Friday, 16 September 2022

La Ville, box and all.

 

My biblionautic chums and friends.
Finally... La Ville is completed.
Please note.... there are other boxes and studios/binderies doing stuff, spelling and grammar. Please further note, the opinion of the author may change at any moment. This is due to having an open mind of sorts





Monday, 12 September 2022

Monday Morning... What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

 

My biblionautic chums and friends.
Ah, Monday morning, what could possibly go wrong?
When the person who borrowed your electric saw "forgets" to tell you that they have broken it when they return it.....
Push-hate, pull-hate, push-hate, pull-hate etc etc....
Though I am a little happy that I am still able to saw in a straightish line.
Please note.... there are other studios/binderies doing stuff, spelling and grammar. Please further note, the opinion of the author may change at any moment. This is due to having an open mind of sorts

 




Thursday, 8 September 2022

La Ville, an abridged story of the binding.

 

My biblionautic chums and friends.

La Ville... Aa abridged story of the binding.

Frans Masereel (31 July 1889 – 3 January 1972) was a Flemish painter and graphic artist who worked mainly in France, known especially for his woodcuts focused on political and social issues, such as war and capitalism. He completed over 40 wordless novels in his career, and among these La Ville is considered to be one of his best.
Masereel's woodcuts influenced Lynd Ward and later graphic artists such as Clifford Harper, Eric Drooker, and Otto Nückel...... and me of course!
 
The binding of La Ville is a commission from a collector of books, it is always nice to be commissioned to do work by this particular collector as he has a fantastic eye for text blocks that are beautiful, challenging, quirky or fun. La Ville is no exception, the wood-cuts of Masereel are something that one can really get one's teeth into. 

 Along with the original text block in sheets (more about this later) I was supplied with a reading copy. The reading copy was very cool to have. First I was able to check and correct the pagination of the sheets and use the reading copy as, well, a reading copy. To  be able to understand the nature of the 100 images, their relationship within the flow of the pages, to formulate a design.
 
With La Ville being first published in 1925 it would have been easy to default to and  produce a 1920's style binding, perhaps even in the French/Flemish style.

But, and it is a series of big buts...... Masereel's wood cuts are so visceral. By this I mean that there is an earthy feel to the work. The images detail all aspects of urban life, much of it the same now as it was then. From the tenderness of the new-born through to the unreasoning divides in class and culture and the elemental emotions of death and depravity. His work is instinctive and in depth. This I wanted to keep, this was my key to unlock the overall design, look and feel of the book.

So.... a slick binding full of colour and gold, inlays and onlays would just not work. The images in the text block are stark and powerful in the simplicity of printing. I kept coming back to black and white, light and shadow. And so began a series of maquettes.
A maquette is a scale model or rough draft of an unfinished sculpture and as I have often thought that the book is sculptural in form I tend to use the term maquette.
 
One of the key aspects I wanted to use was light and shadow/black and white. 
First I tried to sculpt the board, creating form with various thicknesses of paper then covering with leather. It just did not have sharpness or clarity that I was looking for. Masereel... a fantastic wood cut artist.. me not a fantastic wood cut artist.. but I can do do lino. Perhaps, in hindsight it is an obvious technique for me to employ but it took time to work towards using lino cuts to get where I wanted to be.
It became instinctive.. it worked... I was getting there. 



 
As with any research it can take you to places that are perhaps not suitable for the current project but well worth remembering
 
 
 
 
 
Once I had sorted out what and how I was going to be working, the technique at least I turned my attention to the text block. As mentioned before, it was in sheets. many sheets. Basically a series of folios, simply  the paper folded with two prints on each folio...
Easy for the printer... a nightmare for the binder. To sew each section would have been so difficult, the swell not easy to manage. In addition, to compound the problems no two folios were the same size. Some with the deckle edge to either the head or the tail.. some with no deckle...all over the place.
Having worked with art printers I had a solution, simple, strong and workable. Basically to join three folios together with a Kozo (Japanese paper) hinge and sew through the center folio.

 
A simple solution. I guess from experience. It is something I have found with artists and many, many art printers, they tend to do the art work/printing and then think of how they will make it into a book, or, as is often the case, give the task to some poor bookbinder and expect miracles. Bookbinders tend to think of the book in totality, each separate part forming the whole.
 
Now that the construction of the text blocked had been sorted out I turned my attention to the end papers. This time the choice of medium was easy... yep... lino cut.

 My aim was to produce a montage of abstracted Masereel prints for each end paper and doubler. Slowly building up the image as I worked. Taking rubbings as I worked the lino to ensure that all was ok.
 

The first prints in the print rack. Great fun to do but this was only stage one, I wanted to explore light with the end papers/doublers. More about this later.


With the leather ordered from Harmatan https://www.harmatan.co.uk/ (my go to leather people, in fact I have been using their leathers since I was at college more than 30 years ago... please note other tanners are available) and all the componets in place work could bein in bringing all together. The decision was made to trim the sections, taking minimum of to neaten the text block up. Not an easy choice to make but because of the nature of the unevenness of the sections it was the practical thing to do. Sewing, rounding and backing, end bands and all the other little steps that make up the journey of the making of a book commenced.
The leather was worked during the covering process, the play of light and shadow more than evident form the first. The leather from Harmatan was a joy to work with, having a relationship spanning 30 plus years helps. I know their products, they know what I am looking for when I describe the effect I am after and I always consider them to be part of the binding team. As indeed I do my other suppliers such as John Purcell Papers https://www.johnpurcell.net/ again the staff have knowledge of the papers, boards etc they have. They care and understand they don't just sell. Please note other paper and board suppliers are available.
Finally the binding complete........
Light and shadow.
Remember the end papers and doublers? Depending on the angle of light and viewing changes what is and is not seen.


