I have spent the last week sorting through photographs on both my phone and camera, in order to try and get back on top of them and also update my website. I have had to go it alone with taking and editing the photographs of my finished bindings since leaving the UK and it usually takes me ten times as long as it should, hence the delay in adding them to my website!

I have added three fine bindings and two other binding commissions to my website over the last week, I have one more to add but I am waiting until the client receives it before putting up the photos publicly. I thought I would do a separate feature on each, starting chronologically with the first I finished, being a miniature binding of a book about the artist Monet.

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The binding was a commission for a client in the USA, I received the book in December of 2013 and had to have it finished by April of this year to post back. In the same month that I received the book to bind, I went to New York for a holiday following a V&A work trip to Toronto. I paid a visit to the Museum of Modern Art and saw some of his paintings in person, including the wonderful, ‘Water Lilies’, triptych spanning the entire wall of one of the galleries.

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It was the first full leather miniature I had ever bound, so rather than making a sample board as I usually do for each of my bindings, I decided to make an entire duplicate of the book in size and shape. This served two purposes; firstly to test out the binding method (in this case I had decided to do a stub binding to aid the opening of the small book), and secondly so I had something physical to keep to remind me of what methods I had used.

Firstly I pulled the book from it’s original cover, the text block measured just 65mm tall x 57mm wide x 10mm in thickness, and had a machine gilt edge that I decided to retain. I folded a double-thickness concertina, which was graduated in size with the central fold being the longest and getting shorter towards the endpapers each side – this was to create a round in the spine which wouldn’t be possible to create otherwise from a normal concertina. The sections were sewn to the concertina using a light weight 40/3 thread, and I tipped leather-jointed endpapers into the final fold of the concertina.

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The concertina folds at the spine were then sewn onto two, 6mm wide tapes with medium gauge 25/3 thread, at this point I was able to back the book to create small shoulders for the boards to sit in.

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Due to the stub binding structure, I was not able to create sewn headbands, so formed leather headbands instead. I painted the the top cut edge of the leather with acrylic paint to finish the ends. After this, I was able to line the spine, lace on the boards and measure out the size of the covering leather.

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The content of the book was a short history of Monet’s life, including a final chapter about The Water Garden at Giverny, which was the main focus of Monet’s artistic production during the last thirty years of his life. I decided to base my design on the many paintings that Monet did of waterlilies (approximately 250 in total), many of these works were painted while he suffered from cataracts. 

In order to do this, I decided to invest in some leather dyes and play around with applications of colour onto natural leather in order to build up a background wash.

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Once I was happy with the background colour, I cut out coloured leather onlays for the lily pads and flowers, and applied these to the covering leather with PVA. 

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Then, to give the leather a more painterly quality, I used acrylic paints and applied these to the leather with cotton buds to add depth and colour variation.

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Finally, when I was happy with the appearance of the leather, I added sewn detail to the water, flowers and lily pads using a variety of different coloured threads and embroidery stitches.

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The reverse of the leather shows best the extent of the embroidery, I made a conscious decision to not place any of the lily flowers across the spine joints as the level of stitching on them may have impacted of the opening of the boards.

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It was then time to paste the leather to the forwarded book block, tying a string around the spine to help form the headcaps, and then leaving it to dry under a light weight for 24 hours.

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When dry, I was able to put down the leather joints, infill the boards, and sand before preparing and glueing down the paper doublures. I tooled the paper doublures with gold foil to suggest glints of light on the water, and I gold-tooled the cover leather in a similar manner amongst the lilies.

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The top edge in more detail, with the green leather headband painted with yellow acrylic paint on the cut edge.

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I made an oak box for the binding with a sliding frosted acrylic lid, in which two holes were cut to view sections of the binding through when the lid was closed. 

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And finally, I made a cloth covered box to house the wooden container in, with the title of the book, Monet’s signature, embroidered onto the lid.

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Inside the lid of this box I added a paper pouch to hold the original endpapers from the book. Although I didn’t wish to use these in my new binding of the book, I felt it important to keep them with the new binding, as they were referenced at the end of the book.

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When the pouch is removed and opened, it reveals the original marbled endpapers by Faith Harrison…

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