What I did on my summer holidays

japanese stab-bound album
Japanese stab-bound album

This week I have been taking a bookbinding course with Guy Begbie at the University of the West of England.  It is an odd way to spend your annual leave, but we are having a great time.  I have achieved a number of life-time ambitions in recent years: indigo dyeing, visiting Christiania in Copenhagen, having a mini exhibition at the Whitworth Art Gallery; and making this Japanese stab binding is another one.  I realise it isn’t up there with bungee jumping in New Zealand or pleating the perfect chignon, but it is something I have always wanted to do.  So, I was thrilled to do this yesterday.  Our tutor is very relaxed and encouraging and told us we were binding to a very high standard today when we finished a complicated book.  I’m not sure if he was just being nice, but it was good to hear.

He is very keen on detail, so likes end papers in our bindings like this one:

Japanese stab binding - interior
Japanese stab binding - interior

He also suggested adding a contrast strip on the edge to give the binding a bit more style:

Corner detail and trim
Corner detail and trim

He was magnificently patient and diplomatic with me when I was making this as I had made the stitching holes too small and couldn’t get the thread through them.  He tactfully suggested enlarging them as he grappled with yanking through the needle,  with a slightly fading smile.  His website is www.guybegbie.com/ and has some of his fantastic books including some paper engineering-type concertina books and  other books reflecting his interest in typography.  The images are slide shows, so it’s worth lingering over them with the cursor.

By the end of day one we had made three books, which was not bad for virtual novices.  On day two we made French stitched bindings.  This was really exciting as we got to use specialist materials and equipment.  This book is in a press overnight, but I will post pictures of it when it emerges as it is probably the smartest thing I will ever make!

What I liked about the class is that he brought a stack of examples of different bindings and gave quite a comprehensive introduction to them.  I had lots of ideas for using the books in my academic work, as I am increasingly interested in using artists’ books as a way of both representing research and ‘queering’ the process of academic production.  So, I had what I think is a great idea about how to bring together me, Anita Roddick and Laura Ashley in one binding, and I went home and made a prototype.  I have also had a couple of ideas about presenting the Laura Ashley mini quilts, playing on the idea of sample books.  Very exciting, and, when I talked to him a bit about it, he was interested and supportive and I didn’t see his eyes glaze over once.  So, this is an odd way to use annual leave, but I think it is more refreshing quite a few holidays in the damp British summer that I have previously enjoyed.

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