Growlygracepress's Blog

Re-engaging with bookbinding practice.
August 26, 2016, 7:53 am
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This is a little ‘proof of concept’ book that I did some months ago. It was after the set of ‘hinny’ books and I got distracted and wanted to make ‘memento mori’ books.


This is what I came up with. I was not that happy about the finish, not happy about the leather, not happy with the definition of the raised design and absolutely over the moon about the end papers. So when I hit the bench this week I reached out for the little book and glued down the endpapers and put it in the press. It can go to a good home.

I am going to have another shot at the little skeleton books because I am really keen on them as an idea. Another thing is that I can’t find a white leather to use for an onlay.

So I am going to make nine perfect ‘hinny’ books and then I am going to make ‘momento mori’ books. Can’t wait.

I can haz pork pie.


This is pork pie number one.

If I had to identify a ‘thing’ I do that is unhelpful it’s my reluctance to follow a recipe I dislike submitting to a list of commands in a precise order. When it comes to cooking I am a busker. However I own a gazillion cookery books and I love reading them I am just not that in to cooking from them.

However I have known for many years now that I wanted to make raised pork pie and the stars became aligned several months ago. I started to buy the ingredients so they were in the kitchen. The first thing I bought was lard. One morning I was making breakfast and I realised I had run out of vegetable oil for frying so I reached out for the lard and it must have been the first time I had fried with lard for thirty years. It was a revelation. So I kept frying with lard and it got better and better. I had to buy more lard and still in the back of my mind was I am going to make pork pie.

So last week I had been reading about mise-en-place as I am going to restructure how I approach bookbinding and I decided to make a pork pie.

This happened. I was trying to be organised and cleaning up all the time, I was weighing out all the ingredients, I was trying to understand the recipe, I was learning new stuff, I was failing to take note of what time it goes in to the oven, when it gets turned down and when it comes out. I was using scales, I had the wrong equipment, I didn’t even know how to use the ‘dolly’  this is the wooden mould that you raise the pastry around before you fill it with meat.

So I had to improvise with a bread tin. The pastry is way too thick but the filling was great, the jelly was great and as proof of concept it is a massive success.


This is pork pie number two

I made this the next day. I went to the shops and bought some measuring spoons which were a revelation, a spring form cake tin and some prunes. This was a handsome pie

The pastry was thinner and the filling was great.

I have learned tons and tons.

I am going to make more stuff out of the books. The next thing is going to be baked cheese cake then scotch eggs, stake and kidney pudding, French onion soup ( I don’t have the patience to caramelised onions ) and cassoulet.

I am doing this to become a better bookbinder and it’s already working.

binding books and growing melons and walking up westgate road.
June 23, 2016, 8:14 am
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I have been working very hard on creating the new allotment that I have stopped binding books. I did not have any commissioned work and in my head I had solved the problems I had developed but have not actually implemented the solution. On my bench I have twenty books. Ten need a cover and the other ten need their boards.

Then I have to prove my theory of putting the letters on correctly in the centre of the boards.


These hinnys are all over the shop. Except the perfect one.

For the past couple of months I have had feeling of unease and a sense of lost. I could not quite put my finger on it and suddenly I realised that I was desperately missing the physicality of the making and creating a object and apply critical analysis.

Is this book a success?

On the allotment it’s different I am trying work effectively and with purpose while growing an insane amount of celery. Every day is a learning day and the biggest thing I learnt is if their is a tray of seedlings put multiple plant labels on them. I lost lots of labels and have a bed of brassicas that could be anything. They will make themselves know. I have seen a tiny button of cauliflower which always makes me swoon.

The other thing is that I am very guilty of not potting things on and the poor plants got pot bound and their roots were going around in circles. Sometime my ‘ideas’ get pot bound and they need re-potting with another helping of grub so they will grow strong and vigorous.

The good thing that’s going to happen is I have some teaching next week and I am going to go up Westgate Hill Road to buy some wood to make clamps and this is my favourite thing.

Right the most time effective thing I can do right now is to go to the supermarket. Then I am going to correct the latest mistake I have made. I have planted two grafted melon plants in to tomato grow bags but I need to take them out and put a bottomless pot on top fill it with compost and put the melons back in.

A manifestation of manifestos.
June 17, 2016, 12:53 pm
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I have been busy this morning putting together this little book for the workshop. I am pleased with the way it’s turned out and it was useful to find out all the problems which happened when I sewed the little book up.  I threaded up a full packet of needles to save time and l then proceeded to bend three of them and was aware that they could snap in two. I am putting this down to the decline of quality or I have become very strong because of my toiling in the allotment.

I might make a big cardboard model of the sewing process. It might help people understand it better.


