I, Claudius – Return to Ancient Rome

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After 5 years I get to return to my beloved ancient Rome through these bindings of Robert Graves’ books I, Claudius and Claudius the God.

The idea behind these bindings was to go for something simple and classic. Although in theory this should have been easy I struggled a lot coming up with a decoration. Perhaps the lockdowns (dear future reader: this was the year of the Covid pandemic) finally took their toll on my inspiration!

The decoration on the covers was designed by Marianna Koutsipetsidi, who has aided me time and again with her valuable skills, using historical artwork from that era (frescoes and mosaics) as reference. It depicts an eagle holding a wolf pup, an omen within the story of things to come.

The leather I used for the bindings has a deep grain which is very beautiful but made tracing the design very difficult. I commissioned a stamping plate to assist me in that regard: I carefully damped the covers and pressed it until it left a clear impression. I then proceeded to blind tool the whole design by hand.

I’m particularly happy with the printed marbled paper I used for the clamshell boxes which looks very similar to actual marble, for that extra ancient Rome touch.

The titles were tooled in genuine 24 carat gold leaf and the endbands were handsewn with silk thread.

When it comes to the book spines I drew inspiration from early 16th century bindings, which were most often blind tooled rather than gold tooled and many of them had rather simple decorations on them, most often linear in nature. There’s also a “roughness” to their decoration.
I tried to capture a bit of that aesthetic to allow the bindings to look “dated/old” while being new.

These historical bindings also lack titles in most cases, I suppose because metal type was still in its first decades and not as readily available. For what is more I couldn’t find a way to properly fit the title to the spines of the bindings in a way that would look nice.
So, in the end I decided to tool the titles on the spines of the book cases.

Last but not least, I used my Bookbinding Stylus Set to tool the covers decoration and the pillar on the case spines, as well as my Versatile Typeholder to tool the titles.

The South Sea Scheme

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Greetings everyone, hope you managed to enjoy the holidays and brace for whatever 2021 has in store for us!
Without further ado lets… dive in this special project.

Mister C. owns an admirable collection of marbled papers from around the world. Word on the bookbinding street is that he keeps them in a secret room in his study, revealed only if you press 43 books -out of 6000- in a specific order, while others claim the way to reveal the entrance is to loudly name the 3 greatest economists in reverse speech while standing on one foot.
In any case, Mister C. often initiates a project by choosing a marbled paper for a book, either on his own or consulting with the bookbinder, and building the overall design from there.

Such was the case with a pamphlet on the South Sea Bubble, a famous financial scheme that involved slave trading. More specifically the pamphlet is focused on the absurd case the defendants made in court, since the scheme resulted in a financial disaster on a national level. Coincidentally 2021 marks 300 years from the South Sea Bubble, as the fraud was revealed in 1721.

Mister C. had a few requests when it came to the design. I was to use one of the marvelous marbled papers made by Antonio Velez Celemin, which had swirls that would resemble a turbulent sea. I tried my best to capture the beauty of this paper on camera but one really has to see it in person to appreciate its extremely fine details, such as the numerous hair-thin gold lines that populate it and add to its splendor.
The design was to also include a ship, chains, the pound sign and the words “human rights” among its elements. The overall layout and the way all these would be incorporated was left to my crafting judgement though.
The intention was to create a binding that would narrate the story of the South Sea Bubble in a symbolic way, while at the same touching upon its repercussions and ethical questions it raises.

The first thing I did was trying to find out which part of the marbled papers to cut and how. I had to decide which areas best suited the design, take into account the paper grain and the exact outline of the cut. As the entire design would be based on the resulting pieces and I only had one sheet it took me 3 hours to complete this process.

I felt like a lapidarist, who has to study a rough diamond and come up with the ideal final shape, in order to remove the impurities but also preserve as much of the precious material as possible, thus revealing its hidden beauty and ensuring the resulting gem will have be of the highest value.

Once the pieces of paper were cut I knew the space I had available and its exact geometry, allowing me to create the rest of the design in detail.

The ship sailing on the turbulent sea under a storm and its wreck sinking to the bottom to meet the remnants of other ships were made using small pieces of leather pared down to a 0.3mm thickness, called onlays.

The chain on the front cover carries a double meaning: representing the shackles of the people that suffered under the slave trade conducted by the South Sea Company as well as the cuffs that were put on many of the ones responsible for the scheme, falling upon the ship and their business in the shape of a lighting – hinting at allegorical interpretations of “divine punishment”.

This design was also an excellent chance to utilize my (copyright pending!) Round Circle Title form, which I haven’t used for a very long time.
(Here’s two examples: A and B)

Ι blended “human rights” with the title and tooled it in a blood-red foil to add even more symbolic notes to the overall theme and make a stark contrast with the dark leather and gold title.
Fun fact: I haven’t been able to find this foil locally and so I’ve been religiously keeping/saving a small scrap for nearly a decade. It paid off, as I think it adds a great touch and becomes in some ways the central focus of the design. Take that Marie Kondo!

The pamphlet itself sits comfortably within a recess on the velvet and marbled-paper covered interior. When removed it reveals what is in many cases the cause of human suffering: money.
As with the paper on the covers I tried to use a piece that would make the most of the marbled paper chaotic and fine details.

The pamphlet was a binding at some point in the past, though the only remnants from that state were a damaged endband sliver and some dried up goo along the spine. I decided to intervene as little as possible and simply guarded the folios with Japanese tissue, later binding them on a strip of thick paper using the longstitch method.
This way there was almost zero harm to the pamphlet, as most of the holes used for the longstitch were already present and the strips of Japanese paper can easily be removed if necessary, while at the same time remaining readable.

For those interested, I used my Bookbinding Stylus tool set and Versatile Typeholder to make the decoration of this binding.

Brunelleschi’s Cupola & The Role of Mathematics (in the rise of Science)

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Some years ago I watched a documentary on the construction of the Florence Cathedral, highlighting of course its magnificent dome and the life of its maker, Fillipo Brunelleshi. I encourage anyone with an interest in history, architecture and engineering, or good documentaries in general, to watch it!

The story behind the massive dome and its brilliant maker were most interesting and stayed with me for years so it was not without some excitement when V.G. tasked me to make a binding for a book on the architecture and physics of the dome.

One of the notable features of the dome is its octagonal shape, upon which I based the decoration.

I wanted the design to hint at red chalk, which was often used historically to draw/plan all sorts of things. In order to achieve that I used ink tooling, a technique I came up with inspired by Hannah Brown’s carbon tooling. The resulting effect is quite interesting: a dual-color impression, randomly shifting from one color to another.

Last but not least I tried to match the leather with the color of the roof tiles.

