Growlygracepress's Blog

Things I got right yesterday.
February 26, 2014, 11:32 am
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Some times as my husband leaves for work he says ‘You must get profitable in the bookbinding department’ and I whole hearty agree ‘I must’ however I think my methods is wanting. What I am doing is the old ‘if you build it they will come’ routine which translates as I make a big pile of books and throw myself at the mercy of the local craft shop.

It’s gaining of the ‘production chops’ that is causing the growing pains.

Making a book for a commission is totally different to making a series of books for retail.

So yesterday I got stuck in and it was a bit good and a bit bad. In other words I got the commission I deserved.

These books worked out well.


I’ll stick some Jeffery paper on them. My instinct says go with Jeffery paper at the moment.


This was good and I am happy with the finish.


This brings nothing to the party. It’s a victim of my inability to think further than ‘cover it all in brown leather’ Massive Fail.


This was a failure and had it’s leather cover taken off.

Where I failed yesterday it was because I failed to plan and I seriously miscalculated on the best sequence to put leather on a number of books. I was working with seven books yesterday and I decided to paste up the leather all at once and then I ‘soaked’ the springs in all the books all at once.

This was a big mistake and massive learning opportunity.

I should have done each book individually. I should have taken note that the leather was a bit thicker and that the boards were made from different materials.

It’s was hard work and I got distracted and resentful consequently this happened.

The book was too wet, the leather too dry, I was getting bored, I needed to take the dog out and go to the shops.
I didn’t have a plan other than stick a full leather cover on it.

Not good enough.


think I’ll sign off the dole.


and get a bit more serious about the bookbinding.


A couple of weeks ago I was chatting to a doggy person and I was compelled to confess that I was not remotely ambitious.

I like my practice and I try to make the best book I am capable of, with the best materials I can source and I want the commissioning experience to be valuable and worth while to the client. I want people who come to my workshops to be excited and passionate about making books. I want the little books I am making for sale in shops to be unique and proud and I want people to buy them.

But I would not consider myself an ambitious woman if anything I am a housewife and a dog walker, I make meals and fail to keep the house clean. I have an allotment that requires a lot of money spent on wood, paving and a poly tunnel and actually I am very ambitious about that.

So I am going to raise my game. From now on it’s about the number of books I have made this week, the number of books I am making and the number of books I have sold.

Every thing else is bullshit.

It’s quite likely that I am going to be making books with “cheese and onion pasty” and “the fog on the Tyne is all mine”

Stop me and buy one.


My honourable intentions.
January 6, 2014, 10:12 am
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My husband has returned to work after a very long break and I am now alone with the dog and I have to put in a new structure and order in my life.

One of the first things I normally do is I set about writing an unfeasible ‘todo’ list running maybe between 70 to 100 things I would like to do. They are mostly about the day to day management of the house and my real job of wife, dog walker and maker of packed lunches.

I always have this dream of going about having coffee and chatting but really I just want the adventure of going out with my bag. It’s a really nice bag. Also I don’t know many people and I am as dull as ditch water.

If I was going about with bag and having an actual life instead of wondering what happened to all the lids of plastic lunch boxes. I would perhaps go and photograph Georgian Squares and do some research in the special collections of the university of a artist who I much admire. Hang out in the graveyards looking at lettering.
Ride my funny little bike. Go swimming. Devise advertising campaigns for my little books and enact them.

I could do some letterpress, I could write up my thoughts on teaching bookbinding to a room of bored students. I could get my head around how to order cheap train tickets on line and have a campaign of visiting art collections I’ve always wanted to see.

I should be bold and outrageous and have a time table of wild and exciting activities. I should reach out to people and say please meet me for coffee.

I should have a massive clear out starting from the back yard and marching through the house removing all the rubbish, the broken, the not needed, the ill fitting and the down right annoying. Must account for at least a third of the house contents. There is plenty of empty bins in the street I could just dump every thing.
Absolve myself of the responsibly of curating the museum of me.

Bookbinding is the constant. On my bench I have to make a special book that I am really looking forward to.

