcher

    January:
    Limp Vellum Binding
    January 25 – 26 (Saturday – Sunday)
    North Bennet Street School
    Boston, MA

    This workshop is sold out. This workshop will focus on the Limp Vellum/Paper Case binding structure. This simple yet elegant binding arose in the 15th century in response to the advent of the printed book. This structure allowed the binder to quickly construct a solid and durable binding. Each student will construct their own binding learning how to sew over alum-tawed thongs on a sewing frame, create traditional hand-sewn endbands and work with vellum and leather. If a student has a sensitivity to using animal products, they may use handmade paper for the cover.

    February:
    Fundamentals of Bookbinding I
    February 3 – 7 (Monday – Friday)
    North Bennet Street School
    Boston, MA

    Students will learn the foundations of bookbinding by combining hands-on exercises and discussion. The class starts by exploring non-adhesive structures: soft cover pamphlet, Coptic, historical longstitch and link stitch. The class ends with a look at case bindings, with the creation of two hardcover flatback bindings. Students also learn different structural elements, sewing variations, covering and cutting techniques using various materials, tools and equipment. Throughout the course discussions will cover terminology, paper grain and folding, selecting proper materials and tools, and adhesives and their properties.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  9. Upcoming Workshops // November

    October 15, 2019 by Erin Fletcher

    November:
    Fundamentals of Bookbinding I
    November 4 – 8 (Monday – Friday)
    North Bennet Street School
    Boston, MA

    Students will learn the foundations of bookbinding by combining hands-on exercises and discussion. The class starts by exploring non-adhesive structures: soft cover pamphlet, Coptic, historical longstitch and link stitch. The class ends with a look at case bindings, with the creation of two hardcover flatback bindings. Students also learn different structural elements, sewing variations, covering and cutting techniques using various materials, tools and equipment. Throughout the course discussions will cover terminology, paper grain and folding, selecting proper materials and tools, and adhesives and their properties.

    Japanese Stab Binding
    November 17 (Sunday)
    North Bennet Street School
    Boston, MA

    In this workshop, students will construct a Japanese Stab binding model, more traditionally referred to as 4-Hole binding or yotsume toji. We will build the model in a traditional manner, while incorporating Western tools and equipment. This workshop will provide a better understanding of the structure and the foundation for which to alter the number of holes and sewing pattern.


  10. Upcoming Workshop // September to November

    September 10, 2019 by Erin Fletcher

    Secret Belgian Binding
    September 14 – 15 (Saturday – Sunday)
    North Bennet Street School
    Boston, MA

    There are still a few spots left! This workshop explores the Secret Belgian structure and ways to modify it. On day one, students put together two variations of this non-adhesive structure: one with exposed stitches and one with hidden stitches. On day two, students explore modified versions of the Secret Belgian binding developed by book artist, Anne Goy by playing with the length of stitching and incorporating Tyvek. The Secret Belgian binding can be constructed quickly with few tools and virtually no equipment. It opens flat and works best with thinner text blocks.

    Cross Structure Binding
    September 21 – 22 (Saturday – Sunday)
    North Bennet Street School
    Boston, MA

    There are still a few spots left! The Cross Structure binding is a non-adhesive structure 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 for conservation or new bindings, such as travel journals or decorative bindings. The structure is uniquely constructed by interlocking the front and back covers at the spine. In this 2-day workshop, students will work on 4 variations of the Cross Structure, creating models in both handmade paper and leather. If time permits, students will have an opportunity to decorate their covers.


    October:
    Bookbinding 101
    October 5 – 6 (Saturday – Sunday)
    North Bennet Street School
    Boston, MA

    ​In this two day class, students get a quick introduction to various bookbinding techniques by exploring three different book structures. The class begins with a simple pamphlet and continues with constructing two multi-signature books known as a flatback case binding and link stitch binding. Finally, students construct a box to house all of their creations. This class is a great way to familiarize yourself with bookbinding and is perfect for those who are curious about the craft. Please bring a notebook and pencil to class.


    November:
    Fundamentals of Bookbinding I
    November 4 – 8 (Monday – Friday)
    North Bennet Street School
    Boston, MA

    Students will learn the foundations of bookbinding by combining hands-on exercises and discussion. The class starts by exploring non-adhesive structures: soft cover pamphlet, Coptic, historical longstitch and link stitch. The class ends with a look at case bindings, with the creation of two hardcover flatback bindings. Students also learn different structural elements, sewing variations, covering and cutting techniques using various materials, tools and equipment. Throughout the course discussions will cover terminology, paper grain and folding, selecting proper materials and tools, and adhesives and their properties.

    Japanese Stab Binding
    November 17 (Sunday)
    North Bennet Street School
    Boston, MA

    In this workshop, students will construct a Japanese Stab binding model, more traditionally referred to as 4-Hole binding or yotsume toji. We will build the model in a traditional manner, while incorporating Western tools and equipment. This workshop will provide a better understanding of the structure and the foundation for which to alter the number of holes and sewing pattern.


  • 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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