The second binding is more straightforward with a mix of blind and foil tooling on a lovely teal leather.

Both bindings feature hand-sewn silk endbands.

I used my Brass Stylus set, Dot set, Versatile typeholder and tools from Bookbindesigns (Kevin Noakes) for the decoration of these bindings.

This is my last post for 2020, which has been a very strange and difficult year. May 2021 be kinder to us all!
Best wishes for the holiday season and see you folks next year!

A Story of Hope – Or how to do a proper wedding book!

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Stowing the tins in her tent, pitched inside the Olympic stadium, Laila climbs to the roof and watches the sun fall past the horizon. Hundreds of feet below, the city’s constellations of streetlights start blinking into existence.

There are no humans left in London, but the city hums with activity, a hollow approximation of organic civilization.

Folks, there’s romance and there’s romance, and then there’s story-set-in-post-apocalyptic-world-for-our-wedding-book kind of romance – which honestly makes making everything else weak and vanilla by comparison.

Mister W. wanted a special binding for a story he wrote and will be displayed at his wedding. I happen to be a sucker for post-apocalypse themed stories and Mister W’s story was a small gem of a novel, so I went a bit beyond the original plan to do this project justice.

(Check my bindery’s Instagram account for a video presentation of this binding!)

My design was based on the excerpt at the beginning of the post. I wanted to capture a glimpse of Laila’s view of the city: alive and yet non-living, beautiful but at the same time cold and distant.

I used a map diagram to blind tool the outline of a central London area. Then I used metallic foils to inhabit it with the hundreds of machines, like driverless cars, drones, billboards, etc lighting up and moving about.

Since machines are optimized for efficiency I imagined they always arrange themselves in certain ways, move or settle in formations, and thus I created a number of “secret” rules I followed regarding the size, placement, number and color of dots. The result is a chaotic order, incomprehensible to us and seemingly random, but perfectly ordinary for the machines.

I also made a custom slipcase featuring an important element of the story.

I’ve had lots of fun making this one. Let it be put on record it’s among my top favorite bindings I’ve made and I’ll be really sad to part with it.

Last but not least, A6 size is amazing for design bindings. Everything feels/ looks neat and interesting! Dear clients, more A6s please.

I used my Bookbinding Stylus Set, Versatile Typeholder and Dot set to decorate this binding.

THE AETHRA CODEX – A FANTASY PUZZLE BINDING

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The Dwarves of the Dark Mountains never cared much for gold or precious stones, although they had plenty of both. Instead, they had a mind for wandering. Their gaze was always turned towards the horizon, and what lies beyond, and so they roamed the land and sailed the great sea and discovered wonders the likes of which have inspired bards for centuries.

However they were always distrustful and secretive and so to this day no one knows where their eight kingdoms lie.

To be able to travel from one to another they created eight magnificent books, one for each of their kings: the Aethra Codices. Their covers were richly adorned and upon them the Dark Mountain Dwarves inscribed runes that would allow those who possess the correct gemstones to find their way to one of their kingdoms.

This is one of those books, an Aethra Codex. I leave it, and its mysteries, upon your hands…

Proudly presenting the Aethra Codex: a Fantasy Puzzle Binding.

I’m a passionate fan of tabletop role playing games and the basic idea behind this journal was people could use it as an in-game artifact. It could inspire a story and/or be part of it. Players would no longer have to imagine such a volume; it would be real, something taken out of a fantasy world, the mysteries of which they could now discover and hold in their hands.

I’ve wanted to do such a project for a very long time as it combines many of the things I love and enjoy: RPGs, bookbinding, coming up with puzzles and riddles, mechanical challenges and problem solving in crafting, metalworking and, most of all, stories…

I truly hope I’ll be making more like this in the future. This was only proof of concept, the ideas are there…

The Puzzle

The Aethra Codex (“Aethra” meaning bright star, splendor, or clear sky in Latin) has 3 different challenges/puzzles and each has to be solved in order to progress to the next one.

The players have to find a way to translate the runes, which are Futhark with a few minor changes I made to accommodate tooling of the design.

However after the runes are translated to English the resulting text is gibberish. The players have to decrypt it using a Caesar Cipher, a form of substitution encryption based on a specific number.

Once the text is decrypted they are left with two poems. The first one (back cover) says:

You who seek wisdom of old
Follow the light of many a star
To reach the realms and lands afar
Where hidden perils lie untold
.

The second one (spine) says:

White is the coldness of the North
Green the East with forests vast
Blue the West where ships sail forth
Red the rays by the South sun cast
And black the night between them all
.

When those are interpreted through a more symbolic lens the first one reveals where the gemstones are hidden: within the corner pieces.

The second one gives the proper placement of the gemstones on the 8 sockets of the front cover’s star in the same manner. Watch the gif above to see a gemstone revealed and placed on the star!

This set-up is not meant to be binding for the DMs. Instead of being placed in the corner pieces the gemstones may be found at different in-game locations, in which case the poems have mostly literal meaning.

The challenge can also be extended in various ways f.e. the runes can be an ancient or forgotten Dwarven alphabet, in which case the players can’t translate them from the get go. The phrase “Follow the light of many a star” might refer to a constellation or something beyond the codex. A new challenge, conceived by the storyteller, may be revealed when the gemstones are placed on the star. The possibilities are endless.

In conclusion the puzzles/challenges I incorporated in the binding are mostly meant as an inspiration for the DMs. The texts do not mention specific names and are written in an abstract/generic enough manner that encourages creativity and can easily be adapted and utilized in any story!

The crafting

Making the Aethra Codex has been an undertaking of epic proportions. Everything about it had to be conceived, designed and made by myself. I had to do a lot of tests and experiments, create new tools and tackle various structural challenges.

The biggest of those was making the corner pieces which had to be sturdy, small, securely attached to the binding and with the necessary space inside them to hide the gemstones. Ticking all those boxes was far from easy.

Each corner piece is made of 4 different parts and solidly riveted on the binding. They were, as was the star, hand carved out of wax and then bronze cast.

The design was mostly inspired by Astrolabes, those most mystical-looking and yet historical instruments, that sailors used to navigate the seas!

It’s also easy to overlook how beneath all the runes, brass details and gemstones, the Aethra Codex is a high quality binding. It has been given all the attention I devote to any of my fine bindings and has many of their characteristics such as sewn-in boards, handsewn silk headbands,  leather joints and composite boards to name a few.

As a bonus touch I polished the entire surface with a polishing iron to make it look used and worn, resulting in a wonderful sheen that’s not visible in the photos.

