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  1. 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.

    FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 12
    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 The tour began with a trip to the gallery, displaying works by both students, local artists and historical documents.

    MaineConferenceTour2-ErinFletcher

    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.

    MaineConferenceTour-ErinFletcher

    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!

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    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!)


  2. Bookbinder of the Month: Sonya Sheats

    June 23, 2013 by Erin Fletcher

    pictorialwebster-sonyasheats

    Photo by Brandon Constant.

    In 2010, the New England Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers exhibited a series of juried design bindings for Johnny Carrera’s Pictorial Webster’s: A Visual Dictionary of Curiosities. As a project that began in 1996, Carrera patiently sifted through a collection of around 12,000 engravings from the Merriam-Webster Company that are now housed in Yale’s Arts of the Book Press room in hopes to create a visual dictionary inspired by the Illustrated Webster’s. Carrera’s Pictorial Webster became available to the public as a trade edition in 2010. Original letterpress copies were bound in several different styles from full leather to oak boards to full cloth. Additional copies were left unbound and made available to bookbinders.

    Sonya Sheats was amongst the binders selected for the NEGBW exhibit deFINEd BINDINGS hosted at the Bromfield Gallery in Boston, MA. Bound as an open joint binding and sewn on water snakeskin and vellum tapes. The spine is white and black snakeskin and the covers are MDF and walnut veneer with dyed walnut onlays. The binding fits snuggly inside a shaped walnut slipcase. Sonya’s binding was awarded “Best Binding Structure” by North Bennet Street School

    A comment from Sonya regarding the structure of the binding: 
    Looking back, I do not think I would use an open joint structure on a book this thick. The covers essentially hang off of the book by the sewing tapes, which are hidden in a sort of de Gonet style with the dyed wooden onlays. Because of the hefty appearance of the walnut, I think it works here, but in general, I think of this structure as quite delicate and lanky. 

    pictorialwebster2-sonyasheats

    Photo by Brandon Constant.


  3. Online Exhibit // New England Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers

    May 12, 2013 by Erin Fletcher

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    bound by McKey Berkman

    Members of the New England Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers recently bound copies of Book Art Studio Handbooka practical guide to bookbinding co-written by Amy Lapidow and Stacie Dolin. This handbook is filled with great tips on setting up a studio, buying tools and plenty of projects that vary in complexity and skill. 

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    bound by Samuel Feinstein

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    bound by Barbara Hebard and students at Boston College

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    bound by Karen Hanmer


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    My name is Erin Fletcher, owner and bookbinder of Herringbone Bindery in Boston. Flash of the Hand is a space where I share my process and inspirations.
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