Simple. It would have been easy to go full out and having lashings of gold and inlays and onlays... but why fight the wonderful images? I have taken my inspiration from Masereel's prints. Abstracted and twisted, reformed and re-seen.

Full leather (goat). Hand printed end papers and edge to edge doublers. hand sewn, single needle/minimal end bands etc etc. 286mm x 235mm x 31mm when closed.

Please note.... there are other studios/binderies doing stuff, spelling and grammar. Please further note, the opinion of the author may change at any moment. This is due to having an open mind of sorts.

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

La Ville, finished.....

My biblionautic chums and friends.
La Ville... finished. Just the box to make for the book and the lino cuts.
Full leather (goat). Hand printed end papers and edge to edge doublers. hand sewn, single needle/minimal end bands etc etc. 286mm x 235mm x 31mm when closed.
Frans Masereel (31 July 1889 – 3 January 1972) was a Flemish painter and graphic artist who worked mainly in France, known especially for his woodcuts focused on political and social issues, such as war and capitalism. He completed over 40 wordless novels in his career, and among these La Ville is considerd to be one of his best.
Masereel's woodcuts influenced Lynd Ward and later graphic artists such as Clifford Harper, Eric Drooker, and Otto Nückel...... and me of course!
Please note.... there are other studios/binderies doing stuff, spelling and grammar. Please further note, the opinion of the author may change at any moment. This is due to having an open mind of sorts.
 




 

Friday, 2 September 2022

Dubliners, James Joyce and a box.

 

My biblionautic chums and friends.
Though not a book, box making is part of the job for the bookbinder/book artist.
Boxes for books. First thing to be seen usually the last to be thought about.
Sometimes simpicity is the key. A simple two tray drop back box. Nothing fancy, no shouting or bells and whistles. Just a quiet, simple box for a first edition for a London book shop.
Please note.... there are other studios/binderies doing stuff, spelling and grammar. Please further note, the opinion of the author may change at any moment. This is due to having an open mind of sorts.

 

Wednesday, 31 August 2022

Westdean College, Seven Magnificent Books.

 

My biblionautic chums and friends.
Some time agao I was invited to deliver a short residential course at the wonderful Westdean College in bookbinding for the complete and utter beginner.
So with an evening session on Sunday the 28th-finishing early afternoon on the 30th... 7 students, 7 multi sectional flat back case bindings with slip cases and paste papers. All very good, all worked and all the books fitted their slip case. All 7 students had no previous experience, real beginners. 7 very tired but happy students (I hope). One tired tutor.
I am not sure what the students feel, but they were great to work with. I have seen similar work produced by students with far more experience that falls way below the standard set by theMagnificent Seven as I shall always remember them as.
Please note.... there are other colleges/studios/binderies doing stuff, spelling and grammar. Please further note, the opinion of the author may change at any moment. This is due to having an open mind of sorts


Friday, 26 August 2022

Teaching the Teacher Part 2.

My biblionautic chums and friends.
Day 4 of the 5 days of the intensive book arts week with Daniel Rapley.
Yesterday we started to work with the Adana 8x5. An introduction to typeset printing. As this was Daniel's first experience we decided to explore object, shape, colour and text. Needless to say we had great fun, registration and all. The following images include roughs of the print process.
Next is Flottage, something free-form, potentially messy and in being so... fun.
Please note.... there are other studios/binderies doing stuff, spelling and grammar. Please further note, the opinion of the author may change at any moment. This is due to having an open mind of sorts.










 

Wednesday, 24 August 2022

Teaching the Teacher.

 

My biblionautic chums and friends.
This week finds Studio 5 a hive of activity. Thanks to Designer Bookbinders and the Printing Charity I have the pleasure of working with Daniel Rapley, head of the Foundation Course at Lincoln College (Arts) - my first art college!. Just before covid I did a few days tuition to introduce the foundation students to the world of book arts. They made some cracking work. I am pleased to say that book arts is now on the Foundation Curriculum. The feed back form the Higher Education (BA etc) interviews has been fantastic with the students book arts included in their portfolios.
I consider the point of introducing book arts at foundation level to be so important, to enable the students to engage with the making of books during their first steps in the world of the arts and crafts sowing the seeds for future exploration and development.
The head of the Foundation Course, Daniel Rapley was so taken with the outcome that he pushed for the 'CODEX' module to be part of the curriculum and he deserves much praise.
However, this sort of highlighted an itch of mine that I have had for some time, years actually. It is all well and good to pop in, as it were, to do a few days teaching then breeze out, dropping mic... my work here is done sort of thing ... But to what end?. It is good for the students, of course, but where is the continuity?. As the students move on so does the knowledge. So, after conversation with Daniel I decided to forward the idea of a week long intensive course that basically teaches the teacher. The idea being that the knowledge stays with the college. This knowledge can be built upon and passed on to multiple students from mutiple courses.
As we all know, the arts are being squeezed of funds in education in the UK because those who know such things know that the arts are not important (the short sighted fools that they are) To this end, the foundation course is slowly gathering equipment, a press here, type from here and there etc. So it is important that Daniel has exposure and experience of as much of the tools and equipment that are used in bookbinding, printing etc etc. So that when the foundation course either begs, borrows or steals equipment he will be familiar with it.
So far this week we have done simple text bock making, cutting board with a board chopper and knife, different types of covering materials - their properties and uses. Free hand foil work and stencil foil work with the tooling iron. The type holder and blocking machine.
This afternoon we will be exploring typeset and the Adana 8x5.
Busy busy busy.
Please note.... there are other studios doing stuff, spelling and grammar. Please further note, the opinion of the author may change at any moment. This is due to having an open mind of sorts.