Last but but not least, for my fellow bookbinders: I’ve mostly used these tools to make the Codex, which you can see/buy at my tool page:
Brass Band nippers
Bookbinding Stylus set
– Dot set

Hope you enjoyed reading about the Aethra Codex!

STYLUS SET II & LIMITED EDITION TOOLS

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Presenting the new, improved and expanded, Stylus Set. Suitable for free hand tooling/designs and made by a bookbinder for bookbinders.

Scroll to the bottom to see the limited edition tools.

The previous stylus set in offer has been my most popular tool/s. Since it was made available in 2012 it has been used by professional and hobbyists around the world and received excellent reviews (read further down for reviews).

That said I’m always looking for ways to improve my tools so during the last 2-3 years I’ve been preparing the new stylus set. In order to take this one step further I tested and designed the set with the help of the bookbinding community.

A comprehensive survey was carried out to test various versions of the tool and its handle, with the valuable assistance of Karen Hanmer, whom I thank deeply for her active involvement in this project. More than 30 professional binders, conservators, artists, artisans and bookbinding enthusiasts from various backgrounds, from the US and Greece, took part in the survey.

The feedback provided, in combination with my own research and testing, has contributed in the creation of the new set: high quality, practical and comfortable to use bookbinding tools, with improved features.

THE STYLUS SET



Curved stylus
The “standard” choice, covering a wide range of free-hand tooling needs. The designs that can be achieved with this tool are simply endless.


The curved stylus is ideal for tooling lines (simple, blind or gold tooling). The leather friendly brass and smooth finish, along with the geometry of the blade, make this tool excellent at tracing prior to tooling and allow it to also double as a creaser. It is also good at shaping leather over relief and textured surfaces.

Below you can see a few examples of tooling using the curved stylus by TeoStudio, Robert Wu and myself.



Flat stylus
The latest addition to the set, the flat stylus is ideal for tooling fine details and sharp curves.

The flat stylus is hand-finished at 0.5 mm thickness and 1.5mm width. However it can easily be modified to be thinner or wider in either dimension by “filing” it against a fine grit sandpaper laid on a flat surface.

Below you can see a few examples of tooling using the flat stylus.

Point stylus
The point stylus is the utility tool of the set and can be used for tooling, marking, tracing, adjusting etc.
They are ideal for marking/tracing, used to handle and adjust fine decorative elements (f.e. onlays) and also piercing (if sharpened) since they offer better grip than an awl and won’t stain leather.

It is shipped with a fine but rounded tip, suitable for most uses and for tooling small dots, however you are encouraged to “sharpen” or “blunt” it according to preference.

Below you can see a few examples of tooling using the point stylus by Nate McCall and Macrina Walker.

You can acquire them as:
– Single stylus at the cost of 50 euros (plus shipping)
– Set of 2 at the cost of 90 euros (plus shipping)
– Set of 3 at the cost of 125 euros (plus shipping)

Contact me directly at koutsipetsidis@gmail.com or visit my Etsy shop if you’re interested.

Why choose a stylus tool over a pyrography tool?

1) Temperature control.
The first and most important reason is that the stylus can be rapidly cooled or heated while a pyrography tool takes time to raise or lower temperature. Being able to adjust tool temperature fast makes a big difference for those who perform tooling on a regular basis and facilitates the whole task.

2) Decoration depth.
A pyrography tool usually “burns” the upper layer of a leather surface or -in the case of gold tooling- simply adheres the foil on the leather. The stylus however embosses it, leaving a mark that has depth and volume. This ensures that your decoration will be long-lasting since it can’t be easily abraded by the hardships of use such as scratches, friction and climate variations.

3) Overheating
While not always a case, many of the pyrography tools will overheat with use even if they are set at a specific temperature. This can be a nuisance since the tool has to be left to cool-down gradually and then heated again, which of course is not a problem with the stylus.

—REVIEWS—

Nate McCall
Excellent and beautiful tools…I would highly recommend these to any bookbinder who wants to step up their work!

Ulrich Widmann
Τhey are magnificent. It (the edged one) slides very easy over the leather and leaves a good grove.

Joel Nilsson
Looks and feels great. Very happy with these.

Kae Sable
Beautifully made tools. Well balanced and solid.

Mervyn Leavesley
Very nice quality, good feel to work with.

Marilla Beecher
Fantastic tools! Love the detailed work I can achieve with them.

Elizabeth N.
These tools are as beautiful as they are useful! I bought them in preparation of an art show recently and I think everything turned out well. The tools left me a LOT of creative room, and is absolutely perfect for my kind of work. I’m so glad I made the purchase

Accompanying the presentation of the new stylus set are limited sets with beautiful handles from Olive, Padauk, Purpleheart, Zebrano and Bubinga wood – at no extra cost!– as well as two hand hammered brass band nippers and two typeholders with stunning Bocote handles.

Hammered Brass band Nippers

The Brass Band Nippers were the first of the their kind to be introduced back in 2012.
This unique version was created by hand hammering the tool and using blued steel rivets.
Only 2 available at 140 euros.

Versatile Typeholder with Bocote handle.

A typeholder for single type pieces comes much handier compared to those used for whole words in many cases, such as when tooling a title vertically on a spine, for design purposes which call for tooling letters individually and for corrections when tooling entire titles and a single letter didn’t leave as clear an impression.

The special edition features beautiful Bocote handles with striking dark stripes.
Only 2 available at 150 euros.

Contact me directly at koutsipetsidis@gmail.com or visit my Etsy shop if you’re interested in the limited edition tools.

You can see the rest of my tools ->Here<-.

Σεμινάρια Βιβλιοδεσίας Φθινόπωρο 2020 – Bookbinding Courses Autumn 2020

The bookbinding courses are also available for English speakers.
Contact me for more info and availability if you’re living in Athens or planning to visit and would like to learn bookbinding!

Τα σεμινάρια που θα διεξαχθούν το φθινόπωρο είναι:
– Ραφτή Πανόδετη Βιβλιοδεσία ~ Cloth Case binding, Bradel Binding
– Κοπτική Bιβλιοδεσία ~ Coptic Binding
– Ιαπωνική Bιβλιοδεσία ~ Japanese bookbinding

Θα ακολουθήσει σεμινάριο δερματόδετης βιβλιοδεσίας την άνοιξη.

Τοποθεσία: Το εργαστήριο βρίσκεται πλησίον Εθνικής Άμυνας και έχει εύκολη πρόσβαση με τα μέσα ή με αυτοκίνητο.

Εάν θέλετε να συμμετέχετε:
α) αποστείλετε ένα mail στο koutsipetsidis@gmail.com
β) καλέστε με στο 6936474123 (απογευματινές ώρες).

