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Jo Bird

Jo Bird


Jo specialises in fine binding and bespoke box making, and works to commission, binding various printed books from first editions and fine press publications to hand-printed artwork. She set up her own fine binding business in 2005, Jo Bird Books,

“My work is essentially about creating a physical and tactile object, a piece of art work that is also a book to be explored, read and enjoyed. I look specifically at utilising materials traditionally used in bookbinding, such as various leathers, papers, gold leaf, gold tooling and letter press printing, whilst also working with contemporary materials such as plastics, carbon and foils with tooling, graphite and silkscreen printing. Each piece of work, being a book or box, is carefully constructed by hand, with great consideration given to the overall design and function.”

Jo graduated with a BA Hons in Illustration and Graphic Design from Norwich School of Art in 1997. She began studying bookbinding at evening classes at London College of Printing whilst working in a specialist art paper shop by day. She then went on to work for various trade binderies in London as a trainee whilst completing a post graduate diploma in bookbinding at London College of Communication in 2004 and studying privately at Studio 5. She was elected a Licentiate member of Designer Bookbinders in 2006 after being awarded the Mansfield medal and first prize in the annual Designer Bookbinders Competition in 2005. She now works freelance and to commission and her work is held in various private and public collections including The British Library.

Journey Around My Room by Xavier De Maistre, Photos by Ross Anderson
Arion Press 2007
Bound in 2014
Private Collection

Bradel binding with grey dyed calfskin on the spine. Boards covered in Arches paper and hand coloured in pale pink. Carbon hand tooled design on front and back extending onto board edges. Dark rose endpapers hand coloured. Gold tooled title.

Urban Birds: A collection of lino-cuts by Jo Spaul
Incline Press 1999
Bound in 2017

Urban Birds began as an illustration project of lino cuts by Jo Spaul. Incline Press printed a limited edition book of poetry in response to Jo Spaul’s illustrations. The poems are of a varied collection taken from various English verse throughout the centuries, all inspired by Jo Spaul’s images of urban birds that surround us everyday.

I was inspired to re-bind this book as I enjoy observing and drawing birds, trying to capture their shape and essence in simplified form.

Venus and Adonis by William Shakespeare
Raven Press, 1931
Bound in 2012

Bound in pale biscuit goatskin with a dark grey calfskin spine. Split board construction. Recessed onlays of finely pared calfskin hand-dyed in various shades of red. Carbon tooling on both boards and on the spine.

The abstract design is based on my drawings which I am interested in translating onto leather with onlays and tooling. Here I’m aiming to represent Venus and Adonis in opposite visual forms, with reference to Adonis’s rejection of Venus.

Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Coleridge
Illustrated by David Jones
Douglas Cleverdon, 1929
Bound in 2009
Private Collection

This book has been bound with a split board construction and covered in pale blue goatskin. There are recessed onlays of pared hand-dyed calf in strips of dark grey and red.

The title is tooled with carbon, there is a graphite edge decoration and silk headbands.

The design is inspired by weather system sea charts. I wanted to suggest a sense of continuous movement with a touch of chaos to reflect the unfolding story.

Weeds and Wild Flowers by Maria Theresa-Colt
Wood engravings by G.Mackley
The Two-Horse Press, 1965
Bound in 2009

Full leather binding in yellow goatskin. Carbon tooling with individual handmade tools to re create my line drawings of wild flowers that I collected and pressed.

London, A Pilgrimage by Blanchard Jerrold Illustrated by Gustave Dore
Published in 1872
Bound in 2019

This book is based on their many journeys exploring London in the early 1870’s observing how people lived, observing extreme poverty and extreme wealth. The book is also very clearly structured, listing each area of London they visited and I decided depicting a map for the cover would work in empathy with the written journey undertaken inside and would not detract from Dore’s wonderful illustrations.

The shape of the winding Thames is an instantly recognisable form that defines London and so my design began with the line of the Thames. I originally drew again and again an abstract version of a London map experimenting with various shapes – lines, dots, wiggles, to try and represent the movement of London and the way it was growing.

In the end I chose to stick with two shapes, tiny circles and lines roughly representing people and landmarks as I wanted to have some order to the design. Also, instead of being completely abstract, I decided to go back to the maps and study in more detail the boroughs, seeing how major main roads, landmarks, parks and the docks created their own shapes and patterns across the city. I also paid close attention to the parts of London which were more densely populated.


Email: birdjoanna@hotmail.com
Website: http://www.jobirdbooks.co.uk
Instagram: @jobirdbooks
Accepts Commissions: No