Home » Former Fellows » Faith Shannon

Faith Shannon

Fellows non transparent


Faith Shannon was born in Dehra Dun, Uttar Pradesh, India in 1938. Faith returned at the age of eight to Belfast, Northern Ireland. From 1955 to 1959 she studied at the Belfast College of Art, with painting as the main, and bookbinding as the subsidiary, subject. With the winning of several scholarships came the possibility of studying at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, London from 1958 to 1959. At Goldsmiths College Faith was awarded the Art Teachers Certificate (ATC) in 1960. Then followed her studies at the Royal College of Art, majoring in Bookbinding in 1963. (then an apart study under the tutorship of Roger Powell and Peter Waters). This included a visit to the U.S.A. by means of the Dublin Scholarship award.

Faith’s career began from 1963 as illustrator and designer bookbinder and in 1967 she was a member of the British Museum team at the Florence flood disaster. She was awarded the MBE in 1977 and was an enthusiastic member of the Crafts Council and the Council for National Academic awards. From 1980 to 1987 Faith was senior lecturer in charge of Bookbinding at Brighton Polytechnic. Her book ‘Paper Pleasures’ (later retitled ‘The Art and Craft of Paper) was published in 1987. Faith was President of Designer Bookbinders from 1987 to 1990. In 1999 she was awarded the Centennial medal of the Society of Designer Craftsman. She was a judge in various national and international events including the First International bookbinding competition organised by Designer Bookbinders at Oxford in 2009.

Not only did Faith organise courses at her home in Scotland from 1990 and take part in Scottish Arts Council matters, she also cared for two families and saw her own children follow personal careers with Shannon as photographer and Hannah as graphic designer respectively.

Faith worked mainly to commission on special bindings for collectors or for presentation. Each book and project offered her a different challenge – “books are containers and tactile objects of such varied content and purpose that this is reflected in each concept for a binding. The tactile and visual qualities of materials and their manipulation can evoke responses which spring directly from those suggested by the content as well as for the eventual purpose. The book offers the perfect vehicle for the combination of a painter’s eye, a designer’s training, a craftsman’s skills, an artist’s imagination, a soul, a love of invention – and a sense of humour!”

Faith was originally asked to bind one copy of Stone, but when asked about her ideas for the binding she had to say that the book lent itself to so many that she could not decide on just one. Every book needed its own binding solution but in this case there were potentially many solutions – the result was a commission to bind ten. The book details for each of Faith’s featured bindings is the same:

Poems by George Mackay Brown
Photographs by Gunnie Moberg
Published by Kulgin D. Duval and Colin H. Hamilton, Verona 1987
An edition of 125 copies

Further details about this project can be found at the website of Faith Shannon.


BINDING • 23.7 x 20.4 x 2.5 cms 

Bound in dark-green morocco, with sanded highlights, over bas-relief boards of overlapping millboard layers. The alum-tawed doublures overlap onto the front and back and are impressed into the lightly toned endpapers, and the swirling raised surfaces are highlighted with gold and palladium. The head is gilded in gold and palladium echoing the swirling motifs. Silk head and tail bands match each end.

CONTAINER • 3.2 x 22.3 x 6 cms

Vertical draw box, opening sideways, formed of layers of millboard, covered with paper, stained dark green and sealed. The head and foredge have inserts of polycarbonate revealing the head and ‘waterfall’ leaves of the text. Mossy green velvet lines the box.

Stone design 2


There is a waterfall nearby to which I frequently walk with my dog. It is governed by the rainfall in the west coast of Scotland, and just as fickle. At times it is a mere trickle and the sounds are tiny and gentle, at others they deepen as turbulent skeins of white water tinged with brackish hues of peat rush down the rock face. Over hundreds of years the rocks have been worn and washed into a downward direction creating overlapping dark green and blackened layers. The white fall reminds me of the text of the book – the foredge at times thin and closed, at others wide open and ready to spill its contents. The head is more like the surface of the burn just before tumbling over, the sunlight filtering through the birches from the West dappling the water with gold and silver, and catching the swirling surfaces as they fling their way around the fallen rocks below. Harmony and contrast: the hard rock and the fluid element, interdependent and changed by each other; the fluid mind, sounds of movement, fanning leaves of paper, the ripple of water; the physical form of the book referring to the stones and rocks which support us. This is where my journey with Stone began.


BINDING • 28.2 x 20 x 2.2  cms
Bound in bleached vellum with natural markings, pressed over bas-relief boards using the inner pre-modelled linings of the box as formers – working the box and book together. The spine and boards were worked independently. The doublures are of vellum continued in one piece on each side from the outer covering and overlapped at head and tail with the irregular edges ‘gilded’ with palladium. The head is craquelure ‘gilded’, also with palladium. Silk head and tail bands worked to match each end.  