Θα χαρώ να σας δω στα σεμινάρια!

ΣΗΜΑΝΤΙΚΗ ΑΝΑΚΟΙΝΩΣΗ – Covid19
Προκειμένου να μπορέσουμε να απολαύσουμε ξέγνοιαστοι τα σεμινάρια και να παραμείνουμε όλοι υγιείς θα τηρηθούν μέτρα προστασίας:
– Ο μέγιστος αριθμός μαθητών ανά τμήμα είναι 2.
– Θα γίνεται χρήση μάσκας καθόλη την διάρκεια του μαθήματος.
– Θα γίνεται χρήση αντισηπτικού για απολύμανση των χεριών όποτε χρειάζεται.



Χειροποίητη Ραφτή Πανόδετη Βιβλιοδεσία – Cloth Case binding, Bradel Binding

Το σεμινάριο αυτό αποτελεί μια εισαγωγή στην παραδοσιακή βιβλιοδεσία μέσα από την τεχνική του “καλύμματος” (cloth case binding / bradel binding – ραφτή πανόδετη βιβλιοδεσία). Με την ολοκλήρωση των μαθημάτων θα έχετε στα χέρια σας ένα δεμένο βιβλίο και τις γνώσεις για να δένετε βιβλία με απλά υλικά και εργαλεία βιβλιοδεσίας.

Κόστος σεμιναρίου: 200 ευρώ (συμπεριλαμβανομένης της προκαταβολής για κατοχύρωση θέσης, παρέχονται όλα τα υλικά και εργαλεία), τα οποία θα καταβληθούν σε δόσεις.
Έναρξη μαθημάτων: 3-4 Οκτωβρίου, δήλωση ενδιαφέροντος μέχρι 27 Σεπτεμβρίου.
Αριθμός μαθημάτων: 7
Διάρκεια μαθήματος: 3-4 ώρες (ώρα αναλόγως τον αριθμό συμμετεχόντων και το περιεχόμενο έκαστου μαθήματος).
Μέρες και ώρες: Σάββατο ή Κυριακή (πρωί με μεσημέρι ή απόγευμα με βραδάκι). Ακριβής ώρα και μέρα θα καθοριστεί κατόπιν συνεννόησης με τους ενδιαφερόμενους.
Αριθμός θέσεων: 2
Η κατοχύρωση θέσης γίνεται με μια προκαταβολή των 50 ευρώ (το οποίο αφαιρείται από το συνολικό κόστος του σεμιναρίου).

Σημείωση: Το ποσό αυτό δεν επιστρέφεται σε περίπτωση ακύρωσης 1 εβδομάδα πριν την έναρξη του σεμιναρίου ή λιγότερο.

Συνοπτικά τα στάδια που θα δουμε:
1) Ξύλωμα του βιβλίου και ενίσχυση των τυπογραφικών
2) Πριόνισμα των τυπογραφικών για το ράψιμο
3) Ράψιμο του βιβλίου σε τεζάκι
4) Ψαροκόλλημα ράχης
5) Στρογγύλεμα ράχης
6) Πέρασμα εσωφύλλων
7) Κατασκευή κεφαλαριού από ύφασμα
8) Ενίσχυση ράχης
9) Κατασκευή καλύμματος
10) Ντύσιμο καλύμματος με ύφασμα και διακοσμητικό χαρτί
11) Πέρασμα καλύμματος και ολοκλήρωση της βιβλιοδεσίας
12) Μοστράρουμε το βιβλίο μας σε κάθε συγγενή, φίλο και γνωστό! 

Θα χαρώ να σας υποδεχτώ!

Κοπτική και Ιαπωνική βιβλιοδεσία

Η Κοπτική και Ιαπωνική αποτελούν ιδανικό ξεκίνημα για όσους θέλουν να γνωρίσουν τον κόσμο της βιβλιοδεσίας -και της χειροτεχνίας γενικότερα- καθώς είναι εύκολες και απαιτούν λίγα και πολύ απλά υλικά και εργαλεία, παράλληλα όμως προσφέρουν αναρίθμητες δυνατότητες για δημιουργικότητα.

Στα ολιγόωρα αυτά σεμινάρια θα μάθουμε τις βασικές τεχνικές ραψίματος για το κάθε είδος, πώς να ντύνουμε ένα σκληρόδετο κάλυμμα και θα χρησιμοποιήσουμε όμορφα χαρτιά για να διακοσμήσουμε τα σημειωματάρια μας!

Κοπτική βιβλιοδεσία – Coptic Binding

Κόστος σεμιναρίου: 30 ευρώ + 5 ευρώ κόστος υλικών, παρέχονται τα εργαλεία.
Μέρα – ώρες: Σάββατο 3 Οκτωβρίου.
Διάρκεια μαθήματος: 4 ώρες
Μέρες και ώρες: Σάββατο ή Κυριακή (πρωί με μεσημέρι ή απόγευμα με βραδάκι). Ακριβής ώρα και μέρα θα καθοριστεί κατόπιν συνεννόησης με τους ενδιαφερόμενους.
Αριθμός θέσεων: 2
Κατοχύρωση θέσης: γίνεται με την πληρωμή του κόστους συμμετοχής.

Οι συμμετέχοντες ενθαρρύνονται να φέρουν δικά τους χαρτιά για το ντύσιμο ή την διακόσμηση του σημειωματαρίου!

Ιαπωνική βιβλιοδεσία – Japanese stab binding

Κόστος σεμιναρίου: 30 ευρώ + 5 ευρώ κόστος υλικών, παρέχονται τα εργαλεία.
Μέρα – ώρες: Σάββατο 10 Οκτωβρίου.
Διάρκεια μαθήματος: 3-4 ώρες
Μέρες και ώρες: Σάββατο ή Κυριακή (πρωί με μεσημέρι ή απόγευμα με βραδάκι). Ακριβής ώρα και μέρα θα καθοριστεί κατόπιν συνεννόησης με τους ενδιαφερόμενους.
Αριθμός θέσεων: 2
Κατοχύρωση θέσης: γίνεται με την πληρωμή του κόστους συμμετοχής.

Θα παρέχονται χαρτιά Chiyogami για την διακόσμηση του σημειωματαρίου σας!

Animalcula – a collaboration with George Balojohn for the benefit of Humanity

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Have you ever heard of Animalcula? I would wager probably not, though many of you owe your existence to them!
The obscure Animalcula and the knowledge surrounding them have remained elusive for more than 250 years, until George Balojohn and yours truly were tasked by Mister C. to prove their existence once and for all by capturing them; Let it never be said that bookbinders don’t contribute to the advancement of science and progress of humanity!

