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After 10 years or so I’ve been working as a bookbinder I realized at some point my work is almost exclusively comprised of design bindings. Equal parts chance and choice have led to this: I just happened to have more clients asking for simple design bindings initially, I focused more on them since I liked it and in turn they attracted more work of the same kind.

So, what’s wrong with that? Nothing really, I love doing design work! However constantly trying to come up with creative ideas and ways to implement those can be draining…
Classic decorations require a fraction of the inspiration and there’s endless reference material at hand to rely on concerning the design. As such they involve a lot less stress and it’s easier to be satisfied by the end-result, at least from the creator’s point of view.

It’s actually funny because most of my colleagues here in Greece are burdened with non-design work and often yearn for more artistic commissions! Nonetheless it seems there can be too much of a good thing and I found myself on the opposite side, longing for the day a client with a taste for more classic work would appear.

Enter V.G., a bibliophile with a wide range of interests, who got in touch and delivered salvation to my bookbinding soul! V.G. wants a series of books bound in classic manner and these two are the first I’ve completed.

Strange Tales features one of my old time favorite marbled papers, by Arzanart in Venice. What really sets it apart though is its decoration, which was achieved with two stamping inks of different color. I first saw a similar technique used by Hannah Brown (have you read her interviews?), who was most helpful in sharing some information and advice, though she uses carbon leaf instead.

Here’s what I did:
1) Cold press the handtool for the first impression.
2) Blind tool (hot).
3) Then cover the tool’s face with ink from the inkpad and stamp the tooled impressions (cold). I did this 2-3 times (with the first color) depending on how well the ink was transferred and the tone I wanted to achieve.
4) Blind tool again – this helps the ink set.
5) Repeat step 3 with a different ink.
6) Blind tool a final time.

As you can see this requires a great deal more time compared to foil. The result is interesting though as the decoration has a gradient look, shifting from blue to purple.

If you want to try this make sure to do tests first, as some ink colors end up looking quite dark depending on the leather you’re using, or don’t mix well together.

El Tarot is a peculiar book, filled with strange artwork.
Its oddness is reflected by its unusual shape which is – you guessed it – that of a Tarot card. I’ve never bound a book as tall and narrow and I assumed it would bug me but I actually found it very enjoyable to work with! There’s something oddly satisfying handling a door-shaped book, can’t put my finger on it.

Given that I went for a simple decoration I thought to add some spark and luxury through genuine gold leaf. I’m very happy with how it turned out, it reminds me of some old volumes I’ve seen in libraries and I believe it’s my first binding to achieve this look-feel so well.

Since the binding is so classic but the book is quite quirky I wanted to include a quirky element in the binding as well. The endbands were the perfect candidate, being too narrow for a traditional handsewn style. I played around a bit and the result is this curiosity, both covered in leather and handsewn with silk thread. Fitting!

To make those bindings I used:
1) My brass band nippers
2) My stylus set

3) My dot set
4) Tools from Kevin Noakes