Monday, 29 April 2013

Blog Interview: Veterok

Welcome to today's BEST blog interview with Veterok.  Located in Vesilahti, Finland, Veterok makes all things book related - even some of the tools that are used!  Educated as an Artisan Binder and currently studying a specialist degree, find a gorgeous collection of her hand bound books for sale under the label Veterok on Etsy.

You currently make your home in Finland, despite traveling quite a bit. What draws you to that part of the world and how, if at all, has this affected your bookbinding?

Finland is my home country. It's good to be a bookbinder in Finland, because there aren't that many: I have gotten to know a circle of great people, and word about events and classes travels around quickly. I guess I have learned from the English, German and Swiss bookbinding traditions because of my location. 

I do also see how my location influences the way I see my work. I was raised in the countryside so I have developed a familiarity to everything nature-based. It might serve to explain that to me nature is not always that green thing "with flowers and trees and stuff;" I am more familiar with the seasonal textures, colours and traditions, bare fields in late autumn, the illuminated lakes in summer nights, and the endless dark snow-muffled days of winter. This all shapes one's sense of the world a great deal, so it shows in my philosophical and visual approach to the creative work. I also love to travel a lot, because I'm very interested in cultures and it feeds my imagination, better than any other activity.

You mention that you are educated as a bookbinder and also currently studying for a specialist degree in bookbinding. Tell me more about your journey as a student and your philosophy on learning.

I began in 2007 as a full-time bookbinder student. However, tiredness and confusion got in the way and I quit for a few years, continuing binding on my own. This was actually a great move, because I can see I was in need of some quiet and private time to ponder on my idea of bookbinding. 

I went back and finished my degree in 2011, when I also had the chance to start studying the specialist degree. I had found my missing passion for bookbinding and it was easier for me to continue because I already had some grasp about what and how I wanted to learn. I believe that in order to successfully learn something one truly must be enthusiastic about the subject. If the subject is not dear to you in one way or another, why would you spend time learning it? This is important to me as a learner.

As of spring 2013, I have finished my proofs and graduated as a bookbinder artisan while still continuing with my specialist degree.  Personally I have found the combination of free alone time, independent studies and evenly scheduled hands-on tuition at the school very good.

The books you create are beautifully designed and made. Do you consider these pieces to be art or craft? Is this something that is important to you? 

I personally do like to make the distinction between "crafts" and my work. I don't, for example, fancy the idea of my books being categorized under "paper crafts." Paper is, although obviously important, rarely the defining aspect in my books. “Paper crafts” isn't a bad thing by itself, but it doesn't convey the idea of an established line of products made by skilled professional craftsmen either.

Art to me has always been an empty word, so it's hard for me to consider my books to be "art" either. I have tried to learn it though, so that I can communicate with people! It feels quite odd to call yourself a book artist when it all sounds quite meaningless to you. I guess I prefer to be a maker of objects. 

I'm a very big believer in craftsmanship, especially in the Arts and Crafts movement, which in its time produced a myriad of everyday objects of wonderful beauty. I like the idea of creating something that is practical, solid and meant for use, yet with such design and attention to material and detail that it rises above the mundane. In Finland there was the Jugend style, which was characterized by fantastic artist-designed and artist-made furniture, wall hangings, cutlery and home textiles. This is the holistic approach that I like a lot.

There is a common theme through all your social media and on your Etsy shop showing how much you appreciate slow living and traditional skills such as bookbinding. This seems like a lovely and serene way of life. How and when did it all come together like this? 

I'm very glad that it shows through - it's very important to me as a maker of objects (!).  I'm very home oriented and I need to identify with my surroundings in order to get in the zone.  It's in my nature to take much delight in solitude and calm, but I also tend to get easily distracted and then I have a hard time finishing projects. I have always based my life on the belief that I am at my best when I can do as much on my own as I can. All traditional skills and crafts feed each other and benefit from each other, and I'd love to learn to combine them in my work. Having a good set of basic skills (instead of buying readymade, or outsourcing work) also saves money, which I can then invest on tools and materials. I have also learned to make some tools myself, such as brass hand tools and paring knives.  I can also see myself turning into a wilderness hermit in the future...

I really appreciate your love of using organic and earth-friendly materials and processes whenever you can. What advice can you give other bookbinders in this regard?

