Saturday 1 June 2013

Making a Solander Box

Just recently, I took another course at Shepherds Falkiner, this time at their brand new space near Victoria, in order to learn how to make a cloth-bound solander (or clamshell) box.

The course was run by Benjamin Elbel, from whom I previously learnt the tricks of case-binding a handmade  book (and who runs various courses throughout the UK and Europe).

It's hard to tell from the photos, but this box is suitable for postcard size, though it can be made to any size. My idea is to use such a box as a protective cover for a handmade book, although it can also be used to house loose prints. This version does look more like a book, when closed, than other widely-available boxes, which I like. A book within a book. Another slightly easier option would be the slipcase, though I like the idea and feel of opening something as you would a book (and then taking out the book inside).

I must say that I thought, in comparison to stitching and binding a book, this would be easy. Well it wasn't. Again, it's hard to tell from the photos, the fine detail of the corners and folds... Whether I can repeat this I'm not sure, though I know I have to do it soon to remember the surprisingly intricate sequences.

What the experience has done is given me an increased respect for the bookbinder's art in making a true bookbinder's solander box (this is not like the ones you buy on the high street - honestly!). And I now fully understand (and I have to say would be more willing to consider paying for) the price charged for a box made by hand by a practicing bookbinder or bindery. In fact, considering the hours it takes even for an experienced bookbinder, it begins to seem like a bargain.

The creative possibilities are of course as wide as in bookbinding itself.  I have to weigh up how much time and energy I am going to give to bookbinding, balanced against creating the images that go inside the binding!... Though I love the concept of the two elements creating a whole, a finished piece. My little example here is understated, and none of us could have coped with more on our first attempt, but I think it is always important where the book itself is not the primary object (for me this is not about book art) that the work inside is not overshadowed. Of course there is no titling or printing on the binding, which I would like to incorporate (however minimally). And, I admit, I'm already getting the urge to experiment with the creative possibilities...