Growlygracepress's Blog

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.

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.


surprising myself
March 21, 2016, 9:30 am
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I’ve been to London for a quick visit where I did a serious amount of art galleries. The stuff I had worked out for my self in my early teens is still solid thirty years later. I knew I was right then and I am still right now. I am absolutely fine about dropping out of my art history degree. I  would have not gained anything after the first year and the morsels I got have sustained me for decades.

When it get right down to it EH Gombrich is wasted on teenagers you need to live a bit to totally get it, where as I can’t read John Berger at all now but at the time when I was very young I felt that he saved my life.

When I was at the British Library I went to see the Gospel of  Saint Cuthbert because I have just stepped off a train from the north east and it would be rude not to say hello. I had a little ‘hinny’ book because I show it to my sister (I took her hostage to shops and galleries) and it felt totally all right to take the little ‘hinny book’ and compare and contrast it to the heart stopping beauty of the little gospel book. I was reaching out to the bookbinder who made the book and wanted to gain an insight in to how to develop my techniques.

It was a bit bold but the insights I gained are priceless.

I seen a Sybil Pye binding I have only seen photographs and I was shocked by the size of it. I had assumed that her books would have been massive but the one I seen was small I just was not prepared for the size.

I’ve been occupied by the new allotment and I have not been at my bench. I would love to have a proper, full fat and real commission. I can just about imagine what it would be like to make a book like that and perhaps I can do it.

I think I am going to to pretend I am the bookbinder who made the gospel that was placed in the grave of St Cuthburt. and there no harm in pretending that.


While on the train I did read over my notes on the mythical bookbinding handout and I’ve really done the writing part I just need to type it up.



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.

controlling the impulse to get stuck in.
January 13, 2015, 10:59 am
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I have to lay some paving and then build a brick structure and then place some how and then the green house base goes on the wood and is secured with screws. But I have no experience of brick laying and I have even at the best of times a hazy relationship with ‘straight’ and ‘true’ so I have to be really careful and use the spirit level and have bits of string stretched out to keep me right.

Now I could wait until the week end and get some help from my husband but that will mean that I will have to do as I am told because he has done this before and he is massively competent and methodical to boot or I could have a bash and maybe what happens is I learn some new ways on how not to lay paving.

I don’t like not being able to make progress on a project that is stuck. It like a black cloud that threatens to rain.

The best use of my time would be to finish the roof on the mighty shed and do the preliminary work on the greenhouse site and then watch a great big pile of instructional videos about brick laying!

But first I will have a bacon and fried potato sandwich to build up my strength.

I took your love, not your life.
September 25, 2014, 8:28 am
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This was a series of books I made last year and I was really happy with them. That ‘was’ is a bit of a weasel word. But I really ‘did’ love them. They have the best ever edge colouring I have ever achieved.




The marbled paper on the sides is I believe the best in the world. The leather is the best goat skin on the market and the raised bands truly suck big style.

So I killed them.


I am going do some more sanding and filling and I’ll come up with a cover design that at least honours them. These books strength come from their size and weight.

When I pulled the leather of them I could see that the ‘raised bands’ I intended would have been much thiner and not as rustic. The leather was a little bit too thick.
I should have known.

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.