It started selfishly enough and proceeded greedily from there. I had worked with my client before, and knew him to paint a vision in broad enough strokes. So, when Matthew sent me an advance .pdf of the chapbook I was asked to rebind, I hungrily devoured every word. The commission in question was the first state-side chapbook published by Structo Magazine: Christina Seymour’s book of poetry, “Flowers Around Your Soft Throat”. It wasn’t the first book I’ve dressed up, and because of my familiarity with Structo, I keenly anticipated dwelling in this material. Binding a book, whether new or not, means living in some way with its language; Absorbing the words, trying them on, examining them in a fashion afforded only by proximity. In this way, I’ve witnessed rough writing and well-polished writing, and have grown to deeply appreciate the way that well-worded expressions can touch our lives.
I am an artist dealing comfortably in geometry and dimensions, delighted by type and graphic design. Though, picking up a pencil to render my own drawing leaves me blank; I have never known how to start. Awhile back, in an exercise of self-discipline, I began a sketch book, resolving to fill each small sheet with a quote – far less intimidating than the too-broad scope of a large blank page with its silent taunt: “Draw anything you want”. Using my affection for typography as a starting point, I began to hand-letter words from books and excerpts from lines of poetry, filling sketchbook pages. As I read Christina Seymour’s chapbook in preparation for the bookbinding project, I began to collect the phrases that spoke to me, penciling her words as I went.
Bookbinding is an art of precise measures. It emphasizes a leave-no-trace philosophy toward the finished product. A great bookbinder should cover his tracks. Normally when assembling books, my approach is nearer the Craftsman philosophy of architecture, but I’ve been tackling more traditional bindings lately and widening my repertoire. When the printed material arrived in its final form, I consulted my experts: Books, which are my standards, my classroom. A chapbook is by nature small, so an intricate binding wasn’t called for. The volume itself needed to be dressed up as a gift for the author. So, I found a cased, hardcover binding, which could neatly enclose its simple set of folded pages.
Then I began a process, whose steps vary surprisingly little from book to book, and whose pure monotony, when burdened by sheer volume, can drive me to silent screams: