Monday 30 December 2019

Review & Order

My biblionaughtic chums, Gastronauts (thank you Keith Floyd) and other friends. My fav chippy in Lincoln is ... The Newport Chippy, excellent service, and for those with a nervous tummy... really unhealthy/generous sized portions. Followed by a rather subdued record shop window.
However, the typographical work in the window is to be applauded, in the age of all neat and boring computer based, pedestrian, conforming signage that has become the go to for many... I found the 'review and order sign' to be in tune ( no pun intended) with the nature of the shop. It is arresting in the fact that one can see that it is text but to engage/read it one has to stop and look to understand the massage plus it gives us a chance to peruse the window.
With books, I realise that this typographical treatment is suitable for certain subjects, it would not, for example work with more classical themes such as Withering (sic) Heights but on more urban and contemporary books it would be fitting. Indeed one could argue that many bookbinders suffer from what I call.. expectational or default lettering and titling. I know that there is a degree of skill required to do this and that on older books it would be correct... there are exceptions to this of course.... but is one just looking at skill? applauding the craft? Perhaps we could also look at more contemporary ways and themes in titling that are less of a label in nature and explore the art side of things more? I suppose that a balance could be strived for... However I feel that it would take time to educate or show clients different ways of doing things... but that could open a huge can of worms......... After all many bookbinders have made a living by telling their clients and students that their way is the only way... because that is how they were taught and that is all they know how to do......... Offering a number of alternatives would then bring in to question the validity of all the previous work done. As I say, a huge can of worms.
Is it a vicious circle? the binder does what the customer wants, the customer is not aware of what else is possible and goes with the default offered because that is what the binder offers and so on. There are, of course exceptions to this but in the main, and from my experience this is what happens.
It may be also the case that it is a 'safe' option. I have been to so many exhibitions of books and bindings over the years. Often I am in despair, beautiful work ruined with lazy lettering. Bling gold up or down the spine with little or no thought to the totality of the finished composition. Or the daring wavy line, you get my drift. The common option is not to title a book... I got into serious trouble when at college with my finishing tutor.... I argued that many paintings I had seen did not, in fact have the title of the work going up the centre of the canvas. Many were titled on the frame (in our case as bookbinders this could be the box, more about this later) or a discrete label to one side in the gallery environment.
I realise that for sets or editions of books... the Encyclopedia Britannica or the Waverly Novels it is important to have the individual volumes titled, that makes perfect sense. However, for the modern library/collection/gallery for the book is that really necessary? Most, if not all collectors know exactly where each and every book is, in fact most collectors in any genre know where everything is in their collection.
This thought drags me further...
For binders that come from a more arts background the working with the total composition of the book is not a problem. I feel the problem lies with the perceived conservative nature of book collecting.... dare one say the collectors? or the expectations of the collectors (please see above 'the circle') I know that many institutions actively collect contemporary works of a more robust contemporary nature as they are looking to the future, to have collections that show case the contemporary... it is important to realise that today's contemporary will be tomorrow's antiquarian.
These living collections are important and should be supported. However, in the wider world of the arts not only are there collectors that collect the safe works of the past, validated by time and expert opinion. But there are equally, if not more so, active collectors of the contemporary. The enquiring collector, the collector of the contemporary book that has their own agenda who engages with the now for the future. Collectors that actively seek the non-conformist, eccentric and the bizarre. If I may cite one collector from the not so distant past.....
A collector that patronised artists of the time when they were derided, misunderstood, thought of as having no importance or peripheral at best. Not only did this collector buy but also encouraged others to engage in the now, believing that the art was of the next decade. I speak of Peggy Guggenheim.
This brings us to the world of book arts. As I progress with my work and life I have begun to engage with this genre in the book making world. I admit that in the past I was a bit of a book snob. Though I produced a number of book works I was unable to cut free of the shackles of the finely bound book, working towards the mastering the complexity of the book... dare I say I was blinkered? In retrospect it is only over the last 15 or so years that I have been able to bring together the various disciplines of the book with the art of the book (though I am sure many who will argue I have neither) It has taken time for me to be able to engage and combine. However I feel that working in this way I am able to be honest with my work, to reflect the now as opposed to rebinding the past. It is a personal journey.
Please note there are other ways of doing things and opinions..... 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 19 December 2019

The Agony of Things Left Unsaid

My biblionaughtic chums and other friends, The Agony of Things Left Unsaid... is finished. A tryptic, mixed media, altered Edwardian photo graph in original frame, book-cloth and board. H 65cm x 49cm closed - 98cm open x 6cm. Rather like a traveling tryptic of a bygone age, Agony, however, gives us a more up-to-date explosion of a very traditional format.

