Philadelphia mural

Philadelphia is a wonderful city known for its urban murals, art museums and great universities. Philadelphia was also a great site for the 2019 Guild of Book Workers Standards of Excellence Seminar.

Kislak Center

I was able to visit the Kislak Conservation Center, which is part of Special Collections & Archives at the Van Pelt Library at the University of Pennsylvania. The Kislak Center treats UPenn’s paper materials, as well as, a number of unique artifacts, such as an orrery (a mechanical model of the Solar System), furniture, and early medical instruments. They have an active exhibits program, and also house the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies which supports scholarly work and has a great digital portal giving scholars access to a variety of manuscripts.

Rebecca Chamblee

Rebecca Chamblee, of Pie in the Sky Press, was our first presenter, and spoke on “Nature Printing.” Rebecca prints directly from forms found in the natural world, which is a technique used by scientists for hundreds of years. Ben Franklin made prints directly from leaves and an early work by Alois Auer, The Discovery of the Nature Printing-Process (1853) describes this form of contact printing.

Rebecca demonstrated several printing methods:

-Botanical contact printing (which uses a vinegar dye bath and includes wrapping leaves and watercolor paper around a pvc pipe and cooking it in a turkey roaster)

-botanical prints made from leaves painted with watercolor and printed with an etching press

-rolling ink onto both sides of a leaf and printing it between a folded sheet with your fingers

Graham Patten is the Book Conservator at the Boston Athenaeum. Graham’s artists book, “A Continuing Convoluting Carousel was a combination slinky and ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ construct. This piece featured art that revolved to appear on all four sides of the book simultaneously, and with a twist another series of four images appears. I was not able to get a photo of this book, but this piece by Graham is similar to the same form “B” is the Beech he planted for her(2015).

Julia Miller

Julia Miller was our third presenter. Julia is probably best known as the Editor of Suave Mechanicals which is a multi-volume publication of research on the history of bookbinding. Julia Miller also teaches at the American Academy of Bookbinding. She is a master of making historic book facsimiles and trying to discover how these were constructed, and what possibilities there are to reconstruct missing portions of these historic bindings. Julia had a table full of facsimile bindings from bound papyrus, facsimile Nag Hammadi Codices, medieval style bindings and also featured bound wooden slabs.

Jeff Altepeter

Jeff Altepeter, our final presenter, is the Head of Bookbinding at the North Bennett Street School in Boston. Jeff’s presentation: Metalworking for Bookbinders, covered an array of metal attachments one could attach to a book as a support, protection or decoration, such as metal clasps, corner reinforcement pieces, and bosses (circular protective pieces). His fascinating presentation included demonstrations of sand casting, using a jewelers saw to cut ornate clasps, riveting, creating patinas and dapping (punching out shapes using a die). Jeff used a creme brulee torch for some of this work!

The Standards conference is one I look forward to for the great demonstrations by the presenters and a huge number of suppliers. I also get the opportunity to make contacts with colleagues-old and new. All in all, Standards is a wonderful opportunity.