This past weekend I took Dan Essig's 'Windows and Closures' class at BookWorks. I heard that students who had taken classes from his last year suggested the topic because there wasn't enough time in those classes to cover closures and windows in any depth. We spent Saturday making several types of windows and bases for insets. On Sunday we learned at least half-a-dozen styles of closures, using braided leather, twisted linen thread, and wire.
Dan makes mostly wooden books, but pointed out that most of the techniques could be applied to books made of other material. To illustrate, he brought a book whose covers were made of many, many sheets of papyrus laminated together, thick enough for him to cut a window through; sheets of book board can also be laminated to allow enough thickness for a window. There are ways to adapt the closures as well. I plan to re-create some of these this week to keep them fresh in my mind.
Although it wasn't on the agenda, we ended up binding our "practice" covers into a book. Dan provided the text blocks, threads and needles, and graciously gave us an extra hour at the end of the day to sew. The coptic stitch he teaches is one I know; the variation is in how the covers are prepared (we drilled both straight and diagonal holes) and attached. Our text block was made up of 12 signatures, four sheets per signature. Having more signatures, it seems, gives a better look overall to the stitching, since the greater the number of signatures, the greater the number of links, which creates a nicer display overall.
I love learning new techniques, and I enjoy learning from a range of instructors. Whatever the specific subject matter, I always pick up tips that may seem only peripherally related to the topic, but that make my bookmaking life easier. Dan, for example, uses straight needles rather than curved ones for his coptic bindings, which I thought would make working with the inside portion of a pair a nightmare. But he simplifies things by bringing the needle in point down, then with his non-sewing hand separating the signatures that the needle has just gone between, he immediately brings the needle up on the other side of the link head up. In other words, he doesn't try to curve the needle around the link. (Clear as a bell, huh?) Anyway, complex as I make it seem -- I have more respect all the time for instruction writers -- it's quite easy and quick.
Taking classes from different teachers can also give you a new perspective on something you thought you'd already nailed down. From Annie Fain Liden I learned how to create the effect of hand-torn edges at the head and tail of my text block while keeping the height uniform. Prior to that, I'd resigned myself either to text blocks with hand-torn edges at the head and tail but whose height was uniform only if I'd gotten lucky in my tearing, or to ones with a uniform height, but achieved by using a paper cutter. Who knew? This might be widespread knowledge among all bookmakers but me, but it's not something I'd learned from earlier instruction. And what I find most exciting is that there are probably other options out there that I've still to learn and will pick up from someone else down the road.