Centro del Bel Libro

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At the start of June I found myself in the lakeside town of Ascona in Switzerland. The town is nestled next to a gorgeous lake, tucked in between folds of tree lined mountains and navigation is through winding golden streets. The air smelled like Jasmine and I was a quick cycle downhill every morning for lessons starting at 8am. All in all it was a real treat to be there, but the highlight was without a doubt the course I was attending one of Europe's best bookbinding schools.

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The course focused on contemporary structures, and was as much about exploring the limits of materials and working with unconventional mediums as teaching new methods. We were encouraged to bring prints, papers and potential book contents with us, and together we were led through possible ways in which to bind these together.

 Experimental binding exploring alternative ways to hold the tapes in place. Tracing paper sewn together with steel rods. Cover of hand mixed paint containing powdered graphite.

Experimental binding exploring alternative ways to hold the tapes in place. Tracing paper sewn together with steel rods. Cover of hand mixed paint containing powdered graphite.

The bindery itself was a dream. We mostly worked on our benches, using only a board cutter and manual guillotine as heavy machinery. We brought a small amount of hand tools, but we had everything else we needed there, from paper and inks to a library full of incredible binding examples.

It was inspiring to see how much can be done in the way of fine adjustments, knowledge of materials and a bit of head scratching. I feel like the further my education in bookbinding takes me, the slower and smaller the work becomes. It's showing me again that I need to slow down and enjoy taking my time - something far removed from my days of being timed to make a case in under 1 minute!

 Bindings of a talented course mate

Bindings of a talented course mate

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Gillian Stewart