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Andragogical Musings

Brr, it’s been cold and rainy around here lately! Don’t get me wrong, California needs rain badly, but it is great weather to stay inside and partake in my favorite hobby–er, occupation–er, craft… well, you know what I mean. And I have devised a way to draw in more of you to participate in this enterprise along with me. Yep, more workshops at the San Francisco Center for the Book!

It has been a pleasant surprise that so many students have been interested in taking bookbinding classes lately. I love teaching bookbinding to people, in fact it is one of the most important things I do. It’s critical to me that bookbinding continues on.

In the next term at the San Francisco Center for the Book, I’ll be teaching the Bookbinding Core classes as usual, and a few special intermediate to advanced classes.

One class I love to teach is Hot Type. It wasn’t until after I graduated from bookbinding school and was out in the world doing photographers’ portfolios that I realized how important titling is. Photographers didn’t give a rip about joint size, tabbed corners, what type of bone folder I was using, or any of the things I was so intentional about. They wanted their names on the front, and their names better look crisp and bold! Since doing a few of those jobs, I upped my game with hot stamping, and would love to share some of my tips with you. I’ve also come to realize that the titling and decoration on leather known as tooling requires the same basic skills as hot stamping with machines. The mechanics of how much pressure to use, what temperature the tool should be, and dwell time in an impression are necessary to learn regardless of whether you’re using handle letters or a Kwikprint.

Another class I’ll be offering next term is Paper and Paste, an intro-level class for anyone interested in book repair. Some conservators argue that book repair shouldn’t be taught to the general public, since people may go too far with it. The way I see the issue is that members of the general public often repair their own books without any training anyway (sometimes covering them with several types of tape!), so why not give people at least some basic knowledge? I often get librarians in my classes whose collections are in deep need for repair, and their organizations have no training for them. This class is based on what an entry level conservation technician would need to know.

Paper repair

The Full Parchment Binding is another class I look forward to teaching again this term. This is a version of a parchment binding with stiff boards. It also has one gilded edge, and French double-core endbands. Ooh la la! We may even do a little foil tooling, time permitting.

Full parchment binding
Full Parchment Binding class portrait
first Full Parchment Binding class portrait

The links to register for any of these classes and more are to be found on my Workshops page.

Some of the classes I teach are strongly rooted in what I learned at North Bennet Street School, though since I have been practicing on my own for so many years, the techniques I teach have acquired a slightly different spin. A topic that has come up occasionally in discussions around teaching bookbinding is who owns a particular teaching material: the place where the class is hosted? The teacher? To me, this is a pointless question. What I teach is as old as the hills. I don’t own it any more than one can own the sky. Though I am sure someone has found a way to do that. But really, that is the great thing about bookbinding. I am just a link in a long chain of bookbinders, and the goal for me right now is to make sure I’m not the last link! That seems to be working out relatively well so far, but I’m not going to take any chances. I am going to keep teaching until every living person knows what a sewing station is, what a square is, and what is the difference between PVA and mix. Why is it so important that people know about bookbinding? Over the years I have been teaching bookbinding to people uninitiated to it, I have discovered that bookbinding serves some very basic human needs. Interacting with the objects in one’s environment, and having some kind of agency over them to create objects that best serve one’s needs are, like the techniques I teach, very old. Preserving one’s thoughts and observations in written form and having some control over the vessel for those observations is likewise very old.

It is a little ironic that the very task involved with preserving printed matter can’t be transmitted fully via printed matter. Bookbinding manuals have their place (many of them on my shelves!) but to fully learn a bookbinding task, it must be transmitted in person. Teaching this material in person involves a lot of give and take between teacher and student. I feel really happy to be involved in this work; it is, in fact, a lot of work on both the part of teacher and student. Any of you who are reading this who have already taken bookbinding classes know what I mean! It’s uniquely rewarding, though. You get more than just a nicely bound book in the end. Any of you reading this who have taken bookbinding classes know this, too.

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Alaska Dreaming

This past June, I got to visit Fairbanks, Alaska to teach a comprehensive workshop in book conservation. I was invited by the Alaska Literacy Council, who funded most of the costs of the workshop. It was an amazing opportunity for me, and one I did not take for granted. I put a lot of work into preparing for the workshop, and the students worked hard at their projects throughout the class. Several of the students had little to no experience in repairing books, but I was very happy with their results! Most of the pictures I took were outside of class, because we were so busy in class. Click on, or hover over, the photos for the captions.

Many thanks to my exceedingly kind hosts who indulged my every whim, and served me Alaskan salmon every day I was there, and even allowed me to cull some birch bark to take home from their collection of kindling. Where I grew up in Wisconsin, there were many birch, but hardly any where I currently live in California, so I was thrilled to be able to bring home some bark!

This was also one of the rare times when I have given a public lecture on bookbinding. It was part of my duties in teaching the class, and I saw it as an opportunity to set the context for the students in the class (who ALL attended–thank you!), and to educate the general public about book conservation, something I love to do. Surprisingly, I didn’t choke on anxiety during the lecture as I have before, and was able to keep within the time limit as well. Success!

Being a private practice bookbinder involves a lot of very quiet time spent in my studio alone, so I cherish these opportunities to get out and meet people of my ilk. All the Alaskans I met were very down to earth people I could really identify with. I hope the knowledge they have gained in my workshop fuels their ambitions to repair all the books they can for many years to come!

 

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