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Re: BOOK_ARTS-L Digest - 11 Oct 1999 to 12 Oct 1999

    In response to Suhagís long ago question about bone tooling - what
is it and how do you do it - I refer him to The Hand Bookbinders of
California, based in San Francisco. On their roster there must be a half
dozen binders and binding teachers, or more, who can help.
    But Suhagís question has brought up a bigger issue: the hierarchy of
materials used in bookbinding, and those who use these materials.
    In 1972 I began binding my first book while studying with Barbara
Hiller in San Francisco. I bound it in half leather. That is what
Barbara taught people to do - make leather books. I began practicing
leather paring the second week. It took me almost a year to finish that
binding at two hour per week lessons. As I look at that book now, itís
not half bad and the leather work is the best part. My second book was
leather bound as were all those that followed in my classes with
Barbara. I studied with her for three years and then went to Paris to
study binding. I studied night and day, every day for one year. I bound
a lot of books. They were all leather. At the end of my studies I had to
beg my teacher to show me how to bind a book in cloth. After much
posturing, he agreed. One book.
    I tell this story not because I think that it illustrates THE WAY.
It illustrates A way.
    When I began my studies with Barbara Hiller, I was no more talented
nor gifted than anyone else. What I was was curious and passionate. I,
like Suhag, had seen leather bindings and I was smitten. I NEEDED to
have someone teach me how to make them. Someone who would carefully push
me into the deep end of the pool and let me flail about with my passion
and curiosity, and teach me how to survive it all.
    When I began teaching in my own studio, I also began students with
the making of leather bindings.
    Certainly there is a down-side to the deep end approach. While oneís
focus is very concentrated, it is narrow. That said, there are many
concepts, materials and techniques involved in the making of leather
bindings that are the same as, or at least easily adaptable to the
making of bindings of paper or cloth.
    Presently,  I teach bookbinding in the Book Arts Program at the
University of Alabama. Because my classes are part of a larger program
that includes letterpress printing, publishing, papermaking and the
history of the book, I have taken the direction of teaching basic cloth
and paper binding for the studentsí first two semesters. I see value in
this approach, mostly having to do with breadth of focus, as was touched
upon above. Also, not all of the students in my classes are
concentrating in binding. Beginning the third semester however, students
begin making leather bindings and seem to me to be absolutely prepared
to do so. Last year, two second year students made ten leather binding
each. They were quite well done.
    So, I say to Suhag, go for it!  You seem to have great curiosity and
enthusiasm. Donít let it be stifled. Find someone who will pull you to
the side of the pool when you are tired and confused. Donít be afraid of
the deep water. Itís only water.

Don Glaister
Professor of Book Arts
The University of Alabama

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