We love book arts here at the Incubator, including the subtle work of bookbinders, whose art interacts with the content of the book itself. Today, Hannah Brown, an independent bookbinder in the UK, shares her work, her artistic process, and a vision for a lending library of bookbinding tools that is a brilliant take on the library-as-incubator!  Enjoy– Erinn

4. Breakfast at Tiffany's

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Library as incubator Project (LAIP): Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.

Hannah Brown (HB): I did a degree in Three-Dimensional Crafts at Brighton University, graduating in 2004 with a first class honours. My degree taught me how to work in a wide range of materials including wood, metal, ceramics and plastics; many of the skills I learnt I still use now in my bookbinding work. It was once I graduated from Brighton University that I took up an evening class in bookbinding and was completely taken by the craft and never looked back!

I was introduced to many other bookbinders after becoming a member of both The Society of Bookbinders and Designer Bookbinders, both UK-based bookbinding societies. Through these societies I continued my bookbinding learning by going to as many courses and classes as I could find. There are so many stages to binding a book and skills to learn you can never know too much!

LAIP: What are you working on right now that you’re excited about?

HB: Designer Bookbinders is one of the foremost societies devoted to the craft of fine bookbinding. Founded over fifty years ago it has helped to establish the reputation of British bookbinding worldwide. Designer Bookbinders currently organises two bookbinding competitions. The first is an annual competition, the aims of which have always been to encourage professionals, amateurs and students to produce originally designed and well bound books, and to give them the opportunity to exhibit their technical and artistic skills. I was very pleased to win The Mansfield Medal for the best book in the competition on three occasions in 2008, 2011, and 2014.

DB also runs an international competition every four years, which is happening this year with the theme, “Myths, Heroes and Legends.”  The binder is permitted to choose their own text block based on the theme, which must be bound from scratch to their own design and specifications. At present I am working on my entry for this – the text block I have chosen to work on is a 1909 Hodder and Stoughton publication of The Fables of Aesop. The deadline is the end of September, but I now have a design for the book and have started sewing up the sections, so I am excited about my progression with that over the coming weeks. I have a lot to do, as I’ve set myself the task of creating some three-dimensional pieces to go with the binding!

LAIP: How do you see your work interacting with narrative or story? What does working in books allow you to do that you can’t pull off with other media?

HB: Each of the books I bind has a narrative or story running through them. I rarely work with blank books, so my work directly interacts with the content. Each of the bindings I produce is designed specifically to work with the subject matter of the text block – the design chosen to illustrate the content as effectively as possible.

3. Butterflies and Moths

Butterflies and Moths

The great thing about bookbinding is the three-dimensional nature of the craft; it is not just about creating a two-dimensional work on paper. The book as a whole is a three-dimensional object and has to do its job as a book as well as looking attractive. There are so many steps to the binding process and parts of the book on which to express ideas that the scope for the design is huge. There is of course the cover design, but as well as that the endpapers, book edges, box/container, and the headbands all contribute to the final object.

The great thing about bookbinding is the three-dimensional nature of the craft…The book as a whole has to do its job as a book as well as looking attractive.

LAIP: How have libraries informed your creative work? Tell us about the first library you remember playing a part in your artistic development.

HB: The first library that played an integral part in my artistic development was the art library where I did my degree at Brighton University called St Peters House. They had a wonderful art book selection on the top floor that helped inform much of my degree show work. I specifically remember stumbling across a book of origami that I used a lot and I still love doing origami today.

I also worked at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London for seven and a half years as a mount-making technician. Within the V&A is the National Art Library and I was lucky to have been given the opportunity to look at many books for the collections during my time there. My work involves a lot of embroidery work on leather and I was shown a wonderful selection of embroidered books from the collection which was a great inspiration.

LAIP: Can you describe a particular library-incubated project for us? How did that project develop?

HB: The origami book that I stumbled across in Brighton has inspired many projects over the years. I love the fact that origami is a step-by-step process and the illustrations and diagrammatical nature of the book appealed to me – in fact my wedding invitations were origami bi-planes taken from one of the origami templates!

I have on occasion made “complete books” where I have produced the content as well as the binding, one example of which stems from this origami book. I decided to make a book that illustrated the step-by step instructions of how to make an origami butterfly. Each page had a step in the folding process illustrated on it with the mirroring page showing the pattern of the folded lines on the origami square as the process continues.

2. Butterfly Origami Book

2a. Butterfly Origami Book - Open

LAIP: As an artist, what would your ideal library be like? What kinds of stuff would you be able to check out, and what could you do there?

HB: Actually as a maker, specifically a bookbinder, it is necessary to have so many different pieces of kit for all of the different stages! For me, if libraries were able to lend bookbinding-related tools that would be wonderful!

For me as a maker, if libraries were able to lend bookbinding-related tools that would be wonderful!

One specific example of this would be handle-letters for tooling titles onto book covers and boxes. If you can imagine how many fonts and sizes there are out there with each set of brass handle-letters  to make up a complete alphabet costing a few hundred pounds, it is just not feasible to have a broad selection of these in my personal collection. So, as a binder you are restricted to using what you already have (which might not quite work with the design aesthetic or the text block), to title the book in some other way or hope a friend might have what you are looking for!

 

1. HeadshotHannah Brown is a self-employed bookbinder working from her home studio in West London. She makes bespoke fine bookbindings books to commission using a variety of skills including: leather work, embroidery, metalwork and carpentry. She’s passionate about her craft and wants her bindings to be appreciated for their relation to the content of the book inside whilst creating a tactile object to be handled and used. I am continually stimulated by the environment around me and find myself continually thinking ahead to my next binding.

Connect with Hannah online: Twitter: @han_made_net | Tumblr: http://han-made-bookbinding.tumblr.com | Website: www.han-made.net

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