A Studio Visit with Mark Andersson!

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This weekend, the Book Arts Collective and I had the exciting opportunity to visit bookbinder, conservator and teacher Mark Andersson at his studio, Panther Peak Bindery.

For nine years, Mark was the head of Boston’s North Bennet Street School Binding Department. This School, featured on PBS’ Craft in America Program, focuses on hand crafts like violin-making, cabinetry and [drumroll] bookbinding. Hear president Miguel Gómez Ibáñez describe the programs here:




What’s so exciting about visiting a kind of human like Mark is that we are able to see how alive the craft of bookmaking is. Mark has a diverse background, which includes a Fulbright Scholarship to study bookbindings in Sweden and playing in a rock band. (He also saw Bob Marley in concert, which affords him no small amount of street cred.)

Mark has a ton of teaching experience, which is of great benefit to us. In addition to his knowledgeable brain, which he’s happy to let you pick, he has a ton of didactic samples of bindings, stitches, boxes and gold tooling. Here’s a smattering of what we learned.

Above and below are examples of trends found in stitching/books made in different time periods. An interesting point made in the visit was the resourcefulness of binders throughout time. Basically, bookmakers utilize materials available and affordable. Traditionally, they were academically uneducated, trained perhaps only in their craft (beginning as apprentices).

Part of the trade of binding is decorating your books. One method of fancifying is gold tooling, which is an ornamental decoration applied to leather book covers by impressing heated tools into the material.

Tools can come in the form of metal wheels (above) or stamps (below), and each has a different purpose. Wheels are for consistency in line work, as in creating the front or back covers. Stamps are used for the spine, which requires more controlled precision. Often, only the spine will be decorated to save money…and show bling when on a shelf.

After the visit, we got to see the Andersson garden, complete with all kinds of tomatoes, peppers and snap peas. Yum.

Mark is also a member of the Guild of Bookworkers, a national organization for all of the book arts. All of them. There was talk over the weekend of starting up a Tucson chapter, which would be fitting as their annual Standards of Excellence Conference is happening here this year (in October). This is super exciting because it means that book artists, binders and conservators from all over the country will be right here, in sunny Tucson.

So, if you’re in need of, well anything related to books, Mark can probably help out. Check him out at the Panther Peak Bindery. Happy binding.