I find organic, natural materials more interesting and comfortable than synthetic and processed ones, but there's also an environmental aspect in it. I think the choice of material is especially important in leather - not only because most tanning processes produce leather unsuitable for bookbinding but also because you can't buy cheap leather and expect it to be produced in eco-friendly and animal-friendly way. I try to buy from companies which have long traditions and which provide me with sufficient information on the material.

Some binders shun everything that is not archival. Recycled materials are rarely archival. In this case one often needs to make some amends: Is it important for this book to last hundreds or thousands of years, or will sixty do as well? In many cases you're binding something just for fun, or for everyday. I sometimes use recycled paper for it has a colour and grain that pleases me. Many binders like to stain paper with tea or coffee and use gray, pulpy millboard because it is easy to find. None of this material is archival, but will still last years in a well-made book. 

I wouldn't consider myself to be an expert either; I just have a lot of opinions. But these are the few things that I live by and they have often proved useful to me!

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview.  I look forward to seeing more of your beautiful work!

Be sure to visit Veterok's Etsy shop at  You can also keep up by visiting her blog and like her on

Saturday, 23 March 2013

How To Antique Paper - a tutorial by Jennifer of a Red Pumpkin Studio

Jennifer from A Red Pumpkin Studio (read an interview with her here, and find her blog here) makes beautiful antique paper. And she is generous enough to share with us her method:

Making antique paper is really quite simple, you just need a little bit of patience because it needs to be done in layers.

1. Use heavy paper. If you want to antique something that you have printed, print it first using waterproof ink.

2. Crumple the paper. The colours will soak into the crinkled parts for those nice long veins in the paper.

3. Cover with coffee, tea, or some combo of both. This will be your base colour. Add ink or watercolour to this mix if you want it to have a certain colour to it. For example, you can add a bit of scarlet ink to the coffee if you would like it to match red leather. Cover the entire paper.

4. Add coffee grinds in certain areas, they'll stain it darker. Add salt on top of that, it'll soak up the colour and leave lightened areas. You can also use tea leaves, watercolour, ink spots, etc. You can also press paper with non-waterproof ink onto it, which will transfer some of the colour. The more varied the things you use to colour and unevenly stain the paper, the more interesting and realistic it will be, rather than being a uniform coffee colour. It's going to take a while to dry, so leave it alone!

5. When it's dry remove all the grinds/salt etc. The salt will very likely leave little shiny things on the paper, so if you have a stiff brush (like a nail cleaner), use it to remove them. I usually put another thin layer of coffee/tea on at this point. It wets the paper just enough to get rid of the rest of the salt, and make it a little darker.

6. Repeat steps 4/5 until it looks the way you want. Try adding very strong coffee where the crinkles in the paper are so that they become really pronounced, and dripping dark coffee or ink on it from above for a different pattern to the staining.

7. If you need to smooth the paper out after it's done flip it over and iron it. You can use steam and a fairly high setting (another reason to use heavy paper), just don't hold it on any one place too long. If you have a big enough board and table you can mist it with just a little bit of water and press it flat. Use lots of books for weight and then have patience until it's totally dry!

Monday, 18 February 2013

Blog interview: Sprouts Press Designs

Welcome to today's BEST blog interview with Carolyn Eady. She is located in Toronto, Canada where she makes a beautiful variety of handmade items that she sells under the label Sprouts Press Designs on Etsy. She creates hand stitched books and journals, but also handprinted textile items, earrings and more! This multitalented woman has a Bachelor of Fine Art and loves to hunt for paper. 

You studied Fine Art and now you create a lot of different things: books, textiles, earrings, crochet. How would you describe yourself and your shop? Are you an artist, book maker, crafter? 

Well, I’d say I’m all of those things. Or at least I strive to be all of those things. To limit oneself based on a label is almost tragic, I think that the intermingling of media is a wonderful thing. For example, my painted cover journal series combines painting, hand printed linocuts and bookbinding. In general, I suppose I tend to focus mainly on journals and then create objects to surround and support a love of books, like crochet tea cozies (who doesn’t love a cup of tea when writing prose in a journal?)

