Friday, January 19, 2018

Making Miniature Leather Books!

James Spyker demonstrating placing the cover boards.
James Spyker came from Toronto to lead a two-day "Making Miniature Leather Books" workshop for the CBBAG-Ottawa Valley Chapter. I was so thankful to take part in this workshop.  

James gave clear instructions and provided a wonderful handout for all of us, all the materials we could want! Each of us also had careful one-on-one instruction when needed.

This course was open to students who had not yet worked with leather. Basics of leather work was covered. Beginning information about paring leather was discussed with demonstrations of using a skiving machine and also a leather paring knife was presented. More detailed information about paring is covered in Bookbinding III, which is part of the CBBAG core course curriculum. These courses are offered through in person sessions in the Ottawa area and also through the CBBAG Home Study Program.

Each student worked on two miniatures-the first having an unadorned cover and containing blank pages. The structure allows the pages to be removed and replaced as each signature is sewn individually into a portion of the spine of the book.  The second contained pre-printed text blocks that were supplied.  I chose to complete a second blank book to practice the book form and brought my text block pages home to complete in my studio.


Our first model book was made with card-stock and 100% cotton paper that is normally sold for printing resum├ęs or business correspondence. We learned how to measure the spine for punching holes in a pattern into the spine that does not cause perforation.  The second book, made with leather, allowed for decoration on the leather cover. We learned how to use punches for making shapes and how to apply them to the cover. I did not finish mine in this way as I made two blank books to learn the form. The first blank book is not shown in this photo.


Model book for learning, final blank book with leather cover.
It was so wonderful to be part of a workshop again with creative and inspiring people!  Our group was diverse, not all CBBAG members, and each person brought their own creative verve to the entire process. I love this mini-book form with the hidden sewing that allows for removal and replacement of a signature should the artisan desire!  James said the form works well in books up to 5" x 7", so I think I will be using it for one of my ABECEDARIUM editions this coming year.

The CBBAG-OV Chapter's next workshop is February 10 is "Sewing Text Blocks" with Spike Minogue as the instructor. You need not be a CBBAG member to take the course. I am really looking forward to learning proper sewing methods from a master bookbinder!  

Off to Boston and Cambridge next week to help my dear friend John Kristensen of Firefly Press with some of the work he needs done before he moves Firefly to its new location in Maine. I am so looking forward to travelling with my friend Spike to the Boston area again. We will be helping John for 2.5 days and spending one day split between John Barrett at Letterpress Things and The Museum of Printing in Haverhill, MA. We also have a tour of North Bennett Street School's bookbinding department with Jeff Altepeter.


I am teaching a workshop on Saturday for ArtsQuest 2018, a local women's art retreat that has been going for many years. My contribution is making a handbound creativity journal with blind-embossed and letterpressed covers. 

The binding form is Japanese Stab Binding. I am using my dye cutting tabletop machines and the Lifestyle Letterpress platform which allows the use of polymer plates for printing letterpress inspired images with coloured ink.  I only have four hours for the workshop, so I have spent the past couple of days putting together a workshop kit with cut pages, needles and binding threads along with coloured and decorated paper stocks for them to use. 

Each participant will have the opportunity to select the colour of their book covers, create either a blind embossed or letterpress printed image on the cover, add coloured stamped images to each page, and to bind the journal. It is my hope that they will use this creativity journal through the reset of their ArtsQuest weekend and into the Spring.



It has been several months since I taught a workshop and I find I am quite excited about leading the women of ArtsQuest 2018 on their bookbinding journey. As I look into my plans for 2018, my creative verve soars with the hope that I will have more concentrated studio time again during the late winter. I find my dreams filled with book designs that involve letterpress text and linoblock images. My heart soars like a hawk when I think of being with dear friends in the Boston area, but I am also longing to be home, in my grotto studio, with music on and the noises of the Challenge Gordon filling the space as I print the books of my dreams. 

This past year I have been spending time again with Dorothy Bass' wonderful book, Receiving the Day: Christian Practices for Opening the Gift of Time. Each moment of every day has become more precious to me. I feel the presence of my loved ones who have died with me in the studio every day. I feel compelled to create and to share my creative verve with others as an expression of my deep faith in God and all that she brings to the world in every hour of every day. With each breath I make and each step I take, I know in my soul that all will be well, and all will be well, with the peace and grace of our mother God, all will be well.