CONTAINER • 31.6 x 23.2 xcms
Constructed of laminates of millboard, bas-relief inner surfaces, covered with dyed handmade paper. Indented ring mark and incised letterforms ‘stone’ on front. Bleached vellum spine hinge, touched with palladium at head and tail. Concertina vellum ‘catch’ at foredge.

Stone design 3


The theme of protective and concealing layers continues – the book is protected by its covers; in turn it is protected by the container which may be plain, or an aspect of the presentation and part of the whole idea. With stones and rock faces the surprise is often held inside, or sandwiched between, two faces, its surfaces formed in close association with the host rock – like a seam of quartz threaded between grey rocks. Great whalebacks of them abound in the Argyll landscape, some incised with mysterious ‘cup and ring’ marks, the legacy of man’s life around 5000 years ago. The ring mark is added like graffiti, using the book’s title face to complete the title on the box and scratched rather than carved, to intimate another era. The naturally figured, semi-translucent vellum with its hard, cool surface and touches of silvery palladium were suggested by the qualities of a piece of quartz – finding the right material is sometimes a matter of exciting serendipity.


BINDING • 29 x 20.5 xcms
Bound in grey Oasis morocco formed over textured boards, with bevelled inner edges, evocative of the graining and layering of slate; the leather doublures smoothed with a polishing iron, and deeply blinded and gold tooled squares are asymmetrically placed on outer and inner surfaces. The spine is of folded, compressed leather, indicating stacked slates. The endpapers are textured with impressions of the outer boards coloured with acrylics. Head has the original gilding of the casebound edition. Silk head and tail bands blend with either end.

CONTAINER • 33.5 x 24.7 x 4.2   cms
A ‘clam’ type box with leather jointing at spine, constructed from laminates of millboard stained with acrylic paints; the outer layers of stained paper. Title ‘stone’ uses the letter forms of the book and is apparently chalked on the top cover. Lined in suede, with a petersham ribbon lift; thumb space at foredge tooled as ‘iron pyrites’ in gold and palladium.

Stone design 4


The shores of Seil Island are lined with depths of slate fragments from the deserted slate quarry of Belnahua in the Firth of Lome, all but reclaimed by the sea. The rough sheets have been rounded and smoothed, the lustrous greys studded with fool’s gold and pitted with cuboid hollows. The slates of the local houses acquire a beautiful patina as they age, and meld with the background of tall cliffs and shoreline. The idea for this binding came from the layered nature of the slates and their versatile, practical and decorative applications – including the old school slate that suggested the treatment of the title on the container, which could also be preparation for letter cutting. The box was based on stacks of our old roof slates that sadly had to be replaced.


BINDING • 28 x 20.1 x 1.8  cms
Grey morocco spine, suede-side, with onlay of suedeside yellow native-dyed morocco at head. Handmade paper sides, stained with acrylic paints, and impressed title with George Mackay Brown’s name and dates. The impressions follow through doublures and endpapers towards the white flyleaves of the book at front; both front and back are coloured with sponged acrylics in keeping with the surface texturing and colouring of the other surfaces of book and box. Head is gilded randomly in gold and palladium over airbrushed base colour. Silk head and tail bands complement either end.

Inner slip • 29 x 21 x 3 cms
Outer case • 30.3 x 22 x 5.3 cms
Constructed from laminates of millboard covered in handmade paper stained and textured with acrylics and plaka casein tempera. The inner slip profile is angled to show the emerging lettering coinciding with the ‘headstone’ lettering, and lined with grey velvet. The book must be drawn upwards out of the box, imitating the spirit rising.

Stone Design 5


The ancient graveyard on the Craignish Peninsula is in a beautiful setting overlooking the sea loch and hills beyond, with its sculpted stones and headstones gently settling, some weathered towards oblivion but peaceful and thought-provoking. The lichens vary on each type of stone and the mosses bed into the lettering – unlike the newer, routed granites which have little character nor signs of gentle ageing. There is a particular headstone that is delaminating, and its splitting further allows the weather in – it reminds me of a book with its layers of a life and the effects of time. My father lies in the newer graveyard nearby and his handcarved headstone, too, is gradually being garnished by nature. The birth of an idea both lives and dies in its execution, though the spirit lives on. The binding and its ‘tomb’ say enough: ‘A name, two dates, cut deep’ (from ‘Flower of the Stone’, Stone, 1987).


BINDING • 29 x 20.3 xcms
Bound in dark-grey heavy-grained 4orocco over bas-relief boards to fit the ‘chemise’ interior – both worked together to achieve positive/negative fitting. Leather rust/ochre-coloured with casein tempera. The ‘yap’ edges at head, tail and foredge are rigid, enclosing the book completely. Doublures and endpapers are stained and worked with acrylics based on the colours of sand and ironstone, fading towards the text block. Head coloured to match. Silk head and tail bands match each end, the leather modelled over them to form thick caps.  

