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Posts Tagged ‘nancy leavitt’

  1. Bookbinder of the Month: Sol Rébora

    November 9, 2014 by Erin Fletcher


    Sol Rébora bound this special one of a kind text by calligrapher Nancy Leavitt after a serendipitous meeting. The book is bound in the French-style of fine binding in full violet goatskin. The decoration is divided into six levels with onlays in purple and white goatskin.

    The text within this binding is a special edition by Nancy Leavitt. Do have a connection with Nancy, who is a calligrapher and book artist based in Northern Maine?
    I met Nancy in New York in 2006, at the 100th Anniversary Guild of Book Workers Conference. I love her work and I like her very much; she is really a beautiful person and a great artist. I proposed to her that we make a book together and she accepted; so we started to work on it. We looked for a topic which we both like to work with and [settled on the subject of] Tango. After some research we chose [the popular song] Balada para un loco [by poet Hector Ferrer].

    Sometime later she had finished the book, she sent it to me by mail, and I worked on the binding. Both of us worked totally free on our feelings.


    Nancy found a way to make a translation, which is very difficult for Tango. With the text and the song, she found a base to create the book.

    Later I bound the book, working with the same process I use for every design binding, but with the plus that I had been part of the creating process of the text in some way. I sent the design to Nancy before I began, (even if she didn’t ask it) and she liked it very much, so I started to work on it.

    It was a wonderful experience.

    Did you find inspiration in the text or do you draw from another source?
    To explain my way to work on a design or to find inspiration I have quite a clear process of work.

    As a starting point in the design process, I engaged in the act of reading the text of the book to be bound or I inquire about the context and history of the edition. To continue as a general basis of the process, I found very necessary to observe carefully all the aspects of the book:

    – Typography: The design of the typeface, its predominant form, size and color.
    – Print Layout: Book cover, typographic case and blank surfaces around the text.
    – Paper: Color, texture and paper weight.
    – Illustrations: Techniques used for illustrations, predominant color, size and quantity thereof.
    – Size and shape of the book: I observe the size of the book, number of booklets [signatures], leaflets or free sheets, and finally the weight of the book.

    From the evaluation of these conditions, I can begin to work on the design of the binding:
    – Structure and construction process: What may be the most appropriate structure and format and sewing by weight.
    – Materials to use: wire, paper, paperboard, leather, fabric, or alternative materials such as acrylic, wood, metal, etc.
    – Textures: Choosing textures in every material used for union or for opposition to the qualities that brings the book.
    – Colors: Colors of the materials I decide to use.
    – Design: Drawings, designs, models, colors and material testing.

    I think the openness and the preservation are the most important points on the construction process of a contemporary design binding, together with “good techniques and aesthetic criteria”.

    These are technical conditions that a binding should have to preserve the criteria that the book brings from the edition, which is accompanied by an aesthetic thought of form and color text, based on the text, work which is responsible editors, designers and illustrators.

    The design and the aesthetics or the artistic expression of the binding should be integrated to create one piece with intellectual and sensory reading from the outside. Finally, I would say the construction techniques of the structure, along with the design of the cover and applied materials, play together to achieve this unit.

  2. New England Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers // Mini-Conference in Maine – Day Two

    October 5, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

    9:00 – 12:00
    Morning Workshop Session
    The mini-conference offered two half-day workshops with calligrapher, Nancy Leavitt and papermaker, Katie MacGregor. The group of participants were divided into two groups. For the morning session, I attended Nancy’s workshop titled Pen, Paper and Paint.

    Nancy’s first attempt at calligraphy came by inspiration from a Seventeen article; clipping the tip off of a felt tip pen. To pursue the practice of calligraphy, Nancy studied with Peter Halliday in the 1980s. Even though the workshop lasted for only three hours, Nancy was able to pack years of knowledge into her instructions.

