Bookbinding for an artist

I was honoured to be asked to bind three copies of artist and friend Melissa Jordan‘s book Spine last year.

What I love about Melissa’s work is that it is suggestive, inviting you to imagine what happens next. The partially revealed images show a snapshot of a story that you want to complete, they are “intentionally de-stabilising”, as the description of Melissa’s show at the Hayward Gallery Concrete cafe notes. It goes on to say how her pieces “suspend voyeuristic satisfaction, promoting speculation on the part of the viewer.”

Glimpses of connections drive curiosity

I’m not sure what Melissa would think of this, but I liken her pieces to our experience of nature and the world: A suggestion of a pattern here, a hint of a connection there. It’s exactly these glimpses of patterns and stories that drive scientific curiosity. They make us want to find out more about the world and how it works.

Binding the book

A few years ago I had some beginner lessons in bookbinding with the excellent Mark Cockram at Studio Five in Barnes, London, UK. I am desperate to go and learn more (perhaps in the next year?!). Melissa and I chose the style of the book based on what I have made before – flat back dissertation binding for anyone who is interested – with about 30 pages. Melissa wanted a more ergonomic feel to the book so we experimented with a curved spine piece.


Endpapers with placemarkers © Agnes Becker

Endpapers with placemarkers © Agnes Becker

Melissa chose some gorgeous blue-grey book cloth and contrasting bright orange-red endpapers. I love the matching grey ribbon and red string she picked for the placemarkers. The text blog was printed on silk 130 grams per square metre (gsm) paper and pages were interspersed with tracing paper, adding to the partially revealed nature of Melissa’s work. The layout was produced by RBPM Studios – the addition of the pink pages in-between Melissa’s images complement the book cloth and endpapers perfectly.

Getting around limitations

The front of the book was a bit tricky. Melissa and I wanted to include lettering but this is something I haven’t learned yet. We also wanted to feature one of Melissa’s photos. As I don’t have a press that can indent a photo-sized rectangle onto the book cover, I used two pieces of card. The top piece was thinner and had a rectangle cut out of it so that when I covered it in book cloth, a depression was made for the photo to sit in.

Double blind

I feel so lucky to have been gifted two thank you pieces by Melissa. I’ve always liked her work Double blind. Perhaps it is the jarred repeating pattern of the blinds? Or the fact she has picked out something so ordinary and created a hint of a narrative around it?

See more images:

Double blind:

It was a fantastic project to work on and has inspired me to consider making some science-themed notebooks. Watch this space!


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