When I first thought about binding my own books the connection seemed immediately profound. Write them, illustrate them, design them, decorate them, choose the paper, choose the bindings, wax the thread to sew the pages, apply the glue. The ultimate do-it-yourself, all done with care and with love. The personal touch, every time. I suppose, too, if I’m honest, it’s also about control of my own work. Independence. No big business, just beauty, and, I hope, integrity.
Of course, like any craft, bookbinding has to be learned, practised, mastered. You have to get your head round it. So I have equipped myself with a book of instructions and a beginners’ set of tools, trawled YouTube for tutorials. I have laid out pages – and then scrapped the layouts and done them again. The illustrations had come out far too small, losing all the detail I had so carefully included. So back to the drawing board. I’ll do it as many times as necessary. Speed is not of the essence. In the meantime, I have tried my hand at sewing the pages together with kettle-stitch; crikey, I’m clumsy at it – but practise makes perfect. I’ll get there. I have investigated paper types and weights, and how they behave when printed and folded. My desktop printer has collapsed under the strain of experiments and try-outs.
And I have signed myself up for a bookbinding session with my friend Carol in charge, at our local Art and Soul day in a week or so. Art and soul is what it’s about, too, no doubt about that. Getting to grips with it all, and making it as beautiful as I want it to be, will not be easy, but whatever I do it’ll come from the heart. I have even wondered about setting up a local bookbinding group at some point, for a little mutual support.
But I’ve never doubted that this is the way forward for me. When my first bound copy of The Herbarium is complete it’ll be a treasure. It may be wobbly, in need of refinement, or even a complete rethink. I don’t mind. I’m prepared to work on it. I don’t expect immediate perfection. I promised myself something beautiful, and that’s what I mean to have. I’ll keep you posted.
Meanwhile you can read the next episode of The Herbarium here on Thursday…