Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Great Bookbinding Adventure - Children's University Workshop, August 2012

I spent a week in August teaching a Bookbinding Workshop to a group of children.   This was for the "First University" - our local Children's summer University. 

The children were aged from almost-nine, to almost-thirteen years old and I ended up with a group of sixteen (all girls ... was a bit sad there were no boys, but they were all nice kids).

This is what we did:

Day One - Simple One-Sheet Books

Our classroom (during break time).  The courses were held at a local Upper School - this was one of their art rooms, with walls covered in A-Level students' work (we had to be so careful not to damage it!)
Some of the students... there were 16 in all.
Some of the great one-sheet books (some with covers), made by the students on Day One  

Day Two - Simple Stitched Books

We started the day by making a pair of cute little notebooks. They had pages of coloured paper - 10 colours, for a 20-sheet book, like a rainbow - and brown paper covers.  See the little books at the bottom right of the photo? Those were my examples.  The girls made very similar books, but everyone's was decorated to her own taste (these are in the "end of the week" photos, but I didn't get any specific shots of the rainbow books!).
The other books in this photo, are my teaching examples for some of those we made on Day One.
We then moved on to a "Piano Hinge Binding".  A what? It's called Piano Hinge, because the structure of the binding is similar to the long hinge used for a piano lid:

We used four colours of paper, to show the interesting effect you get with this structure.  I think they looked very pretty!
After this, the children made a small photo album, with stiff paper pages and art paper covers.  I taught them a simple Japanese style stab binding.  The results were fab:
Two of my students - sisters - with their lovely photo albums...

Aren't these great?  The girls were 8 and 12 years old.

Day Three - Longstitch Binding

We spent the whole of the third day making a suede-covered longstitch bound journal.  I had planned this as a "simple" activity for the morning, with something else in the afternoon.  I soon found out that it wasn't as simple as I had believed. 
The students made books like this...
Some hard lessons for me on Wednesday! I let the children run the show, rather than taking control... they ran me & my assistant ragged, with questions and requests for help.  My mistake... I will be more prepared next time and also know how long to allow for this exercise!
Still, the results were great.  The children really amused me, because they spontaneously decorated Everything they made... drawing, writing, stamping, sticking... any way they could find to embellish their work. 
Aaaand... I have no photos of the individual books! I was so busy, that I had no time for picture-taking.  These are also in the photos for Day 5's End-of-Week Exhibition, so please bear with me? 

Day Four - Decorative Papers

We spent Thursday morning making Decorative Papers, with paint and inks. 
The children had a go at marbling.  I found some marbling inks online, which only needed a tray of plain water.
Most marbling inks need some kind of medium added to the water, to make it stiff/ thicker and allow the inks to float, but these were prepared specially, so they'd float on just water - fab for children!


The children experimented with the inks, floating different colours, drawing sticks and combs through, to see what patterns they could make.  We ended up with two piles of great decorative papers.
The students also had a go at making various painted papers. We just used normal ready-mixed poster paints, but I encouraged them to try different techniques, including "butterfly prints", applying paint with various items other than brushes etc.
They also tried making mono-prints, by rolling out paint onto a smooth sheet of plastic, then making marks in the wet paint surface. A sheet of paper was laid on top and rubbed down, to lift the paint onto the paper surface.  They enjoyed this and made some good prints too.

Some of the painted/printed papers, hung out to dry!
(we had three "washing lines" strung round the edges of the room, where we pegged all the wet papers - it was great fun, but rather messy!)
In the afternoon, we started on a Project, to make an Artist's Book.  Some blog friends who read my blog regularly may remember that I went on a one-day workshop in June, with Mia Leijonstedt, to make an Artist's Book of my own.  I used the idea of a palm-leaf book structure for this project with the children. It is such a simple structure, so they could concentrate on the decorative aspects and the contents of the book. 
The project carried over to Friday morning, when they completed their books:

Day Five - The Project and an Exhibition of Work

Hard at work on their Artist's Book Project
The books all had covers of board.  These were black on one side, white on the other, so they had a choice of which they would like on the outside.  The pages were made from a selection of papers, including their hand-decorated paper from Thursday's painting and marbling sessions.
Choosing paper and materials

All ready for binding
sorting papers, putting them in the right order...
Assembling - using string for the binding
One of the finished Palm Leaf Artist Books.
* * *

The Exhibition

The children's parents were invited to come early on Friday afternoon, to see the work they had been doing during the week.  We set up an exhibition for them, deciding that each student would present her own work, all together, rather than mixing everyone's work by book type/day. 


