Saturday, 23 August 2008

The Joy of Shed.

It has been noted by some members of Studio 5 that I should get out more. It would appear that I spend too much time in the studio, surrounded by books, paper, leather, print stuff and the like.

On the very rare occasion that I do venture into the unknown, I am usually to be found in my local pub THE RED LION. It has the usual sprinkling of celebs (this is London after all) and a stream of musical people from the recording studio over the road. The Red Lion or RION as we call it has the benefit of only being some four minutes from the studio and only two roads to cross, plus there is a bus stop outside that has a top service, the bus journey home takes some four minutes with an additional six minutes walking to my front door. All of this makes it ideal.

A new addition to the services that the Rion provides is one that will appeal to many.

Yes, the Rion has opened the Beer and Barbie Shed in one of the beer gardens. I am most happy.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Water book and other stuff.

As mentioned in a previous post I have been working on a number of separate projects, one of which 'water' is very nearly finished. Water is the title of the Designer Bookbinders international competition book. I do wish I could show you pictures but I fear that may be against the rules of the competition.

However, the rules say nothing about work in progress. Hand dieing the leather.

One of the other books on the bench is a commission, great stuff and fun to work on.

First business of the day is to remove the old binding, a full cloth case binding with lots of wear and tear and sun damage. This must be done with lots of care. Any of the spine linings that can be removed dry are done so.

Next is the messy bit. The various mulls, paper and old adhesive, animal or hot glue are removed. I do this by applying a small amount of paste to the spine area and encapsulate in cling film. I retire to a safe distance for a few minutes..... have a cup of tea or something.

After a few minutes I return to the book to see if the layers of stuff have become soft and are able to be removed with the minimum of effort. This is not because I am lazy, more it is to ensure that when I do remove the mull etc, I will be causing the minimum of damage to the spine or the outer folds of the sections.

I gently remove the loose material with the flat end of one of my bone folders. As soon as I encounter an area that is not loose I re-apply some more paste, cover with cling film and repeat until the spine is clear of all the spine linings.

All of this can take sometime, it can not be rushed. A lot depends on the choice of materials the original binder used, how old was the glue, was he or she having a bad hair day, was it done late on a Friday afternoon, that sort of thing. The secret is to take your time, do not let it get to you, time spent doing this aspect of any re-binding work work is time well spent as it will make life much easier for the next processes.

One of the pleasures of being able to teach is when a student is able to realise a goal or ambition. During my last visit to Japan I had the great pleasure of being invited to the studio bindery of AYA NISHIO. Aya's work is fantastic and I hope to be able to include her contact details on the Studio 5 blog. Her place is very her, very correct, tidy with lots of different stuff happening. Her needle cushions are very note worthy.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Tea break chat

During one of the few tea breaks in the studio (we like to work) we embarked on a topic that is very close to my heart.

Technique over Art. The general opinion was that many of the established fine designer bookbinders, in the Uk at least, was that some are perhaps not able understand the art of the book.
By this I mean that though good technique is important, the function of the book (within the realm of fine, designed bindings) is not compromised. That the manipulation of the materials, surface decoration and over all impression of the book works as a whole.

Where this can fall down is when the technique becomes the important thing. I am sure that we have all looked at a fine binding, perhaps by a 'Master' that is a self masturbatory exercise in technique. The sort of work that the viewers look at the work and say something like ' oh he/she is so good at...........' what the viewer is saying is key. That the technique has overtaken and suppresses the art. The 'master' on hearing this sticks out their chest, and with a smug look thinks themselves to be the best. It is easy to see how they can start to believe their own press, to produce work that is a series of banal exercises. In the end creating wall paper. As this 'master' begins to get a gather a sycophantic and vocal clique, more and more people are beguiled into believing the press and aping the 'master' thus propagating the myth.

One of the potential problems is that when this 'master is then paraded as being the best, it can stifle true creativity within the genre. For the binder who acknowledges the technical skill and strives to perfect their own but also balances this with the art of the book, life can be difficult. It would seam that this binder is going against the norm, being a bad boy/girl of the bookbinding world.
The banal has become the expected norm, anything that bucks that norm is castigated, derided as being non bookbinding, as not respecting the craft of the genre - not being true to the tradition. The banal 'master' is safe in the knowledge that his or her status is safe, that their individual approach to the art and craft of the book is the only one of any merit.

This is surely bad for any binder who wants to move forward, to be able to express what they are able to draw from the text, to be able to share with others the art of the book. The banal sycophant is unable to understand the work as it is not what they have been told is correct, therefore, in their eyes, it is not correct. There is also the case of the of the sycophant rejecting the work as worthless, as their work apes the 'master' and must be the correct form.

The general opinion in the studio was that there has to be a healthy balance between the trad and the contemporary, that the 'master' should recognise and applaud the new work as should the young bloods recognise the contribution that the 'master' has made in the past. The sycophants should get their faces out of the 'masters' arse and get a life.

Thus the rest period ended and work resumed.

9th of September

The 9th of September is the announcement of the man Booker short list, be sure to visit my Diary of a Man Booker Binder.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Coming Soon to a Blog Near You.

It is fast coming up to the time of year when the book world, in the U K at least, becomes Man Booker mad.

The Man Booker award is a celebration of the last years literary out-put and ends with a huge slap up meal, complete with the BBC, interviews, winners and not so winners.

Each one of the six finalists is presented with a cheque for a few grand ( the winner gets a huge cheque ) and a presentation copy of their book.
It is my pleasure to have been selected to be one of the Man Booker binders for this year. I have created a blog site
'Diary of a Man Booker Binder' and will keep you up to date with all the highs and lows in the four or so weeks I have in which to do the binding.

I hope that it will offer an insight in to a little known part of the Man Booker awards and for those who are interested in the art and craft of book binding and arts a glimpse of what it takes to make a Designed Binding.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Sunday at home.

The first day off. No work and no meetings to attend, bliss. The last few days have been busy with teaching a wonderful group of students.

Language is a funny thing, most of the class could sort of understand me and I could sort of understand them.

Simple things such as threading and locking a needle can be a theatre piece in the round. As with many art and design courses, the students have only limited access to the world of book arts and bookbinding. However, in very few days we were able to make three books. Each book exploring different construction details, fusion binding, print and page layout.

All of this was done with only rudimentary studio tools and a few bone folders and brushes from Studio 5. Great fun, hard work and I hope to be able to show you some of the work at a later date. A lot of the images and text was worked by hand with only a few of the students electing to use the computer.

Friday, 1 August 2008

In Japan

At last, a free couple of hours.

A couple of images to keep you going. They include a number of my favorite things.

Liver and chicken in my top pub in Tokyo.

At the counter in my fave Sushi restaurant.