Thursday, 29 November 2007

The final stretch

The following day brought us to the making of the cover, boards were cut, leather was pared and paper glued. The lack of equipment was overcome by using what we could lay our hands on. Rocks to take the place of presses being just one example

The students, Mr Penton ( Mr Penton is the man with the pale hair to the right of the image ) a first rate assistant and photographer, Mme Nikita, students and the books.

There was one final call I had to make, back to the cobbler who had supplied the leather. At first he did not believe that we had made the books and that the leather was from his store. As we explained the construction details, material manipulation and with the aid of the digital camera how we had made the book, he began to understand and enthuse about the project.

So what is next ? well I am hooked. Of all my teaching experiences this has to the most rewarding. There is so much more to do.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

After the chop

Okay, so with all body parts in place we began to round and back the text blocks. In Studio 5 we have a number of specialist presses that we use to get the perfect shape. The text block was rounded in the hand and once again the blocks of wood came to the rescue. The text block was placed in between the blocks and pressure applied. The sewn sections were manipulated with a bone folder so that the sections gradually bend away from the middle, until the first and last sections are bent over at a sharp angle.

We then applied a spine lining of linen and had tea. Tea time was fun as it allowed us to catch up on the previous stages of work, questions and answers, more tea, more questions and answers. Once tea was finished, the text block was secondary sewn. Further spine linings of paper were applied and allowed to dry.
Thus ended our first day of working together, I had enjoyed the experience and had the fortune to to be with some cracking students. What they thought of me I have no idea.

It must be pointed out that whilst we were making books the rest of the unit was hard at work making greeting cards. The cards are made from recycled materials including straw and X-ray plates. X-ray plates I hear you say, yes X-ray plates. They have a lot of X-ray plates because they have a hospital in Anandwan. All mod cons. But not only cards they make decorative panels and stuff.

Pretty cool stuff.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Later that day

With a class of mixed skills and abilities, new skills had to be learnt from both the student and the teacher. Once the the texts blocks were sewn the spines were glued up and pressed. This particular operation did pose one or two difficulties as we did not have a press. However, with two blocks of wood and a willing student, wonders can be achieved.

After sewing the text blocks were trimmed. I usually do this by hand or with a state of the art guillotine with flashing lights and all manner of safety features. There was a guillotine on site. I was told it would make short work of any cutting that had to be done.

Yep, it worked, oh how it worked.This is one of those times when I thought it prudent to let the students get on with things in their own way. One can just make out a swastika painted on the guillotine ( a religious symbol in the shape of a Greek cross ) The only other times I saw this symbol were on the front of huge lorries, cars and motorcycles. In the main these modes of transport were driven with the sort of elan that would make any stunt driver blanche. The symbol is used in the belief that it will bring good luck.
I suppose that it was one of those times that I had to forget my sensibilities, to use what was available and get on with the job. As my time with the students was limited I could not afford to be prissy.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Getting started

The first meeting.

On the extreme right is Mme Nikita and to her left Mr Amru. Mr Amru is the head of the Greeting card and silk screen printing unit. A very busy man. We set out the plans for the work shop, the things that we would be needing (paper, adhesives, thread and the like) work space and possible equipment.

Next came the Cobbler.

Another unit, this time making shoes for the residents. One of the issues with leprosy is a loss of sensation in the digits ( feet,hands etc) To get over this problem the unit makes shoes without using nails that could puncture the wearers feet and can lead to infection.
I was on the scrounge for leather (we were to make 1/4 leather bound books) Mme Nikita and I were shown the leather store.

I had decided that we were to use only the materials that were on site, it would have been a waste of time for me to have taken materials from the UK. The leather was for the most part, offcuts that had been given to the unit from local businesses. After some rooting around we ended up with a carrier bag full of leather that had potential.
I must say that the cobbler was not sure as to why I wanted the leather. After many explanations we left him to his shoes with the promise that we would return with a finished article.
The rest of the day was our own, David and I making our way back to our rooms to make ready for the evening meal and plan the next day.

Our rooms wre situated in an enclosed courtyard a few minutes walk from the workshop, flowers everywhere, birds flitting from one bush to the next. Having just arrived from a bleak, mist shrouded UK, 85 f in the shade came as a welcome change. The orange dresses have nothing to do with me, orange not being my colour.

FOOD is very important to me having mastered the spoon at an early age along with the knife and fork.
Chop sticks (ohashi) being conquered some 16 or 17 years ago, I felt confident with my abilities at the table. Now, things are different in different parts of the world.

