You attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. When you were in art school were you already making books?
In my second semester at SAIC, I made a simple hardbound book covered in a bulky quilted fabric with little knowledge regarding proper book construction. It might be the worst book I’ve ever made, but my interest was sparked. I took all of the artists’ books courses offered, 3 in total. I began to develop a better understanding of book construction and came to realize there are more ways than one to make a book.
The Cat in Nature History and Art by Marcel Uzé.
(Before and after) Binding by Erin Fletcher, 2011.
What is the process for rebinding a vintage book like the six you created for BSDA?
When I approach a binding, there are various paths that can be taken and like most artwork it begins with a sketch. The design on the cover of a book should harmonize with its writing and illustrations. After the initial planning, generally the next steps are to resew the book (if possible) and shape the flat spine into a rounded form using the force of a hammer. The book is then ready to have its edges colored and its headbands can be sewn or stuck-on; a series of linings go onto the spine which allows the book to open properly. The boards are attached and covered. Any design work can be done before or after covering depending on which techniques are implemented.
Sewing up Roald Dahl's The Twits
Covering Roald Dahl's James And The Giant Peach
Do you work in any other media?
I find the book to be a versatile form. Although a book is most commonly covered with traditional materials such as paper, leather, vellum or cloth. As a bookbinder I have the freedom to explore a variety of medias, choosing the right one suitable to the text. I’ve recently experimented with an embroidered binding for The Crucible, acrylic on leather for The Songlines and paper collage on various titles.
The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Binding by Erin Fletcher, 2011.
You attended North Bennet Street School, a one-of-a-kind school for traditional bookbinding techniques. What was the coolest thing about the program?
I’m not sure that I can pinpoint a single moment of the program that I found more exciting then the next. During the two years I spent at North Bennet I not only developed hand skills for a multitude of book structures and finishing techniques, but I obtained a deeper knowledge of binding history. On top of that, I learned how to make paste papers and marbled papers, turned rawhide into vellum, shaped my own tools from elk bone, steel and brass while learning from bookbinders and conservators experienced in the field. I can say that my most favorite part about being a bookbinder is creating Design Bindings. These one-of-a-kind bindings are built around traditional bookbinding techniques, but invite modern artistic expression in design through various forms of execution.
Erin's bone folder collection
What led you to pick Roald Dahl for this series?
Roald Dahl’s stories are the most memorable from my childhood and continue to captivate me into my adult life and I know that others may have the same connection to his work either through the written word or the many screen adaptations. Like any work of art, a lot of labor and love is put into creating a design binding. Not only did I choose Roald Dahl’s stories for my own selfish nostalgia, but I knew the whimsical attributes of his tales would provide a playful and expressive platform for my bindings.
Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl.
Do you have a favorite book of his?
I think the one story I read the most was James and the Giant Peach. I couldn’t resist playing companion to James’ journey across the ocean via a seagull- propelled peach with his musically talented insect friends. The suspense over their encounters with sharks and Cloud-Men kept me engaged through every page. Although I initially wanted to cover the book in peach colored pig suede, I felt that dressing the book up like a peach didn’t quite do it justice. I needed to get to the heart of the magic and decided to create a paste paper representing the luminescent crocodile tongues.
James And The Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.
Are there any artists or creators who've inspired you lately?
In the art world I find inspiration in the weavings of Shelia Hicks and Anni Albers. They both play with texture, patterns and colors in a very organic and calculated manner. I’m also greatly inspired by the precision and control behind Sol LeWitt’s work. In the book world I find the designers and bookbinders of the Art Deco/Art Nouveau era continuously draw me in, specifically Rose Adler, Pierre Legrain, Paul Bonet, and Charles Benoît. I’m attracted to the clean, simplistic forms and bold color palettes that when combined create aesthetically beautiful designs.
Calligrammes by Guillaume Apollinaire. Binding by Rose Adler
Erin Fletcher's website.