I recently had a chance to attend a bookbinding class with Claire Gladstone at Green Hill Arts in Moretonhampstead. Claire turned out to be a very patient and generous tutor and under her guidance we each managed to produce three books during the course of the day. We began by making a simple stitched pamphlet which produced satisfyingly quick results and then moved on to a Japanese stab binding with a leather front cover and a back made from bookcloth glued onto greyboard. I’d never worked with bookcloth before and found it tricky to stick down, so my corners didn’t come out as well as I’d hoped they would. Prodding holes through both covers plus a thickish pad of paper also turned out to be a challenge and I wound up feeling less than happy with my finished piece.

I didn’t have time to linger over this as Claire was already explaining what we needed to do for our third book. She’d chosen to show us how to stitch a Coptic binding, which is ideal for making sketchbooks as it allows the pages to open flat and lends itself to some inventive interpretations in experienced hands. Everything we needed was provided, including a curved needle, and the afternoon passed in a blur, with requests for help coming from all sides of the room and a determinedly suspended disbelief on my part that any undertaking this complicated could possibly result in a satisfactory outcome.

Magically, and with only a few glitches along the way, I found myself with a finished book in my hands well before clearing-up time and was able to come home with a feeling of achievement and plenty of inspiration for future work. This was very much down to Claire’s thoughtful provision and the patience with which she answered our seemingly endless queries while offering lots of inspiring advice and encouragement and I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity of working with her.

Text and images © Angela Williams 2017

Bookbinding class