My exposure to and familiarity with bookbinding did not happen very long ago. I majored in art history at UBA (Universidad de Buenos Aires), and I had always worked in the plastic arts. It was at the end of 2011 that, encouraged by a friend, I enrolled in an intensive course that art bookbinder Sol Rébora was giving in her studio. It was there that I discovered a world that I had absolutely known nothing about, that of artistic bookbinding. This combination of “savoir faire” of the profession, and the artistic design, captured me completely. Since then, I have devoted myself to my professional development: taking whatever course I could, attending all through 2012 the classes taught by Sol, and attending the regular workshops of Eduardo Tarrico as well. And then planning what was, for me, the most relevant experience I had in relation to my professional growth: my trip to Paris.
There is an extensive interview with Sol in The Thread That Binds. (Seriously, people. You have to get a copy of this book.) Coming from a family of artists and bookish folk (an aunt was an antiquarian bookseller!), it seems that Sol was born to be a designer bookbinder. At art school, Sol chose bookbinding as one of her classes three years in a row, despite planning to be a fashion designer. Call it coincidence; call it fate. Whatever you call it, bookbinding kept throwing itself in her path. First, her aunt needed some bindings done for books in her store. Her brother, who worked in a store selling conservation and restoration materials, introduced her to an artist who needed help figuring out how to put her work into a book to show at a gallery. The curator wanted to know who made the book. He turned out to be the editor of books with very small limitations. The edition of 40 copies he’d just done needed boxes. Guess what? His bookbinder had just died! Sol got the job and found her first binding mentor and cheerleader. When she showed him the design bindings she had been goofing around with at school, he showed he a book with pictures of 20th century French bindings (was it the one by Alisdair Duncan?). Once she saw those pictures, Sol knew that was what she wanted to do. At the time, no one in Argentina was doing design binding. Now what?
First, Sol studied privately with a bookbinder, learning traditional French fine binding. Eventually, though, Sol knew she would have to go abroad. There were many obstacles, but Sol is a lucky woman. After a few false starts, things started to fall into place. Sol was finally able to study with masters in Canada, the United States, and Europe. The results of her hard work, combined with her natural talent, are impressive (understatement).
Neale Albert has a couple of her miniatures in his collection, so I was able to experience her work up close. Her technique is superb.
I had a quick Facebook chat with Sol recently. She was so nice. She answered my questions about my favorite binding and offered to send me more pictures.