In a bid to extend my artistic experiences I recently attended a two day course on Bookbinding at the DCA in Dundee. This was a special course for beginners entitled From Tokyo to Timbuktu. We got to sample bookbinding traditions from Japan, Nepal and West Africa. As this was an introductory course we just used whatever material was lying around the workshop.
We started with the Japanese technique. Though it could probably be just as much Chinese. At any event the paper we used came from China. This was a beautiful and delicate paper called Zuan, which our tutor, Emma, had brought back from her recent trip to the country. You start by folding the large sheets into four and here are my eight folded sheets.
The process is fairly straightforward though it does involve a lot of cutting and trimming so that you eventually end up with about 32 folded pages. Just to add a bit of colour you can include an inside page. I used some cast offs that were lying about as you can see below.
The outer cover has to be made of something pretty firm and solid and again we could make use of old bits and pieces of work lying about the studio. I used a rather bright and colourful print that reminded me of an African pattern. For an extra special finish you can cover this with a translucent silk paper. Which we all did, though it was a bit finicky glueing it onto the cover. You finish off by hand stitching the papers. This was not as difficult as we all thought it would be. We used a very strong linen thread. The stitching has to be done in a very precise order, but otherwise is pretty straightforward. The finished book is below.
Here are some of the books made by my fellow students on the course. As you can see we all used the orangey silk translucent paper to go over the outer cover. This one book took up all the Saturday.
On the Sunday we had two completely different books to make. The first was a very strange little book that is or was popular in Nepal and parts of northern India. There the outer covers would be made of bamboo leaves, but we had to make do with plywood. You start by cutting the wood to the size you want, using a Stanley knife. I found this pretty hard and in fact impossible to keep a perfectly straight line. Afterwards you sandpaper the surfaces and the edges to get a nice smooth finish. This is what the finished product looks like.
As you can see this is not your typical book by any means. In Nepal the inside paper would probably contain Buddhist sayings and images. As we did not have the time nor the resources to do this, we made do with some of the colourful prints lying about. Once again they need to be trimmed to size. Then comes the putting it all together part. This involves a bit of precision drilling. With a hand held electric drill you bore through the centre of all the pieces. It is then a fairly simple task to thread some ribbon through the holes, attach beads to either end and hey presto you have a little Nepalese booklet. Here is what mine looks like when opened out like a fan.
The final book was another strange affair. This is based on West African traditions. Emma, our tutor is particularly interested in this work, as previously it was assumed that Africans relied on an oral tradition. But it seems that books were produced in West Africa. The type we tried to copy comes from Timbuktu and there the outer shell would be made of leather. We of course just used card. I along with another student used a card printed in black and dark grey diagonals. It is quite a laborious and precise process to make the outer shell as it involves lots of folding and cutting. This is what the shell looks like before the final stitching.
The stitching and inserting the paper sheets was quite simple by comparison. In Timbuktu these little books might contain some verses from the Koran. The outside covers would also be decorated, often by cutting out shapes from the leather. We tried to do something similar, but it was very difficult without proper cutters. Anyway here is the final product.
And here are some of the books made by my companions.
To finish here are the three books I made over the weekend. A most unusual collection! But it was all great fun and I certainly enjoyed it all. I would now like to learn a bit more about bookbinding. Another course perhaps?