The name of your shop is Sprouts Press Design. What was your idea behind this name?
I was young when I officially opened for business, fresh out of Art College. I knew it wouldn’t be easy but I was up for the challenge. I wanted a name that conveyed a fresh start or new beginnings and what better than the mighty sprout? I admire the strength and willpower of the sprout – think concrete sidewalk in May (here in Canada), full of sprouting plants that find any and all possible ways to thrive.
I also chose this name as a commitment to respecting the earth any way that I can. Whether it’s using reclaimed or recycled papers when binding a journal whenever possible, to re-using packaging and saving on unnecessary waste.


Where do you find the pieces of used material (paper, leather) that you recycle for your unique books?
So many different sources, usually never the same place twice. I keep my eyes and ears open all the time. Library books that would otherwise be tossed are a great source of both printed paper and book board. Just be wary of mold and staining. My skills with leather are basic, so I exclusively use thrift shop clothing and cut it up.
I enjoy keeping the stitching and other details intact and working them into the design of the book.

You are located in Toronto, Canada, and I've read that you get a lot of inspiration from nature. Can you tell the readers of this blog: how does nature look like at your place? What inspires you? 

Before I started book binding, I was a papermaker. I’ve made paper using all sorts of things like pine needles and hosta plants, milk weed, thistles, etc. I would gather materials on walks and hikes around the area that I grew up, which is just outside of Toronto. The Bruce Trail is also nearby where I grew up and there are woods, fields, streams and waterfalls to explore. Now I live in the city and I’m still inspired by nature as there are great parks with hiking trails to explore, but also by all the pocket neighbourhoods. It’s a great day trip to check out a new part of town! Sometimes inspiration strikes and I’m even moved to capture the view with a watercolour sketch or two! 

You've also studied in Italy, in Europe. How did that influence your work?
I think it helped to shape the direction I wanted to take with my book arts. It sparked a love with ornate designs and leather bound books, but also a love for old-world ways, hand tools and fine craft so beautiful it was breath taking. Being overseas for the first time, without my parents, was a real eye opener as well. I think it really built my confidence and self-trust to follow my heart and do what I do now, despite any doubt.

What has been your favorite piece you've made? Tell us a little bit about it. 

Thinking over this question, I realize I have a few favourites. One is an artist’s book that I researched and wrote, made the paper for and hand printed my own linocuts as text and images.
Another is a journal/sketchbook design I’m currently working on and really pleased with so far. It involves Florentine papers and leather, that’s all I’m saying for now.
There’s one other piece that comes to mind, an artist’s book. Here’s how it started. A long time ago I had a horrible landlord. Said landlord did unwise things and was, in general, a blundering dunderhead. When I couldn’t handle it anymore I vented through bookbinding. The result was a lovely artists book made exclusively with my handmade paper (grayish unbleached flax, to bring across the gloom I felt at the time with this landlord). Inside I had crafted each page with pop outs, lift flaps and sliders to reveal, of course, the foolish antics of my landlord. It calmed my mind and I still get a laugh when look at it.

Great story! Here’s my last question: What do you see in store for the future of your shop?

This is something I think about a lot. I’m always torn between keeping my online shop ‘cohesive’ and just doing my own thing. So far doing my own thing is working for me. Maybe I’ll finally come up with a solution to be cohesive while doing my own thing. In the meantime I’ve got a list of great projects for my shop, keep your eyes peeled!

Thank you for your time, Carolyn!

Be sure to take a look in Carolyn’s shop on Etsy: Sprouts Press Designs and like her Facebook page! You can also read further about her passions on her About page on Etsy.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

BOOKS ABOUT BOOKS: A review of "People of the Book"

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

For my "books about books" post, I wanted to take a brief break from bookbinding instructional books and instead write a review about a novel: People of the Book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks. The novel was recommended to me by a shopper at an art show this past fall as we chatted about bookbinding, and I bet you would enjoy it as much as I did.

The novel centers around the journeys of an actual book, the Sarajevo Haggadah, a rare Hebrew illuminated manuscript.  The book begins from the perspective of an Australian book conservationist who is hired to work on the book.  As she carefully examines the pages and binding of this rare codex, she finds clues — such as wine stains, salt crystals, a piece of a rare butterfly wing, and a white hair — that provide insight into where the book may have traveled and how it was created. 

