Bookbinding, I have come to appreciate, is a delicate operation. What better place perhaps, to learn about this skill for first time within the context of a medical library in a hospital?!
During two-hour sessions over a period of four consecutive Tuesday evenings, staff at Musgrove Park Hospital participated in making four different books under the tuition of professional bookbinder, Megan Stallworthy. The workshop, programmed by Emma Quick for Art for Life (the Trust’s art and wellbeing initiative), was part of a series of artist-led workshops for NHS staff taking place at Musgrove Park Hospital.
Over the sessions we managed to make four books: two variations of an accordion book, a single section case binding and a long stitch binding. All four involved various different techniques, each new skill demonstrated under Megan’s precision and expertise along with being equipped with the proper tools like the bone-fold, bradawl, waxed-thread, grey board, glue and papers that make a significant difference from being shown how to make something and actually producing an object that is something one will keep and is proud of. It was the opportunity to learn the meaning of terms such as ‘creep’ and which direction to cut/fold based on the grain of the paper to how to measure cover paper and spine widths, different techniques to apply glue (who knew?) and how to make a sewing template for stitching pages together. For the second time this year, I the reluctant sewer attempted to thread needles as I stitched the cartridge paper into my pre-measured casing holes. My resulting long stitch binding was rather shaky, but I had still managed to produce something that held itself together. My favourite to make though were the accordion books as these involved no stitching whatsoever and were more involved with gluing and folding techniques. With these books in particular I found myself planning what might go inside them and ideas for things I could write or draw.
I enjoyed conversations about the ‘hand of the maker’ involved in each of the individual books that we were making; how our own ‘imperfections’ of how we may have cut the paper or bound the pages together are not necessarily faults but characteristics or quirks of their handmade origins. Something of an anti-perfectionist myself, I like to celebrate those traces of hand and uniqueness that come from the handmade object that can never be recreated in the mass produced. I think there is a Japanese word, ‘wabi sabi’, which succinctly encapsulates what I am referring to here- an ‘acceptance of imperfection’.
More information about Megan Stallworthy's workshops and beautiful handmade books can be found here: http://www.perfectbindings.co.uk/