I'd been itching to have a go with traditional arts like bookbinding for a long time, especially since spending a chunk of my Literature degree focusing on the book as a physical object (my dissertation was an exploration into the way layout and font impacted on the reading experiences of modern novels). It's always been an interest for me, but looking to pursue further study in the history of the book as an object and the processes associated with bookmaking spurred me on to experience the techniques for myself. Enter the London Centre for Book Arts, an artist-run studio in the old printing quarter in Hackney Wick, who provide studio space and equipment for artists and self-publishers and run workshops for beginners.
I decided to start small, booking onto the Introduction to Foil Blocking class. Having found my way from Hackney Wick Station - just round the corner - I was greeted by the kind of large, open plan studio which I'd been desperate to get back into since leaving my studies in Fine Art behind - racks of inks, rolls of paper, huge trays of type, hanging tools and a very, very enviable selection of books, magazines and print-related items in the shop (be still, my beating heart!). Our tutor was the lovely Simone Goode, one of the artists who runs the LCBA, who patiently showed us how to prepare the machines and blocks, demonstrated the process and gave us the free run of the foils! As well as the Blockmaster 8x5 presses, we also got to have a go on the slightly more difficult, beautiful looking J.T. Marshall press. It was a fantastic evening, and really reignited my passion for the handmade element of book arts - after the class, we're now allowed to get a studio pass to use the foil blocking machines in our own time. I'm now saving for my next class; I just have to somehow choose between the general bookbinding, hardback binding or letterpress workshops!