In 1750 a letter was humbly addressed to the Royal Society by Abraham Johnson, in which he claimed:
“It is proved by most incontestable evidence, drawn from Reason and Practice, that a Woman may conceive and be brought to Bed (i.e. become pregnant) without any commerce with Man.

The reason behind this are Animalcula:
Small, original, unexpanded minims of existence […] Little Men and Women, exact in all their limbs and linaments, ready to offer themselves little candidates for life whenever they should happen to be imbibed with air or nutriment […]

According to the scientist these are carried by the West Wind and can impregnate women if they are standing at the right place at the right time. Such a discovery sounded of course preposterous to the decorated scientists at the time, but Dr A. Johnson’s believed so firmly in it that he even suggests of a way to prove the legitimacy of his findings: if the King would prohibit any kind of sexual intimacy between people, if only for a year, people would still  be born. And since no one would dare to disobey the King in such a matter it would be obvious Animalcula exist.

To validate his theory though Dr A. Johnson had to capture some Animalula first. He contrived an invention suitable for the task: a “wonderful cylindrical, catoptrical, rotundo-concavo-convex machine” that functioned by the “nicest Laws of Electricity”, the design of which he intended to publish. Alas, it was not to happen… The prints were never published, the prototype was lost and the knowledge surrounding Animalcula faded into obscurity. Until now that is…

Mister C., an avid book collector and most kind patron of the book arts, managed to locate a copy of that letter. Moved by the unfair treatment of history towards the great scientist and intrigued by curiosity he called two bookbinders and laid upon them an almost impossible task: re-create the contraption and capture enough Animalcula, contributing thusly to the progress of humanity and also clearing Abraham Johnson’s name once and for all.
The bookbinders were George Balojohn and yours truly. I was to make the device and George had the most difficult task, to capture and preserve the Animalcula.

How was I to succeed though without any knowledge of the original design, besides its description and its intended purpose? George was able, after considerable study and research, to provide me with an accurate depiction of the Animalcula. With this as an aid and after months of trial and error, and experiments quite dangerous to my well being – thought knowledge has never been gained without considerable risk, I finally managed to create the necessary device, a fine instrument which, through delicate use and the wonders of electricity, could capture this elusive quantum of life.

The most difficult part was still ahead of us though. George had to capture enough Animalcula and then find a way to preserve them indefinitely for study, so as to prove their existence. To do so he needed a vessel suitable for such a purpose: robust yet functional and ever lasting. Determined he toiled and using the finest materials brought from the other side of the world he created such a vessel out of Dr A. Johnson’s letter – a most fitting tribute to the brilliant forgotten scientist.

A great many months followed as he prepared for the day when the device would be lit up and, guided by his hand, extract Animalcula from the west wind. And that day surely came and one by one the tiny seeds of life were collected. The more he captured the more daunting became each following attempt, since a small mistake could lay waste upon all of his progress. Yet he persevered and through steady and skillful hand the Animalcula where captured and laid upon the binding, forever visible to anyone who would dare raise an eyebrow at the groundbreaking discovery.

And so, through a patron of the arts and the collaboration of two artisans, knowledge previously thought as lost has been reclaimed, brought to light and its validity proven. The only thing remaining is for the Royal Academy to take notice, of which I have absolutely no doubt.

Cambridge Panel

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Here are some bindings I’ve made featuring proper Cambridge panels. They are so British you can almost see them sip tea and keeping a stiff upper lip.

Ok ok, you’re right… The tea part was probably too much.


Jokes aside, these are actually French bindings in British disguise. I think I can hear the cries of disgust and horror carried by the wind from old Albion! The way I work is much more akin to the french school of bookbinding and I haven’t used calf, among other things.

I tried to remain faithful to the style/period as much as possible though: the headbands are similar to those found in similar bindings of the era and the marbled paper (from Payhembury) is as fitting and traditional as it gets.

I would like to take a moment and talk about Mister C, the client behind these. Mister C. is a connoisseur of refined tastes and a benevolent patron of the bookbinding Craft&Art (yes, I swapped those on purpose).

What’s quite interesting is how he enjoys commissioning a binding in many ways – particularly when it comes to challenging us. He carefully researches the kind of work each of his binders does and orders something just outside our comfort zone: familiar enough but at the same time one has to reach a bit beyond his/her existing skillset -or mindset- to make it…

Cambridge is his Alma Mater and the books did lend themselves perfectly fine for this style in regards to their (academic) content and time of publication. But the fact my work mostly revolves around design bindings also played an important role in prompting Mister C. to ask me for this particular style. I was more than keen though as I’ve been itching to try this style for a long time.

Bonus info: he did the exact opposite and commissioned a design binding from a fellow binder who mainly does classic work. To another, who finds peace in the Zen qualities of simple geometry neatly and orderly arranged (don’t ever change K.!), he commissioned a surreal book requesting that he would include a number of different marbled papers with designs capable of inducing a seizure!

Mister C. you’re a legend.

When the two volumes were brought in it quickly became apparent the paper was in poor condition, dry and fragile. Even though Eleni Tsetsekou, a book conservator, carefully took them apart they still needed an extreme amount of repairs: it took 5-6 days of work from Eleni and me to reinforce almost all the folios, we’re talking about 600-700 page books here, which in turn yielded some extremely thick spines.

For those unfamiliar with bookbinding; one of the things binders must do to produce a sound binding is to manage the thickness of the spine. The covers need to be parallel to each other so that the book has that rectangular box shape and can fit neatly on a shelf between other books.
However when a book is sewn the thread’s thickness is added dozens of times as it goes through the book’s signatures, thus increasing the spine’s thickness in relation to the fore edge. That’s one of the two reasons we round the book with a hammer, to distribute the added thickness.

Repairing tears or reinforcing the folios with Japanese tissue is another thing that can cause such an increase. In this case the amount of strips added (you can get an idea from the headband image) resulted in a spine almost double the thickness of the fore edge for one of the volumes. I thoroughly pressed and hammered those to reduce the swell and used on-off sewing to minimize the added thickness from the thread, but as you can see the spine was still too thick, especially in Vol II.
Rounding and backing was quite difficult…

This style is not particularly ornate, still, a lot of effort went into their making.
I’ve said time and again that most of the binder’s work goes unnoticed since people usually just look at the covers and how eye capturing they might or might not be. The quality of a binding though is mostly measured by its soundness, how well it is made. And many of the things that lead to a well made binding are either not immediately visible, unless you know where to look for, or not visible at all.

The boards are a good example. In 90% of my bindings I use composite boards (3 layers with the one in the middle having the grain running horizontally) for added strength and to prevent intense warping in various stages.

