Sunday, May 07, 2023

Fine Bindings by Douglas Cockerell

Recently I had an opportunity to see a collection of fine bindings made by Douglas Cockerell. Cockerell is well-known to students of bookbinding. Douglas Cockerell instruction bookletsHe is the author of the enduring instructional book, Bookbinding and the Care of Books, first published in 1901 and still used by many today. Also these small booklets, "Bookbinding as a School Subject" that he wrote. These are my own copies shown here. In this photo, books one and two are from the second printing; books three, four, and five are from the third printing.

Douglas Cockerell fine bindingsCockerell is especially known for his skills as a fine binder. The Killam Library at Dalhousie University here in Nova Scotia, has a collection of about a dozen books bound by Douglas Cockerell which I was able to see firsthand last week. There is a digital exhibit on the library's website with really great photos, better than any photos that I'd be able to take, so, have a look at the online exhibit at which has multiple photos of each book as well as information about Cockerell's life.

Of course, Cockerell's bindery also developed a distinct style of marbled papers that have been used widely by binders around the world. Cockerell, and the others who worked with him, developed their own style and techniques for marbling that allowed them to produce high-quality marbled papers, replicating their patterns with ease, which is incredibly difficult to achieve with hand-marbled papers. There is a video available showing the Cockerell marbling process, where you can see how they manage to get consistent patterns every time: And here are a few pictures of the marbling on the books in the Dalhousie collection that I saw last week.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

"The Embodied Press" exhibit, curated by Anthea Black

It is wonderful to see a local exhibit featuring book artists. The book arts are not often represented in local galleries, in my experience. Occasionally I'll see an exhibit that has a smattering of book art objects mixed in with other work, but as a general rule, the book art component is not central to the work or the exhibit.

Mary E Black GalleryHowever, the Mary E. Black Gallery in Halifax is currently exhibiting a collection of artists' books, curated by Anthea Black, who is a Canadian artist, writer, and curator. The exhibit features queer and transgender book artists and as stated on the gallery's website, "each work poses questions about difference, intersectionality and power to show that sexual, gender and racial difference cannot be easily understood or legitimized through public visibility alone." The individual works each convey important and striking messages about the issues in LGBTQ+ social history, juxtaposed with conventional and unconventional book forms.

The collection is wide-ranging in its use of binding structures, printing techniques, and its use of scale and content. There is a lot to see in this exhibit and it takes time to view because, as is often the case with books, book content can not be absorbed at a glance. The books themselves are very well executed. Using book structures in art sometimes appears to be an afterthought for conveying an artistic idea, but I thought many of the works in this exbibit were beautiful examples of structure and content working together effectively. There's a more in-depth look at the show posted on the NSBAG blog. Definitely check out the exhibit if you're in the area. The exhibit continues until May 7, 2023.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Recent marbling session

I don't have a space to keep my marbling gear set up all the time, so when I do find the time to set everything up, I try to be very productive. It takes me a few days just to get everything prepped and organized but once everything is ready, it's nice to just go for it and get lots done. So I recently spent a few days marbling and I thought I'd share some of the results here.

First of all, here's a quick video of me lifting a sheet of marbled paper. This was a nice zebra pattern, in various shades of pink and orange and mauve, very spring. This kind of zebra pattern is one of my favorites to do.

I ended up with quite a stack of papers this time. Most of the papers are for my own use, so I can do whatever I want for most of them. I tend to practice certain things each time. In previous sessions I would spend a lot of time practicing the Spanish wave or the bouquet pattern, etc. This time I did quite a number of zebra patterns. But there were lots of others too. Here's a little sample:

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Vegetable Papyrus

A couple months ago, I attended a zoom presentation about making vegetable papyrus, with artist Yuka Petz. Yuka does a lot of cool stuff, which you can see on her website, We met at PBI one time, like, maybe a decade ago? Fun times. Gawd, seems like forever. Yuka is also now hosting a wonderful video series called 'Artist's Books Unshelved' which you can view on Youtube.

So, the vegetable papyrus demo was a great introduction to the process. Yuka provided a lot of incredibly useful information and tips on how to get started making this stuff and my first expiriments were quite successful, all things considered.

I started with celery and apples. I used celery because I thought the long stalks might result in something similar to Egyptian papyrus. I also tried the apples, mainly because I just had apples on hand!
Celery and Apples
This next photo shows the cooked celery before it was pressed, and then the resulting papyrus after all the pressing and drying.
Cooked celery
Drying time was surprisingly long. A couple weeks actually. Though, I'm sure that's largely due to the natural humidity living near the ocean and whatnot. So, these are the most successful pieces from my first round of papyrus making:
Finished papyrus sheets
I'm planning to raid the rhubarb patch in a couple months and try making papyrus with that!

Friday, January 13, 2023

Making bookbinding weights

Happy new year, blog readers! I was able to start off the new year with the Nova Scotia Book Arts Group, making some bookbinding weights. It was a fun little project to do as a group. Check out the NSBAG blog to see the results, as well as some guidance on making your own.

Here's what we made at the NSBAG meeting:
Smaller weights are very handy, particularly when making small books. I love having a variety of small weights on hand, so it's great to add to my collection. These get used all the time!

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Festive books!

I recently conducted a little workshop making these festive books, perfect for Christmas tree ornaments and whatnot.
The structure was a drum leaf binding and each book had printed pages, with a bit of holiday music. We used Japanese chiyogami on the covers because there are lots of beautiful Japanese papers that lend themselves to a Christmasy vibe!
This was a fun session to wrap up the 2022 workshop season. Thanks and Happy Holidays to all the folks who take my workshops and keep coming back for more!

