Timeless Professionals: Book binder

  • Posted on 29th March 2016 by Marketing Team
  • As part of the Royal Warrant association, Penhaligon’s have had the opportunity of interacting with members of the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST). QEST is a charity that supports the education and excellence of craft in the UK. We spoke to three QEST scholars about their crafts and how they turned their unique passion into a career.

    Emily Juniper, Book binding

    Tell us a little about your profession?
    I am a bookbinder, writer & illustrator. I think I am drawn to the art of making books as it is a physical manifestation of our human need to communicate, and to disseminate stories and information. All crafts exist as a sort of deification of materials and I love everything I work with, the leather, the cloth, the tools and there’s something so enduring about paper itself. I began binding because I love playing with the relationship that the book binding has with the contents; so as a writer and illustrator I consider the book making part of the process of great story telling.

    Where did your interest and passion in your profession come from?
    I grew up in a house full of books, they lined the walls in every room, and I think I will always find them comforting as objects. My background is actually in performance, so when I work I tend to be thinking about a book’s theatrical possibili- ties. I want my bindings to work as a kind of ‘stag- ing’ for the story: The paper I choose to ‘cast’, the way I ‘direct’ the thread, the weight of the book; the story is scored to the percussive turn of each page. Ultimately my hope is to create a beautiful experience for the reader, after all your audience hold your work in their hand, so you must do them the honor of holding their attention.

    Describe what your typical day might look like?
    There’s no routine as such – every book I make is unique, and that means the process is unpredict- able – I bind theatrical scripts, fiction, children’s stories, essays, poetry collections and note books. I work at home – and my studio space will be tweaked to suit each project. I spend part of my day researching either at home or in the library; I feel like I spend a lot of my time climbing in- side huge rolls of paper or cloth to cut pages and covers.

    What sort of challenges might you face in your job day to day?
    My biggest problem is the leap from research to application - it’s very easy to get totally engrossed in a book, a story, a visual trail. Taking myself out of the thinking space and onto the drawing board can be hard. I am a perfectionist as well, so I will have a clear idea of what something will look like and work tirelessly to achieve that – so knowing when to stop is another difficult part of my working day.

    Tell us about your most proud achievement to date?
    I’ve managed to convince five artists whose work I adore to contribute to a journal I am launching next year called Canary.
    We will write and illustrate mini essays which link our research practice to our crafts. I will then design and bind the works to complement the contents. I am getting to work with some of the most brilliant artists and creative minds that I know and so I feel really proud that they all want to be involved in the project. It’s one of those moments where instead of wishing you were a part of something, you make it happen for yourself – which is quite invigorating!

    Tell us your ultimate dream/ambition?
    When someone commissions me to make a book I put my all into it, and so the best moment is when I get feedback. I once bound a book that was someone’s proposal; he gave the book to his girlfriend underneath the clock in Grand Central Station – it was a story about their courtship and as she turned to the last page it asked if she’d spend the rest of her life with him – I think I was more nervous than him on the day! Those are my favourite commissions – when the work you do plays a part in a moment of someone’s life. Also because I like binding theatrical scripts, a great dream job would be to work with a theatre, like the National or the Royal Court and create a be- spoke binding for one of their productions.

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