They are more resilient but also take a lot more time to make: excluding beveled edges (not a big fan), a regular single-ply board takes about 1-2 minutes to cut to size and smooth the edges a bit, whereas it takes 10 times as much to make the same piece as a composite – plus you have to wait 1-2 days for it to dry out under pressure.

Imagine a whole list of such details and you can realize why a plain looking binding takes so long to be made and costs a lot!

For the Cambridge panels I followed the well presented instructions by Nick Cowlishaw, which you can find in the issue No36 of Hewit’s excellent Skin Deep.

One issue I encountered is the binding being sticky and leaving a bit of smudge at the end when handled. Since the tutorial doesn’t mention any sealer or finish product my best guess points to the brand of spirit-dye I used, which strangely enough was the only one available and only at one store (!).  I buffed the covers vigorously with a smooth fabric and then did the same applying two coats of Carnauba wax cream, which did the trick. The bindings now have a gentle sheen which is visible in some of the photos.

I must admit this was a lot of fun. If you haven’t tried doing a Cambridge panel you should definitely give it a go!

It’s been a welcome change to do some more classic bindings every now and then. Design work is very interesting but can also be very draining. I plan to share more thoughts on the matter, comparing the two styles in a future post.

Cheers!

I used my Brass Band Nippers to shape the spine bands and Versatile Typeholder to tool the titles on these bindings – both of the tools are available upon request!

Interview with Kate Holland – Techniton Politeia

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Summer is almost here and the Covid-19 crisis has pretty much left Greece, hopefully soon the rest of the world as well.

We return after a long pause at Techniton Politeia to talk with Kate Holland.

Before we get to the interview I would like to thank Kate who managed to find time while juggling a number of things amidst the chaos.
She approached the interview openly, with a “playful” attitude and as a chance to explore her own thoughts and introspect, thus making it feel less “formal” and more like I was there at the bindery, having an interesting conversation with a fellow binder. It was a pleasure.

When asked for her artist or artisan statement -I tend to use both terms because people sometimes prefer one over the other- her reply was:
Artist or artisan, that is the question. But what about artistan? I think we can be both.

I’d always loved the visual arts and I studied Mandarin Chinese at university with the vision of becoming a contemporary Chinese art dealer but a stint of unemployment (or fortuitous circumstance) led me to take on the role of manager of a prestigious London antiquarian bookshop. I had grown up near the book town of Hay-on-Wye and had always loved books so this was a wonderful job, handling some of the world’s most important and valuable books. It never ceased to amaze me that all our civilisation, so far, was contained between these covers. I started a morning class in bookbinding at City Lit (an adult education establishment) with Flora Ginn as a way of learning to refurbish and repair the books and I was immediately hooked. From there, an HND in bookbinding at London College of Printing (now Communication) and stints with Jen Lindsey back at City Lit and Mark Cockram at Studio Five before setting up on my own. All while raising three kids.

My work is fairly evenly split between artist bindings, either on commission or for exhibition; the whole book, either my own artist’s books or one-offs and limited editions for clients, supervising typesetting and layout, printing and binding; and teaching, currently at West Dean College, Shepherds or in my own studio. I was elected as a Fellow of Designer Bookbinders in 2015 and am a regular binder to The Booker Prize. I have books in The Walker Library of the Human Imagination, British and Bodleian Libraries, National Art Library at the V&A, as well as numerous other public and private collections.

In 2018 you had the honor of being chosen to bind one of the six shortlisted books, Mars room by Rachel Kushner, which was then presented to the author. BBC’s The One Show featured your work in a lovely 5 minute video giving us a bit of insight into the creative process behind that binding and bookbinding in general.

I was wondering: what is the Man Booker prize and how does a binder get chosen to bind on of the shortlisted books for the award? Can you tell us a bit about your experience with this binding and maybe share the author’s reaction upon seeing it?

The Booker Prize is the foremost literary prize awarded annually to a work of fiction in the English language. Past winners have included such luminaries as Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, Iris Murdoch, J M Coetzee. A longlist of about 20 titles is announced in July and then a shortlist of 6 in September Each of the shortlisted titles is bound as a design binding for presentation to the author at the awards ceremony. Only Fellows of Designer Bookbinders are eligible to apply to bind these and we are chosen on a rotating basis. We do not know which title we will get until the shortlist is announced. On that day a mystery package of unbound sheets arrives. We have between 4-6 weeks to read the book, come up with a design and bind it. These are expected to be full design bindings with all that entails – sewn headbands, leather joints, doublures etc. so it is incredibly intense with lots of late nights but it often throws up some really interesting and exciting responses.

I was really pleased to get “The Mars Room” as my book. It touched on one of my favourite themes – that all humans are born equal, or at least in theory. I am fascinated by how circumstance – where, when and to whom you were born – can affect the path you take and the choices you make. How does a girl, like Romy, from a ‘nice’ middle class background become a sex worker, imprisoned for murder? Throw in an abusive mother, an absent father, early sexual abuse, rape at a formative age, a drug habit to numb all those feelings and a predatory stalker and maybe we begin to understand. In my bindings I seek to explore the yawning divide between the haves and the have-nots. I have covered topics such as illegal immigration, homelessness, drug addiction, rape, asylum seekers. I chose to write on the endpapers of The Mars Room some of the grim statistics about the abuse that sex workers suffer on a daily basis, about the mass incarceration with which the US chooses to manage its population and the number of women who are stalked. 

In the video mentioned previously you also talk about the continuity of our craft and how our tools and equipment have remained practically unchanged through the centuries – along many of the techniques we use, if I may add. You also bring up the bonefolder saying it’s “man’s earliest tool”, which is fascinating if one stops to think about it…

What are your thoughts in regards to this continuity: why is it important and how does it affect your mindset towards your work?

I love the fact that a bookbinder from 500 years ago would recognise the tools, the techniques, the equipment that I use today. Though I would hope my aesthetic and sentiment have evolved. Tools of polished bone, used to scrape hides and make leather, have been found in Neanderthal sites from over 50,000 years ago. That the bone folder I use every day, is one of man’s earliest tools, is an exciting connection to one of the most integral parts of what makes us human – our ability to use tools. And we humans have gone way beyond ”just” using tools and can aspire to stupendous levels of craftsmanship.

I came to bookbinding via antiquarian bookselling handling some of the greatest books ever printed. The codex form has been used to transmit the wonders of civilisation for centuries, whether science, literature, travel, art. It works well. The pages open and you can read the words, the covers protect the pages. Why fix it when it ain’t broken? But this all sounds like I am wedded to the past. Far from it. It is imperative to respect tradition and all that has gone before in order to be able to push the boundaries and move forward. My son is currently studying design engineering and together we are exploring ways of integrating the most cutting-edge technology into one of our oldest technologies, the book. 

