A Look Back // 1989 Members Exhibition at RISD

In 1989, the New England Chapter put together an exhibition of member work, which showcased the scope and skill of the members at the time. This regional show highlighted the exuberance of book work in the Northeast, with many of the exhibitor’s reputations spanning across the nation and even internationally.

With the year 2020, our Chapter celebrates its 40th year! We will be posting on past events throughout the year in a series called A Look Back. In our first post, I asked three exhibitors to speak about their work and their place in the bookbinding community at the time.

Check out the full catalog here: 1989 Members Exhibition Catalog

Barbara Blumenthal:
Chinese Decorated Papers was the first of the five limited editions which I bound for Henry Morris and his Bird & Bull Press. I’ve been thinking about Henry from time to time since his death in May 2019.

Chinese Decorated Papers: Chinoiserie for Three | Barbara Blumenthal

In the 1970s, Henry’s exclusive bookbinder was Gray Parrot. In 1987 Henry decided not to keep all of his binding eggs in one basket, so he hired me to bind 325 copies of the Schmoller book in quarter leather with his printed paper sides. I also designed and created a deluxe copy, bound in leather leather with a design that featured some of the metallic papers tipped into the book. Henry and I (and his wife Pearl) remained good friends even after he abandoned me, and other hand bookbinders, to have his Bird & Bull books bound by the larger Campbell-Logan Bindery. Henry inscribed the binder’s copy of one of his publications to me, “Massachusetts’ finest bookbinder;” hyperbole, of course, but evidence of Henry’s sense of humor and our mutual fondness and esteem.

excerpt from Chinese Decorated Papers | Barbara Blumenthal

Julia Ferrari:
I was an artist, engaged in a career (vocation) of typography within the book arts, co-running Golgonooza Letter Foundry & Press with partner, Dan Carr, in Ashuelot, New Hampshire. Besides creating our own books as artist (myself) and poet (Dan Carr) we had been designing, setting and printing – in metal monotype, full size books for limited edition publishers for 7 years.

Intersection | Dan Carr and Julia Ferrari

When we moved to New Hampshire from Boston we were in our 20’s and we wanted to work doing the craft we so loved. We decided to run a monotype print shop, so we could continue to expand and develop our skills with letterpress printing and typesetting equipment to the country. We were also part of the Four Zoas Press, a literary small press, that was started in Hardwick, Massachusetts, publishing unknown poets. In Boston I had begun writing poetry which led me to Dan Carr and his literary print shop on the Charlestown/Somerville border. I was a practicing artist, and so brought those skills to the press, teaching myself woodcut and lino-cuts (these got used in the chapbooks we were producing), bookbinding, and later in 1989 making abstract paste-papers as original art be used on book covers (very possibly one of, if not the first person to do that.)

Swallow Island | Julia Ferrari

All was opening up as the traditional craft was being discovered by my generation, partly because the printing machines were being discarded by the commercial industry. I continue to run the press, even though my partner has passed away, and feel a responsibility to energetically pass on the craft to the next generation by offering residencies and internships yearly.

Check out Julia’s website for more about Golgonooza Letter Foundry & Press.

Julie B. Stackpole:
Since I live down in mid-coast Maine and don’t have many opportunities to gather with fellow bookbinders and book collectors, I have always tried to enter as many exhibitions of bookbinding as possible, to keep my name and work familiar to the public.

In 1989, I was trying an idea to expand my client possibilities by appealing to interior decorators to commission a guest book that ties in with the design of their project that they would give to their client at the end, a symbol of the interior’s new life. My mother, Mary Ann Beinecke, had a textile design business that produced luxury throws, yarns, fabrics, and needlework rugs made for her in Portugal. To demonstrate the possibilities of my idea, I chose one of her room-sized rugs made with this butterfly design as the inspiration for a blank book that I could also enter in the NEGBW exhibit; then she could sell it along with the rug afterwards.

Butterflies | Julie B. Stackpole

I used a finishing technique that I am very fond of: linoleum-cut blind embossing over onlays of leather. The butterfly lino-cuts also were used in making the endpapers with gum arabic resist. All the colours reflect those of the rug.

endpapers for Butterflies | Julie B. Stackpole

My mother never sold the rug but kept it for her own personal use, and so I gifted her the guest book also. Thus, it came back to me after she died (age 87) and so I am able to see and photograph it in its 30 year old condition. I am pleased to note that the structure of the book and wrapper are in good shape, but the aqua blue Niger goatskin has browned on the spine and near the edges of the boards, despite the book being kept in its wrapper. This is why I almost always make clamshell boxes for my fine leather bindings, especially light blue or green ones! (But guest books are easier to sign if they have a padded wrapper to rest on.)

Thanks to Barbara, Julie and Julia for their contribution to our community and this blog series.