Growlygracepress's Blog

winning at making mistakes
September 29, 2016, 8:17 am
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I got lucky and I made lots of ‘mistakes’ and when the experiment is on a sizeable plot of land it’s a bit visible. You will ‘know’ me by the trail of my mistakes. The exciting thing about them is that I am completely unable to repeat them next year because that would be stupidity. I know how some of them happened and thrillingly it was about a weakness in me. I am not very good at a thing called ‘potting on’ that’s when seedling in a pot grows and it’s roots expands and you move it in to the next size pot giving it new compost and food and you do it again and again before placing it out to it’s final growing position.

I suck at this.

I wanted to grow big juicy tomatoes in the poly tunnel that already had two grape vines and a peach tree going on so I stuck in a lot of show leeks and a kiwi fruit, a couple of cucumbers and a aubergine. This was beyond suck and was actual insanity. The vines and the grafted tomatoes had an enormous battle and the vines won the tomatoes then decided that the tunnel was not hot enough and have refused to ripen. I also failed in being rigid at the feeding of the show leeks and was a bit hit and miss.

I am going to have clip boards and charts like they have in toilets in supermarkets. All the vegetables get Sunday lunch. Tick. Initials.

The vines can have the poly tunnel  I’ll set up a new one for the growing of tomatoes specifically I am going to grow English ones with small fruits. The leeks I am going to move to a covered leek trench.

The biggest problem I faced was the explosion of weeds and the containing and processing weeds I have killed. Every thing would be better if for every hour I worked on the plot I actually used a hoe for twenty minutes.

One of my best mistakes was my failure to use multiple seed labels in trays I had lots of seed trays on the go and invariably the one label would become detached from the tray so I would have no idea what brassica I was planting.

So of to the allotment and working on potting on the spring brassicas, creating an area of the garden that has weed suppressant fabric on, that has holes cut out of it and I will then extract some soil, put in a pot filled with compost then plant that pot with the most expensive brassicas in the world.

The plants are my ‘ideas’,  the garden is my mind and the ‘mistakes’ are the feedback.

Making the little books for money.
September 23, 2016, 7:52 am
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About a year ago I had an insight about just how I could compromise my need to make books (I shall expand on that ‘need’ thing at some point) the time required to make books, the need for stuff to be sold in craft shops, (again I shall expand on the ‘need’ and ‘stuff’ at some point) and I came to some far reaching conclusions.

If you caught me going about my travels last year and if you asked me how things are going I would have been overflowing with gibberish about ‘new’ ideas, understandings, giddy excitement about the bookmaking process. I seen a possibility that I could make books that please me and would be bought as a gift. Every one wins in the transaction.

I have been working at making changes to the book making process with the emphasis on adding value where ever possible. I have got the size of book right down so that the raw materials costs are really low, I have been working in series of tens and making all the components at the start and assembling, I am putting effort in to becoming more effective at the practice (again I will expand on what I understand by the ‘practice’)

I think I have a map with a route clearly defined as to where I am going.

I think I can make a little bit of money if I make the books as effectively as possible and use esty or what ever its called to sell them. I know it’s not rocket science but I have the whole picture now. What if for the next twenty or so years I divide my day time between working at my bookbinding bench and the rest of the time working at the allotment.

Doing both tasks to the best of my abilities and have no tolerance to faults.

starry starry book
August 1, 2016, 8:56 am
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This little book is the result of a very long and over though out experiment and it’s been a roller coaster.

It’s a little book and it’s holding it’s own. In the no man’s land of the craft shop people need to buy stuff. This is ‘stuff’ for them to buy. I can make the little book as efficiently as possible with out compromise to my standards. I can just about accept the bitter pill that is the in cash terms I am going to get about £12 for it.

I can’t do the craft fairs or worse still the artist book things. As I have no money I can’t go off on a jaunt to promote it and besides my appearance works against me.

I think I will just have to be brave.

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.


what I did with the money
January 7, 2016, 10:25 am
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I get money from commissions, teaching workshops and the little books in the craft shop and I spend it on tools and materials and make more little books. I refine my ideas and my techniques get better.

At one point last year I made a little book and I was stuck by it’s own awesomeness and went about showing it to people and a couple of them said ‘yes! make me that book’. So I went back to my bench and failed to make it which has led to the current state of affairs where I am practically cloning the book ten times.

Last year I seriously thought about how best to achieve for want of a better word ‘success’ and I am currently making progress. In fact I was telling every one I met in December that I had concluded a really exciting time in bookbinding and I had great expectations.

Obviously I sounded absolutely bat shit crazy.

For what it is worth it’s this : Back in the Autumn  I was leaving a cafe / gallery and I turned around and looked at the people sitting at tables and what I seen was grandmothers, daughters and grandchildren. I realised that the grandmother needs and wants to buy presents and that all I need to do is make it.

So I went back to our old favourite Geordie terms of endearment.