This eating technique I found easy, only two things to remember. The right hand is for eating, the left hand is for, well not eating......if you get my drift. The most obvious benefit is less washing up.
All the food is grown on site, it looked good, tasted good.


A fantastic group of people, enthusiastic and welcoming.

The first step was to fold the sections and sew them together.

Everyone helping each other or possibly getting in the way.....

Friday, 23 November 2007


Now, I have to be honest. The images you are about to see are not mine, as you may remember my camera is still in India. These images were taken by Mr David Penton, a fellow bookbinder and friend, he being the man who first aroused my interest in ANANDWAN.

This is a remarkable place and you can find out more by visiting their web site:-

Things started well, we arrived on time at Heathrow airport, checking in was the first of many queues......We had seats with Jet Airways to Mumbai (Bombay as the locals call it) and then onto Nagpur. Nagpur is in the centre of India with its very own international airport, currently undergoing modernisation. Once at Nagpur we took to the roads for a two hour journey to our final destination 'Anandwan'. From Heathrow the flight was fine, the television did not work, I read and slept. The food was, well, airplane food but the staff were happy to help. A five hour wait in Bombay for the connecting flight to Nagpur was spent in a hotel lobby, so it was only having finaly disembarked at Nagpour that I had my first taste of India.

To sum up in mere words would do an injustice to this most wonderous country. So I shall not bother.

Waiting for transport to Anandwan outside the bamboo clad exterior of Nagpur airport.

Up to this point, David and Penny Penton had been the perfect traveling companions (Penny was visiting Anandwan to touch base with a project she had been working on and to do some clinics, Penny is a TOP person) As our four wheel drive ambulance turned up ( I kid you not ) David suggested that I should have the front seat 'As it was my first visit' and they felt that I should have 'the full benefit' of the two hour journey. How kind, I thought!
For those thrill seekers amongst us I would suggest that you forget the theme rides of the amusement park, white water rafting is nothing more than a paddle in the local Lido when compared to the rigours of the two hour journey that awaited us.

One of the four wheel drive ambulances.

I grew to admire our driver, a man of skill, dexterity, vim and swerve. His driving was without compare, unfortunately he had only two methods of driving. The first was fast, the second being very fast. The road was undergoing widening and repair work, this resulted in oncoming traffic vying for the right of way. Long stretches of the road were made up of rough hard core, testing the construction of our ambulance and my nerve. I have to say that it was fantastic. The countryside was breathtaking, the lorries a riot of colour and sound, the oxcarts making their way along the roadside with timeless dignity.

Now for some important....

On arrival we were shown to our rooms. After a short rest we were shown around the complex to acclimatise and get our bearings.

The Dye Shop.

One of the spinners

Spinner and daughter.

Carpet and Rug Weavers.

Fantastic colours and they are huge !

The rug weaving unit was one of many enterprises that make up only part of Anandwan, please check out the website for a more overall coverage. Next on the itinerary was the the unit that I would be working in for the next few days. During our tour we had the company of the sublime Nikita. Nikita is a whirlwind of a person, truly a top lady.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

The end papers are printed

Two sets of end papers awaiting sewing onto the text block.

I managed to find time to print some endpapers using a soft plate off-set technique. I am happy with the results, the colours and textures remind me of the colours found in the Welsh landscape, the lichens, the rocks, the scrubbed sky.

A close up of one set of end papers, highlighting (I hope) the colours and textures.

By the close of the day I hope to be able to have them sewn on to the text block and trimmed . The heady world of the bookbinder is full of wonders.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007


A new project. 'Kyffin Williams' a beautifully printed book from the Gwasg Gregynog press, celebrating the life of the artist and teacher, Kyffin Williams. Illustrated with linocuts by the man himself and a forward by H R H the Prince of Wales. I have two copies which will be fun.
The printed paper is folded into sections at the press however, I always re-fold the sections to ensure that the page layout is perfect. The sections are then pressed overnight and sewn. I realise that this is not the most exciting of posts but I hope that you the reader will be able to understand the various steps that go into making a book.

The pressed sections.

The first section showing the print layout.

The text block is sewn with an unsupported link stitch so that all the sections ( bar the first and last sections ) are joined together.

Next job is to print and make up the end papers. This may take a few days so please bear with me.

Back to the bench

So, having survived India I am back at work. I suppose that there should be lots of images. I did in fact purchase a new camera, I did take lots of pictures, honest.

I left the camera in the car in India.

It has begun the journey home but may be sometime.