Chemise • 32 x 22.5 x 4  cms
Bas-relief worked together with the book, with overlapping edges, lined with paper brushed with casein tempera colour. Spine stencilled in grey, using the same typeface as book. The outer covers are of handmade paper textured with acrylics.  

Slipcase • 33 x 23.8 x 5  cms
Shaped around the angled edges of the book, covered in handmade paper treated as edges of grey morocco, interior padded grey lining fabric, grey petersham draw. Stencilled split title on front; reverse has a central grey morocco piece.

Stone Design 6


The hidden potential of a plain-looking stone? – fascinating – crack it open and its history whether a fossil or layers of forming. Based on a stone which had split cleanly, concentric bands of powdery rusty colour, with dark metallic greys. It made me think of the enclosing covers around the book secrets, and the act of prising it open. The book, its binding, chemise and slipcase, became one of interdependence during the process – one thing leading to another.


BINDING • 28.5 x 20 x 2.5 cms
In full black calf with mottled markings, over sculpted boards of paper pulp from handmade paper scraps; low-relief linear markings on front and hollowed ‘pit’ inset with a wild mussel seed pearl. Doublures of suede over irregular turn-ins, abraded to create changing tones. The endpapers and flyleaves are mottled in deep charcoal and blacks with touches of warmer earth colours using acrylic paints, gradually lightening towards the text block. The head is airbrushed and mottle ‘gilded’ with palladium. Silk head and tail bands blend with the edges.

CONTAINER • 33 x 27.5 x 5.7 cms
‘Clam’ type box, flattened polygon with central flat facet on base to allow steady seating. Covered in paper stained with acrylics, pinpricked and textured with added colour implying an amygdaloidal basalt. Lined in black velvet. Black calfskin spine.

Stone Design 7


A beautiful, smooth, dense stone with linear marks and a hollowed pit, home to a diminutive snail shell, was my inspiration. The rounded, heavy form and smooth, cool surface suggested the sensual black calfskin and to create the same response to holding the rounded form in one’s hands I gradually sculpted the boards over a base with pulp from my hoard of scraps, allowing time for pressing, drying and warpage. The calfskin was pressed into incised marks, rather than tooled, as suggestion seemed more subtle. The texture of cracked-open stone is rougher and irregularly angular, so the turn-ins of the front and back covers were left wide and irregular with the black suede-side doublures laid over and sanded to create shaded areas, further changed by a hand brushing over it. The treatment of the head has an elusive quality achieved by layers of fine airbrushing to reflect the fine grain of basalt, with palladium and hints of ‘olivine’ and rusty colours. (I try to understand geological structures by reading up as much as possible, although as a complete amateur I depend initially on my aesthetic responses to them.) I used to live in Ireland, and the Giant’s Causeway links with the structures on the Isle of Staffa off the west coast of Mull, which I can see on my walks. The box alludes to the polygonal pillars, though obviously flattened; it is hard and its angularity and finely textured surface is in contrast to the rounded smoothness of the binding.


BINDING • 28.2 x 20 x1.7  cms
Grey morocco worked into folded forms across both boards, although independently from the spine, separate to give appropriate jointing. Stained with colour and drybrushed with iridescent gold and silver acrylics. Head airbrushed and patch ‘gilded’ with palladium, airbrushed over. Head and tail bands in silk to match either end. Doublures and endpapers embossed using covers as blocks to create male/female texturing; airbrushed and finely sanded, fading towards text block, reverse of the innermost endpaper leaves textured but uncoloured.

FOLIO • 28.2 x 21.2 xcms
Handmade paper formed over the book boards and coloured as for doublures etc. Spine and foredge in leather worked to match binding; two little loop-and button catches of twisted and knotted leather touched with colour and silver iridescent acrylics. Inner folio flaps and linings of thick sand-pink handmade paper.

CONTAINER • 30 x 23.5 xcms
Double draw box, leather-hinged at base, with independent lid to be withdrawn upwards. Constructed with laminates of millboard, acid-free Kraft paper, asymmetrically curved overlapping profiled edges covered in grey morocco; outer faces covered in grey suede-side leather manipulated into folds and pressed, airbrushed with acrylic. Padded lining covered with pale grey lining fabric.

Stone Design 8


The side of Craignish Peninsula facing Scarba displays intriguing geological features. High above the stony beach are outcrops of folded upthrusts, squeezed and crunched by huge forces; tracksides and small quarries too, reveal the movement of the Earth’s crust. Colours are mainly greys and sandy rusts, often shimmering with mica. The binding stems from these forms, the compression and movement is reflected in the struggle of the making process to convey the idea, as materials chosen to suggest the forms, textures and colours assert their own characteristics and dictate their application – forces at work shaping the outcome. (The morocco is tough, heavily grained chrome-tanned goatskin resisting manipulation, even when thinly pared, unlike a softer natural tanned and dyed goatskin, adding to the challenge). The rock-heavy box is a foil to the binding and lighter folio, alluding to slivers picked up from the mass; to be used to display the pair vertically as continuing layers, the weathered surfaces contrasting with the silky, mica sheen of the interior face.