I think that the black leather is to gloomy and decided to try again with some brighter colours.


So the first one was the eponymous ‘hinny’


It’s a goldielock book. It’s just the right size, it’s perfect and most of all it’s sticky. If I put it in your hand you will want it. As I was working through the books I came across a massive problem when I discovered that my lettering cutting ability is not what it should be. To put a pared leather title on a book means that the letters have to be cut out multiple times, I would cut them out of pared leather, I cut them out to make a die so I can get the position of the title on the book and I cut them so I can back pare the leather to except the dropped in letter.

I am not doing myself any favours in using my favourite font Clarendon as it was unforgiving straight edges. So I screwed up the books with sloppy work.


Poor beuk!


And then it hit me “that grandmother does not need to know it’s Clarendon’ she just needs to buy a gift” So I thought is their anyway I can get the letters punched out in any material I choose with out losing my mind. I am eluding to the horror that is using a computer driven vinyl cutter which did spit out letters it is to say the least a very harsh mistress.

So I thought what did the women who make cards and scrap books use before they moved on to vinyl cutters and I realised that they used die cutters on essentially a cylinder press. The card and scrapbook making business absolutely massive and I mean enormous. At least three channels of television selling tools and materials every night and on the news racks there must be at least twenty magazines about making cards.

So I spent the money on dies and leathers and I am going to die cut birds and stick them on books. It does not make the books any less hand made. They are just as much a tool as a hammer or a saw. Some books I cut with a guillotine and some I cut with a plough.

So we are going to find out this week what happens when you die stamp letters out of leather and stick them on a book.


my bench on a Monday morning
March 30, 2015, 8:00 am
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It’s a bit of a mess. What you can see is my recent experiments with oak boards and metal patches. You can see my latest and most perfect ‘toy’ the most beautiful box of watercolour paints that was ever made. There are random packets of seeds as I have stated to plant seedlings for the allotment.


Once I have cleared away the clutter on the bench I am going to go down to the allotment and prepare the poly tunnel for the all the little pots of vegetables I have started and the house is bursting at the seams with tomatoes, chard, cabbages, Brussels sprouts and peppers and I need to clear away the space so I can start even more stuff.
I got given a greenhouse last year and we dismantled it and put off the truly awful task of levelling the ground and creating the foundations so we could put it up. I really understand hindsight now. I have a deep appreciation of how when I finish a greenhouse task I can thing of at least three better ways to have done it. The steep learning curve that was provided by brick laying is a case in point. The shed building is child’s play in comparison. When you see a man lay bricks he makes it look so easy and it is the very opposite. It’s very difficult and don’t care how awful it looks as long as it’s level and I can stick some wood on the bricks and then attach the base of the greenhouse to it then put the greenhouse back together.


The good thing that happened with the green house is that I scored a couple of teaching gigs way back in December and I can afford to put polycarbonate panels rather than the evil that is greenhouse glass.
Will rant about bookbinding techniques for plastic.

tiny books of delight
July 21, 2014, 8:32 am
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Chances are you might not understand this because it is genuine bookbinder gibberish.

See the tiny books in the photograph I am going to point out something important about them which I take totally for granted because thats the way I bind books.

The tiny books are bound in account style. They snap open.

That is all.

If you bind it they will come.
May 7, 2014, 8:31 am
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I am going to make a book that I think needs making. It’s for an artist I have worked with previously and I think they need ‘this’ book.

I really like working with artists they are the best and the worst clients in the world. Perhaps the very worse ever is actually another bookbinder.

All you artists out there that I have worked with in the past time is a great healer and you should get in touch.

Making books like a demented woman.
March 19, 2014, 11:06 am
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I managed to get some money together and I am able to experiment with working methods and I am paying particular attention to creating a work flow that works for me.

So I bought 100 sheets of paper, scrim, tyvek, book cloth, legal buckram, leather and boards.


So I am churning out books and identifying what I can cope with. One of the things I have learnt is that I have to go back to using the plough as I fear that my guillotine is not good enough and it’s not the sort of work I want to produce.


Also I like coloured edges. It makes the book handsome.
But I am going to go back to using watercolours as the Dr Martin’s inks are a wee bit industrial and unsubtle.

I also like the book to start with an endpaper and a coloured flyleaf.


I think I am going to move over to endpapers made from kraft paper and manilla and have books that are made from a handful of ingredients.
Linen thread, calf skin, book cloth, kraft paper, mill board, beeswax, manila card and silk ribbon.

some recent books I have made.
March 7, 2014, 8:44 am
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This is my poor bench it’s turned in to a battle field. I’ve been fighting with paper, leather and boards and I think I am winning. It might be peace with honour.


I think this is crumbs of Ann Muir marbled paper.


The outrageously talented J & J Jeffery’s of Edinburgh paper.


You do realise that we are talking ‘living treasures’ when it comes to the people who make this paper?


Some Geordie terms of endearments not bothering anyone at all.