Your bindings often feature alum tawed skins and various dyeing techniques – to great effect I must add. Your Paradise Lost and Regain’d bindings come to mind.

What is it that makes this creative option so appealing to you and what would your advice be to fellow binders who would like to try their hand at leather dyeing? Any suggestions when it comes to the materials and techniques used?

I suppose my love affair with leather dyeing came from my need to have a wider palette to work with. I didn’t want to be restricted to just the colours available in ‘off the shelf’ leathers or my bindings to be identified by the number on the colour chart of the tannery catalogue. If you can dye your own leather then you have an infinite range of colours, textures, subtlety and intensity to hand. I tend to use fair or alum tawed calf or goatskin, generally sourced from Hewit’s – the fair gives a more nuanced, warmer colour and the alum tawed a starker, brighter colour being a whiter base. I use either Hewit’s Aniline dyes in powder form or Selladerm dyes available from Leather Conservation Centre. I buy only red, yellow, blue and black and mix accordingly.

I am currently particularly fond of graduated colour schemes such as in “Paradise Lost and Regain’d”. I think most people assume that this is airbrushed but, in fact, the colour is built up in thin washes incredibly gradually over several days to give a much more subtle and sophisticated finish. Always remember to fix the dye as well before covering! I use Dyefix or Tinofix which are the respective fixatives for Hewits and Selladerm.

Silly question but I’m really curious: what’s with the dot fascination?!
Many of your bindings feature dots as a recurring decorative element. Is there something to it?

Early in my career I made two books for the annual Designer Bookbinders’ competition – Elizabeth David’s “Book of Mediterranean Food” and H E Bates’s “Through the Woods”. Both of them wholly featured dots as the design motif. And they won respectively Second Prize Set Book and First Prize Open Choice and Mansfield Medal for Best Book. Around the same time, some well-meaning person had advised me that, in order to become a successful bookbinder, you had to have a recognisable, signature style. I had had no artistic training, only being allowed to study needlework at school not art, and I struggled massively with my self-confidence and my ability to design. Dots seemed quite easy so, I guess, I thought I was onto something.

That was until a well-known dealer commissioned a design binding from me saying, “Just do your dots thing.” I did, but, it was a huge struggle as dots were so wrong for that book. I vowed that I would only produce designs that truly reflected the book’s contents, not just another iteration of a previously successful, but now hackneyed, motif. One of my greatest compliments recently, was that my bindings looked like I had actually read the book!

While reading about your binding on Doors of Perception I thought about Huxley’s use of psychedelics and how many artists have used them as a means of searching for inspiration or expanding their creative expression. Bookbinders, at least to my knowledge, can’t benefit from that: bit hard to use a paring knife while tripping… That said if a design binding is to live up to its name it does require of the binder to be immersed in the book’s story to some extent. I believe your words “When I’m working on the books they become my whole life, I live and breathe them…” represent this in a very poetic manner.

So, how do you experience that immersion? (In what ways do you live and breathe in/through the book you are working on each time?) Are there any steps or guidelines you follow to facilitate it? Is it a purely positive state or does it also come at a cost?

I can testify that I have not yet found a stimulant which helps in the actual process of bookbinding! Hand-eye co-ordination when handling sharp tools or delicate leather requires absolute concentration. I immerse myself utterly into the world of the book I am working on, reading it, taking notes, re-reading if necessary, researching the times in which it was written, artistic fashions, societal upheavals, political tensions, historic events. All these affect the writer and the writing and I aspire to be able to reflect them equally in the binding, but hopefully with a contemporary twist.

I usually have about five or six books on the go at any one time, in different stages of research and development, experimentation and materials gathering, then actual execution. Any more than that and my head would explode. My process, if you can call it that, is to consume as much as I can find intellectually and then let it percolate for a bit – I find walking and swimming incredibly helpful for emptying the mind and working through these creative conundrums. I also use my insomnia as an excellent time for reflection and problem solving. Though my husband might not agree!

Bookbinders gradually diverged from classic decorations that were purely ornamental in nature and started viewing their bindings in a different light: a complex, multilayered, functional object offering limitless potential as a medium for artistic expression. Design bindings came to be known as the modern face of bookbinding.

“[…]Though there is absolutely no inference that this is to disguise a hedonistic lifestyle like Dorian Gray’s but purely a comment on the contemporary pursuit of the preservation of youth and beauty. ” Kate Holland

I consider your binding on Oscar Wilde’s The Portrait of Dorian Gray, with its stricking covers and unexpected endpapers, a perfect example of what a Design Binding can be: not just a creative representation of the book’s content but also a commentary that expands beyond it and becomes a reflection on society, posing questions that challenge us and our views on the story they came from.

Isn’t that what art is in its essence – making connections between a thought or realization, a creation based on that thought and our world, redefining our perception of all 3? And the amazing thing is that this fermentation, taking place in the mind of someone witnessing a piece of art, can potentially have infinite outcomes.

What were your thoughts while making this binding? How did you end up with this design and endpapers? And how do you view design bindings in general?

I had always held Oscar Wilde’s “Picture of Dorian Gray” in mind as a potential title to bind having seen photographs of a collection of Dior dresses with a fabulous peacock feather design of highly embellished beading. However, it wasn’t until I read an article about the world of extreme plastic surgery that these two, seemingly disparate worlds, collided in my head and, along with a long-held love for the artwork of Aubrey Beardsley, I came up with this design. It just goes to show that you never know where inspiration will strike from and you have to soak up anything and everything around you to get to it.

Bookbinding has traditionally been one of the applied arts, a merely decorative and protective covering to the bookblock, albeit a highly technical and exacting one. It rarely referred to the contents within, save the title. Generally, any tooling would be to a prescribed formula, whether a house style or to reflect the owner’s taste and wealth. With modern design binding came a move towards a more fluid style and a decorative response to the text within. I would argue, though, that there is still room to push bookbinding one step further into the “art” world, by drawing analogies between classic texts and contemporary issues, whether to make a political statement or as a simple emotional or intellectual stimulus. I’m increasingly drawn to the term ‘artist binding’ over ‘design binding’.

My lack of art education means that I’ve always struggled with calling myself an artist. I felt there was something rather egotistical about going to art school and being an artist. I always referred to my space as a workshop not a studio. I always called myself a craftsperson not an artist. But very recently an artist friend of mine described me as an artist bookbinder and I thought I’ll take that. In a way, though, I feel liberated by my lack of art education – I have no rules to follow, I just have to try and achieve what I envisage in my head and see what happens – so more of a happy accident than anything.  Now that I feel relatively (and I use that in the loosest sense) at ease with the technical side of making a book, I am free to explore the intellectual exercise of confining my ideas to the book form. I worked out that there are 13 planes on which to express yourself creatively, not including the box, which gives such wonderful scope, how they work singly and interactively. 