    At the start of the workshop, Nancy presented her creative process. When commissioned to calligraph the lyrics to six Beatles’ songs, Nancy took the project beyond the initial request and created an in-depth artist book to incorporate the historical and social events occurring at the release of each song. In the image below, Nancy shows us her charts and mock-ups developed during the creative process.

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    After whipping up some egg glaire and adding water to the gouache one drop at a time, Nancy presented some tips on mixing paint, filling pen nibs, and painting. Each student received a special packet of paper varieties. One half of the packet included a selection of Katie MacGregor’s handmade paper ranging from 1 day old to 20 years old. Nancy loves to allow her paper to ‘age’ because it creates a more agreeable surface to work on.

    As we experimented with the paper varieties and pen nibs, Nancy came around to write each of our names on the paper of our choice. Towards the end of the workshop, Nancy gave a demonstration on turning a feather into a quill. Nancy shared her amazing collection of feather quills, which are carefully and lawfully collected. First, Nancy removed the membrane from the shaft by running it along a hot iron. Then she revealed her coveted penknife from her apron, a tool specifically for shaping the tip of a quill. Each student was presented with a keepsake quill, which we played with by filling the nib with gouache and writing on each of our paper samples.


    1:00 – 4:00
    Afternoon Workshop Session


    In the afternoon, my group headed over to Katie MacGregor’s studio for our second workshop session, A Hand Papermaker’s Perspective. Her studio is just steps from her home, set back in the woods and down a long gravel road. Katie invited us upstairs first, to share with us her creative process, how she logs her formulas and a collection of books created using her papers. Katie has also worked on a variety of custom paper orders for institutions and artists, including a three sheet order for the most vibrant and saturated red she could make.


    We headed downstairs for the actual labor. Katie first mixed up a bucket of fresh pulp and pigment, which she then added to the large vat. The smaller vat was given an addition of flax. Each student was given the opportunity to pull one small sheet and one large sheet. Katie gave a quick demonstration of the proper posture and techniques for shaking the mould, then the process of tipping the mould onto the felts in order to couch the sheets. After watching Katie, each student embraced the messy, wet process of papermaking.

    As a treat, Bernie Vinzani added a special watermark to the larger sheets. Using vinyl lettering, Guild of Book Workers Maine 2014, was heated to the wire threads of the mould, a quicker alternative to the traditional technique for making watermarks.


    Once the last sheet was couched, Katie moved the paper into her hydraulic press, squeezing out the excess water. Then she carefully separated each sheet from the felts for the next stage in the drying process. As we finished the workshop, Katie’s close friends were preparing a wonderful spread of hors d’oeuvres and libations. Katie and Nancy also put together a selection of items for sale and I delightfully walked away with eleven new sheets of handmade paper, two of which I’ve already sewn into two soon to be fine bindings.


    7:00 – 9:00
    Evening Presentation
    Wild blueberries are native to parts of Maine and Canada. As an added treat for the mini-conference participants, Nancy and Katie prepared a wonderfully home-cooked meal of Blueberry Chicken over Rice. After our meal, Nancy’s husband, Blueberry Specialist David Yarborough gave a thorough presentation on the history of the blueberry plant and its involvement in Maine’s agriculture industry.

    That ends the festivities of the mini-conference. As the first event of this scope I’ve put together, I think it was a success from the point of view of the CCLC, conference participants and workshop instructors.

  3. New England Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers // Mini-Conference in Maine – Day One

    September 23, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

    What began as a simple workshop idea between myself and papermaker Katie MacGregor, turned into a weekend long mini-conference event. Over the past year, part of the NEGBW team (myself, Todd Pattison and Lauren Telepak) along with Katie MacGregor, Nancy Leavitt and Alan Furth put together the plans for a mini-conference at the Cobscook Community Learning Center in the small northeastern town of Trescott, Maine.

    To our wonderment, we had an almost full attendance and participants traveled as far as Florida and California. The conference was held from September 12th – 14th. I’m going to write about this event in two separate posts; beginning with the events on day one.