Wednesday 18 December 2019

Studio 5 Creative Studies in Contemporary Bookbinding and Book Arts. Manifesto 2020.

Studio 5 Creative Studies in Contemporary Bookbinding and Book Arts. Manifesto 2020.

The new Studio 5 modules and courses in Creative Studies in Contemporary Bookbinding and Book Arts offer a unique combination of specialisms in traditional, contemporary and experimental bookbinding and book arts practises and skills. With a flexible delivery programme throughout the year, modular learning and a teacher to student ratio that affords time and consideration so enabling the individual student to maximise their learning experience.
Over the last 17 or so years not only UK residents, but many visitors, students and working artisans from all parts of the world have been willing to travel to London to study both part and full-time at Studio 5. Whilst it would be easy to increase numbers, the ethos of Studio 5 has always been quality not quantity. Unlike many courses that concentrate on conceptualisation and theorems to bookbinding and book arts or short, Studio 5 provides practical experience in making and doing.
With an ever increasing trend for people to have more than one career in their working life, and with the modular nature of the courses, Studio 5 is very well placed to offer all suitable students an exciting, stimulating and challenging learning opportunity in an area of the arts where there is growing awareness, varied progression routes and work opportunities.
Aims of the Studio 5 course, Creative Studies in Contemporary Bookbinding and Book Arts
The scheme of study has been designed to enable suitable students of any age to study the Art and Craft of Bookbinding and Book Arts with the emphasis being on practical projects and modules, balanced with theoretical understanding that offers a practical gateway in bookbinding and book arts.
It is anticipated that students will acquire and develop skills that will enable them to become artisans, designers and artists who understand the importance of good working practices as a firm and practical foundation for contemporary and progressive work.

The intention of the Studio 5 course, Creative Studies in Contemporary Bookbinding and Book Arts is to:

provide a unique education in terms of the diversity of the mixture of art, craft and making

stimulate creativity in terms of traditional, contemporary and progressive/experimental working practices

provide artisanal training in bookbinding and book arts that can be used specifically for bookbinding and book arts or adapted for further use in other areas e.g. applied arts, graphic arts, installation work, restoration, private press etc

develop a student’s sense of professionalism

develop students’ critical abilities and awareness and an ability for self expression and collaborative works through projects

develop the understanding and application of relevant health and safety in the studio/workshop environment

develop the student’s ability to identify and solve technical and design problems and to become self motivated in working practices and out-put

provide knowledge, environment and facilities that enable students to work with hand tools, workshop and studio equipment safely and competently

provide a sound background in general and working knowledge with particular regard to bookbinding, book arts and associated practices

The Future

Since the inception of the earliest hand written book and increased availability due to inventions such as paper and printing, there has rarely been a time that the book has been out of the public domain.
Recently, with the rise and eventual stagnation of the ebook and similar reading platforms, the contemporary book has undergone something of a revolution. The genre of the book as a creative vehicle is growing in importance and understanding around the world.
With the wonderful advances in technical communications and affordable equipment such as printers and graphic packages for computers along side the traditional processes, the scope for either the self-employed bookbinder, book artist or employed artisan, in an institution, company or college/university, to engage with the book has never been more varied, exciting and rewarding.

Mark Cockram.

Saturday 23 November 2019

A new book. Marilyn Monroe

My biblionaughtic chums, a new book. Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jeane Mortenson; June 1, 1926 – August 4, 1962). A true icon (for many) of the 20th century. Monroe's troubled private life received much attention. She struggled with substance abuse, depression, and anxiety. Her second and third marriages, to retired baseball star Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller, were highly publicized and both ended in divorce. On August 4, 1962, she died at age 36 from an overdose of barbiturates at her home in Los Angeles. Although Monroe's death was ruled a probable suicide, several conspiracy theories have been proposed in the decades following her death.
A day of printing and image manipulation.

