Wednesday 23 November 2016

On a recent trip to New York I had the wonderful opportunity to deliver my miniature book commission to Neale Albert in person. It was great being able to see Neale’s reaction to my binding, as he gives the bookbinder free rein over design and execution of the book.  That afternoon Neale was extremely kind to share some of his favourite pieces from his beautiful library and vast collection of miniature books, artistic bindings, and artefacts. There were many extraordinary works in the collection, though my favourite piece was Atlas of the British Empire, bound by George Kirkpatrick and housed in an exquisite leather globe box. I also loved Kirkpatrick’s leather kaleidoscope, covered in miniature book onlays. These were just a few of the works that illustrate the fascinating and infinite variety of Mr. Albert’s incredible collection. I was thrilled to see several Jan Sobota books in person and experience the true three-dimensional and tactile nature of his work. Neale’s dedication, passion and enthusiasm for artistic binding, book arts, and related artefacts are truly inspirational.

Neale kindly gifted me a signed copy of The Poet of Them All: William Shakespeare and Miniature Design Bindings from the Collection of Neale and Margaret Albert, which includes an excellent introductory essay by James Reid-Cunningham on the art of contemporary designer bookbinding. The book is an exhibition catalogue of Mr. Albert’s Shakespeare collection including miniature artistic bindings, re-bindings, and various Shakespeare inspired artefacts. The overall exhibition contains a broad range of work focused around Shakespeare, my favourite being a three-dimensional miniature wooden model of the Globe Theatre by Tim Gosling.

At the center of the Alberts’ collection is a group of thirty-nine hand-bound miniature design bindings of “Brush up on Your Shakespeare,” which is the name of a song from Cole Porter’s musical “Kiss Me Kate” based around Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. All of the miniature bindings were commissioned from world famous bookbinders by Mr. Albert. The miniatures contain the music and lyrics to that song and each of the bindings is totally unique and wonderfully imaginative. The edition was published by Neale’s own Piccolo Press and letterpress printed by Tideline Press in New York. As Elizabeth Fairman points out in her “Introduction” to the book the works in the exhibition “provide a glimpse into the heart and mind of a true collector, one who does not merely accumulate things for their own sake, but actively engages in the process of creating a work of art and intuitively understands the resonance that certain objects can evoke.” The Alberts make collecting a work of artistic creation.

Photography by Ailene de Vries





Sunday 13 November 2016

Over the past year I have been working on submissions to both the International and U.K Designer Bookbinders Competitions. On Thursday I attended the private view for the U.K Designer Bookbinders Competition where I was excited to have two books on display. The Set Book was Vita Nuova by Dante and my Open Choice entry was In Smoke by Canadian Printmaker and Wood Engraver Alan Stein. I was thrilled to receive the St. Bride Foundation Prize for Finishing for my Set Book and The Clothworkers’ Company Prize for Open Choice Book 2nd Prize. I am honored to have my bindings exhibited along side such a talented group of Bookbinders and Book Artists and I look forward to participating in this competition again in the future.



Open Choice Book Description
IN SMOKE Ten Variations on Eugenio Montale
Poems by Gary Michael Dault. Wood engravings by Alan Stein
Ultra flat back book construction. Unsupported link stitch secondary sewn with full linen board attachment and skirting with ¾ hollow. Hand sewn endbands with hand sewn Manhattaning to tail. Hand printed leather jointed endpapers with edge-to-edge doublures.  Hand dyed fair goat. De-bossing to back board and cold gold de-bossing to front board with leaves.  Design inspired by reoccurring theme of the natural world and imagery of forests, foliage and gardens in relation to growth and the fragility of love.


Set Book Description
Vita Nouva - Dante
Unsupported link stitch secondary sewn with full linen board attachment and skirting with ¾ hollow. Book and three-dimensional figure covered in hand dyed fair goat. Full Sunago decoration.  Sewn silk endbands. Handmade digitally printed leather jointed endpapers with edge-to-edge doublures.
Design inspired by Dante’s dream of Beatrice in flames. The female figure represents earthly love while the gold flames rising into the night sky illustrate darker themes of mortality and religious transcendence.

This week I had the exciting opportunity to visit The The Wyvern Bindery and meet with the owner Mark Winstanley. The Wyvern specializes in bespoke books, boxes and portfolios as well as book restoration and repair services. Located in the heart of London’s traditional printing and bookbinding district, the space is filled with exciting projects, traditional/modern materials and tools and a wonderfully knowledgeable staff. The bindery’s clients range, from personal collectors and antiquarian book dealers to creating props for movies including Game Of Thrones and Harry Potter. Mark trained at the London College of Printing and his enthusiasm for books is inspiring and contagious. My favourite book in the bindery was a ledger with brass edging at the head and tail that weighted almost more than I could lift! I look forward to returning in the future and seeing the exciting and interesting projects The Wyvern Bindery is working on.


