Hand-made books and sketching journals II: stab binding

May 9, 2011

I am getting a lot out of Rosemarie Jeffers-Palmer’s Introduction to Bookbinding, organised by the Sydney Community College. The secret for me personally is to reinforce what I’ve learned with as much private practice after each class as possible. What really impresses me is the ‘hidden agenda’ in Rosemarie’s curriculum – key concepts and important principles are introduced extemely subtlely and with a lot of economy. There is both innovation and a nod to tradition. I love for example the way she’s introduced folded endpapers, a nod to the Japanese tradition of using folded textblock pages. Her methodology is streets ahead of similar info already in the public domain and in textbooks.

Priors. My previous hand-made books were about getting a handle on different book structures, with an eye also to the calligraphy I was studying at St George TAFE at the time. I followed the workshop examples and ended up with nice finished ones: concertinas (oblong and triangle), flag books, Langstitch without adhesives, etc. My main problem was following the instructions at home and ending up with unfinished examples. So years later, I have several personally hand-made books, but little idea of how to make new ones and in particular what pitfalls to avoid.

Ox-plough structure. Things are already working out a lot better this time round because I immediately made additional ox-plough books following Wendy Shortland’s Bookbinding & Sketching Workshop recently. Notes are going into a Bookbinding journal so all be explained at some time in the future. More importantly, I have time on my hands to make my own at home between classes, time to go out and buy materials and tools.

Oriental stab binding. At home this week, I’ve made four A5 sketching journals using the Oriental stab-binding with a textblock made up of standard cartridge paper. I’m now confident to move on to Como paper and other more expensive drawing papers for textblocks, though obviously they can’t be heavier than the card of the covers. The books highlight the use of dark thread on light covers and vice-versa. Also I’ve managed to work up the Kangxi “noble” binding as well as tortoise-shell (kikkoh) and hemp leaf bindings. There are some additional “Western” variations on the Etsy craft retail website: one looks like a streetscape of house fronts which would match well with a book of architectural sketches. My next step is to make larger A4 ones, incorporating a ‘square’ and stiffer covers, probably with a spine. I’ve overcome my prejudice about stab binding being difficult to open and close; admittedly there are better structures where the pages lie flat when open. Roz Stendhal is currently doing a journalling online course organised by Strathmore and individual folios prepared in her style using acrylic fluid paint or ink could well be effectively later bound using stab binding.

Sketchbooks. I haven’t decorated the covers because the decoration clashes with the stab binding. I have cut silhouettes into cover card before, so I’m not missing out on that technique and skill. If I toned down the stab binding (e.g. matching the colour of the thread closely with the cover colour) then I’d feel happier about decorating the cover perhaps.  Perhaps I’ve become more conservative: previously I lavished a lot of colour in my books, but now I like understated covers (framing more colourful textblock content). I’m glad to have done some beaded jewellery work in the past if I wanted to decorate the stab binding with beads.

Sketching journals more or less demand hard covers mainly to protect the sketching textblock from damage, as a support foundation when sketching plein air  and to withstand wear-and-tear if sketchbooks travel with you at all times. My stab-binding A4 sketchbooks are covered in card, and their Italian printed paper endpapers introduce a note of refinement, but will be useful for indoor drawing. For example, I need to work through the exercises of “Structure of Man” as part of my revision of anatomy and figure drawing: stab-bound notebooks in cartridge paper (or even photocopy paper) will be useful for this.

The current round of Every Day in May 2011 (Every Day Matters challenges) indoor Object Drawing is a useful foil to the March-April plein air drawing organised by the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney. It’s a good structure for binding finished single-sheet sketches, a method dear to the hearts of watercolour sketchers working plein air. The potential for binding watercolour sketches is a driver for me to sketch outdoors (and indoors) in watercolour!





One Response to “Hand-made books and sketching journals II: stab binding”

  1. quirkyartist Says:

    Glad to hear you are enjoying the classes with Rosemarie. I am going to the advanced one. Rosemarie always has new tricks to show us.

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