Growlygracepress's Blog

grinning like an alsatian
August 31, 2013, 11:49 am
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This book is the result of a great deal of practice and of learning how I make mistakes. There is misplaced emphasis on not how we learn where much more interesting is learning how I failed. In the course of getting to here I must have attempted to make this book over 50 times. Actually it’s a lot more because I when I was failing I would be making 5 or 10 at a time. My learning strategy was so busted that I could do was repeat the same mistakes again and again.

What changed for me this time was the digital callipers.


I got the Goldielocks book and really examined it. I resisted the strong urge to rip it down to it’s parts.



And then I just turned every thing down. All the parts were made as thinly as possible with out losing strength.
(the spring on the spine of top book does need some remedial work. I made the spring from layers of 50% cotton, some bank, some laid and a hand made craft and I need it to be a bit stronger)

I was also helped by the finding of a carrier bag full of off cuts that I had put aside for printing on. So I had another shot at it and got this.


I don’t care that it’s not got it’s cover on all I want to be able to do is the structure.









My bench on a saturday morning
August 31, 2013, 8:14 am
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I realised that my bench was getting more and more cluttered so I declared a clean and clear bench regime. Obviously this is a ideal in process but I am gaining benefit.
I remove all tools of the bench when I finished using them and the only work I have on the bench is current.
The only books on the bench are in the process of having a task performed on them with in the next hour.


This book has been sewn and I am about to tip in the second and second last sections.


New style endpapers did you know that there is a new edition of ‘Interactions of Colour’ and it’s available for the ipad?


These books have been saw cut and are awaiting to be sewn.


These are their endpapers awaiting to be trimmed.


This is the strips of tyvek I am going to sew them on to.


These books have had the first part of the leavers that will force the spring to open.

Right off for a walk in to town, go to the lit and phil, go to the market come back move paper and boards around the bench and then check out the allotment association annual vegetable show.

While I have the ‘right’ to bookbind I don’t have the ‘right’ to expect people to buy it.
August 30, 2013, 9:33 am
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Again work with me on this.
The idea I had about the ‘right’ to bookbind was actually about the sometimes fraught relationship I have with artists.
I allowed myself to become defined as a bookbinder who makes books for artists, they had big fat arts council grants and they are an absolute hoot to work with.
So the books that I made, that were seen in exhibitions would not be made if it were not for the artist commissioning it.
I now get my name on the wall besides the book, to be honest I never really cared because I like the cheque better.

What I was thinking is this. Do I need the artist?
I used and still do rant at artists that are really going for ‘it’ that they actually need a book designer in the mix. Yeah I can bind it but if they really want to make a book a book. Get a book designer in. Getting someone who has some web development chops is no substitute. That way the books looks like web shots and the type is a dead give away.

So it comes to this. I don’t need an artist to ‘do’ the covers.

But the bottom line ultimately is I have no ‘right’ to expect people to buy them. What I can do is make an attractive object, that functions well at a price that is agreeable.

I don’t think the craft shops and galleries are the way to go. The mark up is 40% plus the vat! If you want to know why the stuff is so bad and priced so high thats why.

The 19th century reformed craft guilds are at the root of all the problems we have with craft. So the Guild of lady bookbinders is not coming back. Good thing to.

The turn your name in to a brand and get the stuff manufactured in China has become yet another way for women to feel bad about them selfs. Thank you Kirsty Althorpe.

So I need another way to get the books to the market.

I think what I am looking at is the selling of bookbinding services. The people who need to buy my books are the people who need to give gifts. They need to give gifts because they are part of a social circle that are rating each other on what the gift they are giving at christenings, birthdays, weddings, civil partnerships, retirements and gap years. Whatever the occasion is I reckon that a handmade book is the answer.

So I just need to find these ladies.


The deliberate construction of an artefact that they want
August 29, 2013, 8:20 am
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fuck art

It would have exposed spine sewing.

The book it’s self would be untrimmed.

The dimensions would be a fold down form A4 maybe A3 at a push.

There would be no use of adhesives.

Grain direction? Thats for experts!

Might have some buttons and beads in the mix.

If it has leather it’s going to be the whackiest leather that can be sourced. Upholstery hides in hideous browns.

If the medium is the message, this object is weaponised, it’s a missile, it’s can’t be destroyed because it’s been made in to a fetish, it’s very handmadeness makes it live forever.

The halflife of a handmade object is a quazillion years.

Do I have the ‘right’ to bookbind.
August 29, 2013, 7:46 am
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Work with me on this. It occurs to me that part of the problem that I am facing in trying to make some money and to be honest thats what has to happen now.
Do I have any entitlement to produce a book that I think can be exchanged for money. I’ll break that down a little bit further.
When I look at what’s available in the craft shops, the internet shops, the stuff is really crap. Sorry if you find that value based judgment offensive. I have a highly developed sense of judgment and really you have no ‘right’ to be offended.
Anyway what I see sucks and I don’t think my books do but what if I am wrong, what if the definitive market value in the area is “the object must not be too good” what if the higher value is “this is as good as handmade gets and it sucks so feel better about yourself”
Is the solution to dial down the values so I can make a book that is just crappy enough?

This is what we eat in Autumn.
August 24, 2013, 4:31 pm
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There must be a universal law in every allotment association that the plot must grow at least ten tons of rhubarb and the that rhubarb must be foisted on anyone who looks at the plot.

This is rhubarb crumble with mincemeat made with oranges, cranberries and port. Thats cornish clotted cream which was reduced to 85p at asda (it’s always reduced I think the good people of Byker are suspicious of it) The mincemeat was been on a shelf since I bought it in January.