Friday 4 November 2016

I had the exciting opportunity to attend INK LDN, the new international antiquarian and book arts fair in England.  The venue was a beautiful stain glass covered gothic mansion, which was featured in the popular television show Downton Abbey. There were many wonderful antiquarian books, manuscripts and artists books from European and American dealers. 

The booth I found most interesting was Abby Schoolman Books which I was familiar with as she represents my teacher Mark Cockram. Abby is a book dealer based in New York with a fantastic collection of artists books from living bookbinders including Timothy Ely, Sonya Sheats, Celine Lombardi and Mark Cockram. I found these books inspirational and the diversity of the work extremely interesting. They displayed a range of both highly conceptual designs and modern material use and techniques. My favourite binding was Mark Cockrams Sir Patrick Spens utilizing his invented technique of tesseri and cold gold work evoking imagery of water and ships.  I look forward to seeing Abby’s collection of bindings at The New York Antiquarian Book Fair in March.

Timothy Ely
Mark Cockram

Timothy Ely
Timothy Ely
Mark Cockram
Timothy Ely
Abby Schoolman

Thursday 27 October 2016

 I have really enjoyed working on this book and have found inspiration from the beautiful text and symbolic imagery. Rosanella is based around a fairy princess who is kidnapped and in her place twelve princesses are raised all bearing roses upon their throats. A fickle prince falls in love with each princess but cannot choose between them as they each hold distinctly different qualities. All twelve princesses are kidnapped and in their place, Rosanella appears with all the qualities of the princesses in one.

I used various experimental decorative techniques in this project including craquelle which creates abstract organic patterns to represent thorns and branches. I created roses out of very thinly pared leather pierced through the board forming buds in the endpapers. The endpapers are inspired by the bird that kidnaps Rosanella and leaves in her place 12 roses.

The highlight of this project so far has been working in miniature. I have found it an exciting way to challenge my skills, working in smaller dimensions and design constrains. I look forward to continuing this project with a decorative box inspired by the binding.

Book Description:

Ultra flat back book construction. Unsupported link stitch secondary sewn with full linen board attachment and skirting with ¾ hollow. Hand sewed endbands with Sunago edge decoration. Digitally printed leather jointed endpapers with edge-to-edge doublures.  Hand dyed fair goat with craquelle effect. Pierced board work including twelve handmade leather roses.  Design inspired by the twelve princesses bearing pink roses upon their throats and the representation of this flower as a symbol of romantic love.

Cover of Rosanella

Cover Detail of Roses

Endband and Sunago Edge Decoration


Thursday 20 October 2016

A very important part of the bookbinding process is drying time. Patience is a virtue; as I wait for glue to dry I will take the time to update my blog with current work and adventures.

Yesterday was the judgment day for the U.K Designer Bookbinders competition. Fingers crossed! The studio was closed so I took the opportunity to see the Wellcome Library and check out the reading room and wonderful exhibits. I found them both informative and inspirational. The reading room was curated with historic and modern materials, objects and paintings all on theme of medicine.

Wellcome Library Reading Room

The work on my miniature book commission is moving along and I have been preparing tests using materials for the cover. The leather will be hand dyed to achieve a colour not available in commercially produced leather, making it one of a kind. I created swatches on un-dyed goat to test colours and different dilutions.
Dye Swatch

After completing my mock up for the miniature rose I created 12 for the cover decoration to reflect the content of the text and represent the 12 princesses. These were done using a magnified set of tweezers and plenty of patience.

Miniature Leather Roses and Magnified Tweezers 
My next step is to begin work on the body leather for the binding and I look forward to sharing my results in the coming days.

Thursday 13 October 2016

The endband is used to determine the square of a binding (ie: how much larger the covers are than the text block). It is very important when working in miniature to take into account the size of materials as they will effect the overall size of the binding. For this book, I have chosen a thin core and silk thread in colours that complement both my cover design and endpapers. The sewing is done using very fine needles so as not to punch too large a hole in the sections.

Hand Sewn Silk Endbands
Silk Threads

I have begun making a maquette of ideas for my cover design based on preliminary illustrations on paper. It can be very difficult to directly translate a drawing to a cover design without experimentation, as the switch from 2D to 3D often requires some creative problem solving. For instance my design concept envisions 12 three-dimensional leather roses on the cover. My idea was inspired at a fabric store where I found flowers constructed with ribbons. When I began crafting miniature flowers I found I needed to play with the size and thickness of the leather in order to make them look realistic. I also needed to experiment with different means of attaching the flowers to the binding.  The maquette will help test that all this works when it comes to my final binding.

Leather Rose Maquette