Behind the scenes of the linenlaid&felt internship

My name is Shannon Rutherford and I am excited to be a guest writer today on the linenlaid&felt blog. I’m an artist from Arizona and moved to Tennessee in March to pursue my passion for the arts. I graduated with my BFA in Studio Arts from Santa Fe University of Art and Design in Santa Fe, New Mexico. My work combines abstract design and bold colors to form visual puzzles of interlocking shapes and lines. I often incorporate traditional hand-drawing with collage, and enjoy experimenting with digital vector art as well.

bookbinding internship

For the past month I’ve had the opportunity to work with Katie as her bookbinding intern. It has been a great experience getting to know Katie and to see her artistic process. I’d like to share what I have learned and the books I have created so far. In total, I have made 12 books by hand and I’m excited to show you the results.

My first introduction to bookbinding came from taking Katie’s workshop at the Nashville Public Library. I met some lovely people in this workshop and enjoyed seeing each person’s creativity shine through in their books. It was a great experience helping Katie setup for this workshop and to see behind the scenes of how she prepares for her classes. Katie’s teaching style made it easy and comfortable to learn at your own pace and it was a fun way to kick off this internship.

The book we made in this workshop features the French Link Stitch along the book’s spine. Inside, I used pages of old sheet music, fashion illustrations, and parts of old maps.

French Link Stitch

Next, I constructed three smaller books made from folded papers — with minimal cutting and gluing of the materials. This mini accordion book opens up and can be hung as a lovely decoration. Not only are they cute to look at but they were also so much fun to make!

We also made this mini book that opens up and can be displayed during the holidays as a colorful paper ornament. I helped Katie by following her instructions step-by-step and giving her feedback. This was to help test a prototype of a new bookbinding kit that Katie has in the works.

handmade book ornaments

The next book I crafted was a pop-up book with hard covers. I got to experiment with different cuts in the paper to create interesting shapes. I also love this Japanese cherry blossom paper. One of my favorite parts before beginning a new book is picking from Katie’s paper collection. Her studio is filled with a wide variety of colorful papers to choose from. I particularly love her hand-made papers which are vibrant in color and rougher in texture. She also has decorative papers with patterns and bold designs. It definitely makes deciding on which paper to use that much harder because they’re all so great!

pop-up book

We then made a beautiful leather-bound journal using the Italian Long Stitch binding that can be seen along the spine of the book.

This next book has been my favorite by far and it is because of the Secret Belgian Binding style. This book looks like a typical hardcover book until you open it. The front cover actually swivels backward until the front and back cover are touching. It makes for a sturdy and functional book with a flat surface perfect for drawing or writing.

Secret Belgian Binding

I also learned how to make small and large pamphlet books, which are handy. They also allow the artist to use the same stitch in a variety of ways.

hand-bound pamphlet

Most recently I learned four types of Japanese stab binding. We used the hemp leaf, noble, tortoise shell, and 4-hole binding styles to make these small books. All of these bindings are versatile and can be adapted to fit both small and large book formats.

from left to right: hemp leaf binding, noble binding, tortoise shell binding, 4-hole binding

from left to right: hemp leaf binding, noble binding, tortoise shell binding, 4-hole binding

So there you have it! I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing what the internship is yielding so far. Not only am I getting a behind-the-scenes look at Katie’s process, I’m also gaining valuable knowledge about what it takes to be a professional artist. Katie has been a great resource. It’s inspiring to see her passion for her craft. She has opened my eyes to the wonderful world of bookbinding and I can’t wait to see what we’ll create next!

To learn more about Shannon’s work, please visit her website, online shop, or Instagram.

Fall bookbinding classes at Watkins College

I'm already a few weeks in to the Introduction to Graphic Design and Typography class that I'm teaching at Watkins College of Art, Design, and Film this fall, but there's still plenty of time to sign up for the two exciting book arts workshops that I have scheduled for next month.  

Whether you're interested in spending a day learning to bind a book with a leather cover, or a few days creating handmade photo albums, I'd love to have you join me for one (or both!) of these workshops.  The classes are open to anyone in the Nashville community.  To register just call the college's community education office at 615-277-7455 or sign up online. Check out the Watkins fall course catalog to read more about the other creative classes happening this season. 

handmade books Nashville linenlaid&felt

Traditional leather bookbinding 
with a contemporary twist 

When: Saturday, October 13; 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. 
Where: Watkins College, 2298 Rosa Parks Blvd., Nashville 
Cost: $45, plus $20 materials fee
Description: Learn to bind a soft-cover leather book that can be used as a journal, a sketchbook, or a photo album. Using the Italian Longstitch style, a historical binding that dates to 14th Century Europe, each student will create a book with a leather cover that features exposed, decorative stitching on its spine and pages that lay completely flat when open. Students will use leather for the book cover and have the option to include interesting contemporary papers inside. No previous bookbinding experience is required, and all materials and tools will be provided.

