At the end of last year, I was commissioned to create a book of epic proportions. Code name: the Beast.
The request came from a brewery, as they wanted something to house their recipes in. They use a lots of old, re-purposed parts for their equipment and the fact I work with upcycled leather fit perfectly.
The client gave me a brief outline of what they wanted, and we went back and forth getting the details right; I really wanted to make sure I understood just what look/feel they were after. Here are the specs I was given:
- A3 size book
- Arcane meets modern look
- Leather ‘patchwork’/made-from-spare-parts cover
- Unlined pages with weathered/tarnished look
- Some kind of fastenings, latches or old leather belts, on upper & lower sections of the cover, with the ability to lock
To get the A3 size, I had to order A2 paper to fold down. Luckily, my favourite cupcycled paper comes in that size- made from upcycled takeaway cups, it really ties in with the whole repurposed/reused feel. Further completing this theme, and giving the paper that weathered/tarnished look the client was after, I stained all the pages (and my hands!) with tea. The paper then dried with a lovely ripple to it, adding to the aged feel.
Once folded, the signatures (sets of folded pages) were sewn together using waxed thread, onto linen tapes- these attach to the covers and help make such a big book sturdier.
Heavy duty card was used for the covers, thick enough to take the leather I was using; bookbinding typically uses very thin leather, but as I was using scraps from my rescued leather stash, it was around 3mm thick (believe me, for bookbinding that’s thick!). I’ve boxes of scraps and offcuts and it was lovely to be able to use them. Thankfully I love jigsaws.
The spine was made from a single piece of leather; rescued, like the rest, from a shoe factory, it was slightly worn with a few scuffs. So, perfect for the project. I have a say this took a while to wrestle into place, as it needed to be even at the top, bottom and both front and back, along with the fact that it’s a huge book. But I got it there eventually, fixing the front and back covers into place and creating a nice soft spine that opens and closes easily.
The original idea was to have old leather belts attached, so the book would fasten closed using the buckles. However, as I worked on the idea, I discovered it just wasn’t going to work; the book was so big, the belts and buckles quite cumbersome, and attaching them fully meant they were tricky to unfasten. After going through and disregarding several options with the customer, I found a diagram to make latches from leather, rivets and D rings and we settled on that. They took me a while to get just right, but I absolutely love them and will be using them again!
The old leather belts didn’t go to waste though. I attached the lengths of leather so it gives the appearance that they’re part of the latches. They also help break up the patchwork of the cover.
So, finally I was finished and the Beast was ready to be sent to it’s new master! I was sad to see it go and nervous to see how it would be received. I’d been sending updates throughout, but it’s very different to holding the finished work in your hands and looking over it in real life. I’ve put their response below!
“… I LOVE IT! This is so awesome, you’ve really nailed it!
I’m incredibly happy with how it turned out and am ultra-excited to start filling it up and make part of our lore.”
Would you like to take part in your own handmade book adventure? Let me know your ideas!