BINDING • 28 x 20.5 xcms
Boards comprised of folding layers of different-coloured handmade papers pressed hard and straight at edges to reveal formation in cross airbrushed with colour, sealed, and dusted with mica. The split boards and doublures trap the spine which is further secured with stained linen resembling iron pyrite studs through boards doublures. These are textured by heavy pressing the cover boards before assembling, and airbrushed fade gradually towards the book block. Head coloured and part-gilded reflecting the main colouring. Silk head and tail bands to blend with each end. of padded velvet brushed with colour.

Slip (inner) • 30 x 22 x 2  cms
The inner slip has a structure of textured, laminated layers, matched to the book boards. The solid rounded spine holds that of the book which, in turn, fits into the outer box’s concealed curved spine area. The overlapping flap slots over an iron pyrite stud of stained millboard and paper laminates, with two small peg studs fitting into complementing holes.

Case (outer)
• 37 x 24.5 x 5.7/6.6  cms
The asymmetrical outer case is built to stand at a jutting angle; textured and worked with acrylic and casein tempera colours. The Celtic strapwork cross is in low bas-relief of layers of paper; the iron pyrite shapes are impressed and inlaid. The lined interior is padded and covered with velvet which overlaps the edges in places at the irregular foredge, and inserted at the spine fissures.

Stone Design 9


On the hills above our house greenish grey rocks jut perilously from their foundations, cleft in straight lines and sharp angles. Their moss-filled fissures and lichen covered surfaces soften and add colour to their sombre tilting forms. One day I found a long-forgotten Celtic carving on a rock half hidden by tussocks and bracken, its face daubed with a pale lichen. The rock is phyllite (from the Greek phyllos meaning leaf ), which unlike slate is often undulatory. It seemed obvious to infer the parallels of a book and its case with the blocks and crevices of the rocks, and to allude to their off-balance leanings. The iron pyrite studs occurred in a particular outcrop suggesting a practical solution to ensuring that the trapped velvet joints of the binding would remain firmly embedded, whilst the rounded, padded spine crept between the two faces like the mossy ridges in cracks.


BINDING • 28.2 x 20 x 2.2  cms
Bound in brown French morocco using both ‘hair’ and suede sides moulded over carved blocks, abraded and coloured; the reverse impressions of each carved ‘stone’ piece filled to preserve depth before covering onto boards. Spine and front ‘mortar’ line of suedeside grey morocco. Doublures of reversed leather, matching cover markings. Matched impressed and embossed doublures and endpapers airbrushed with acrylics, fading towards the text block. Touches of painted and stippled ‘lichens’ appear on the edges. The head is coloured and gilded and overlaid with palladium. Silk head and tail bands match each end.

CONTAINER • 30.5 x 22 x 4 cms
Vertical draw box embossed, airbrushed using the woodcut to create the texture. Base and lid of suede.

Stone Design 10


Sandstone of many rusty and reddish walls around Edinburgh.


BINDING • 28.5 x 20.5 xcms
The boards are of irregular layers of handmade paper pressed over board, heavily sanded with a flail bit and power drill, stained and worked repeatedly to a smooth finish. The spine is formed of concertina-folded, alum-tawed goatskin. Textured doublures and endpapers, with embossed mirror images of a fossil shell at the front are airbrushed, with colour fading towards the text block. Head is airbrushed to blend with cover colouration; part-gilded areas in gold and palladium. Silk head and tail bands to match either end.

CONTAINER • 31 x 22.5 xcms
Treatment of outer surfaces as the binding, though more worn; two halves jointed centrally with alum-tawed goatskin; interior of cream silk over padded lining and partly hidden images of shell forms; the inner edges are of ruched silk; the finger lift tab is alum-tawed goatskin. The two halves open flat upside down to form two ‘flagstones’.


I always notice flagstones in churches and cathedrals with their well-trodden, worn forms that reveal variations in the structure. Colours vary considerably but I wanted a foil to some of the other bindings, whilst trying to find an appropriate colour and texture for the owner. I also pare my leather on a large lithographic stone of Bavarian limestone and love its silky smooth surface contrasting with the riven edges. I wanted to evoke something of the hard, cool nature of limestone, contrasting with its chalky origins (the alum-tawed skin for spines and tab); the hidden aspects of the creatures that had contributed to its characteristics with the fossil shells and ammonite-like forms (the fossil impressions were made from an actual fossil found on Mull) and the effects of weathering and wearing.