Sunday, August 18, 2019

Fritz Otto Buchbinder

Needed a little help, alright a lot of help in the studio, something that was very evident during Bookbinder Barbie's visit. We had fun, worked well together, and I was able to teach her about some of my favorite weird bookbinding proclivities like making parchment from fish skin. Most of what I learned from that experience was that working alone can be hard for any number of reasons.

That got me talking to some old connections in Germany, and through them learned about a very motivated and well-versed binder, Fritz Otto Buchbinder, who was looking for some new experiences. He's a Meister, learned from some very good (and not so good) binders in the trade, and spent at one of the few remaining art academies teaching binding. There are also a lot of under- and unemployed bookbinders around...

He arrived recently on Lufthansa who managed to lose all his tools, save one. Ouch! To the rescue. the New World's best tool maker, Jeff Peachey who was able to outfit him with some of his finest tools. I was able to scare up some bone folders and Berlin-style brushes with the metal handle that he likes so much. The one tool he managed to save was the bone folder his Meister gave him as an apprentice. This Meister had gotten from the Meister of his Meisterin. Apparently it had guided a certain Franz through his career as a binder. There it is grinning from the pocket of his lab coat.

Fritz Otto Buchbinder with his Peachey Swiss paring knife.

The tool starter set, more will appear as they are needed and made.

Looking at paring knifes in the 1928 Braunwarth & Lüthke catalog.
Fritz prefers the Swiss and French styles of knives to the traditional German kind.
This is the result of bad experiences he had with the knife his Meister gave him –
Said it was a stumpfe Gurke... (dull cucumber).

Fritz is already getting lost in the Fachbibliothek. He's glad to find his familiar
German manuals, but is also very interested in what he can learn from the
English (and other) ones. I'm sure his English will improve quickly.

Fritz was blown away to see this binding from the "golden age" of German binding,
the period between the World Wars.

Examining a "Dorfner-style" open joint binding on the print-on-demand version of
Ernst Collin's The Bone Folder (Der Pressbengel).

I look forward to having Fritz Otto in the studio with me, teaching him things as well as learning from him. He's curious, loves exploring the old binding manuals and trade publications. Mostly, I'm sure he'll get me binding more. I'll also be glad for his help working on the layout and running the trains.

Monday, August 5, 2019

A Fish Skin Rug

I was recently made aware of Studio Nienke Hoogvliet, "a design studio for material research, experimental and conceptual design based in The Hague, The Netherlands. The studio was founded in 2013 with a focus on "raising awareness of social and environmental problems in the textile, leather and food industry."

In her project SEA ME she researches how seaweed can contribute to a more sustainable textile industry. RE-SEA ME focuses on the applications of fish skin. She also published a book describing her method of preparing skins without chemicals. Based on the video this looks like she is making parchment, a topic dear to my heart. The book costs $75 including shipping to the US. Can't wait to get my copy and wish I had a rug like she made. Perhaps I need to make my own.

RE-SEA ME is the continuation of SEA ME. To show the duality between plastic waste in the oceans and the sustainable materials the oceans have to offer, Nienke continued her search for materials out of the sea. She discovered that fish skins are a waste product of the fishing industry, while you can also make them into beautiful leather.

She went to fish shops to collect their waste and discovered a way of tanning the skins without any chemicals. By using an old technique, that requires a lot of manual labour, she created a strong, sustainable and beautiful material that can be used like regular leather. To show the abilities of the leather, Nienke designed a small stool with fish leather seating. To continue the SEA ME collection, she also designed a conceptual rug where the fish leather is sown into a discarded fishing net.