There are so many artists that have used this image on the past... it is a manipulated image... re - appropriated. Re - appropriationcan be traced back to the collages and constructions of Picasso and Braque from 1912 on, in which real objects such as newspapers were included to represent themselves. The practice was developed much further in the readymades created by the French artist Marcel Duchamp from 1915. Most notorious of these was Fountain, a men’s urinal signed, titled, and presented on a pedestal. Later, surrealism also made extensive use of appropriation in collages and objects such as Salvador Dalí’s Lobster Telephone. In the late 1950s appropriated images and objects appear extensively in the work of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, and in pop art.

However, the term seems to have come into use specifically in relation to certain American artists in the 1980s, notably Sherrie Levine and the artists of the Neo-Geo group particularly Jeff Koons. Sherrie Levine reproduced as her own work other works of art, including paintings by Claude Monet and Kasimir Malevich. Her aim was to create a new situation, and therefore a new meaning or set of meanings, for a familiar image.

Appropriation art raises questions of originality, authenticity and authorship, and belongs to the long modernist tradition of art that questions the nature or definition of art itself. Appropriation artists were influenced by the 1934 essay by the German philosopher Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, and received contemporary support from the American critic Rosalind Krauss in her 1985 book The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths.

Re-appropriation/appropriation has been used extensively by artists since the 1980's.
Still some more work to do but the main work is done.

Please note there are other ways of doing things and opinions..... 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.

Biblionaughtic Customer Service... John Purcell Paper, of Brixton, London. UK

My Biblionaughtic Chums, it is not often I do this... However, when it is due it is due. Yesterday, at about 3 - 3.30pm I was on the telephone talking with a very knowledgeable person about my paper requirements. After a very informative and pleasant conversation I ordered some paper along with a few small sample pieces of papers. As I am lucky enough (Ha lucky... very high rents for space, expensive travel.. etc etc. I know there are pluses but it is no bed of roses. Everywhere has it pros and cons)
Back to the track Mark..... As I am lucky enough to have a studio in London the delivery is free.. I asked when my materials may be delivered.. the reply was early next week..was it ok? ... Yes of course it is ok.. It is free and I had ordered the minimum amount possible.

Just before 3pm today, a knock at the door, polite knock, not just push the door. I open the door.. and lo and behold the man from John Purcell Paper of Brixton. In his hands my materials and many more than a few samples. Fantastic service. Thank you J P P.
I know there are many specialist companies that offer good service, this is just one example. It is important for us, the users, to take time to acknowledge when stuff goes right.
Thank you to all our suppliers who make it possible for us that make and do to be able to make and do.
Please note there are other ways of doing things and opinions..... 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 21 November 2019

A Studio 5 health warning... A recent poster from the Studio 5 Press

Measuring a healthy 59cm x 33cm the 'say NO to SNOT' Studio 5 Poster is hand printed on the Studio 5 proofing press on 5 Seasons recycled, acid free paper. Signed by the printer.. that would be me then... and are for sale at a very reasonable price... please contact directly for further details.

