Monday, May 18, 2009

My First Time at a Bookbinding Workshop

The last two Saturdays I spent with Nina Judin, who taught to two others and me a Coptic binding with headbands. Her workshop is located in a souterrain flat in the center of Amsterdam. It was rather cool down there, taking away the heat of my overexcited days in a pleasant way. Although it was half way in the cellar, it had enough light, coming from two direction - through windows at the front and on the back facing a patio. The whole atmosphere was so relaxing... Thinking back her studio seems like an island of peace in the last weeks. I had been stressed for days, working too hurriedly, always with my eyes not on my work in front of me but on the huge stack of work still to be done. Going there was like stepping out of it all.
A week before the course I booked my trip to Amsterdam. - And was shocked to learn that on Saturday mornings trains to Amsterdam don't take 3 hours like on almost every other day and time but 5. The workshop started at 10.30 a.m., I should reach the station at least half an hour earlier to this,... I seriously thought of bailing out - and I am so glad that I didn't!

This was going to be the first time for me to learn, not from a book, or by trial and error, but from another person. In the description it said this was a course suitable for beginners. So I thought that, since I had already some practice in (Coptic) binding books, I wouldn't learn much on the technical aspects of binding books, and expected to learn mainly how to give a good bookbinding course. At the same time I was rather nervous, expecting from myself to deliver a perfect book in these two days. But with both assumptions I was completely and utterly wrong. I learned so much these days, in every aspect and mostly about binding books! I made a book that was in no way perfect. My struggle to do so is just another indication for the stress I am feeling at the moment and that I am mostly putting on me myself. Another indicator for my momentary restlessness was the speed with which I was working hurriedly and unfocused. Although I realized it, I just couldn't turn it off - at least not during the first session last week.

I heard people saying before that they learn many small details on workshops, but only now I realize how true this is. I want to share the most important idea for me: this makeshift construction of a thin awl:
It is just a bookbinding needle attached to the handle of an x-acto knife (or hobby knife). Of course I have bookbinding awls here. But they really are too thick to use them for punching holes in paper for binding. I had tried different methods for punching holes into sections before, but this is really the best way I have seen so far to do it.

I don't even want to try to give a complete recount of all the things I learned; it started with the most basic things, really. The following picture shows a detail of how the stitching looks like on the Coptic bound books I usually make:
And this is a detail of the stitching we made at the workshop:

I hope this is visible - the black thread makes it harder to see... Both books are bound in a 2-needle style. But at the book on top the thread only loops around the previous section, and on the other pictures you can see thread that loops around and then it tugged under itself.

I can't say often enough how much I enjoyed the whole experience and atmosphere. If you can arrange it, try a workshop with Nina Judin yourself. And if you can't make it to Amsterdam, maybe you want to have a look at her boks online.
And also have a look and see what Dymphie wrote about our workshop here.

Below you see the three books we pupils made, the one lying in front of the others is mine.

Good bye for today and thank you for reading!

Edit: You can see the ends of the thread for the headbands still hanging around in the photos above because I intended to make them new and again because I was so dissatisfied with them. Now I am finished with this and can show you some more pictures of my book:
Coptic headbands

Coptic headbands


Dymphie said...

what a wonderful post. You are on the roll finishing the endbands. Thanks again for the lovely mini :)

Büchertiger said...

Thanks, Dymphie!

I am very glad that you like my little book :-) I am still grateful of your gift of the CDs which I think was very thoughtful and so nice to make!

Piami said...

Gah! You were able to take a class with Nina Judin! I wish it were me. And that particular binding is so intriguing to me, I just bought a book with that kind of coptic stitching, I can't figure out how the attachment to the boards work. Can I find instructions anywhere??

Your book is lovely! And I can relate to everything you say about being unfocused and rushing your work. I feel like I'm always like that, not being able to just enjoy. :-(

Piami said...

I can see from Dymphie's post that you tried blindtooling, too! How fun!!! Again - wish I could be there!

Büchertiger said...

Hi Piami,

I think I remember you have the Szirmai - Book. It's in there in figure 4.1. But I may be wrong, so I'll try to comprise it in a few words. The idea of the construction is not so difficult:

You punch three (or Szirmai does four, for a thicker, wooden cover) tunnels/holes in to your cover. Two of them are perpendicular to the cover, between them you see the thread wrapping. The third runs from the middle of the fore edge of the cover in an angle through it and out of the first perpendicular hole on the top of the cover. (Szirmai describes a fourth tunnel that shares the same hole on the fore edge of the cover and exits on the back of the cover through the hole of the first perpendicular hole.)

From out of the first signature you guide the thread through the hole at the fore edge out of the perpendicular hole, wrap around and between the two holes several times (we did three) and out through the slant tunnel and into the next section.
The front cover is attached the same way after the last signature is sewn, but then (obviously)does not enter the next section but the one before and is knotted there.

I hope this made sense:-) Otherwise I'll come back to you in an Email and with more words and sketches.