InsideOUT, La couleur du vent, and new terminology

I’m so excited!

I’ll be in Cambridge this week for the opening reception at Houghton Library for the InsideOUT exhibit on September 10th. I will also get to see the ARA Canada exhibit La couleur du vent at the North Bennet Street School before it closes on September 14th. I will see so many contemporary fine art bindings in one day, I think my head might explode. Fortunately, I already have the InsideOUT catalog and have studied La couleur du vent online.

Who is going to be at the InsideOUT reception? I can’t wait to be in the same room with so many binders, librarians, and collectors of contemporary fine art bindings.

From now on I am going to be using the term “contemporary fine art binding” instead of “design binding.” Bindings are a form of fine art. Using the term “fine art” places the bindings in an understandable framework. Art collectors and most book collectors don’t know the meaning of  the terms “design binding” or “contemporary fine binding.” The concept is too abstract. I’d like to present bookbinding within the construct of contemporary art, which is where I think it belongs. I see my change in terminology as a tiny step toward bringing bookbinding in a contemporary idiom to a wider audience.

That’s what we all want, isn’t it? A wider audience for the amazing work binders are turning out these days?

Houghton_Library_-_Harvard_University_-_IMG_0095
Houghton Library, Harvard University

Holiday Miscellany

It’s December and I work in a retail establishment. Have pity.

Here are some tidbits to tide you over until I can write a real post:

Giard Water

Christine Giard and Uriel Cidor have joined forces with Gavin Dovey at Paper Dragon Books, which shall henceforth be referred to as the United Nations of Bookbinding. It’s the makings of a sitcom: a Brit, a Frenchwoman, an Israeli (and sometimes a Dominican tailor/baseball player) share a bindery and hijinks ensue. Someone write a treatment, please.

Design Bookbinders (UK) licentiate Hannah Brown is in North America. She will be in New York this week. We have a date at The Morgan Library to do some binding research. First up, a few bindings incorporating embroidery on leather. If you know Hannah’s work, you’ll know why this might be of interest. Then we are going to examine five Deborah Evetts design bindings. There are hundreds of Deborah Evetts works at The Morgan, as she was their conservator for many, many years. Naturally, they are mostly enclosures and conservation binding. However, there was a great collector, Julia P. Wightman, who donated approximately 1800 items to the library. The collection includes miniatures, early children’s books, ephemera and books relating to binding, and design bindings, including some by Deborah Evetts. I hope Hannah takes good photos because we all know by now that I don’t.

Please note that I have not posted the photos I took at NBSS of Polly Lada-Mocarski bindings. They will not be appearing.

New acquisitions:

Scan 16Hand Bookbinding Today, an international art, 1978.

Scan 15

Contemporary American Bookbinding, 1990.

Please join the discussion going on in the comments section of my previous post. Good stuff there.

Sonya Sheats

Sonya is French, but was raised primarily in the United States. Sonya became a bookbinder almost by accident. While working in her college library, a friend in the preservation department gave her a little tour. Thus, she became vaguely aware of binding, preservation, and conservation. After finishing college in the United States, she and her now husband decided to spend 4 months in Brittany. Casting about for an activity where they would be speaking French only, they managed to enroll in an over-subscribed two-week-long bookbinding course with Anne Vion, a well-known binder and teacher. Sonya was smitten. When the course was over, Anne asked Sonya to continue her studies. Working intensely side-by-side with Anne for the rest of her stay in France allowed Sonya to complete the requirements for the French diploma for bookbinding. It is my understanding that, in France, one cannot practice as a professional bookbinder without this certificate.

Sonya returned to France every summer to continue as Anne’s apprentice. During those ten years she was also teaching elementary school art (and, of course, binding on the side) A one-year sabbatical from teaching allowed Sonya to spend more time with Anne and study with master binders all over France and Belgium, learning new skills, honing her craft, and experimenting with unusual binding materials.

For more details, Erin Fletcher did a wonderful series on Sonya in her blog A Flash of the Hand.

Sonya is now a full-time binder. She teaches small classes (her bindery is tiny) and also teaches once a year at North Bennet Street School. I recently spent an afternoon with Sonya in her bindery, and observed some of her teaching at NBSS.

Sheats binderySonya at NBSS

I don’t think I could possibly spend enough time talking with Sonya and looking at her work. As far as I can tell, her training and work are so different from other bookbinders practicing in The Americas. As gorgeous as they are in photos, there are only hints of the true beauty and craftsmanship of her work. The subtlety of the materials and binding structures are apparent only in person.

Sonya is not only an extremely talented and accomplished binder, but she is also really fun. We had a truly hilarious conversation translating binding terms she knows only in French and correlating bookbinder-to-bookseller vocabulary. There was a lot of pointing, laughing, and note taking. Fortunately, I can read a colophon in French and can usually make my way through a French booksellers’ bibliographic description. Unfortunately, I’m still struggling with certain binding vocabulary in English; forget about French! I learned how to say airbrush in French: aérographe. We still have to work on leathers. How do you say ostrich shin in French?

Here is a sample of the wide variety of styles in which Sonya binds:

Sheats-PaperRad full Sheats-brevaire Sheats-vent