Using dies to cut out leather.
May 27, 2016, 7:30 am
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This is a very interesting photo. It’s the original ‘hinny’ book and beside it is ‘proof of concept’ and a die I have made that allows me to place the onlay leather on the cover.

The black letters on the grey leather have been cut out with a commercial die from a enormous, gigantic mind boggling amount of stuff aimed at women who make greeting cards and scrap books. Gazillion Dollar industry. I have been poking around the craft mines for years looking for tools and I have to say that die cutting is my prize plum.

The dies will cut out parred leather.

I should be in line for a Nobel prize in bookbinding for that little statement. Clearly it’s not proof of Hawking radiation but seriously if you are turned on by putting leather on a book cover (and who isn’t?) you might want to check it out.

While we are on the subject of Stephen Hawking I realised that I have been engaging in ‘thought experiment’ and have been quite addicted to thinking things through and I now understand that the thinking must be backed up with actual experiments and that the results have been fully reported and understood in terms of success and failure.

I’ve been thinking way to much and at times I have been such a long way from home. The only thing that counts is practical and repeatable work at my bench.


working with tools
March 7, 2016, 9:22 am
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Sometimes it takes effort to practice with a new tool. I have a tendency to treat a new tool like a toy and have a quick play with it and put it aside and I rediscover it and wonder why I haven’t done any thing with it. Sometime I know the tool with expose some ropey technique and I have not put in nearly enough practice and I am exposed as a rubbish bookbinder! All I have to do is love the task a bit more.

Towards the end of last year after thinking really hard, reading a great deal and then spending some money I invested in a new piece of equipment and I considered myself well and truly sorted. I was elated I was going around actually telling people that I had made a massive breakthrough in an approach to bookbinding and I was really excited by the results.  As I was working through a series of experiments and exercises other problems would present and a solution found by buying another piece of equipment and that requires more time to get it’s use integrated in to my practice.

This means that I have equipment, tools, a new model of working and I am trying to generate ideas and models at the same time I need to actually finish a sequence of books and plan the next one.

Around all this bookbinding excitement I got a new allotment.

On one hand I have an emerging new bookbinding paradigm on the other hand I have been given the best allotment in the world. I am obviously exaggerating and ‘paradigm’ is way to fancy a word to use when all I have done if found a way to cut out leather with a die and have bought a new paring machine.

I would post photographs of the allotment but they will not do it justice. Allotments are sad things at this time of the year, they are still asleep and are just a whole big heap of maintenance tasks. I can see about 500 little tasks that won’t make any difference at all.

I just look in a direction and see the next task and I go to Wilkinson’s and buy part of the solution. I made it more simpler by asking how they solved a problem and I just go and buy that.

Rusty dexion strips in the greenhouse staging that’s easy go buy a can of Hammerite and paint it. You need to grow hundreds and hundreds of plants that’s easy go and buy packs of plastic cups 100 for £1. Yes that is capillary matting being used as insulation behind the bubble wrap on a greenhouse wall.

An allotment is a great big area of demonstrating techniques and ability and practice.

The garden has to be fully planted and the beds have to be clean and free of weeds.

The paths must be free of clutter. The buildings must be fully maintained.

One of the things I inherited is a collection of old gardening tools and when I go down to the allotment the first thing I do is I take a tool, sand down the wooden handle and treat it with linseed oil. They tools have been selected by someone who had a keen eye for unusual tools that do a specific task. I win. The tools live to fight another day.

I have three wheel barrows. One is fine, one needs it’s tyre inflating the other needs a replacement tyre. I know where the pump is and I have been given the tyre replacement.

So far I have counted ten watering cans but that could change.

Before I go down for a session of metal painting I think I am going to make a book with skeletons on the cover.

I smell of Jayes Fluid and paraffin.


the hive of hinny
January 25, 2016, 2:30 pm
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This is the continuing saga of my trying to remake a book titled ‘hinny’ which for people who do not live in the North East of England ‘hinny’ is a Geordie term of endearment and it’s origins come from a regional dialect of ‘honey’.

You don’t hear it much these days. There is an old song called “Keep your feet still Geordie hinny” which makes me grin like the proverbial Alsatian.

A couple of points about the books.

The cut out letters are outstanding because I used a die and punched them out on a cylinder press.

I have got to solve the problem of getting the title in the correct position on every book. Some of the titles are wandering all over the shop.

I need to pare the leather thinner. I realised after the first two that the ‘back paring’ could have been a little bit better but I decided to continue with the the remaining eight because for leather could have only be used for these books alone. So the process then became a learning opportunity.

These books were made under what I call ‘quick and dirty’ this means that the books are created quickly with no agonising over colours matching in the covers, titles and end papers. I like the endpapers not to match. So there is an element of randomness that I like.

So I am going to make ten more little books and will make the necessary corrections as I go.

The brown with yellow is really great. Think the client is going to be happy.