Thursday, 19 February 2015

I Love Handmade Books, by Charlotte Rivers. Review.

I Love Handmade Books

Timeless Techniques and Fresh Ideas for Beautiful Handmade Books

By Charlotte Rivers

Jacqui Small 2014

Hardback £14.99

ISBN 978 1 909342651

Star rating: ****

A handcrafted book is the perfect antidote to e-book overload.  Small wonder that this artisan craft is  enjoying a revival.  Practitioners of bookcraft have given it a playful contemporary spin – you won’t find any fusty Morocco-bound volumes in Charlotte Rivers’ magical appreciation of handmade books. Instead, you will find imaginative, innovative design treatments that stretch the boundaries of what a book is. Perhaps not thinking “outside the binding”, but redefining the concept of what a book can be.

The author sees book-making as an umbrella craft, “which can incorporate illustration, graphic design, design, photography, papercraft and many other creative disciplines.” (My italics.) Books being primarily paper-based, there is much here to fascinate the papercrafter.

The heart of the book showcases the work of bookbinding talent worldwide. You will find whimsical creations such as the layer cake slice-books from Boundless Bookbindery of Vienna. There’s lots of spectacular origamic fancy folding and paper manipulation to see. The “display” chapters are Folded Bindings, Sewn Bindings, Page and Cover Treatments, and Experimental Packaging (the title of  last chapter is particularly enticing). The chapter on sewn bindings is delightful, highlighting many clever ways to combine form and function – such as the stitched butterfly binding by Becca Hirsbrunner of Arlington, Texas. Another book of hers has stitching that looks like a suspension bridge span. Nice work. With each entry you get soundbites from the artist/studio about their mission statements.

All very lovely. But wait – tucked away at the back of the book is the Book-Making in Practice chapter – a hidden treasure trove of how-to goodness. Here, you will find a carefully curated selection of D-I-Y projects giving a taster of the myriad skills that bookbinding encompasses.  Learn to make a Flag Book, a Dragon Book, or a Secret Message Book – each is a showstopper of paper manipulation (can’t wait to have a go!). Try your hand at several stitching methods. Learn how to make a padded Pillow Book, and how to stiffen fabric for use as book covering material. And more. 

The Resource section at the end of the book contains useful info aplenty. You will find lists of specialist suppliers of bookbinding materials and equipment, blogs, and references. There’s also a glossary and an index.

So, job well done to Charlotte Rivers, who has come up with a winning follow-up to her equally delightful previous title, I Love Stationery.  I Love Handmade Books is a charming gift book. And, in case you were wondering – the book itself has a stitched binding, a dust-jacket,  and beautiful bookcase-print endpapers.