linenlaid&felt photo albums

Binding handmade photo albums

When: Saturday, October 27 – Saturday, November 17 (4 weeks); 
1 - 5 p.m.
Where: Watkins College, 2298 Rosa Parks Blvd., Nashville 
Cost: $125, plus $35 materials fee
Description: Learn to make several styles of handbound photo albums to preserve and proudly display your favorite photographs. These books will be more unique and meaningful than a typical store-bought album and will give you a reason to finally print those photos that have been collecting digital dust on your computer. Using archival materials, this class will cover three hardcover binding styles: the accordion, the Coptic, and the Japanese stab binding. You’ll learn the basics of bookbinding while creating beautiful, functional books. No previous bookbinding experience is required, and all materials and tools will be provided.

brochure cover Watkins Community Education Nashville

Click the image above to view the full Watkins course catalog as a pdf.

Fold, tear, glue, and sew

I recently taught a two-day bookmaking workshop at the Shenandoah Valley Art Center, and I wanted to share a few photos from the class.  Aside from casually teaching a few friends how to make some simple book structures, this was my first time teaching a class and everything went incredibly well.  

Before the class, I talked my husband and our friend into being guinea pigs for me as I practiced teaching the four binding structures I was planning to teach in the class and got a feel for how long it would take my students to make their own books.  I also cut down all of the bookboard, bookcloth, decorative paper, and leather ahead of time that we would need in the class.  This was a smart move because it saved a ton of time during the actual class, and allowed us to dive right into the fun part without worrying too much about measurements. 

I started off the first class with a little show-and-tell.  I brought in my collection of handbound books, both made by myself and other bookbinders I admire (like erinzam and minusplusminus), to inspire my students about the possibilities of bookbinding.  

Then we started creating ourselves by making two accordion books, while learning the basics of paper grain and folding and tearing paper.  The first book was a structure similar to this style, where the softcover books are assembled without adhesive or stitching.  Next, we took it a step further and created a double concertina book with a hard cover, like this

Day two of the class focused on sewn structures.  First we made a simple one-signature pamphlet book to get the sewing basics down.  Then we made Italian long-stitch books with leather covers, which were certainly more complicated but also more rewarding when completed.  You can see examples of my students' books in the photos directly above and below.  I've heard from several students who have continued to make a few books since the class, including one who just learned the Coptic stitch!  It was so much fun for me to introduce some new people to the world of handbound books.  

Mission accomplished

If you remember back to my first post of 2011, I made a New Years resolution to make at least 20 books per month. Knowing how busy I've been lately, I was a little worried that this goal might be too lofty and that I wouldn't have enough time to make all the books I'd planned to. But somehow I managed not only to reach, but to surpass this goal.

During the month of January I made the 32 books pictured here, in addition to two custom books which I will feature on my blog soon. I made 13 Coptic-bound journals (which also work well for wedding guest books and sketchbooks), five Italian Long-stitch books, and a slew of pamphlets, softcover concertina notebooks, and hardcover sculptural concertina books.

About half of these books are bound for a few local shops that sell my work, and the others will be listed in my Etsy shop over the next week.

I'm already looking forward to the books I plan to make in February. I'll be focusing on making more Italian long-stitch books with suede, leather, and cardstock covers. I'll also be making some new photo albums, which sold out during the holidays.

Submit a map, win a book

I've teamed up with the Hand Drawn Map Association this month to give away five of my handmade books. Through the end of October you can win one, but there's a catch.

You've got to draw a map.

Whether it's driving directions scribbled on a sticky note, a fanciful imaginary place, or an artful illustration, the HDMA wants to collect your maps. Everyone who sends a map this month (by post, e-mail, or digital upload) will be entered into a drawing for my books. For submission details, visit the HDMA website.

A little about each book:

I've had an oversized 1966 Britannica World Atlas taking up space in my studio since winter, when my husband picked it up for free (with me in mind) at Book Thing of Baltimore. The atlas is packed with (outdated) data colorfully displayed on dozens of maps. A large portion of the book goes beyond political and topographical maps to show socio-economic trends.

For the covers of this small, Coptic-bound journal I chose a birth rate map. I was especially inspired by the colors, which I carried through to the binding and the varied progression of paper colors inside.

Off the bat, I knew I'd also have to put to good use the map key. As you can see above, it's clipped and tucked into the inside front cover.

The giveaway features two other binding styles, including these concertinas. I made the first from a Virginia map, my current state, and the other from a vintage Minneapolis/St. Paul map, where we lived before Virginia.

