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Re: [BKARTS] . Conservation/restoration (How to get in to)



My path to becoming a professional binder was somewhat different than those
given, so I thought I'd chime in.

I started bookbinding as a hobby when I was 10 years old, using Cockerell's
book to learn from and then later Brudett's. Although I've always been good
at learning from books, I found this approach confusing as a kid. Different
books would give different methods for doing the same thing and I didn't
have enough experience to realize that I needed to find the best method for
me.

I then took a detour in my path to becoming a professional binder by getting
a PhD in physics. I worked as a physicist for about 10 years, during which
time I had the good fortune to take private lessons from Tom Albro (LC) and
David Brock (formally at LC and Bill Anthony trained). Both gave me a firm
grounding in the conservation side of binding.

I finally gave up my career as a physicist. It had become too much moving
one stack of papers from the left side of my desk to the right side, instead
of discovering and building new things. I was, though, extremely fortunate
since it had paid very well and had given me no time to spend it.

I picked up and moved to England to apprentice under John Mitchell. Here
again I was very fortunate. John is both an excellent binder and teacher,
which do not always go together. Living in England also exposed me to many
new ideas and binders. It was a wonderful experience.

Since my return to San Diego I have been in private practice, doing work for
individuals, book dealers and institutions. I've never regretted my choice
to become a professional binder.

Looking back, I think the things I've found most useful are:

1   Having a hard science background. It has developed in me the ability to
do complex three-dimensional problem solving in my head and to have a
critical eye when reading the literature. All to often I've read papers on
conservation that, if my under graduate students had turned them in, I would
have flunked them. The best research I know of was done by Bill Minter when
he stuck some unbleached cotton and linen on a grocery store door. I'd love
to see one of the Library Sciences programs join forces with their
university's science and engineering departments to carry out simple tests
to give us some useful information on fundamental questions.

2   I was exposed to both the conservation and trade sides of binding. Both
have very useful things to give but there is so little exchange between
them.

3   A love of the book as a physical object and the love of history. In many
ways, I believe binders are  born, not made.

4   The ability to spend extended periods of time learning. I'm not a great
one for workshops. I go in with the best intentions of writing everything
down then rewriting my notes then practicing what I've learned. The reality
for me is that I scribble things down and don't get to them until much later
when I've forgotten most of what I learned.

5   Looking at as many books as possible. I was fortune living outside of
London, which has two major book fairs every month. I'd religiously go to
them and handle as many books as I could (OK, and buy a few - I'm human).
This exposed me to many different historical styles, seeing what was and was
not falling apart, etc.

6   Practicing over and over again the bench skills. It is the only way I
know of to get the proficiency required.

I realize that I was extremely lucky and am very thankful for that. At the
same time, I am very concerned that the craft side of binding is dyeing.
There are so few opportunities to learn and people aren't either able or
willing to put the time in for a job that, in the end, will pay almost as
well as a manager at Burger King.

I apologize that this is so long, but I've trimmed it down as much as I can.

Frank Lehmann
Lehmann Bindery

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