The Making of Books: Part 1 - The Open College of the Arts
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The Making of Books: Part 1

There are as many ways of making a book as you can fold a piece of paper.  YouTube is full of tutorials of ways to make a book, although be wary of the scrapbooking style which tends not to suit the photobook.
If you are new to bookmaking, then experimenting with making artist style books is a fantastic learning experience.  They are a great way to understand the basic structure of books, play around with different materials and methods of production.
They are also a key way of understanding how to approach the content of your book, how to consider your page layout and the attention needed in page sequencing.
Getting hands on with a few simple books will pay dividends whether you decide to make your own book or order one via an online service.

Artist Books

Below are a few starting points for you to investigate artist books.
Based in Edinburgh, Rachel Hazell is a good person to start with.
Her book “Bound” is a good introduction to a making simple books from a few sheets of paper.  With minimal equipment, you can create artist style books with her step by step guides.

On her website, The Travelling Bookbinder Rachel also offers workshops and e-courses.  In the e-courses she takes a range of simple book forms and encourages you to be creative with making your own content.
Guy Begbie comes highly recommend as a book creator.  He also runs workshops on bookmaking. His website shows the possibility with the book as a sculptural form.

Image credit: Guy Begbie

The London Centre of Book Arts (LCBA) is a well-resourced studio space.  They run courses on various styles of bookmaking and letterpress. Their website details the courses:
LCBA also published Making Books as a guide to bookmaking.  This has a wider range of book forms (including hardback) and again is well illustrated with step by step guides.

In the South West of England, University of West England has a book arts website.  Run by Sarah Bodman who is Senior Research Fellow for Artist’s Books at the Centre for Fine Print Research (CFPR)
The website has details of artists book fairs and a comprehensive list of starting points to research artist’s books.  It is well worth signing up to the newsletter for which is very comprehensive listing of all things book related.

All the above are very much centred around artists books, which can be easily adapted to photo books.  The key decision is whether you will stick in the images or produce pages with the images already printed on.

Making Books

If you want to make your own books, then you only need a few simple materials and tools to get started.  The following should allow you to make most basic styles of books.

  • Cover materials
  • Paper for the content pages
  • Cutting mat
  • Scapel/Stanley knife (with a sharp blade!)
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Something to make holes if you are sewing – an awl or similar is perfect.  You can just use a needle if you are not making too many holes
  • Glue
  • Brush to apply glue
  • Sewing needle and thread

Online PhotoBooks

An alternative option to making your own book, is to use a photo book printing facility online.  Many of the digital print ordering services have the facility to do this. Lightroom currently allows you to produce a book and order via Blurb.
Quality and service from providers can vary, so it is well worth using the OCA student forums to see what current students are recommending.
In part two, we will explore how to approach the planning and sequencing of images within your book.   
Note about author:
Andrea Norrington has been making books since a child, and currently makes handmade books using waste materials. John Blakemore taught her to make her first photo book in the Spring of 1994. There was a vase of tulips on his kitchen table. She is a self-confessed addict of photography books.
All images by author unless otherwise stated.

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Posted by author: Andrea Norrington
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