Monday, 31 March 2008

Print project.

What a frustrating day.

I have the topic, marginalia from an old French religious tome. Some ten pages are adorned with various hands, on a number of different topics. Corners are folded over, crumbs cascade from the pages as I open them. Simply wonderful stuff, the secret life of a book.

So to the print technique, as with a lot of what I do it has to be simple. But today nothing is going right. I can not blame the materials, the subject matter, the ink or the press. It is all down to me, I have to concentrate, take five and restart. Have been in the studio since six this morning and managed to produce a pile of waste. Some days are like this, nothing seems to go right. A cup of tea and a fag should restore me. Back to the bench and start again.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Sir Patrick Spens and other Ballads is finished.

After a long day Sir Patrick Spens is finished.Lots of layering of papers and leather, lots of gold leaf and fiddling around with bits.

The front board has been shaped to resemble a sail, much the same as the back board extension.

Front and back leather jointed end papers and doublers.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Sir Patrick Spens and other Ballads takes shape.

The Folio edition of Sir Patrick Spens. A charming single section text block measuring 11cm x 8cm, with engravings by Jane Lydbury.

The main ballad is of a sad tale of a sea Captain who leaves the shores of Scotland to collect a child Princess from Norway in about 1290.

There are a number of versions but all follow a similar path. The King of Scotland asks the best sailor in the Kingdom (Sir Patrick Spens) to sail a ship to Norway to bring home the Maid of Norway, a seven year old Princess. Spens agrees but is worried as he has to set sail in mid winter.

It is believed that Spens did reach Norway, collected the Princess but was engulfed by a storm. The ship, with all hands, sank.

As I have said there are a number of versions. However, having been on a small fishing boat, in the North Sea, in winter, even on a mild day, I find it easy to imagine what perils brought Spens to his untimely demise.

The back board, showing small cold gold panels (tiles) with a worn, sail like panel that traverses the back board and the spine area of the book.

The back of the sail panel and the, as yet, unfinished front board. The tiles are a reference to the brightly coloured Pallians (tents) golden masts we read of in the other ballads and the destruction of Spens ship.

The front and back end papers, turbulent waves.

Detail of the rear tiles and the sail panel.

Sir Patrick Spens

The new book is a pile of bits at the moment. Images will follow later today but please, do not hold your breath.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Beyond Giving Poems

Finally Beyond Giving is finished. There is still a little work to do but the main work has been done. I still have to think about the box or the another method of housing the book. I will put it to bed and start on the next book.

Why all the work ? well there is an exhibition that I hope to have work in, I have said that I will have 4 new works to show and the clock is ticking.

Thursday, 13 March 2008


With the blind tooling nearly finished I can begin to work on the panels. The panels are infilled with white leather and emulsified leather dust. Once this has set gold leaf is laid on top of the emulsified leather and allowed to dry. The resulting texture catches the light and draws the eye towards the image of the lips.

I love working with gold leaf in this way.

More colour

The next step was to add more colour, again the leather has been hand dyed, this time in red. The swirls are worked with a number of applications.

Blind tooling will continue over the front board, spine and back board. There is still a long way to go but I am happy with the way things have gone so far.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Beyond Giving - endpapers and doublures

The endpapers are set and leather joints in place. The next step is to work the doublures. Up to four layers of hand-dyed papers are layed on to the board and sanded. This simple step has taken me two days, I can not believe how long it takes to sand paper.

The lower colours of the various papers showing through the top layer, I hope to have created a sense of depth and movement. I have found that with some bookbinders they stick to one or two techniques when it comes to endpapers and doublures. I think that contemporary interpretive bookbinders need to be flexible, how can they produce work when they are limited in their technical approach ?

A close up of the lower front doublure.
The pattern of the sanded papers echos the turn-ins, emphasising the construction, the under layers that are often hidden, the construction becomes part of the overall look of the book without being contrived.

Work resumes on the cover.

Panels of leather have been removed awaiting a further application of dye.

I suppose that to many bookbinding purists I am breaking all the rules. First, I am work with the book in an interpretive way, I do not use much gold leaf, I did not serve an apprenticeship and with this binding I have finished the inside before I have completed all the work on the outside.

With this particular binding I have had to work inside out so that the design flows from the inside to the cover, working this way, I am sure that this flows with work in reverse.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Morris Cox

I realise that my earlier blog was without a conclusion. It is easy to rant about what is bad, after all politicians do it for a living.

Perhaps I should explain why I think the way I do. I come from an arts background, my family and my initial training being in art and design. I have earned money working in the arts. I enjoy the creative process and if I am honest the chance for other people to share my work.

Okay, less about me. More, who I believe are top book artists. I would like to deal with these one at a time, to re-visit.

I would like to begin with MORRIS COX (1903-1998) At this point I would suggest that you Google

I suppose that we all have our likes and dislikes when looking at stuff. Take time to find out about him. You may not like his work, you may not agree with his methods but I deny any one to argue against his heart.

There are aspects to his work and him that I just admire. No one would publish his work, so he did. His prints are alive, there is none of the bullshit that some book artists have. Cox did it because he wanted to communicate. He moved forward not just with his work but within himself. It is hard for me to put my finger on the point where I say " That's it" , more I am comfortable with his work. Life is not all happy, happy, wistful memories and puppies. Cox moves with ease between birth and death.

He lives on with his words and images.
Can one say that of some book arts ?

A day in Studio 5.....alone

With the Kyffin project done, the books delivered, waiting to be exhibited and sold by auction, I move on to the books on the bench.

So, a day of printing. End papers for a commission - all Greek gods and mythology, great fun. The technique I used is a Soft Plate off-Set process... lots of ink, lots of water and back breaking work at the press. The Studio 5 members love it, but then I am usually the one who does the press work....lucky people
With those done I have been able to concentrate on the printing of a new book. Yes, I print my own. The proofing press was dusted down, rollers charged and away I went. Today has been a practise day, a day of experimentation, a day of surprises and by-and-large a good day.

I have decided the subject, the overall look and the edition number. Images and text will be gathered, exciting times.

One of the issues I have with making the complete book , is that I have been called a book artist. In some ways I am. In many ways I am not. I find it difficult to keep calm when I view some of the offerings that flood the various Artists Book Fairs and the like. Flaccid, ill made trite. Crooned over by frustrated artists. The worst are those who have done some course or an other, they wave their qualification like a warrant, to ensure that the money they have spent on the course will ensure that you take them seriously and part with your money.

I think of them as Christmas cracker book artists, book arts by numbers.

This leaves me wide open for criticism, perhaps I should not comment and let the book art world spiral into a pedestrian morass. I can not, I believe that there can be a balance between the art and the craft. There are many fantastic book artists but they are overshadowed by the voiced majority who say so much, about so little, so often.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Leather dyeing for Beyond Giving

As the construction of the text block nears completion I turn my attention to the leather that will form the base of the finished binding.
Once again I use a natural skin to take the leather dye. Using broad sweeps with a cotton wool swab the dye is applied. This takes time as each coat must dry as too much dye can cause the colour to Bronze. I am not at home to Mr Bronze.

I prefer to work with the leather as if it is a canvas. Depth of colour can be built up or left, this gives me greater control of the making process. Many bookbinders are happy to use stock leathers from the suppliers, a shame as it limits the palette.

Detail of the leather.

Covered. Looking at the leather on the book one is able to understand the form, depth of colour and shapes that have been created during the hand dyeing process.

Detail of the spine area (ultra flat)

Front end paper and leather joint.