Bookbinding – My Journey, My Approach

Following a 20-year stint in the cut and thrust of the commercial world, returning to education and subsequently teaching at post-16, another change was brewing. I found myself searching for a hand skill and after exploring many crafts including mosaic and stained glass, I returned to the delight of books and their endless promise and patience.

Initially my training started at the London College of Printing alongside my teaching at an evening class and through a circuitous route via the Society of Bookbinders and Maureen Duke, the doyenne of good trade binding, and the need to obtain a GCSE in chemistry, I undertook a Diploma in Book and Paper Conservation at West Dean College graduating in 2006.

I subsequently set up my workshop in a converted milking parlour on the borders of Hampshire and West Sussex. Oddly, resulting work opportunities involved periods in a London workshop where part of a team I learned on the hoof how to cover bespoke superyacht furniture in fish skin, vellum, leather and suede. More understandably, I again, part of a team, worked on stabilising book collections in the libraries of historic buildings and colleges as far as Wrexham.  
Of no less importance was the trickle of repair jobs that crossed my bench from lectern Bibles, Miller’s The Gardeners’ Dictionary to numerous broken books of sentimental value and the delivery of workshops.

I have carried two strands forward from this period since my relocation to South Brent in Devon seven years ago - my pleasure in repair – essentially making things better and my pleasure in making journals from unexpected materials or in some unexpected fashion. The necessary adoption of precision combined with the rejection of the traditional appeals.

Maureen would approve of my delight in considering myself a ‘good trade binder’, slightly disappointed in the fact that I have not turned out to be a fine or design binder but would applaud my ability to make a book out of practically any material my hand alights on. It is enough.
My village, South Brent, recently imagined and has subsequently created ART HOUSE, South Brent, a CIC (Community Interest Company), which through our current times has been a trial, but phoenix-like is about to emerge and fly. See website

In my Sussex period I delivered workshops and exhibited at at the Guildhall, Chichester, the Mitre Gallery, University of Chichester, the Weald & Downland Museum, Flora Twort Gallery, Petersfield, the Arnolfini, Bristol, and given talks to the WI and Hampshire Spinning Groups. 

Now in my Devon period I have exhibited with Sue Ifould, painter, at Birdwood House Gallery, Totnes, and Harbour House, Kingsbridge under the title of 'Shooting the Breeze', or 'Still Shooting the Breeze'. This autumn I shall be exhibiting at the ART HOUSE, South Brent in the three-week Devon Open Studios framework and in May 2022 will be exhibiting as part of The Mix, at the Grange Gallery, Rottingdean, part of Brighton Open Studios.