When I get back in funds I am going to buy as many kilner jars as possible and the first thing I am going to make is the mincemeat then I will make fruit compotes like it’s going out of fashion. Because along with rhubarb every plot has an apple tree and they have so much fruit on them it looks like small children have been drawing them.

state of play
August 24, 2013, 9:44 am
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Look at this beauty I was out in the front garden cutting back the tomatoes when I found this dragon fly on a bamboo cane. I consider myself fortunate to have seen it.

It’s a long weekend in the UK and I am going to blog up a storm. You lucky people!

Obviously I am going to rant and rave about my obsessions.

Namely the state of my bench, the hoarding of materials, getting better at bookbinding, transferable skills, measuring progress, my perceived ‘worth’ as a bookbinder,
obviously my poor baldy head, fear and loathing in the craft shops / craft fares / artist books fares, the storing of tools and materials, rhubarb crumble and clotted cream, fire up the printing press and did I mention that I am exceedingly happy about a book that I have created.


In fact I am absolutely over the moon about some work that I am doing for an artist. She had a technique that I have never seen before that makes the book so handsome I swooned when I seen it. I then made two books using it and I am still stunned by it.
So that really incredibly exciting.

But first things first off to the allotment to have a look.

safari so goody
August 16, 2013, 5:16 pm
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These book blocks were made on Thursday and I have developed the ideas further here.


What I set out to find out is how I keep the proportions of the book for want of a better word sweet.

I used a digital calliper to measure books that ‘worked’ and used them as a reference point to create a book.

I turned every thing down, thiner thread, instead of board using good hand made paper, very thin leather used to line the spine, no stiff leaves in the end papers, no lavishing the spine with glue, no painted edges, made endpapers were pasted down with a traditional paste, nipped in a press and left to dry over night using baking parchment for a fence.

The little group of three books are small hand sized books made form a bag of scrap cartridge paper I found on a shelf.

The larger of the books I made was modelled on I book I had picked up to read, the mistake I made with it was to colour the edges and I used my old press which I can’t tighten enough so tiny bit of colour eating in to the end papers.

I have decided not to colour the edges of the group of three, thats a radical step for me. I think the edges look a bit raw with out the colour.

The next step is to make very thin and very strong springs for them, I think I need a mix of Japanese and watercolour papers and I’ll be attaching the spring to the block with tyvek. The boards will be made with 1mm mill board, lined with 50% cotton paper.

If I deal with all the excess weight and turn every thing down while ensuring that strength comes from creating layers of paper and paste, with good pressing and rubbing down with bone folder using a clean sheet of paper I think I am going to create something interesting.

this is what I am going to do right now!
August 15, 2013, 9:35 am
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I am going to go to my bench and make a little book so beautiful and wonderful that a person who is holding it in a shop (I’ll get to that problem / issue later) has to buy it.
They would be unable to walk away from it.
This book is sticky.
It has to be so good it’s can’t be ignored.
Anyone who sees it falls in love.
Buying this book as a gift is going to be loved.

I don’t have an outlet for it nor do I know of any.
This is possibly problematic.

I don’t know what a look book is either, I have no staged photographs of the books besides willow pattern plates or on a little side table with a vase of roses either.

I don’t have a back story that will sell them except that I use natural materials bought in the UK.
When I make a series of books I name them : puppy, kitten, foal, star, ducky and so on.

The little books have to do it all themselves.

learning to solve problems.
August 13, 2013, 12:15 pm
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So we got an allotment and it looked like this.


What I wanted was a learning experience and some vegetables. I view the whole enterprise like an enhanced open university course only cheaper.

The main thing I want to learn is how to solve problems and the allotment is a plane in which ‘problem solving’ is applied and then evaluated and accessed. There is success and failure and judgment. How do we know we are being successful?


This was the allotment yesterday.

We have dug it over and planted vegetables which are thriving. He have put in some raised beds. We walk around the all the allotments at least once a week and we see how people are solving their particular problems.


This is the site that welcomes us in the morning, we call this ‘The Shire’ because it reminds us of Lord of the Rings!

We access what we have done all the time, mainly by walking about, gesturing and pointing. The biggest surprise is that it’s not about growing stuff, it’s about building and construction. Birds eat cabbages so beds have to be netted.


Weeds grow and have to be taken out, so nets have to be removed and reapplied. Butterflies get through the nets and lay eggs they hatch and eat the cabbage. Meanwhile the air is filled with seeds that land on the ground that you have spent all week digging over.


You learn by making mistakes and you learn by recognising that it’s a mistake.

The evil shed.


I think the wasp nest in the window is just about visible here, we asked the wise old men around us and got the ‘wasp is the gardeners friend and they will die off in the winter’ so we attempted a truce with the wasps except David got stung and my baldy head might become massive target!
Meanwhile the nest was getting massive. So we killed them at 4.00 in the morning. Murdered them in their waspy beds.
As soon as you know that it’s a wasp nest deal with it.


One of the things we noticed when we walked around was that men and women gardened in different ways.
Men’s allotments were machines for the growing of vegetables or the raising of show produce mainly leeks and dahlias. Women have allotments which get picturesque and have little photogenic moments, or have flower borders filled with plants for the feeding of bees.
I want the business of the allotment to be about fruit and vegetables if I have borders filled with flowers I can’t have vegetables.


The timing of getting the allotment was bad and there is nothing we can do about that. We managed to get the tail end of the growing season and we are able to put in some stuff for the winter. We recognise that what we are engaging in is gesture, that we are showing massive commitment, that we are making progress.


The one thing I am not going to do is hoard building materials on the allotment. Every thing must be in use.