Wednesday 20 November 2019

A Cloth Case Binding in need of repair

A Cloth Case Binding in need of repair... seriously. I do not just do the sexy stuff. For many years I stood at the bench doing restoration and repair.
By and large I feel that Cloth Case Bindings are overlooked, of no worth when compared with leather bound books. The amount of times I have had to spend hours on some book or other, saving a plain leather binding, with red rot or some other nasty.... when what would have been better for the book was to do a sympathetic rebinding. Keeping the integrity of the original work and style etc... but no... "Its old/antique/vintage leather and must therefore be saved at all costs" I know of no 14th century, thatched house that has the original thatching... it gets replaced.
Before everyone gets on the high horse... I realise, of course that there are many leather bindings that are of merit for a plethora of reasons and should be kept, cherished and saved as intact as possible to the book.
But, and this is the rub..... There are countless times when I am working on a book.... leather... and upon examination... lo and behold...... it has been repaired/restored before. Now that raises an question... so I ask the client....' What would you like me to do? repair/restore the original that is hidden under the repair/restoration that was done about 120(or whatever) years previously.... or would you like me to repair/restore the restoration that you can see and what everyone else for the last 120(or whatever) years, has been looking at?'
I digress... back to the simple world of the humble cloth case binding.
The joy of having a good education, an education in bookbinding and conservation that was both broad and in depth, taught by serious practitioners is something I never underestimate.
The first thing I do is to really check the book over. Note all elements that require attention or are unusual. I then look at the papers, cloth and the board and spine lining material and makeup. What is important to the book and the client. Sometimes one of there needs educating as to what is important and what is possible.
The paste downs and end papers are of a Bible Paper with a fugitive colouring. The notation on the inner end papers and the book plate are important and will be kept. The boards are made from straw (this is commonly referred to as Straw Board) being acidic and brittle these will be replaced along with the spine piece... of some form of generic heavy paper.
The text block is removed from the case, the case is then cleaned with a draft cleaner to remove surface dirt. It is at this point that all the relevant measurements are taken, position of the plate etc.
The plate is removed, turn-ins exposed and eased back. The method is simple, instead of taking the book-cloth off the board... I take the board off the cloth. Layer by layer, lifting the board.. gently, gently.
My tool of choice is a Victorian, steel butter knife. Mine happens to be made by Garrard's, Cutlers to her Majesty, Queen Victoria.... thus over one hundred years old. And still very sharp.
Though this may look simple it is, in fact, not simple. Practice and a really good understanding of the materials is paramount. This sort of treatment should not be done without serious consideration of what and how one continues and to keep in mind the integrity of the book, the original intention and of course the original maker's hand.
Please note that the cloth is supported to prevent further damage. Next will be to back the original cloth.
Please note there are other ways of doing things and opinions..... 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 25 October 2019

My final post for the 2019 Booker Award.... I think...

My final post for the 2019 Booker Award.... I think...

Rusdie's Quichotte is inspired by the classic Quichotte by Cervantes. My binding for Rushdie's re-interpretation is inspired by the often surreal like images that he created in my minds eye.

We enter via a second tier writer of pulp thrillers, Sam DuChamp, who, whilst mid way through a midlife crisis, creates Quichotte, a mild mannered though slightly deranged and deluded traveling salesman of prescription drugs crisscrossing the hinter land of a contemporary USA. Our Quichotte falls in love with a day time TV star, fact and fiction become indiscernible from each other. Thus starts a road journey during which he encounters a series of situations and events that echo the changing plight of a USA as it topples into a vortex of despair and ultimate self imploding, space warping destruction. Along with green, suit wearing Mastodons and imagined characters and sidekicks our journey ends at the beginning.

This and more was my inspiration for the binding. By using contemporary material for the binding, to use the discarded, in particular Affiches lacérées, torn posters. A fall from grace, Selma R (one of the characters and the the love of Quicotte) originally from India, now based in New York (not the original in North Lincolnshire) once the poster girl for day time chat across a USA, reduced to torn and creased rubbish. A collaged jigsaw puzzle and mixed media, hand tooling to the front board.

The text block was specially printed with the sheets folded into sections, hand sewn. End papers are Flottage coloured with further hand printing. The construction is based on a Bradel Binding variant. Double boards, sewn-exposed-endbands, full-laminated linen board attachment with goat skin edges at the head and tail of the cover.

24.2cm x 16.5cm x 3.8cm. Housed in a two tray drop back box.

All six bindings that were made for the shortlisted Booker Prize authors are now on display in the foyer at Bonhams in Knightsbridge (Montpelier St, Knightsbridge, London SW7 1HH) through until Friday 1st November (9.00 – 17.30 weekdays; 11.00–15.00 Sundays. Closed Saturdays).
If you want a chance to see these wonderful bindings in person before they get whisked away by their authors go and take a look!
Also on display, will be some bindings by Philip Smith (1928-2018), including an enormous "book wall" tower of Dante's Inferno, and a number of bindings for Booker Prize shortlisted novels from previous years.
 The binding.

 Front and back Doublers.

