Binding the Visual Book

Oct 17 2017

By Julia Marsh

As designers, we spend most of our days staring at computer screens. Opportunities to create tangible things are more seldom than we would prefer.

That’s why our excitement rose noticeably when we saw piles of brightly colored papers arranged on each of our desks as we entered class. Two hours later, we’d transformed these pieces of paper into little books — hand-stitched and carefully folded per the instruction of book artist Barbara Mauriellio.

Barbara is a warm woman, fairy godmother-like, and full of enthusiasm for paper grain directions and bone folders. She has been teaching the book-binding portion of Warren Lehrer’s Visual Literature course for the past 19 years. Barbara told us her practice is more about the “feel” of the book, rather than making specific measurements. Much of this comes from experience, of course. She effortlessly stitches, x-actos, and folds her way through complex, multi-part booklets as though performing a dance.

This does not mean she’s exempt from mistakes, however. After pricking herself by accident during a demonstration, she informed us that blood is a normal component of book making. The trick is to suck on a q-tip while stitching, so that if you do prick yourself you can clean up the blood using your own saliva. (Apparently this is science.) We all noted this as a magic trick which we will use in the future!

We each made two books by the end of class. The first was conventionally bound, but included funky shaped pages and envelopes which we crafted from scratch. The cover, through various folds and cuts, wraps around the book multiple times and includes a flap which tucks into the front. The second book was essentially 2-in-1, with two mini books sharing the same back cover. This style is referred to as a do-si-do in the bookbinding world.

Needless to say, we all left class that evening feeling accomplished and craving more. Fortunately, Barbara will be returning for a second workshop just before Halloween, where we’re bound to learn all kinds of new tricks!