And I have to make a book to record my experiments in seed germination. It will have an cut index. High excitement and considerable tension.


literarily failed to fix the roof when the sun shined.
December 25, 2013, 9:47 am
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When the wretched shed was blown down on the allotment and we needed to dismantle the remains and get rid of the contents. Another allotment holder pointed out that the allotment that was one along from ours was in possession of a combined greenhouse and shed, why didn’t we make use of that until we cold build a shed on our own plot and we could get our vegetables started early in the greenhouse.

This allotment had been abandoned many years ago because of severe drainage problems we had heard that several attempts had been made but it’s utterly and completely broken.
It does have a busted up greenhouse and a watertight shed.

So we stuck our tools and materials in the shed and we would get around to securing the busted bits of the greenhouse. We took a lot of the weeds out and started to clean up the drainage ditches.

We didn’t really do anything about the roof because we didn’t understand the breadth and scope of the problem and in our real world our methods of problem solving come down to getting a man in to fix it, buy a replacement, take it to a man to fix it, don’t replace it and get the landlord to fix it.

There was a storm a couple of weeks ago it took out a pane of glass and it smashed in to the gatepost some yards away. There was now several windows missing and more damage could happen with a new storm.

We had to put in a repair that would last a couple of weeks until we could work out an efficient method to fix the whole roof that we could do for nothing.
We couldn’t fix the problem because we had no experience in the domain and we had no money.
We had been hoarding materials we had taken out of skips and bins and ‘found’ some estate agents ‘to let’ signs, we had invested in ‘greenhouse repair tape’ and staples and we hacked a repair to tide the roof over.

We got some money and bought a big length of thickish polythene and staple it to some wood, wind it around a couple of times and then we will nail it to the greenhouse taking it over the roof and nailing the plastic wrapped wood on the other side.

Thats what we are going to do this afternoon because the weather forecast says it’s going to be sunny.

Because you should always fix the roof when the sun shines.

knowing your worth as a maker
December 12, 2013, 9:08 am
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I am going to get all retrospective and miserable while I get my hindsight on and give myself a good beating while I consider just some of the things that went really wrong for me this year.

But wait! I shall also be including my new patented remedies that will either kill or cure me next year.

The most profound change that happened to me this year was the insight that binding books for artists really sucked and although I got paid some money in actuality the grief was not worth it. Some artists are mean girls.

I could have got all bitter and angry about it because I felt so powerless and I could not effect change. BUT.

An artist I know was kind to me, encouraged me, paid me for some work that they didn’t need to, which allowed me to buy materials and most importantly actually stated that “I will help you”

A clearly delivered and unconditional offer of help can be profoundly uplifting. It’s what I am going to do next year. Sometimes people are not waving but drowning and they need a lifeline.

I said ‘No’ to so many things this year it became habitual and it is directly connected to my sense of worth as a maker.

Far too much silk purses made from sows ears wanted to be made, wilful and dangerous pushing of my limits as a maker which made for equally exciting and dangerous meetings.

I tolerated way to much ambiguity about the money.

Thats just a manners thing that works against the weak.

What do you want me to do? How much are you going to pay me for it? When will I get the money?

I need to sort out the blocks.
December 8, 2013, 5:39 pm
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A million years ago when I was much more in to printing than I am now I accumulated at lot of blocks most of them from art work form the Dover clip art books. They were at type height and then I got a boxcar base and I used to just get A4 sheets of them done and cut them up. It used to be comparatively cheap get then.

But I have never been one of the most organised people and these blocks are all over the place. I swear I would pay money to someone to sort them out in to a system.
So I can put my hands on them. Finding this one took ages.

creating a work flow for hand bookbinding


It’s not enough to make the books but more importantly and I really can’t stress this enough you have to craft a system to make the books as effectively as possible.

Making a random big pile of books and hoping for inspiration is not the best way to go about things. I had some ideas but I am working poorly and I know there is a better way.

Has to be, as it stands to reason.

I have started to look at the problems I am making for myself and can see solutions.

I did an audit of how I made these books and pin pointed where the sense of failure was.

I realised that have the entire process wrong. I go to my bench with the idea of making some books. Thats it. Nothing else just ‘make some books’ This has to change in to make a series or an edition of books that are this particular size and have this design on the cover, that are made of this paper, the endpapers are this and all the components parts are cut out or are good to go.

I should be assembling books not random acts of binding.