Bookmaking workshop a detour that inspires

I love learning something new. Love, love. So, when I saw a link on Facebook for a bookmaking workshop through the Banff Centre’s Walter Phillips Gallery, I jumped at the chance to attend.

The course was this past Saturday, and took place inside the new Kinnear Centre for Creativity and Innovation at the Banff Centre, a beautiful building with gorgeous views from every window. (The library took my breath away – I have to go back!)

Ten of us (plus instructor) showed up at 10 am, eager to learn the ins-and-outs of making our own cloth-bound art book from scratch. All materials were provided and attendance at the course was FREE!

We began by hand-folding pages of 8.5” X 11” sheets in half, 50 sheets in all. These sheets were then nestled inside one another to create a grouping of five sheets, also called a signature.

We then learned how to measure carefully and poke five holes in the spine of each of the ten signatures, sew the pieces together in a beautiful pattern, and – this is where it got really fun – make our individual covers using the beautiful assortment of papers and fabric pieces provided by Kate, our instructor.

There was a lot of gluing, measuring, eye-balling, and color-matching – making great use of both the left and right sides of our brains. We made our covers from book-board and wrapped them prettily like a gift. It was really very magical.

My completed art book!

The folding and sewing of 50 pages took a fair bit of time, and was quite meditative. But, once we got to assembling and gluing the covers, the fast-drying glue meant we had to work quickly, and there was almost an air of panic in the room. But then, in the last 20 minutes before the end of the 4-hour class – voila! A whole book emerged…all the more beautiful because it was our own creation, made by hand!

I am a great one for learning in isolation with nothing but a how-to book to guide me. I learned to carve wood sculptures that way, and I am also a self-taught block printer. But, every so often a course magically lands in my lap, seemingly from nowhere.  I often don’t know it, but it is exactly what I need at the time.

I was surprised and delighted by the tactile nature of this creative task. And, the satisfaction of holding that gorgeous blank book was huge. The pages seem to be filled with possibilities to come, and this new skill I learned is something I know I will use in the future with my art.

I can already think of many exciting ways to integrate this knowledge into my current art practice. And that is probably the best pay-off of taking a course like this: it creates a detour in the road to somewhere totally unexpected, but really, really lovely.

The Process: Ten signatures,folded up and ready for sewing

The Process: A roll of linen book binder’s thread. We cut just enough to sew two signatures together

The Process: The linen thread is pulled through beeswax to help it slip better through the page’s holes

The Process: Sewing the first two signatures together

The Process: Once all the signatures are sewn, this is the beautiful result. Too bad no one will see it!

The Process: Gathering the materials to assemble and create my cover

The Process: Once the cover is wrapped, we glue the signature pages to the cover

The work table with books in various stages of creation

Some creative book covers by others