Ethiopian binding workshop caps off busy summer

Ethiopian binding book with wood covers

It's been a busy summer of bookbinding, both in the studio and in the classroom. Nearly every day this summer I taught some type of class or workshop, and then I capped off my August by taking an inspiring class for myself.

Taught by Jennifer Knowles-McQuistion of Brown Dog Bindery, the class helped me create something that wouldn't normally come out of my studio. The wooden book seen here features an Ethiopian binding, which is sewn with four needles at once. After I completed the binding, decorative woven headbands were sewn at the top and bottom of the spine.

The covers were made from reclaimed wood shelves from an old department store that used to be in downtown Nashville on the site of the current Nashville Public Library. I carved, sanded, painted, waxed, and drilled the wooden boards to make the covers. All told, the book took more than 16 hours to make. And I still have a wooden peg and buffalo leather strap to add as a closure.

Ethiopian binding with wood covers close-up

As for classes I've taught, my students have included middle schoolers, college-bound teens, and adults, and I've taught all sorts of projects and topics. There are almost too many classes to mention them all. They ranged from two-day Coptic binding workshops to a collaborative class in which young students made their own collagraph prints and then bound them into books.

In July, I worked with a group of six highly motivated high school students through the Watkins Pre-College Program. This was a special opportunity, and one in which I actually wasn't teaching bookbinding. Instead, I tapped into my college training and former career to teach graphic design. The students were able to get a taste of what it would be like to major in graphic design while completing assignments on deadline and preparing their very own gallery exhibition. And for their hard work over three weeks, each student earned college credit.

Also this summer, my partnership with Thistle Farms has blossomed. I've taught bookbinding classes for this non-profit group, helped them develop a paper goods product line, and encouraged them to sell their goods at the city's upcoming book arts festival. I'm very excited about the Thistle Farms collaboration, so I'm sure I'll dedicate a whole blog post to it soon.

Sewing Ethiopian binding

I'm still looking forward to teaching more classes in every month through the end of the year. But it has also been nice to get back into the studio — and back to a bit of book arts blogging.