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Transferring Design

Transferring Design is an exciting initiative to create awareness about the bookbinding and book arts scene.

With the closure of the last few full-time bookbinding courses in the UK, there has been a decline in the number of young binders with training in art and design applying to become exhibiting members of Designer Bookbinders. Transferring Design is a new and exciting initiative which we hope will make students aware of the current bookbinding and book arts scene, as well as its position within the wider spectrum of the arts and crafts, in the UK and beyond.

Designer Bookbinders, working with The Printing Charity, is funding sessions in colleges where practising binders can show samples of their craft and explain the processes involved in designing and binding a book. The aim of these sessions is to introduce students to the possibilities of bookbinding and encourage them to incorporate some of the techniques in their work.

West Dean College, Rachel Ward-Sale, 2023

At the beginning of December Rachel Ward-Sale taught a five-day workshop, funded by the Clothworkers Company, on recessed cord quarter leather binding to the Graduate Diploma book and paper conservation students at West Dean College, Chichester.

The students had some experience of basic bookbinding techniques, but this was their first time working with leather.

After an explanation of the history, structure and uses of this technique the students prepared, sewed and forwarded their books. Boards were laced on and endbands hand sewn with coloured silks before the hollows were attached.

During a previous workshop the students had adapted spokeshaves and made their own paring knives, but this was their first opportunity to use them on leather for a binding.

After some sharpening and paring practice everyone had prepared their leather and covered the spine of their book. The next day the boards were lined, covered with marbled paper and the endpapers put down.

This was a full-on week for the students at the end of which each had completed a beautifully bound book as well as successfully mastering a new set of binding skills.

Lincoln College of Art, Mark Cockram, 2023

In October Mark Cockram taught an Intensive 3-day tuition in Book Arts and printing, forming part of the CODEX element in the Art and Design Foundation Diploma Curriculum.

In total there were about 18 students, all engaged and all making some wonderful Minimalist Flat Tight Back (MFTB) bindings. During the first day and a half we had an illustrated lecture, with examples, a little about the history of the book, historical and cultural variations, material use, elements of my working practise along with the origins of the MFTB.

The variation I opted to teach was a fore edge fold, stab sewn text block, inspired by S E Asian binding techniques, explaining that the fore edge fold was used because of the weights of paper and printing techniques employed in the past and even today. The boards and spine were covered in paper, a choice that was governed by a number of factors in that paper is easy to get hold of, print and familiarity. As the tools and equipment required to make the MFTB are minimal the students are able to take the technique home with them and continue to make.

In the final sessions the students were encouraged to make their own books (often more than one book), to experiment with the text block construction (drum leaf, stab sewn etc), covering materials… book cloth for example, size, form and so on. The results are very cool.

I think, from my experience of the last 3 days, that there is Opus Caementicium evidence that the policy of sharing and encouraging what we do with an audience at the start of their creative life will be provide long term and far reaching results.

A tree does not provide fruit in the first year.

Best, Mark

West Dean College, Glenn Bartley, 2023

In June 2023, Glenn Bartley (FDB) taught a two-day Gold Finishing for Beginners workshop to 9 Graduate Diploma Book Conservation students at West Dean College. Most of the students had little or no experience of this challenging process.

On the first day, Glenn described the history of gold finishing on book covers before explaining the equipment and materials needed for tooling gold leaf lettering and decoration on leather. The first part of the demonstration displayed the use of single hand letters with a paper template to produce a simple design that could be used as a title label. The students then had a go themselves using previously prepared flat leather panels and practiced the techniques several times. Next the use of single line fillets and pallets was explained and demonstrated to produce borders on the edges of the panel.

On the second day, the above techniques were demonstrated on a dummy leather covered spine, followed by the use of type holders to show how lettering can be produced more quickly and efficiently without paper templates. Some of the students also tried this technique. Finally, Glenn demonstrated decorative rolls and centre tools before the students spent the remainder of the afternoon honing their new skills with Glenn advising further.

Overall it was a very successful workshop – the students made excellent progress and they were all pleased with their efforts with many keen to continue practicing and letter some of the bindings they had produced during their conservation course.

Bath Spa, Kate Holland, 2023

I have been going into Bath Spa every Wednesday, teaching a range of beginners workshops – pamphlet, drumleaf, accordion and Japanese. Students who have attended these are then eligible to move onto the intermediate – multi-section and box-making. And now these three weeks of January are for them to then work on their own projects using their newfound bookbinding skills. I have two students who have expressed an interest in pursuing bookbinding further. One has now graduated but will be looking to apply for some funding to come and study with me later this year. The other is looking for work experience once she graduates in the summer. The whole cycle will start again with the new semester in February through to May. If there are not enough taking up beginners classes, then I will concentrate on the few who are showing real enthusiasm and aptitude. There is also a print technician who is keen to be fully grounded in bookbinding so that he can help students when I’m not in on a Wednesday. There is great enthusiasm for bookbinding.

Edinburgh College of Art, Tom McEwan and Gillan Stewart, 2023

Tom McEwan and Gillian Stewart ran a one-day workshop for Students at Edinburgh College of Art funded by The Printing Charity.

In the morning Gillian ran a workshop for 12 students, where they made a multiple section exposed spine book using the students’ own artwork and sketches for the hardcovers and for some pages. She was keen to show how they could make their own books once working on their own, so they also covered paper and material selection, grain direction, tools and suppliers.

In the afternoon, Tom led 15 students in making a concertina book with guarded joints and drummed on covers. It was a mixed group of students from across textiles, photography, contemporary art practice and graphic design, all of whom were enthusiastic and keen to learn.

Bath Spa University, Kate Holland,  2023

Bookbinding has been very enthusiastically received at Bath Spa. Kate Holland will be running six introductory workshops which are all already fully signed up. Then moving on to box-making, multi-section and individual projects through the summer term. The department (slightly strong, really a corner) is being kitted out as we speak and has had all nipping presses fixed. These sessions are funded by The Printing Charity.

Glasgow School Of Art, Tom McEwan, 2023

Tom McEwan taught three one day workshops for twenty 3rd and 4th year graphics students at Glasgow School of Art, funded by The Printing Charity. The classes covered pamphlet binding, Japanese stab binding, concertina binding and multi-section hard cover binding. For most of the students this was their first hands on experience of bookbinding, but they all produced several lovely books and were keen to study the subject further.

Lincoln College of Art, Mark Cockram, September 2022

Mark Cockram taught an Intensive 3 day workshop in Bookarts and printing as part of the CODEX element in the Foundation Degree Arts curriculum at Lincoln College of Arts. Topics covered included form and function, traditional print techniques, material use and the making of a number of appropriate books combining all of the above. Funding for the course was provided by The Printing Charity.

West Dean College, Rachel Ward-Sale, 7-10 Feb 2023

This course, funded by the Clothworkers’ Company enabled nine students from the Books and Paper Conservation Graduate Diploma course to learn full leather flexible binding techniques. These highly qualified students, many from overseas, will be pursuing careers in conservation at libraries and institutions around the world and in the UK. For most of the group this was their first experience of full leather binding and only the second time they had pared leather. The students worked hard, learning several new techniques every day, but by Friday afternoon everyone had completed a lovely full leather binding.

West Dean College, Rachel Ward-Sale, December 2022

Rachel Ward-Sale taught a five-day quarter leather binding course to the Book and Paper Conservation Graduate Diploma students at West Dean College, Chichester, funded by The Printing Charity. During the week the students sewed sections onto recessed cords then laced on boards, before sewing endbands and covering the spines in leather. For many of the students this was their first experience of working with leather, but everyone produced a beautiful quarter leather binding with marbled paper sides.