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  1. August // Bookbinder of the Month: Mark Cockram

    August 1, 2014 by Erin Fletcher


    This binding of A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess was recently completed by the imitable Mark Cockram. The design is free of constraints, running wild and pushing the boundaries of the typical composition found on bindings past or present.

    Below are just two of the many photographs that Mark has shared on his blog documenting the progression of the binding. You can find more posts here. Seeing the transformation of the covers offers an even greater appreciation for the binding, exploring the work and dedication that was put into it.


    A Clockwork Orange is special to Mark and deserved the right style of binding and design to speak of its story appropriately. The book is a second edition with a tipped in plate signed by the author.

    Your bindings have begun to develop into more textural surfaces with complex layers of color and graphics. What made you feel ready as an artist and bookbinder to bind a copy of this iconic title?
    I think I have always been interested in mixed media, even at art college my tutors would run out of things to say about my work. I suppose that with all the combinations of materials that have been and are being used to make books and how artists use materials, there is nothing new about what I do. I went to college in an age before the computer and for me cut and paste is just that… cut and paste.

    One aspect of bookbinding is to learn the skills that we need to make a book. This can be a life long journey. Some get so wound up in the technique and the craft of making that they forget the art of making and how design and art are as important as craft. I feel there has to be a balance in all things. Worse are the binders who say they work in the contemporary. Binding each book that finds itself on their bench with the same technique and material manipulation year in year out. The only apparent difference being the colour and the title.

    I realise that binders like to sell their work and it is so tempting to go for the easy option, after years of training and developing their ‘signature binding style’ and then the work begins to sell, it is at that time that forward movement ends. The collectors become comfortable with the styles of these binders. I have heard collectors say, at more than one private view “I have to have a so and so binding, I do not have one of his/hers yet”. It would appear that they are not collecting books, but binders work… Most binders working in this field tend to work with private press books from the 1890’s + (Golden Cockerel and the like) or modern private presses. I know that some text blocks are beautifully printed, but most titles and themes just seem to be dated. So who is to blame? The binders for doing the same thing year in year out? Or the collector, buying the same thing year in, year out? Or is it something else? Like a combination of the two.

    I prefer to move forward, to work with each book separately. To use an existing technique or to find something different depends on what the book needs. I do revisit past styles or working techniques if suitable … not as a matter of course. Over the last year or so I have been working with more mixed media. I suppose it looks like I go through phases with my work, but I tend to collect a few books that I feel a particular way of working would lend itself to and go for it.

    A Clockwork Orange is one of about 3 or 4 books that have a very graphic, layered, multi media feel and look to them. What else could I do with Clockwork? A full leather binding, generic traditional gold tooling with a nice label to the spine, 5 raised bands, marbled paper endpapers? Hardly contemporary and hardly in keeping with the text I think. It has been said that I am a brave binder, to take risks, to do what is not expected. I could take the safe path, bind in a fashion I know would sell, with the least amount of thought. But in reality I could not call myself a designer bookbinder let alone a contemporary bookbinder if I were to do that and most important I would not be either honest with my work and the book.

    AClockworkOrange3-MarkCockram AClockworkOrange2-MarkCockram

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    While a student at North Bennet Street School, I had the opportunity to travel with my fellow classmates to London. On this trip we spent an afternoon at Studio 5, Mark’s bindery space. His energy was infectious as he bounced around the room demonstrating various techniques and answering all of our eagerly asked questions. I regrettably did not take the time to get to know Mark further that day, so I was very happy that he agreed to be interviewed on my blog. I am in constant awe of the work he churns out, both in their execution and design.

    I’m so delighted to present the following interview with Mark Cockram. His bindings transform the traditional view of bookbinding and push the form into a new level of design. His work and dedication to the craft is aspirational and Mark has thoughtfully answered each of my questions with so much passion and truthfulness (with a bit of wit mixed in). Throughout the month of August, I’ll be presenting a binding of Mark’s each Sunday.

    Enjoy the interview after the jump.

    read more >

  • 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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