Sunday 30 June 2013

Creative Restoration.

 Though we all work with the book (and for some of us the book is our lives not just work), there are many different aspects, areas, genres and supposed levels. I am of the mind that to understand the few areas of the book that I live with, I have to be, at the very least, aware of as many different aspects as possible. I find many who work with the book to be blinkered and not to look beyond the edge of their own bench. That their way is the only way, not open or dismissive to other ways of working.

It is often the case that at the end of one of my talks I dread the Q and A because of a certain sort of person or people. Usually to be found huddled in small packs on either the front row or back row. The conversation is just above a whisper, just audible but not clear, heads nodding in puppet like unison and derisory laughter issuing forth. 

The lights dim and the introductions made, the pack turns in hierarchical order and as one, arms fold, knees cross and bodies lean back in the seat. A receptive audience then !

As the talk progresses, images flicker on the screen and in my peripheral vision the shaking of heads begins. Members of the pack confer and confirm how right they are and how wrong I am. The knowing smirks and raised eyebrows, the side long whispers passed from willing ear to willing ear. Often the talk is interrupted, " In my opinion" (In your limited knowledge on a subject you know little about and probably have even less practical knowledge of)  "Do you really mean that ?" (Of course I do or I would not have said it) the list goes on and on.

The talk concludes with the Q and A session. Now the pack curl their collective lip, their teeth honed ready to draw blood and cement their Superior skill and knowledge. The Alpha of the pack opens the session with "Mr Cockram, do you ever think about the conservation issues with your work ?" The titters from the pack sound like preening monkeys, how deep the question, how right to ask they are.
"Yes" I reply."Next question please"................

Saturday 29 June 2013

And now for something completely different..... Creative Restoration.'

I think it is fair to say that I am not really thought of as a book restorer. Hand on heart I can think of a lot of people that would choke on their tea if my name and book  restoration were used in the same sentence let a lone the same century.

It is a little known fact that for a number of years I stood at the bench, leather re-back after leather re-back. The smell of red rot still lingers, I wake from the nightmare that is calf turning black for no reason, once pliable goatskin changing to iron and bits of centuries old biscuit being brushed form the gutters. Happy days, happy memories.

I have a deep respect for the binders of the past. Their job was tough, often in dank cellars, working all the hours to make the boss happy (nothing changes) where skill often gave way to speed, profit and margins, I know it is business but I feel that the public's appreciation of the book has suffered because of this. 

What is often forgotten is the fact that the mechanisation of printing, a wonderful and marvellous thing, came about years before the mechanisation of binding. To keep up with demand corners were cut or not as the case may be, materials became less in quality and the book started the downwards spiral towards the paper back.

A long time ago I purchased a book. A dirty little thing, spine gone...

Both boards detached ......

But what a title;   BRITISH GALLERIES of ART, printed in 1824. For a number of years this tiny tome languished in the pile of books that is my 'One day I will get round to doing this'

And that day arrived.

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Coir (?) Perhaps Philippine Spine and Flottage papers.

Following on from my first attempt with the coconut fibre (perhaps coir) I refined and made again, this time with Flottage decorated papers. I really, really like the combination.

A Two Tray Drop Back Box lined with the same paper, I tend to work with A1. The very nature of Flottage paper means that it is nearly impossible to get repeat and I like that. Each sheet is different and there is no guarantee that it will work. What fun.

Sunday 23 June 2013

Coconuts, Books and the Philippines.

Whilst in Manila I was invited by the British Council to give a lecture for the Ortigas Foundation Library.  I met John de Silva who showed Nadja, Enan and myself around the library and the conservation unit. A fine place it is too.

We then went to one of the lecture halls for me to give an illustrated talk about my work and stuff. I think the key words to remember here are Library and Conservation. It would be true to say that I am not thought of as a conservator. Indeed many conservators in the UK and elsewhere find some aspects of my work a little challenging.

After an hour or so of me rabbiting on, I concluded the talk with "Thank you very much, any questions ?"

There followed what can be only described as silence.

A long silence.

After what felt like an age John asked a question, the dam was burst and there then followed about 45 minutes of Q and A. I think the work I do may have not been the sort of thing that the audience had been aware of or seen on the large screen.

It was interesting.

On my return to the bleak cold, wet shores of the UK, I set about work. One thing I did notice was the amount of coconut trees growing everywhere. Working in the UK as I do, Coconut trees are not a common site. In fact they are rare. For me the coconut tree is an exotic thing. Growing around the trunk of the coconut tree is a sort of fibre matting, wonderful stuff. Full of textures and colour. Fantastic. 
This wonderful fibre.. I am sure it has a name but I cannot find it, is used for kindling, I wanted to see if I could use it on a book.

So after a bit of R and D here is the first one.

Saturday 15 June 2013

The Book from Bangkok or Kintsugi Book.

We remember the Book from Bangkok ? As it dried out large cracks and stress points began to appear. At first I was a bit miffed but that is the way things go. As the cracks began to stabilise I looked on then not as a disaster more what we in the trade call "A design opportunity" 

Taking inspiration from cracked pavements and the art/craft of the repair of ceramics with lacquer and powdered gold - Kintsugi ( golden joinery ) some times also referred to as Kintsuuroi ( golden repair )

As a design opportunity I like. Keeping with this theme I will be making a stand for the work.

Friday 14 June 2013

The Journey Continues to Manila.

After a comfortable flight on Emirates, yes comfortable in economy class, I arrived in Manila. Following a hectic taxi journey to my digs and a shower and change I was met by Nadja and Enan of Alunsia Handbound Books

Two charming and gifted binders working north of Manila, creating some stunning work. I really think what they do is so cool. We had a chat shared techniques etc

Please check out their work.

Saturday 1 June 2013

Dubai College

Along with The Doors I was also asked to give a lecture about bookbinding and book arts and a couple of workshops.

I personally think that for the festival to include the bookbinders art a very positive step forward.

I wonder how many people, standing in line to have the latest novel by his or her favourite author think about what they clasp so tightly to their chest. How the book has become what it is ? Where it all began ? The complexity of manufacture or just how amazing it is that all the different elements that go in to a book have fallen into place over the last 2000 odd years ...... That was my lecture, with images of both ancient and modern, each relevant, each an important step and with many more to go.

One of the workshops was at Dubai College, as part of the festival outreach programme. I was with about 15 sixth formers in the art department. The workshop was meant to be for 2 hours, I think we did 4 hours. We had so much fun and I hope the students managed to learn something. They were great.

One of the students, Azmina, won a small quiz we had. " What is a little odd about my name ?"

Her prize was to bury one of my books... lucky person.

The following images are courtesy of Jane Bailey ( tutor Dubai College )

After one month and half an hours worth of rain.

Dubai Literary festival... not all work.

A day out for the authors and me or is it I ?

Fantastic food, good company and a cool creek at the end of it all. Though Dubai is know for the glass and steel buildings there are still pockets of the old town left. Get out of the shopping malls and explore.