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Sue Doggett


Sue creates hand-made books and bindings. Her creative interests include surface design, women’s history, sewing as drawing, memory, music, myth and the history of magic. She has recently investigated the relationship between C19th science, spiritualism and women’s suffrage and is currently interested in the history of weeds. Her books are primarily collage-based using text, found images, drawing, print and digital media and her bindings and books are made using traditional bookbinding techniques combined with messy, fluid mediums and non-traditional materials. Choice of materials is usually dictated by the conceptual basis of the work: paper, leather, textiles, drawing, illustration, painting, embroidery, metal, digital collage and calligraphy. She works with already existing texts, making fine bindings, and creates content for books which develop out of reading and research into themes of personal interest.

Sue gained a first class honours degree in Visual Studies and Art History from Oxford Brookes University in 1985 and an MA in Design from Brighton University in 1998. She received the World Craft Council Award for Contemporary Craft in 1994 and was elected a Fellow of Designer Bookbinders in 1996. She has lectured in book arts at colleges including Camberwell College of Art, Cambridge School of Art, Croydon School of Art and North Bennet Street School, Boston, USA. She is currently co-ordinator for Bookbinding and Calligraphy courses at The City Lit in London, where she also teaches bookbinding and book arts. Sue’s work is represented in public collections in the UK, Europe and USA including: The Hyman Kreitman Research Library Tate Britain, The Folger Library, Washington DC and Yale University Library Special Collections. She exhibits regularly, most recently Drop Dead Gorgeous: Fine Bindings of La Prose du Transsibérien Re-creation at the San Francisco Center for the Book, On the Same Page – Page Turner at Jagged Art, London and with Designer Bookbinders at COLLECT International Art Fair. She was also Winner of the Bodleian Library Competition Redesigning the Medieval Book, which was exhibited in the Weston Library, Oxford.

Sue has been commissioning editor of ‘The New Bookbinder’, the international publication of Designer Bookbinders, since 2019 and has previously written articles for this journal (‘Re/reading Hamlet: The impact of research and contextualisation on the visual interpretation of a text’ and ‘In Remembrance of Things’) and for Bright Light Journal: Implicit Geographies UAL, London (‘The Contingent Tourist’). She lectures and runs workshops in the UK, Europe and the USA, most recently Drop Dead Gorgeous: Fine Bindings of La Prose du Transsibérien (Makers’ talk for NBSS, Boston), speaker at the Czech Society of Bookbinders’ Conference, Pilzen and speaker at the ‘Selected 18’ design conference in Bilbao.

The Revelation of Saint John the Divine by Natalie d’Arbeloff
The Old Stile Press, 1999
Bound in 2015

The design is based loosely on events referred to in the text itself, coupled with the aim to convey a sense of chaos in the cosmos. However, whilst not intending to be too literal, it is difficult to be unmoved by the fantastical imagery which inhabits this vision; The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun, the stars falling from the sky like figs blown from a tree, the Whore of Babylon and the despair of the bottomless pit. The basic form of the book is an un-sewn concertina with a false spine constructed in two sections to allow the book to open without restriction to the folded pages. Each end of the concertina fold is sewn onto made endpapers with a leather joint fixed to the boards. The inner spine, which is visible when the book is opened, is lined with machine embroidered cloth and finished with leather head and tail pieces. The outer spine is constructed from layered and shaped millboard and covered in embroidered red satin with leather onlays painted with ink and acrylic paint. The head caps are made from resist-dyed leather. The artwork on the boards is created using dyed, pared leather and cloth panels which fit together to form a base upon which a collage of dyed and pared leather onlays, machine sewing, embroidery, gold leaf and ink is added to create the design.

By Permission of Heaven: The Story of the Great Fire of London by Adrian Tinniswood
Bound in 2019
Collection of The Clothworkers’ Company

It is difficult to ignore the famous visual depictions of this story – the raging fire, out of control – an end of days scenario with a Miltonian vision of Hell’s perpetual furnace. The design is inspired by ceiling paintings termed Quadratura. They are illusionistic paintings that appear to extend the building beyond the actual stone of the walls themselves. I replaced the usual cherubs and religious figures with the symbol of the Phoenix – prompted by one of the chapters in the book titled ‘A More Glorious Phoenix’ and which sums up the colourful optimism of those who envisaged the new city-to-be. The phoenix appears along the spine of the book, rising up through an unnaturally optimistic blue sky, but out of a flaming inferno and the wreck of the city. The general layout hopefully suggests what you might see painted on the ceiling of a cathedral which points to heaven and presents you with an image of a world partially beyond the imagination but rooted in reality.

