[Alyson Kuhn] The deFINEd Bindings exhibition was a project of the New England chapter of the national Guild of Book Workers (GBW). Fifty-two book artists bound sheets, furnished by Chronicle Books, taken from Pictorial Webster’s Dictionary (PWD). “Bound” is a grand understatement: They overbound, überbound, bada-bound … with craftsmanship and creativity that knew no bounds.
The deFINEd Bindings installation at Chronicle Books in San Francisco, Feb. 23–29, 2012. The three bindings on the tallest pedestals won (from left) second place, George Sargent; first place, Patty Bruce; and third place, Deborah Howe.
The three jurors who narrowed the field to 26 were: John Carrera, the creator of Pictorial Webster’s; Amanda Nelsen, book artist/binder and the program director of Rare Book School in Virginia; and Karen Hanmer, book artist/binder and head juror. Chronicle Books, publishers of the PWD, then judged the 26, selecting first-, second- and third-place bindings. Last month, the books were on display for one week at Chronicle Books, where I got to see them in person — and discovered the accompanying catalog. It’s available on Blurb.com, and it’s superb.
Tony Rinaldo, who shot all photos in the catalog, photographed the actual catalog for us, capturing its, well, bookness. Book artist George Sargent won second place.
The display copy of the catalog enabled me, right there and then, to appreciate details of the bindings that I couldn’t see for myself. (The books were open to the air, but visitors were asked to resist the temptation to touch.) Elles Gianocostas designed the catalog, and Tony Rinaldo photographed the books. Guild member Lori Foley (a 1995 graduate of the bookbinding program at Boston’s North Bennet Street School) coordinated production, including editing the text submitted by each book artist; she suggested that the catalog be published by Blurb (which her son had used for his senior art show in college). Gianocostas, Rinaldo and Foley had worked together on an earlier catalog for the New England chapter of GBW.
Lori Foley answers my question about this ambitious collaborative labor of love: “The executive committee of our chapter decided to create a catalog because the exhibition was timed to coincide with the 30th Seminar on Standards of Excellence in Hand Bookbinding, the annual meeting of the national GBW, which was held in Boston Oct. 6–8, 2011. The timing provided an opportunity for a large segment of the GBW to see the actual bindings on display at the Bromfield Gallery in Boston. The catalog serves as a meaningful historic record and, we hope, expands the potential audience beyond those who saw the exhibition in person. We had a modest budget for producing it, which went to the designer and the photographer. Using Blurb enabled us to keep production costs way down.”
The detail shot allows you to peek inside the box and see the decorated fore-edges. Rinaldo comments on his photographs: “I love figuring out the best surfaces and how to light them, to show what’s important about each structure.”
Back at Chronicle Books: Just inside the door, I see the front of Andrew Thompson’s binding, and I love it. It’s like peeking into a wunderkammer. Then I realize the design continues onto the spine and across the back cover. I laugh out loud. Is the dodo declining to be a curiosity?
Stephanie Wolff’s binding catches my eye with its bright red cover. As I get close, I see the huge A on the cover and, at the same moment, the black ampersand on the spine. I check out the back cover: a corresponding Z. The A and the Z are cut out, with vintage imagery showing through. It’s understated yet clever, clean and modern, and perfectly evocative of the contents. Don’t I wish this were a notebook or a portfolio? Thanks to the detail photo in the catalog, I get to see the endpapers.
Abracadabra! No birds, but the wrapped edge on the inside back cover is a glorious detail. The marbled endpapers are from Black Ink.
Gianocostas was delighted with her first Blurb experience: “We uploaded the files and ordered one sample first, to see what it looked like. I adjusted some of the colors, fixed a couple of typos, and then uploaded it again.” She has since used Blurb for a second project, and this time she was able to use Blurb’s ProLine.
All of the deFINEd Bindings are on their way back to their respective makers, and some of them are for sale. If you’d like more information about a particular binding, please contact Jeff Altepeter, president of the New England GBW chapter ([email protected]). And if you missed our original rave about PWD (complete with unsolicited comment from John Carrera!), it’s here.