No Blood, No Band-aid Bookbinding

Typically, crafts of any sort make me want to stab whatever I’m making out of the lack of patience I have in seeing my artistic abilities being put to the test.

Luckily, it seems that bookbinding satisfies my want of creating and my urge to stab my creation.

Beginnings of my book in the binding process. Photo by yours truly.

I actually already have a small experience with bookbinding from my high school, where I studied in the Writing and Publishing department. The publishing side of things included the chance to volunteer at BatCat Press, the only high school student-run press in the United States.

I, of course, did not take the chance to volunteer there. Instead, I worked for The SIREN, which is the school newspaper there, so while my friends were making beautiful coptic notebooks and chapbooks and becoming fluent in the ways of the letterpress, I would look across the room and witness their success instead of listening to the rather important lecture on libel law (which I do understand, by the way).

My sophomore year of high school was my first year on the newspaper staff, so I wasn’t too interested in joining. Junior year, I would’ve participated in both the small press and newspaper, but I was learning the in’s and out’s of what it takes to be an editor. Senior year was COVID, so that threw any chance of learning how to do complicated bookbinding techniques out the window.

All that is to say that I was thankful that I was finally getting that chance to learn about bookbinding from scratch with my meager experience. I’m also proud to say that I didn’t draw blood as many do while using the awl to stab the paper.

My finished book and the kit I used. Photo by myself.

I was quite excited upon the finished product, especially since I made up the binding design. Then I saw how I lacked a criss-cross design on the bottom rectangle of the binding… and the holes where a little too far from the top and bottom… and then one of the main problems from my high school experience came back: making the binding too tight to properly open the book.

Soon enough, I snapped out of my nitpicking and became proud once more, and let’s just say I’m looking forward to the next project I get to do while simultaneously keeping my record of a bloodless book up.

3 thoughts on “No Blood, No Band-aid Bookbinding”

  1. Erin, I’m glad you didn’t stab yourself! Yes, the art of stab binding really seems to require both subtlety and violence, patience and passion–ah, the pleasures and perils of doing things “by hand”! I really like the vertical asymmetry of your design, and how it leaves the upper and lower corners unbound. Your comment about binding too tight for the book to open makes me think of how, despite being an “art” (something for it’s own sake, and resistant to ideas of “usefulness”), book art is fundamentally both art and craft–making something usefu/readable, while also resisting the ‘useful’ in imaginative, excessive, or extreme ways that allow us to appreciate the object as material and conceptual, not just something we open and read and forget about.

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  2. I’m glad you’re finally getting to work with small press projects instead of watching from afar. It’s definitely a unique experience, and one that I’ve been enjoying so far too. I also really like the uniqueness of your binding design. The way the binding doesn’t extend all the way to the ends of the spine as well as its asymmetry caught my eye when we were walking around the room during class to look at all of the different books. I think it’s a super cool and creative way to approach binding.

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  3. Getting to create books is such a neat experience, and I’m glad you’re getting the chance to make them! Even if you had a few hiccups when you bound your book together, at least you’re already how you could have improved your piece. Now whenever you make another book, you’ll already know how to change your design and make an even better one next time! Sometimes, it’s better to make mistakes since you’re able to learn and grow from them. Your book look amazing by the way!

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