Book Binding at the London Centre of Book Arts

Book binding seems a lost art. How books are made is something people don't even tend to think about, let alone want to learn. That's why the London Centre for Book Arts, in Hackney Wick, is so special. A beautiful studio near the canal, it is artist-run yet open access, meaning anyone can use their tools and resources to learn this unusual, but special, art.

Led by a random creative whim and desire to learn a new hobby, I ventured there to undertake a workshops - link stitch book binding for beginners (for those unfamiliar with the jargon, this means those visible fabric bindings) - led by Sarah Bryant from Big Jump Press. I wasn't quite sure what to expect. A dusty studio in the back streets straight from the landscape of Dickens? Ageing book binders with thick glasses squinting in the half light? In fact, it was the opposite. Perhaps fuelled by the backlash against the modern, and the hipster artsy trend of learning antiquarian arts, my fellow book binders were a group of 9-5ers seeking to spend their weekend doing something a little more creative. Scientists, architecture students and media types were uniting in their desire to learn to create something from scratch.

 

The studio and my first attempt at link stitch book binding...

The studio was also incredible - a white, airy, open space full of amazing machines which do things you'd never think of: paper trimmers and embossers. Somewhere inspiring where the old and the new come together to create great art. And Sarah, who introduced us to the art, was fantastic - so enthusiastic and so patient. Her excitement about creating books was infectious - nowhere near the dusty type I had imagined. When she's not leading workshops, she binds beautiful books for artists which are well worth checking out here.

Each stage, from folding paper, to trimming, to creating the cover and then stitching together, were helpfully demonstrated before we were given plenty of time to get hands-on. This was a workshop where we not only encouraged to leave with something complete, but where we were learning skills for life - something that we could replicate at home and develop into a hobby.

So not only did I have a fun, creative Saturday, but I realised something that I am lacking: the ability to create something from start to finish. Amongst all the modern day creations designed to give us shortcuts and make things easy, we rarely take the long road. The harder path. Which is a real loss. Because it is just so much more satisfying.

I would really recommend doing a workshop yourself. Even if it just to take something home that you can really claim to be yours.

 

Author: Vicky Noble

3 comments

  1. Bookbinding has NEVER been lost, so to call it a “lost art” is revealing of the author’s own ignorance, not the truth of the matter. Bookbinders and bookbinding have been around for centuries, constantly evolving to meet the changing needs of the press and readers. Hand bookbinding never disappeared, and there are new graduates every year coming out of professional bookbinding training programs such as the North Bennett Street School (http://www.nbss.edu/). Then there’s also all of the book conservation graduate programs in both the UK and the USA whose students are also trained in traditional hand binding methods.

    Just because you weren’t looking for us doesn’t mean we haven’t always been there.

    • Hello S – author here, thank you so much for your comment.
      Maybe I was ignorant about bookbinding, but that was the joy of doing the course and finding out about it! Clearly I learnt that there are lots of talented book binders out there, but I think that’s not necessarily obvious to the man/woman on the street (i.e. me) so that’s why it’s great to have Sarah Bryant and centres like the London Centre of Book Arts allowing ordinary people to have a go.

    • I’ve also changed the first sentence from “is a lost art” to “seems a lost art” to make it clear that it’s my preconception rather than the truth.
      PS I hope ‘S’ is not for Sarah, because I loved the course.

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