They are Ready... Bring on the Mums & Dads!





There were some absolutely gorgeous pieces of work! Some students had made extra books, in between projects - one student made 42 books in all (including some tiny weeny mini-books). 
Looking at all their work spread out on the tables, I was really proud of them - everyone worked very hard and I had kept them very busy all week. 

And A Special Mention...

... to Alec, my amazing, wonderful Student Helper.  He was a real brick.  My original helper did not turn up on Monday morning (despite having signed a contract). 
Alec came at very short notice, to fill the breach.  He had already worked the previous week, helping another tutor in the Science strand of the University.  He had been looking forward to a well-earned rest, but instead he found himself plunged head-first into the world of book arts.  He coped amazingly well, was very professional and hard working - I was proud to have him as my helper! 
Alec was a great help and he made a point of trying as many of the book binding projects as he could - to make him more able to help the students.  This is a longstitch bound journal, that he made by himself on Thursday and Friday, while the students were absorbed in their Palm Leaf Artist Books (and therefore needing much less help!):

It's a "Seasons" book, with all four seasons represented in the trees inside the covers.  Considering that he is a science student and had never done anything like this before, I think he made a really great job of this - one that an art student would have been pleased with, I believe!
Well done Alec and Many, Many Thanks for Everything you did for us!
* * *
That was my Adventure in Teaching.  It kept me very busy for at least three weeks of the holidays; I was worn out afterwards, but also glad I'd done it.  It was very rewarding to hear the girls say they had enjoyed their week (and to have confirmation from their parents too), also to see the great work they produced.  Overall, although it was a tough week and I was so tired, I did enjoy it.  I may even do it again... perhaps... when I've forgotten how much hassle it all was... 
* * *
Further Viewing...
If you would like to see more books and bindings - mine and other people's, you can look at my Facebook photo albums - here
and/or my Pinterest Boards (and those of people I follow) - here
* * *
and, if you've made it all the way to the end...

Thanks for Reading!



  1. wow what a fantastic class and I am so impressed by the girls books they are wonderful... obviously an amazing teacher!

  2. What a wonderful course for the kids. I wish we lived closer so that I could send Puddle Duck.

  3. What a terrific way to give back and share your talent - very inspiring!!!

  4. Wow, Lizzie - amazing work, good for you! I hope you had a well-earnt rest at the end of that hectic week...

  5. Well done, particularly Alec-the-Great.
    Always good to see youngsters taking interest in these things.

  6. Marvelous to read about your workshop and see all the students work. They made some amazing books and artwork. It must have been very hard work for you but so rewarding to see all their efforts.

  7. What fun! I wish I could have joined in!!!

  8. What amazing accomplishments--both for you as the instructor and for your students! That's a lot of book structures to learn in a short time. Well done! Have you considered doing the paper decorating early in the week, and using the papers in all of the following book structures?

  9. Lizzie, what a splendid learning opportunity and experience you have given these young people! I am sure they will remember it for a long, long time. The results look wonderful - and hope you have had lots of pats on the back for real as well as all the virtual ones we will be giving you on here!

  10. WOW Lizzie - what an amazing week they must have had - sooooo productive. Well done you for running such a great class.

  11. Lizzie- you are a superstar! The amount of preparation you must have done! I wish I could have gone to the class! The books are amazing!

  12. Wow, thanks everyone - such nice comments.
    I had a great time, even though I was so exhausted!
    It was very nice, on Tuesday, to hear the osteopath tell me that she had been talking to one of the girls from my course (her daughter's friend), who had enthusiastically shown her all the work she'd done that week.
    Nice warm fuzzy feeling...

  13. Having taught a couple of those projects to groups of kids and knowing how tiring it is to see the whole lot in one week! :Phew:

    Congratulations - I'm tired just thinking about it all :)


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