My son's partner, Jane, recently sent me this article from the Economist about a fine bookbinding exhibition currently in London but soon to visit the US. If it ignites an interest in all things paper you might like to join our Open Studio Event this July when you'll have the opportunity to work and play in our huge, light-filled studio alongside Alison Kuller, a hugely experienced and creative bookbinder who has worked as a conservator at Harvard University and at the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Massachusetts; and her friend and colleague, Jone Hallmark, long-time illustrator and textile designer.
Book art by Alison Kuller
Judging by the cover
May 26th 2014, 17:58 by A.C.
ELEGANT bookbindings might not seem to have much of a place in the modern world. E books barely have graphics, much less finely crafted covers. Yet the love of handmade books as beautiful objects persists and, as a new travelling exhibit shows, retains many adherents.
Britten's "Aldeburgh" by Angela James
"Inside Out: Contemporary Bindings of Private Press Books" is an unusual display of book art that brings together leading private presses in Britain and America with the Designer Bookbinders, a global society of artisans based in Britain. A total of 65 contemporary bindings of wildly varied material and design are on display at St Bride's printing library in London and will travel over the next year to America's leading fine book centres in Boston, Minnesota, New York and San Francisco.
The classical approach to bookbinding involves the use of dyed calfskin or goatskin laid over with contrasting colour; the tooling is either gold or blind (meaning no gold is used). More experimental structures combine fabric, wire, beads, wood and skin in unusual ways. Bookbinding exhibitions generally confine themselves to displaying the covers. But this show also includes sample pages from the books that inspired the 59 participating binders: each binding is a response to a particular work. The binders chose among books printed by nine private presses, and let their imaginations run wild. Half the pleasure for the viewer is in comparing different binders' responses to the same text, whether it be versions of Henry Thoreau's notebooks, Benjamin Franklin's autobiography or dark poems inspired by a North Sea oil rig. Some of the most arresting bindings were inspired by books made by a Wisconsin printer and wood engraver called Gaylord Schanilec. His edition of "Mayflies of the Driftless Region" by Clarke Garry, a book that details the insect's ephemeral life cycle, is a case in point.
"Mayflies of the Driftless Region" by Patricia Owen
Patricia Owen of California has fashioned a beetle-like shell in black and grey goatskin with green suede flyleaves, as if the mayfly had just alighted. Jenni Grey, a British binder, interprets it with a green velvet binding minutely stitched with beads and shimmering threads in a subtle and evocative design. Todd Pattison of Boston has a dark blue goatskin classically onlaid with a mayfly wing in gold and green. Ursula Mitra of New York has contributed a shimmering mica-covered volume meant to evoke a swarm of flies, encased in a leather box depicting the mayfly's life cycle. Peter Verheyen, another American, screens the insects through a sheet of vellum held by strips of salmon skin. The approaches could not be more different, but the craftsmanship and materials are unfailingly impressive.
It takes easily 100 to 200 hours to make such a binding, says Stephen Conway, the president of the Designer Bookbinders, whose own cover for "Britten's Aldeburgh" from the Shanty Bay Press is another standout of the show. The 600-strong society actively supports ten younger binders a year as "licentiates" to continue the hand-binding tradition, and many flock to London from Asia in particular, he says. The appeal of handcrafting in the internet age is undeniable, agrees Stuart Brockman, an engineer trained at Imperial College who threw in a technology career 18 years ago to bind books at his father's firm in Oxfordshire.
Bookbinders view themselves as craftspeople, combining traditional skills with a contemporary design sensibility. But to Simon Eccles, a British book-collector and the patron who conceived this exhibit, designer bookbindings are objets d'art. The art market has long overlooked them as collectibles, Mr Eccles says. Apart from a few specialised booksellers, auctions of contemporary works are few and far between. This show is his effort to bring more attention to these jewels of the craft, which range in price from $1,000 to $11,000. "The joy of a book is that you take it off the shelf and it's like Christmas," he said, after presiding over an initial auction of the works on view. "You open the box and you get the most wonderful lift."
"Inside Out" is at the St Bride Foundation, Bride Lane, off Fleet Street, until August 22nd 2014. Visit Designer Bookbinders for international tour dates in 2014 and 2015.
We know there were a few disappointed people around last year when we had to cancel Julieann Worrall Hood's workshop, so we thought you might be interested in her upcoming exhibition at the Bath Spa University. It's bound to be a cracker and we're just sorry not to be near enough to visit ourselves.
Here's a little about the show in Juliann's own words:
"In my capacity as part time lecturer and tutor on the Creative Arts Practice degree course at Bath School of Art, Bath Spa University I have been working on a project with second year Mixed Media Textiles students developing new work in response to the collection at The American Museum in Bath. We will be exhibiting the resulting pieces, a wonderfully diverse collection of contemporary responses including laser cut plastics, tapestry, print and alternative taxidermy, from June 3rd -5th in the Stables Gallery at the American Museum. Please find attached an invitation to the private view on the evening of June 2nd.
I will be exhibiting a tapestry and a mixed media piece entitled The Goldilocks Principle, which I have made inspired by the folk arts, rag rugs and navajo weaving techniques in the collection and the aesthetics of Mennonite Ledger Drawings of animals. These will be the first in my new Golden Ark series of tapestries, drawings and mixed media work, raising awareness about endangered species. I am fortunate to be the recipient of a Theo Moorman Award 2014/15 to develop this new work in tapestry."
And here are a few more of the wonderful Textile Jigsaw pieces that we're slowly sewing together into the quilt to be auctioned and the proceeds of which will be donated to the Cambodian Childrens Fund
It was a great pleasure to meet at our recent Raystitch Reception, the delightful Jo Hall, editor of Embroidery Magazine, the official bi-monthly publication for the UK's Embroiderer's Guild. I've been a subscriber to this periodical for quite some time now and I have just finished reading the latest issue from cover to cover. Not just because there is an excellent little editorial about Les Soeurs Anglaises in there (a wonderful surprise!), but also because, as always, it is jammed packed with fascinating features on creative individuals such as machine embroiderer, Louise Gardiner; and Sue Pritchard curator of the V&A's wonderful new extension, The Clothworkers' Centre.
For us, Embroiderer's Magazine had already pushed its way to first place, in front of the other obvious stitch related periodicals we have bought and loved over the past ten years. Its somewhat old-fashioned format belies the fact that it is painstakingly researched and beautifully presented. Stories are told in depth and illustrated with relevant, inspirational photographs. Latest and upcoming exhibitions are all listed and there's always plentiful information about textile-related places to visit. If I could get away between workshops over the coming months I would definitely make a bee-line for the Pinnies from Heaven show at Craft in the Bay (until the 6th July), and the Things we do in Bed show at Danson House, Bexley Heath (until 31st October) where the guest curator is Tracy Chevalier, an internationally best-selling author of seven novels. I have recently finished reading her book, The Last Runaway, and it 's clear that Chevalier learnt to quilt by hand before writing it, so full of traditional techniques and quilting folklore is it. A simply wonderful read!
And to keep you visually engaged here are a few more of the creative pieces sent to us for the Textile of Jigsaw of Words Competition which we are slowly but steadily assembling.