Bookbinding is a difficult profession. It costs a lot of time and money to attain the level of craftsmanship necessary to do anything well. Being an obsessive perfectionist is not an absolute requirement, but it helps.
Then there are the artists who have chosen bookbinding as their preferred medium. It is a bit perverse of them. The level of craftsmanship, the depth and breadth of the knowledge of structures and materials that they must achieve before they can begin to create art in codex form is astounding. Combining all of that knowledge to imagine and create new tools, new structures, new techniques, and use unusual materials with which to express themselves is something few can do. Even then, not every binding is a success. This is true of art in any other medium.
The San Francisco Bay Area is a hotbed of book arts with a long-standing tradition of French-style binding. Historically, binding in the Northeast US owes more to the English and Germans. I’m not going to discuss dates, patterns of immigration and migration, or happenstance. The research has been done and written about by actual binder-scholars. I refer you to the index to the journal of the Guild of Bookworkers. These days, in San Francisco, you can get excellent training in both French and English binding methods from the many binders who reside and teach in the area.
The point is that in San Francisco there is an especially appreciative audience for exquisitely crafted fine art bindings such as the ones I brought to CODEX.
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.