MAKING BOOKS BY Hand, Part III: Theory of Practice continued // Emily Larned

15 Dec 2018 12:00 AM | Susan Viguers (Administrator)

Nine more thoughts on sewing books, prompted by sewing nine more books:

1. Each punched hole is an opportunity for engagement.

2. Because of this openness to possibility, each hole is vulnerable. 

3. But each module of the book must allow itself to be vulnerable in order to bind together. The alternative is that each component retains its integrity and its safety, but is rendered incapable of permanently bonding with other components.

4. 6 holes per signature and cover, 2 covers, 6 folded signatures, 48 holes. 6 folded signatures yield 24 pages each,144 pages. Numerology. No wait, that’s math.

5. I realize that really what I am doing is sewing centers together. 

6. Sometimes tugging snugs up the thread just so, correcting a slack hand. Sometimes tugging tears the paper, or breaks the thread, or pulls the back cover up over the last signature. 

7. A radical educator friend, Jamie Munkatchy, taught me this binding, 15 years ago, at an informal skillshare at Booklyn. We were all sitting around the table, in the evening, early summer.  She had just learned the binding herself, probably from Christopher Wilde, not very long before she taught me. Christopher had no doubt already taught it to at least 200 people, likely more. And someone — Walter Hamady, probably — had taught Christopher maybe a dozen years before that evening. And someone else at some point had taught Walter — who would this have been? do you know? —  and so on, and on and on, and onwards back. Linking. And onwards, linking, forwards: so far, I’ve taught this binding to perhaps 50, possibly 100 people. And if some of them have taught someone… the whole lineage starts looking like this chart of cat reproduction.

8. The last thing I do in sewing is hide where I began.

9. All collated copies sewn, now it is time for the guillotine. Each book is stiff with folded paper before it is trimmed. Once its edges have been chopped off, the book becomes soft and yielding, opening easily anywhere.

Emily Larned has been publishing as an artistic practice since 1993.  She is co-founder of Impractical Labor in Service of the Speculative Arts (ILSSA), and Associate Professor and Chair of Graphic Design at SASD, University of Bridgeport, in Connecticut.


  • 30 Dec 2018 10:38 AM | Susan Viguers
    The stage with the project in which I’m currently engaged does not include binding. But what struck me when reading Emily’s posts is how much her description correlates at least metaphorical to my present writing/designing. What I am particular aware of is connecting parts or fragments into a whole, the potential vulnerability in particular at the point of connection, the attention to the connecting thread neither tangling or snagging, the binding essential, but so embedded that it is perceivable only if one looks carefully or dissects the making. Perhaps this says something about the creative process, no matter what the medium is.
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    • 02 Jan 2019 3:47 PM | Emily Larned
      This is lovely, Susan! Thank you.
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