Friday, November 11, 2022

Sewn Board Binding Workshop

I don't have many opportunities to use the sewn board binding structure, so it was a lot of fun to teach this in a workshop recently. It allowed me to make a few examples, which was fun, and then introduce it to a very eager group of students. And as expected, everyone loves this book structure.

Look at all the beautiful books they made!

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Bookbinding around the world

I really enjoyed teaching the most recent version of my "Bookbinding Around the World" course. I have taught a few variations of this course, including some different book structures each time. The course is typically just four sessions so there are obvious limitations to what can be done in that time. In past versions of this course I have included projects such as the Nag Hammadi structure, the Secret Belgian Binding aka Criss Cross Binding, also the Ethiopian chain stitch, as well as various Japanese styles.

This time around we started in China, of course, since books and paper were invented in China. In the second class, we made palm leaf books, a structure that probably originated in India. Next we did one of the many Italian longstitch techniques, and then we jumped to USA and made some books in the style of the Roycrofters.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Nova Scotia Book Arts Group

The newly formed Nova Scotia Book Arts Group will be having its first official meeting this week! On behalf of the NSBAG organizers, I can say that we are very excited about this adventure and we are looking forward to connecting with the book arts enthusiasts in our area.

The first meeting is Thursday, September 29th, at 7:00pm at the Halifax Central Library. Details and updates are available online at

Friday, July 22, 2022

Sunday Workshop Series

Anouncing a new Sunday Workshop Series starting this autumn! These are in-person workshops in Halifax, Nova Scotia. If you're looking for a quick fix of book and paper arts, then you might be interested in these upcoming workshops. Each is just two hours on a Sunday afternoon.

Box Accordion: This is a fun structure that can easily be expanded in length, incorporating more and more boxes. This type of accordion book can be used as an artist's book structure, as a display feature, etc.
Sold out.

Star Book: This structure is versatile and can be modified as a tunnel book or carousel book, which are both useful options for artist's books. This structure also works well as a unique photo album that can do double duty as an attractive photo display.
Sold out.

Christmas Book: Miniature book ornaments, incorporating beautiful Japanese papers and pages of Christmas music, bound using a modified drum leaf technique.
Sold out.

There will also be some more in-depth bookbinding workshops at the Centre for Craft this fall. Schedule to be announced soon.

Saturday, July 02, 2022

Switching online sales platform

Big news! I have a new website for selling my bookbinding supplies! I've been selling supplies online for a while, but the online sales platform that I was using has become incresingly problematic and expensive. So, I took a plunge and set up the shop through Sellfy. Just click the "Shop for Supplies" link above.

I really like the Sellfy platform so far. I did some testdrives with other online store options before I settled on this one, and so far, it's working nicely. I will have to maintain both sites for a while, but hopefully I can consolidate them at some point.

As before, I am optimmizing the products and shipping for Canadian customers but I do also accept orders from USA. Right now, you can use the coupon code 2022Final15 and get 15% off orders before December 31st, whoot!

Saturday, April 02, 2022

Winter workshop results

Just a quick update with some photos taken during recent workshops. These classes were all in-person sessions at the Nova Scotia Centre for Craft.

Most recently I taught a workshop about making albums, for photos or other things. The students made books that used standard post or ribbon bindings and then we added some pizzazz with windows, fore-edge ties, and even some corner embellishments here and there.

handmade album handmade album
handmade album handmade album
Not long ago, I also taught another workshop where the students made bookcloth and then made a blank journal using the buttonhole binding technique. Everyone did a small practice journal with a paper cover, then used one of their prepared fabrics to make a hardcover journal.
handmade book handbound books
handmade journal handmade books
handmade books journals
There was also a chain stitch workshop where everyone learned to make books with exposed chain stitch binding techniques. Different types of covers and cover attachments were explored.
handmade books
Impressive work by everyone. I always seem to have the best students!
The spring session is coming soon now. Workshop links are in the right sidebar.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Getting ready for 2022

For those of you, or your friends, who still like to keep an agenda on your desk! These 2022 desk planners look super classy and they're also very practical. (Available on Etsy.)
Each one features my own, original marbled paper on the covers. The spine and corners are faux leather. Inside, a monthly calendar for 2022 with a two-page spread for each month on brownish paper, with a few extra pages for personal info, contacts, notes, etc.

Saturday, October 02, 2021

Recent Workshops

Seems like I should start every blog post apologizing for such long delays between posts! At the moment, I've just come to post a bit about some of the workshops I've been conducting recently. Last week, I taught a workshop called "Tricky Books and Boxes." We made a little video to demonstrate the tricky boxes.

For the tricky books, we started with a few little structures that involve mostly folding and a little bit of cutting. There was a one-sheet folded book, a non-cyclic tetra-hexa-flexagon, a little woven accordion that opens two different ways, and a panel book. For the panel book, we used a template created by Cathryn Miller of Byopia Press, which she has posted to her blog and she kindly permitted me to share it with everyone in my workshop.
After all that, we also made a Jacob's Ladder book.
And the last book we made was this, which I'd seen on Alisa Golden's blog, for which she includes the name "Flat-Style Australian Reverse Piano Hinge" binding. It is also basically the same as a technique I learned from Emma Fraser, who lives in Scotland, and we named her book the "Secret Scottish Rubbish Binding" since we were using repurposed papers at the time. So this structure has some international representation.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Making a book in 6 videos

I made a few little videos while I was making a book. These videos don't show every single step in the process, of course, but it hits the high spots. The file compression was a bit much, I think, so the quality is fuzzy. Maybe someday I'll try it again and see if I can make better-looking footage!