    1:00 – 2:30
    Tour at University of Maine, Machias
    My day began in Boston, driving northbound toward Machias, Maine. The town of Machias is small and charming. The town had a wonderful shop called The French Cellar selling local cheeses, wines and other delicious items. I also made a stop at the local art supplies shop/framers/gallery. It was there that I picked up a beautiful piece of pottery crafted by a local artist. But the real reason to stop in Machias was for the first event of the conference.

    Also located in Machias, is the University of Maine, which enrolls about 1,000 students coming from all around New England for their undergraduate studies. An average of fifty students participate in the Book Arts Program per year. Bernie Vinzani, Director of the Book Arts Studio, lead a tour of their facility. The tour began with a trip to the gallery, displaying works by both students, local artists and historical documents.


    We then moved into the other various rooms of the Book Arts Studio, which included the bindery, print shop and a multi-purpose room. Bernie explained that the students are involved in a single project each year in which they must work together. Each student receives a particular job and they learn the process of creating a book, printing a book, assembling a book and then selling a book. The components of their most recent project was laid out for us, along with a wall display of past projects.


    As a treat, a solo exhibition of Katie MacGregor’s pulp paintings and other artworks were installed early. This part of the tour was quite thrilling for me. I’ve only known the papermaking side of Katie and was intrigued by her creative side.

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    Moon Travel – Katie MacGregor

    5:00 – 8:30
    Presentations and Evening Reception
    The conference participants reconvened at the Cobscook Community Learning Center for the evening festivities. The CCLC hosted most of the activities for the weekend and even had a lodge onsite where many of the participants slept. The lodge was newly built and our group are one of the first to occupy it. I chose a quad for economic reasons and was delighted by the four bunk beds I ended up having to myself. Each room has its own private bathroom complete with shower. 

    Starting off the evening, was a presentation from CCLC Executive Director, Alan Furth, who introduce us all to the Center by giving a brief overview of its history and mission. The Center formed in 1999 as a group of community members from the Passamquoddy Tribe, the Euro-American community, and a community of Canadians from New Brunswick wanted to improve life in this rural region. Paying particular attention to the education models of many Danish folk schools, they developed a center aimed at empowering high school students and to strengthen their community.

    The following presentation was giving by local printer and book artist, Walter Tisdale. Walter filled three tables with wonderful examples of his own work, the work of his friends and some collaborative projects. Walter began his training at the University of Wisconsin in Madison studying book arts with Walter Hamady. Although typography is his real passion, as is collaborating with writers and artists for enriching content; Walter also plays around with book forms. Walter’s aversion for glue forces him to develop innovative non-adhesive structures. Making dummies is his forte. And so he shared some of these models with us.

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    Last, but certainly not least was a presentation by the imitable bookbinder Gray Parrot (also a local to Maine). With an early interest in 18th century bindings, Gray began to build his collection until the habit became to expensive therefore pushing his interests onto pulp and science fiction novels. Gray was an Enlgish Literature major at Harvard before he embarked on studying bookbinding with Arno Werner in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1971. Gray studied with Arno for less than a year before going to Ascona to learn finishing techniques.

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    In 1973, he opened his own bindery and worked on his first edition project just a year later. To date he’s worked with some very talented printers and respectable presses such as Leonard Baskin, Barry Moser, Pennyroyal Press and Gehanna Press. In addition to his presentation, Gray brought an abundant collection of his own bindings. All of which, he let us handle and gawk at. His hand skills are superb and his tooling immaculate. Gray pays attention to every little detail and leaves no space bare without purpose. I discovered a tooled line on the top lip of a leather covered tray on a clamshell box!


    After those three exciting presentations we were eager for dinner, which was served up by a local catering business run by two sisters. Once we took our last bites of decadent chocolate cake, chatter soon arose about the possibility of seeing the Northern lights. We took a short walk out to an open field and patiently waited until a blanket of stars. Sadly, we never saw any sign of the Northern lights and headed back to the lodge to rest after our first day of the conference. (Although some of us were lucky to see a few good shooting stars!)

  • 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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