Twenty five years ago I began to sew small books for my children's use, bringing them the experience of creating a book, to complement their reading. A chance conversation with Christopher Rowlatt took me to one of his weekend workshops in Presteigne in 2010, and this eventually led me to leave my career as a secondary teacher in 2012, in order to devote my time to bookbinding.
As a frequent student in John Jameson's monthly workshops at his Cotswold Bindery I was always inspired by his extensive knowledge, generous guidance and commitment to excellence and the 'whole book'. In 2013-2014 I was put on my toes in the Fine Binding course with Kathy Abbott in London at City Lit, and I warmed to her insistence on taking time over every detail. Membership of the Society of Bookbinders provides the opportunity to attend conferences and take part in numerous courses run by the many wonderful teachers in and outside the UK and I am immensely grateful to all those who have helped me, as I continue to develop my skills in this rewarding craft.
I particularly like to make writing and drawing books and albums.
Our daily life slips through our hands with its many demands and routines, and we rarely take the time to give value to a moment by recording it. When we describe an experience or write down a thought or a hope or an aim, we give a reflective quality to it. The act of writing helps to link our thoughts to the fuller complexity of our person - so that we are more deeply engaged either in the way we are changed by an experience, or in the way we formulate our plans and aspirations for the next part of our lives.
In recording the present, whether in the narrative of a traditional diary, or in the form of lists and jottings, notes, reminders and exclamations - in all these, we create a trace of our experience which is of unique value to us as individuals.
Each book is hand-sewn, with linen tapes, so that it is likely to last for much longer than will ever be needed! I use good quality acid-free papers and conservation grade card in albums.
I particularly like books with rounded spines - this method arises as as a way of dealing with the swell caused in the back of the book by the sewing. The thickness of thread makes the book fatter at the spine, so that one side or the other of the book would be pushed forward, if the book were put in a press after gluing. Rounding distributes the swell into a curve, so that the rest of the book remains flat and square in the press, and can be glued effectively. And there is a real pleasure in getting the hammer out and shaping the back of the spine. It gives a particular look and feel to the finished product which connects with a very old craft tradition.
Decorative papers include those by artists of the Curwen Press, such as Eric Ravilious, Paul Nash, Edward Bawden and Elizabeth Friedlander, and the Leicestershire series of 'Sylvia Papers', designed by Thomas Swindlehurst, Stanley Hickson, Phyllis Reilly and others. I use many beautiful hand decorated papers, by English marblers, including Victoria Hall, Louise Brockman, Jemma Lewis and Christopher Rowlatt and Continental artists including Dirk Lange (left) and Karli Frigge. In addition, I create my own decorative papers using dyed pastes (above), using a traditional method of patterning with combs.