Each chapter of the novel goes into detail about a particular clue, filling in the details of how the insect wing happened to be hidden in the haggadah's binding, or how Kosher wine was spilled on its pages. And while all of these details unfold, the reader also learns of the book's journey, from its creation in Spain, to the story of how it survived the Spanish Inquisition, the rash of books burned by the Nazis, and the bombings in Bosnia.  And while People of the Book is a work of fiction with imaginary characters, many of these stories are actually based on the haggadah's remarkable history

And as a bookbinder, it was also a treat to read a novel that included mentions of linen thread, wheat paste, gold leaf, vellum, and other familiar materials.  Yes, this is a little bit nerdy, and perhaps the typical reader wouldn't get quite as much of a kick out of this as I did.  But regardless of the fact that the topic was of particular interest to me, this novel was one of the most engaging and enthralling books I've read in several years. It was easy to get caught up in the lives of the characters and their interactions with the haggadah, spanning from 1480 to the present time.  The pieces of the story were woven together as carefully as one would create an exquisitely-made handbound book. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good read.  

Have any of you read People of the Book?  I would love to hear what you thought of it in the comments.

Happy reading!
Katie Gonzalez of linenlaid&felt

Thursday, 24 January 2013

New Directions in Bookbinding by Philip Smith - a book review

Of all books on bookbinding and book art, Philip Smith's New Directions in Bookbinding has over the course of several years proved to be the most interesting one to me. It was the first book that really got me into binding when I was a sorry little student searching for the meaning and beauty in the craft. I had the basic knowledge but hadn't seen anything to my liking. Now that I have grown and my mindset and skills have further developed, I can still find all sorts of new aspects in this book.

New Directions in Bookbinding is above all an account of Smith's personal work, of his findings and observations. Regardless (or maybe because) of the aforementioned this book is also a great reference - not least because it has several pages of illustrations and diagrams of fantastic quality (drawn by Philip himself), all of which are especially useful for a designer binder and for someone like me who needs to check his facts every now and then. It features large, well-thought images of many procedures that one often tends to search from other bookbinding titles, finding only vague mentions or thumb-sized illustrations which are not very useful reference. The book comes with a couple of interesting appendixes depicting processes such as tanning or forwarding, and useful checklists on various parts of bookmaking.

Philip Smith is one of my favourite binders for many reasons - not only because of his innovative and focused approach to book structure and design, but also because of his philosophical and holistic attitude that resonates in me. (His endless interest in the Silmarillion might be of some importance too.) I have found Smith's clear yet creative and undismissive way of presenting things very inviting and encouraging. I suggest you see some of his works and read some of his writings, and then decide yourself!

The original edition somewhat suffers from lack of colour pictures. It features 109 photographs, most of which are in black and white, including many pictures of interesting bindings that appear a bit unclear in monochrome with all their inlay, onlay and other details. This to me is the only downside of the book. It was printed in 1974, which naturally makes it feel somewhat different compared to the candy-like modern-day books with lots of pictures but little actual content. It is still a great volume, and with its text it feels curiously timeless.

In addition to being a ponder on visual and structural fluency, New Directions in Bookbinding also shows the reader several details on how Smith's now famous bindings (for example King Lear) were made and effectively describes some techniques invented or re-invented by him, such as maril and various board attachments, which makes me suggest this as a bedside reading and a workbook for all bookbinding aficionados who are, by now, perhaps slowly getting bored of the ever-so-useful Thames and Hudson Manual of Bookbinding.

The craftsman tends by nature to be precise and pernickety, and abhors inaccurancy and blemish in his work. It is not surprising therefore that "randomness" is rare in craft-work. If it appears it is usually interpreted as carelessness and lack of control.
- Philip Smith

(see also my blog and Facebook page)

Monday, 21 January 2013

Team Member Kris interviewed on Rossi Blog

Three weeks ago our team member Kris from Scroll  got featured on the blog of a US retailer of Italian papers, Rossi:
Kris describes herself as a “maker” and a “designer.”   She says, “When I was really young it was construction paper with tape and staples (way too much tape and way too many staples!)  Then it was coloring books filled with abstract patterns just begging for the right combination of crayons. Next it was grand architectural plans for houses I wanted to live in when I grew up, complete with furniture arrangements and landscaping. Now that I’m an adult, I may not live in any of those houses I designed as a child, but I am still a maker and a designer, happily working at the intersection of beauty and function."
one of Kris's albums

To read the full interview, click here.