• Describe your stock and/or specialities.  Bookbinding creates a delight for the tactile and sight senses.  There are important elements to consider such as typography and layout when starting a book from scratch and we have that specialism in house. When printing the book, there is an abundance of beautiful papers to choose from such as the paper chosen for the books we bound for The War Graves Commission recently called Somerset book white paper which was made in a mill in Wells, Somerset. For endpapers we have some gorgeous paste papers, stunning hand marbled papers as well as hand carved Lino block printed papers in styles that are reminiscent of those designs made in William Morriss’s time. Eco friendly, vegetable tanned leather from Nigeria in earthy shades are available as well as smooth calf for a more traditional look. We have lots of colours to choose from for books bound in book cloth, including but not limited to natural linen weave and a hardwearing Arbelave buckram book cloth. We can edge gilt, sprinkle or paint book edges before binding and after sewing. We decorate the covers of the books we bind with traditional brass tools and gold leaf using techniques little changed from those used by our bookbinding forefathers in the 12th Century. We also specialise in the repair of antiquarian books. We have repaired many Family Bibles, as well as books of all ages which arrive in various states of disrepair. There is no such thing as an unrepairable book in my experience.
  • What or who brought you to this world?  I had a natural love of crafts from a young age. The boarding school I attended had a very strong craft focus with pottery, carpentry, weaving and art. I remember feeling utterly absorbed by the feeling of clay in my hands and the sense of satisfaction that I felt when I created egg cups in saucers, crooked coil teapots, candle sticks and vases on the wheel. In weaving, our teacher showed us how to dye wool from locally sourced vegetables and plants to great effect and I loved that and had a weaving loom. The art department had an encouraging and beautiful art teacher who celebrated all of our immersions into the world of painting and I remember loving oil pastels and making a large oil pastel of flamingoes which went on to be exhibited in the Art show. I was so chuffed at the time ages all of 10. When I was 11 I was shown some medieval manuscripts held in a Safe at the archives at Aberystwyth University and I think subconsciously that stuck as it seemed very natural later on to find myself studying bookbinding and book conservation. I love my craft because it encompasses all the best parts of being an artist with those of being a crafts person and there is an attention to detail required that is utterly absorbing.
  • When are you at your happiest?  When I am being creative. Alongside my bookbinding interests a recent happy highlight has been the acquisition of a beautiful West African 21 stringed harp. Known as a ‘Kora’ it is made from a calabash (Gourd) and covered in vellum. It sounds a little like a Western harp and I’ve literally just started learning it. My other kind of happy is hanging out with animals. I have two dogs and a cat who are extremely entertaining. I also have a great love of horses who keep me fit and get me outdoors. Galloping along the beach at low tide during sunset is exhilarating.
  • What is the strangest question you have ever been asked?  A potential customer phoned and asked whether I sold swan quills, which I thought most odd! When I responded that I’m sorry but I don’t, he sounded so disappointed and then enquired as to whether I might at least sell ‘goose quills’?
  • What is your most treasured possession? I think in the now, it would have to be my beautiful Kora.
  • If you could invite anyone, current or historical, who would attend your dream dinner party?  Michael Cardew, the potter, William Morris and Caroline Lucas.
  • What is the most amazing item you have bound or repaired and why?  Rather appropriately I bound a book for the Middle Temple in 2008 which was presented to the Queen in recognition of the 400th Anniversary of the land having been bequeathed in trust for the use of lawyers by King James Ist. You can see a photo of the Queen being presented with the book I bound on page 15 here .  More recently we were asked to do all the typography and layout and then bind two volumes to be exact facsimiles of the originals held in a Cabinet on display in Westminster Abbey on behalf of the War Graves Commission to include the names of Civilian war dead killed in the Second world War. You can see the books here.  The books were printed on Somerset Book white, with hand tooled gold starred endpapers, hand rough edge gilt and bound in a Natural tan Morocco leather before being tooled to the exact format as the originals.
  • What is your favourite piece of music?  An irresistably beautiful piece of music by Welsh harpist Catrina Finch and Senegalese Kora player Seckou Keita called Bamba.
  • What trait do you most deplore in others?  Dishonesty
  • Alternative career?  Natural horsemanship trainer, and Kora musician.
  • What is your secret vice?  Marrons Glace ́
  • What would you like your epitaph to say?
 Love is not changed by death and nothing is lost and all in the end is harvest.  (Edith Sitwell)
  • One secret for success?  To have faith and believe in yourself.
  • Your favourite bibliography or reference source (book or digital)?  The Archeology of Medieval Bookbinding by J. A. Szirmai

 

Top