It has been quite a while since my last post (two months to be precise). That doesn’t mean to say I haven’t been doing any work, actually pretty much the opposite, I’ve just been too busy to write about any of it! 

I have been adding to my growing collection of sample boards with three on the go at the moment. I am fast approaching the 50 mark and will have to think about making a new (larger!) box to house them in very soon.

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I am also adding to my collection of bookbinding equipment and am very pleased to report that I am now the proud owner of a Blockmaster blocking machine and lots of type – it was quite an effort to carry it up the stairs to my studio as it is far from light! I am yet to give it a proper whirl due to other commitments getting in the way but it will happen very soon. Needless to say I’m sure over the coming months this will start to appear in blog posts as I familiarise myself with using such a brilliant piece of kit…

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As well as my fine binding work I occasionally teach classes too and I am pleased to say that my next one of these is fast approaching. A friend of mine, Arthur Green, recently left the Bodleian Library in Oxford to set up his own book and paper conservation studio, Greens Books, in Drayton St Leonard, Oxon. I was delighted to be invited to run a two day class for him which will be taking place over the weekend of 3rd and 4th September.

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I am in the final planning stages for this class which will centre on making a leather-covered notebook with an embroidered cover. For anyone out there like me who loves bookbinding and embroidery I believe there are a few places still available so take a look at Arthur’s website for details of how to apply at the following link: GREENS BOOKS 

“Embroidered Leather Notebook: You can create striking cover designs for bindings by combining simple embroidery techniques with leather onlays. This two-day workshop will teach you a variety of different embroidery stitches and how to apply these to a design in order to add attractive surface decoration to your leather. As part of the course you will learn how to back-pare leather ahead of embroidering it and then tuition will be given on how to apply the decorated leather cover to a notebook.”


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Over the course of the weekend I’ll be teaching a variety of embroidery techniques and guiding binders through how to utilise these on book designs, such as the butterflies in the above image. Everyone will start by working on a leather sampler to teach a number of different embroidery stitches which can then be taken home at the end of the weekend and referred to for future projects. On the reverse of the sampler is written what each stitch is.

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We’ll then be moving on to designing a book cover, the design incorporating both leather onlays and spaces for embroidered detail. It will be interesting to see what the participants come up with and I look forward to talking through their proposed designs with them. I have done a one-day version of this class in the past concentrating on simpler designs like that of these three single section notebooks with birds on them:

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At the end of the weekend the aim is for the participants to leave with a limp leather-bound multi-section notebook with an embroidered design of their choice on the cover – it will be a busy weekend for all involved! I’ll post pictures of the final results in due course…

In addition to the teaching I currently have a few other projects on, the first of which is my entry for the Designer Bookbinders International Bookbinding Competition with the due date at the end of September. This is the third such competition and has been held every four years. It is being organised in association with the Bodliean Libraries, Oxford, and supported by Mark Getty. Binders worldwide are invited to enter and it will be very interesting to se the breadth of entries.

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There is no set book but instead the competition has the theme of Myths, Heroes & Legends leaving the possibility to choose a text which celebrates extraordinary figures, both real and imaginary, from any age. I won’t elaborate any more on this project due to the fact that it is for a competition so will save this for a later date and blog post. Let’s just say that I have a lot of embroidery to do plus some wood carving thrown in for good measure…!

I am also binding a copy of Cloud Atlas and this week must do some tests with brass tubing I have bought, insetting it into holes drilled through the book boards. I bought nine diameters of tube ranging from 2mm through to 10mm and they rather satisfyingly sit neatly inside one another!

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Finally, I am also working on a first edition copy of Reader’s Digest “Book of
British Birds” with numerous full-colour portraits of many birds illustrated by Raymond Harris Ching – in fact it is a copy signed by the artist. The client chose the text block due to his love of bird watching and it will have three of his favourite birds featured on it.

Initially I printed some sample feathers for the endpapers a few weeks ago using spirit dyes.

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And I plan to embellish the prints with coloured pencils to add more definition. Here is a snapshot of the feathers that will be going onto the sample board with the addition of one feather backed with gold leaf.

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The cover design has three bird species on it, one of which is a Lapwing who is also featuring on the sample board. Firstly I cut out leather for the onlays.

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I did two versions, one for the sample board and one of the book itself.

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I will leave you with some embroidery to finish on as I have now spent time embellishing the Lapwing to give him a more feathery feel – I should be able to stick the leather to the board this week!

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More details about all the projects I have touched in in this post will follow one the coming weeks. In the meantime happy binding!

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