Resist-dyed goatskin spine with machine and silk hand-embroidery. Boards covered in resist-dyed goatskin and dyed cloth with machine and hand embroidery, wool felting and gold leather onlays. Water-colour and acrylic coloured edges with Japanese silk headbands.

Everything Under (detail) by Daisy Johnson
Booker Prize binding
Bound in 2018

The concept of this binding is based on ideas relating to water, time, emotional ties, truth and fiction. The main themes of the book that I was drawn to were transition and fluidity. Relationships are constantly in flux and time shifts constantly. We are not sure if this is a recollection or an imagined incident or if we are even witnessing real events. The creature, a presence which stalks the psychological landscape of the characters, is a chimaera, shape shifting between liquid, land and memory. Through all of the vertiginous dislocation, there is a stability which comes, conversely, from the presence of water – under, above and through.
Three-part leather binding with suede and leather onlays. Machine and hand embroidery on hand-dyed and painted cover and endpapers. The biological shapes refer to water, foliage, stones and cells They have animal and human inferences which are both interior and exterior to the body and to the natural world.

Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi
Booker Prize binding
Bound in 2020

There were so many starting points to explore creatively in this novel. As the basis of my design, I chose to work with the idea of opposition: Antara and Ma, fat and sugar, remembering and forgetting, tradition and freedom, loyalty and betrayal. There are suggestions of sweets and the colours of sweets (almond and pistachio), the chemical symbols for fats and sugars, the prevalence of mirrors, the fabrics that Antara finds in her mother’s cupboard and the volatile and often distant relationships between the men and women in the novel. The embroidery is a form of drawing and refers to the ways in which Antara uses it, amongst other things, to try and understand her mother’s dementia. The interior of the binding is white with some drawn marks which also refer to Antara’s art practice.

Spiritualists and Suffragettes
Artist’s book by Sue Doggett
Bound from 2015-17

This artist’s book was the result of research into the relationship between technology, women’s suffrage and spiritualism in the late C19th and early C20th. At this tumultuous time, the living communicated via the disembodied voice on the end of the newly invented telephone, whilst mediums spoke to, and through, the spirits of the dead. Women campaigned for the vote and some mediums gained a public voice in an arena which was not controlled entirely by men. And although women acting as a channel for the ‘voice of others’ sometimes placed them in a passive role, subject to much invasive scrutiny, this was not the only story. Contemporary newspaper headlines highlight the ideas of the time and shape the narrative of the visual images, and vintage newspaper cuttings and photographs illustrate the relationship between science, women’s rights, spiritualism and stage magic.

These digital collages are printed on Zerkall paper and the binding is full leather with the addition of embroidery, textiles, acrylic paint and ink.

The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant
Booker Prize binding
Bound in 2008

In this binding, sewing becomes a visual metaphor for the conflation of the past and present through the form of a pattern piece often used in the construction of a garment.

Our family history forms part of our personality and gives us a sense of who we are and where we have come from. Sometimes knowledge of our past (our ancestors and the events that shaped their lives) gives us a positive sense of self, but sometimes we can feel burdened, perhaps overwhelmed.

“I felt that everything had happened already, that we living ones were just shadows of the real events, weak outlines cast down the decades”.
(Linda Grant. The Clothes on Their Backs)

The book is constructed using the tongue-in-slot method with hand-dyed and sewn leather joints. The boards are covered in brown, dyed natural goatskin with additional sewing which refers either to leather shoes or battered suitcases. The applied panels are constructed of dyed vellum with additional onlays of leather and vellum. These machine sewn and hand embroidered panels have additional imagery made by transfer and ink drawing and refer to events from the past. The edges are painted with watercolour and transfer images of dress pattern pieces and markings.

Seven Asides, A Grave Scene and a Few Last Words (Scenes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet)
Artist’s book by Sue Doggett
Bound in 2012

This book is based on Hamlet’s seven soliloquies, excerpts from the gravedigger’s scene and the last words that Hamlet speaks before he dies. The book began as an investigation into the relationship between the written word and the performed word. Sound recordings made from You Tube clips of well-known actors have been analysed visually to determine emphasis made on particular words and phrases. The text which appears in the book is the result of this paring down. The photographic montages have been made in response to this text and to the play as a whole.

The book is digitally printed and made in the form of a French fold with a wrap-around cover, a hand sewn label and Pergamenata Natural paper dust jacket.


Email: sue.doggett@virgin.net
Website: https://www.suedoggett.com
Instagram: @sue.doggett
Accepts Commissions: Yes