All Booked Up

I’ve just spent the weekend sheltering from the wild wet November weather with a lovely group of ladies making books. Outside the wind raged and the rain lashed down, but inside the atmosphere vibrated with concentration as everyone wielded rulers and scalpels and flexed their mathematical brain cells with varying degrees of success. It’s painful for textile practioners to get to grips with the unforgiving nature of paper and card. There’s no scope for cunning little stretches, or a few discreet gathers, and while there is no point trying to make a handmade book look as if it’s been machine made, a degree of accuracy is essential if the finished piece is going to work.

I go through agonies of self doubt in the run up to teaching a course. Even my years as a mature student haven’t erased the self doubt left by my schooldays.  Miss Marshall has a lot to answer for!  Although I’ve been doing it for a while, I’m suddenly struck by the fact I may have a degree to say I can do things, I don’t have a piece of paper to say I can teach those things to other people! As I draw up the lesson plan I have visions of everyone saying ‘Well, I knew that already’, of having exhausted all my ideas by midday of the first day or of everybody falling asleep with boredom! I’m pleased to say, that hasn’t happened yet!

Once we’d worked our way through the accuracy thing, which happened remarkably quickly, the atmosphere soon lightened into enthusiasm, and that feeling we had all escaped from the daily round to do something just for ourselves. Having mastered the basics of accordion folds and simple pamphlet stitching we moved on to a ‘wrap’ book,which needs very little glueing, and  even makes a good cover for a little purchased notebook. 

What is lovely at this point is to see all the different directions in which the same  basic instructions will take people.  Once all the’ bits and pieces’ bags had been upended everyone had a amazing variation of materials to realise their individual little books, and as they chatted and compared notes all sorts of new ideas came into being.

By the end of the day, even a visit from Higgins hadn’t distracted the students too much, although Joy inexplicably thought he was gorgeous and adorable and wanted to take him home…if only she knew!  As I left for home Alison, who was staying over at the centre, was still at her desk, and was there the following morning when I arrived.  I was assured she had gone to bed at some point!

After the second day, when we had covered stitching signatures into a codex, different types of hard and soft spine covers and  Origami books and folded pages, the room was a frenzy of activity.  Despite a brief hiatus when the torrential rain, coupled with a howling wind came in through the Victorian windows of the old school and had to be stemmed with an entire drawer of teatowels, by the end of the second day I counted well over 30 completed books, and a pile of stitched pages ready for working on at home.

Usually when a course is over I, and my trusty sidekick Kit, have so overdosed on the course subject we want to go home and do something completely different – bunjee jumping anyone?   This time we are both full of even more ideas, and as we saw everyone off it felt more like the end of a party with friends than a working weekend.

Next year we are taking the whole thing further, with coptic binding , Japanese stitching, slip covers and book boxes.  I will take a copy of the positive things written in the visitors book home to look at when I get my wobbly moments and the spectre of Miss Marshall hovers threateningly…

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10 Responses

  1. My favourites are the ones with buttons – you have a great eye for composition, Penny, really great notebooks and photographs!
    I am fond of the brown paper and string one. Brown paper and string is so simple and lovely, homely and elegant all together.

  2. I can imagine a room warmed with all that concentrated creativity, while the wind and rain howled over the Broads. What a great way to spend the weekend.

    So pleased you came away bouyed up with all the positive vibes.

    … and Higgins – well what a can I say! He reminds me of the illustrations of Piglet in Winnie the Pooh, particularly in the story of the Blustery Day 🙂

    Celia (H)

  3. What a brilliant way to spend a weekend!

    And Higgins is such a sweetie! It makes me wish my three dachshunds were pups again 🙂

  4. lovely weekend thanku penny and kit and yes higgins was lovely lovely and i would have loved to take him home. great blog with interesting text and gorgeous pictures. thanks for my weekend luv joy

  5. Lovely weekend thanku Penny and Kit and yes Higgins was lovely and I would have loved to take him home. Blog very interesting lots of pictures and interesting text. Thanks Penny ans Kit I had a great weekend. Luv Joy

  6. A fabulous weekend , and the results are all beautiful . Congratulations !

  7. Oh Higgins, you little charmer! That photo of him is priceless. What wonderful books, that first one is extraordinary, a work of art.
    Love Vanessa xxx

  8. Wonderful books.

  9. Where do you teach? 🙂

    • Broadland Art Centre at Dilham. You can follow the link from the post, or its also on the sidebar of the Planet Penny blog.

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