 Front end paper.

 Back end paper.

 End band, text block edge and board edges.

 Laminated and collaged jigsaw detail.

'Beyond Coptic Sewing.. a bigger universe with no adhesive' (Please note, other opinions and views are available)

I have been asked to "Just do a workshop" ... "locally, so it need not be a special thing".. oh yes...and that 4 letter word beginning with F or f that professionals dread... "for free"! After all " its just bits pf paper isn't it".
To be working in the world of the book is a wonderful place to be. I realise I am lucky.. perhaps I have worked for the luck, but I am lucky in finding a creative direction.
One aspect of my working life that always gives me continued and renewable pleasure is the chance to try to pass on what little knowledge I have and to encourage others to have the chance to find the book as a creative vehicle, a place to explore the manifold delights of the book as the maker, viewer, participator etc.
Sadly, however, all to often when one is asked to teach or share in an educational establishment one is faced with the prospect of keen and eager students with no equipment save for many computers and printers. The permanent members of the staff, who, I find, have increasingly less and less in the way of working in the 3D expect miracles.... It can be so disappointing for all concerned. Other aspects, to name a few, are costs, availability of materials, hand tools and budget. Though I am passionate about my work I have bills to pay.
Of course it is possible to take various presses and such but what happens when one says goodbye and takes the equipment back... The students are left in a void, equipped with newly acquired knowledge but no way to make as there is no equipment.
There are many books, styles of binding and structures that one could teach but many of these require specialist hand tools, adhesives and environments. One has to remember that many structures only work with specific materials, again one can use compromise materials and substitutes but the work will always be a substitute and a compromise.
What is important is being able to teach what is relevant and achievable. What can enable and allow the student to go on if desired. It is not about the teacher... it is about the student, some teachers forget that.

I will go out on a limb now. A little rant...

The Coptic Stitch/sewn book. For many this style of book is a first step in the making of books. There are any number of sites on the internet that show how this ½ book is made (yes, I did write ½ book) It requires very little in the way of specialist equipment and is quickish to make. Many makers do not move on from this simple method of making. However, what many makers who use the Coptic Stitch may not know is that is only ½ the story. The basic structure is then bound in leather, sewn end bands are worked and numerous further operations are carried out before the book is completed. The tight back binding supports the sections and the sewing, it reinforces the complete book. In short ... the use of leather and the skills required cannot be taught in a morning workshop.... which may explain a lot. Please do not misunderstand me, as one of the first steps in the journey of the book, the Coptic stitch/sewn ½ book is ok but there is so much out there to be explored. Of course, if one chooses to concentrate on this singular style.. great... we all have our own thing. For those wishing to perhaps have a fuller introduction to a more complete picture of this binding style I have included a couple of images of a pamphlet I rate.
Perhaps a new workshop... 'Beyond Coptic Sewing.. a bigger universe with no adhesive' (Please note, other opinions and views are available)

Perhaps, if I may conclude. It is not easy to provide and teach a workshop. There is so much in preparation. The aims of the workshop, indicative content, rationale, assessment etc. To provide a coherent and understandable format that allows the student to further their abilities, that is inclusive whilst not going to the default of the lowest common denominator. One also has to make the most of the materials, environment, tool and equipment availability etc. Not to belittle for the lack of something - more it is to expand on what is available.
Thus much time is spent in developing structures and ways of working that are flexible, that can be taught and made either within the professional - equipped workspace/learning establishment or a table in a church hall in the middle of nowhere.
Please note there are other ways of doing things and opinions..... 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 24 October 2019

Inspired by my Travels.

 Front Baord.

At last, a book I have been working on for a while... is finished. Starting with making the pages/panels to the final coat of varnish has been a long journey. Inspired by my travels and work in and around Manila. 190cm x 61cm x 10cm when closed.
Wood, paper mixed media.

 Detail Front board.
 First Spread.
 Second Spread.
 Back Board.
 Front and Back Boards.
At last, a book I have been working on for a while... is finished. Starting with making the pages/panels to the final coat of varnish has been a long journey. Inspired by my travels and work. 190cm x 61cm x 10cm when closed.
Wood, paper mixed media.