If you actually judge a book by its cover, you might just be a bookbinder.
Last night at Kelly Writers House, 2013 College graduate Henry Steinberg hosted an open bookbinding workshop with materials from his own letterpress project, NoGoodPress.
I joined about two dozen people, gathering around the mismatched furniture in the house’s Arts Café and tabletops covered with an assortment of bookmaking supplies, including a “No Good Guide to Basic Bookbinding.”
Steinberg stood at front accompanied by his mother, Jane, an architect.
“I thought it would be nice bonding,” Steinberg said, somewhat sarcastically.
Steinberg began our foray into the art of bookbinding by announcing that we would be making about four books in order of ascending complexity.
The first book was crafted from a single sheet of paper. Steinberg demonstrated the necessary folding sequences — someone remarked that it was similar to origami. Meanwhile, a pair of scissors hit the floor as a participant asked if he was cutting his paper correctly. “That means you’re not paying attention,” Steinberg’s mother chided.
The final product looked something like a crafts project made in grade school.
For our second book, however, Steinberg introduced the technique of the “pamphlet stitch.”
“It’s like the medieval version of the staple,” he said, “but it still looks super classy.”
This time we gathered a set of papers — each one individually referred to as a “leaf” — into a piece of construction paper with a letterpress design by Steinberg, creating a “signature.” Three holes were pierced along the crease and sewn together with two-ply thread. Needles were then passed among the tables as Steinberg walked around the room helping. “It’s okay to share needles tonight,” he said.
The third book continued on the theme of the pamphlet stitch. The technique this time involved folding one leaf into an accordion, which was then sewn into Steinberg’s letterpress. The final book we constructed was a variation of the second, where two separate signatures of leaves were joined into a single letterpress cover.
“Now, you can give your family and friends a gift they won’t know what to do with. That’s my life,” Steinberg said with an uncomfortable chuckle.
Steinberg first became interested in letterpress when he took a course called “Grotesque Forms” as a freshman. “After that, I was hooked and couldn’t stop,” he said.
In 2011, he became the coordinator of the Robinson Press, an imprint of the Common Press located at the School of Design. To anyone interested in taking their letterpress projects further, Steinberg added, “We’re there every Friday.”
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