Other books made from the Minneapolis map have caught attention from art show shoppers because of their gray and pink color scheme. They don't make maps like this anymore!

There are several lakes featured on the Minneapolis book, including a fun discovery: Snail Lake.

The pages of these lotus books were made from the same World Atlas. When you "open" these books, they unfold into a malleable array of pages. When closed, the folds return to an orderly stack. One of the two lotus folds features various maps of Africa, both political and topographical. The other is made from an assortment.

My collaboration is one of the first the HDMA has done in recent months, but that's not to say that founder Kris Harzinski hasn't been busy. The HDMA recently published its first book, "From Here to There," showcasing dozens of maps collected in the past three years. You can find the book on Amazon.

As always, the HDMA has been collecting and posting numerous maps. They're easy to browse and share. To get started, check out these maps submitted by my husband.

Remember, the linenlaid&felt giveaway runs to the end of October, so look around for that map you drew the other day -- or sketch a fresh one -- and send them in for your chance to win.

Flashback Friday: "Cortona Clothesline" concertina

This week's Flashback Friday is a book that involves two different printmaking techniques, applique, embroidery, and, of course, bookbinding. As the title "Cortona Clothesline" suggests, the inspiration for this book came from my summer spent in Cortona, Italy. I began to love the daily sight of hanging laundry on lines strung from Tuscan mountainside homes. When I returned stateside, I channeled the imagery into my artwork.

These photos were taken in the courtyard behind the historic building where I lived in Cortona. After hand-washing our clothes, we would hang them here to blow in the breeze until dry. Can you imagine a more beautiful setting for laundry? When in Italy, even something as mundane as laundry day can create inspiration for years to come.

On both sides of the cotton rag paper that I used for the pages, I layered ink using the monoprint technique to create an expressive blend of rich blues and greens, inspired by the Italian countryside. I then transferred my drawings of women's garments to a woodblock to be carved. The woodblock was coated with a transparent blue ink and printed atop the monoprint background. Next came the hand sewing of yellow embroidery thread to represent the clothesline.

The book is bound in the concertina, or accordion, style. To create the covers, I cut out the shape of a dress from blue fabric and appliqued it onto green fabric. I hand-stitched clothespins and the line on the cover as well. This book is one in an edition of eight books. Each is unique, using different colors of ink and thread.

This copy of "Cortona Clothesline" is currently for sale in my Etsy shop.

My Etsy shop has launched!

I want to share some exciting news with you: my Etsy shop is now officially up and running!

If you haven't visited my shop yet, please take a look at the handmade books I've been working on for the past two months. I currently have six mini books for sale in three different styles: Coptic, Italian Longstitch, and Concertina. I also have several larger Coptic journals that I finished last week, and I'll be listing those on my Etsy as soon as they're photographed.

Flashback Friday: Modigliani concertina

Less than a month before my trip to Italy was the first time I'd ever heard of the Italian artist Amedeo Clemente Modigliani. With her usual sense of adventure at Blockbuster, my mom rented a little-known movie on a whim, and this movie introduced us both to someone who is now one of my favorite artists. And as it turned out, there was an exhibit of Modigliani's paintings on display in Rome while I was in the city. Seeing the vivid portraits in person, especially the haunting absent eyes, solidified his work in my ranking of favorites. I soaked in the experience, and was one of the last in our group to leave the gallery.

And as if this Modigliani coincidence wasn't enough, there's more to the story. Several weeks later, I was wandering through a flea market in Perugia, a city in Umbria known for its chocolate, when I found a lovely vintage book filled with images of Modigliani's work.

I was taking a book arts and papermaking class in Cortona that summer, and decided to reconstruct the book into several creations of my own. I ended up using four of the color images from my flea market find to make this double concertina book, with several smaller black and white images serving both structural and decorative purposes. The covers were made using some informative pages from the book, and a cutout of Modigliani's signature serves as the title.

This is one of my favorite books that I made during my time in Italy, for both aesthetic and sentimental reasons. It was displayed in La Mostra, an art exhibition in Cortona, as well as a show at the University of Georgia once I returned to the States.

While in Italy, I also made another Modigliani book, which I will include in a future Flashback Friday post. I still have the original covers and some of the pages from the original antique book, and perhaps I will use them to make a third book in the future.

The "flashback" series

Last weekend Tony and I traveled to South Carolina to visit my family and celebrate my grandfather's 95th birthday. I used the opportunity to photograph many of my handmade books that are still at my parents' house. I have decided to start a series called "Flashback Fridays" where I feature various books that I created years ago, many of which when I was first learning how to bind books in Cortona, Italy. Here's a sampling of a few of the books I'll showcase. Stay tuned for my first flashback post this Friday.