What’s interesting about design binding, though, is that, unlike most other artforms eg painting, sculpture, you’re not starting from a position of zero. You’re always reacting to someone else’s artistic output ie the author, the illustrator, the typesetter, the printer etc. I have recently been questioning binding the work of others and wanting to be in control of the whole book so I am currently looking at printmaking and letterpress printing though I feel I must keep this under control and concentrate on the binding alone. It’s an ongoing internal argument.

An excerpt from a 1918 manual (see image) describes bookbinding as an excellent therapeutic aid for various disorders.

It is a testament to the many and diverse benefits our craft has to offer. I would kindly ask you to share your personal experience on the matter, given that you recently had the privilege of seeing all that in effect.

One of my particular passions is teaching and converting new people to the joys of bookbinding. I have seen the immensely therapeutic benefits of it when working for the charity ‘Bound by Veterans’ which teaches bookbinding to wounded, sick and injured ex-servicemen and women. Also to children with learning difficulties and on the autistic spectrum. There’s something so wonderful when you are “in the flow”, your head and hands working together, you forget all your cares and the sense of achievement and growth in self-esteem is palpable. I’m thinking of one particular girl who had just been diagnosed with Asperger’s and told that she wouldn’t be able to work in the “real world” and that she would require lifelong care. On day 1 she felt unable to attend the bookbinding course, due to her social anxiety but by day 5 she was fully immersed and loving it. She now has a skill which means she can work from home and hopefully make a modest income.

My local medical practice in Frome is at the forefront of the social prescribing movement, where patients with multiple health issues, who are struggling with their mental health and well-being, are being prescribed access to a wide range of resources, whether it’s park runs or talking cafes. The decrease in GP appointments and hospital admissions there has been dramatic. Together with a GP friend of mine, we are looking at getting some qualitative measures of the therapeutic benefits of bookbinding and other crafts, so that we can eventually look at applying for NHS funding to provide these.

As it happens this interview is taking place amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

The outbreak has brought the entire world to a halt, changing or taking away many of the things we took for granted and imposing a new reality. It made us sceptic of the future that awaits us in the aftermath and has put a questionmark on various aspects of our lives.

I’ve been talking with a few fellow binders and here in Athens – we’ve been in lockdown for a while now. Some felt creatively numbed and took a step away from our craft to reevaluate it’s importance in a situations like this, others told me the exact opposite – that it provided a way for them to remain active and creative during self isolation and took the opportunity to explore ideas previously left in the backburner.

How has the Covid-19 outbreak affected your relationship with bookbinding? What was its impact on you firstly as a professional binder and secondly as a creative maker. Please share with us your experience and thoughts so far.

(Click on the photo and zoom-in for a detailed look in HQ!)

Wow, what interesting times we are in right now. I confess I am really enjoying them, though I feel terribly guilty saying that. My eldest children are back from university, my youngest home instead of school and my husband off the daily commute hamster wheel. We are incredibly privileged to live in the countryside and have a garden. We have both been able to keep working so we have some income at least. My heart goes out to those trapped in flats with no outside space or forced to go to work at great risk to themselves and their families.

I have spent much of my time helping to set up and maintain Mask Force, a community of volunteers making fabric facemasks for key workers and the most vulnerable. As I write, we have donated around 2500 facemasks and now have 8 satellite groups around the country. I have also been working with the #Masks4All movement, a group of activists who have been instrumental in changing public and political thinking worldwide about the importance of wearing facemasks to stop the spread of the coronavirus, though the UK government is still proving a hard nut to crack.

I have been bookbinding, though, interestingly and unwittingly, I have chosen to concentrate on the jobs which don’t require too much creative input. I have a huge typesetting and layout project to work through which involves lots of mind-numbing screen time and several commissions for relatively straightforward bindings, for which, I luckily manged to get all the materials gathered before lockdown.

I frankly haven’t had time to explore ideas left on the backburner. I wish I had. There are so many.

” It cannot be overstated how important it is for all of us to work with our hands on some level. It should be made compulsory in schools. “
The above quote from you resonates with me a lot. I remember back when I was at school wondering why everything is geared towards “doctor – lawyer – IT”. Why did noone ever mention I could be a woodworker, a machinist, a jeweller, a bookbinder…?

For 99.9% of your existence as a species we had to work with our hands and,  although it still remains essential to our civilization, it almost seems that somehow handcrafting has faded into obscurity in our lifetime.

What has our negligence towards learning to work with our hands caused? Why do you think it should be a part of our school curiculum? And last but not least, do you have any thoughts on how it could be implemented?

Humans are the only great ape who have evolved not only opposable thumbs but tiny bones within the thumb which allow us to manipulate tools to create really fine and delicate work. The further we move away from making for ourselves, and into the world of consumerism and globalisation, the sadder we are. I teach undergraduates who cannot thread a needle or tie a knot. This is shocking.

Too many children are spending their learning lives in front of screens and not exploring some of the most basic skills and there is far too much emphasis on STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) here in the UK curriculum with the Arts subjects being sidelined. Bookbinding used to be taught in primary school here. It covers so many basic skills – measuring and estimating, calculating and cutting, folding and manipulating, fine motor skills such as threading and sewing. It can be taught as a supplement to any of the academic subjects – English, Modern Languages, History, Geography, Design Technology, Art. Children who struggle to engage with the written word in manufactured books, relish the idea of putting their own words into their own books. I have had the chance to speak about this to the APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) on ‘Art in Education’ on the importance of bookbinding and making in general. And I am cooking a plan to fund a “Bookbinding Bus” which will go to schools, festivals, city centres, inner city estates, anywhere to spread the joy of bookbinding and hopefully impart some of those basic skills.

The importance of using the creative ‘right’ side of our brain as well as the logical ‘left’ side cannot be overestimated. Creativity is problem solving and invention as well as expression and feeling – where would we be without those? And making with our hands is so much a part of that creativity. Hopefully some of the backlash to the onward march of technology will be an increased resurgence in making by hand and a respect for the handmade. We must appreciate the handmade, the artisan, the crafted for its integral value to mankind and not just as a marketing tool.

Be sure to check Kate Holland’s site and also IG account!

Closing I would like to thank you for visiting the blog and reading our talk with Kate Holland. If you enjoyed it consider having a look at the blog section for Techniton Politeia, where you can find more interviews.

Till next time!