Paper & Card

Keepsake Books and Creative Bindery

Kate Thomas on why her talent for creating books aims to inspire, encourage, and hopefully keep the beautiful craft alive

When and how did your interest in bookbinding come about?

I first tried my hand at bookbinding when completing my degree at UWE in Bristol in Drawing and Applied Arts. We were taught a few different methods of creating books and this stuck with me.

It wasn’t until my daughter was born in 2014 that I started using these skills. I received dozens of cards when my daughter was born and I didn’t know what to do with them all, so I bound them into hardback books. From this, friends contacted me to make their cards into books and it grew from there, to include notebooks, journals, sketchbooks etc.

What do you find special about the art?

Every day books are full of other people’s stories, fiction, or non-fiction, but someone else’s. You read them and then add them to the bookshelf. With my Keepsake books, they contain your story. You pick them up over again and they bring back memories that are personal.

I also create books as objects and unique forms. A book doesn’t have to be just bound down the spine and read page by page. It can be opened up, to create a 3D object, a sculpture. A book can be a work of art in its own right.

What makes your products different to other peoples in the same space?

Every artist and crafts person has a style, or a signature. The way you see your craft is unique to you. I like to create notebooks that feel good in your hands, that look beautiful.

I create artists books that contain my photos or paintings, that tell a story through the snippet of information I allow you to see. No other person will see those images the same way I see them or will know what I was thinking or feeling when I created them, they will have their own thoughts and feelings when they look at them. This is why a lot of art is conceptual.

How long does it take to master the art of bookbinding?

How long is a piece of string? There are so many different methods of bookbinding. I have been creating books for nine years and am nowhere near a master. I am a student. I am constantly learning and experimenting.

Tell us about your workshops and where people can sign up for them and who these workshops are for.

I have been asked for years if I would consider running workshops in bookbinding. This year I finally felt ready to have a go.

The binding workshops are aimed at anyone. You don’t need to be creative, or skilled with a needle and thread. I am currently offering workshops in pamphlet book binding, concertina books and soon hardback notebooks. These take anywhere between 1.5hrs to 5hrs. My hope is to inspire and encourage people to step out of their comfort zones. Your first books won’t be perfect, mine certainly weren’t!

All of my workshops are advertised on my Facebook page and can be booked by messaging me.

Please give our readers top tips on how to make a basic book or your own personalised book

Anyone interested in bookbinding should look to see if there’s any classes in their local area. Workshops are the easiest way to gain access to all the equipment required and have a go before investing in their own. There are also loads of videos on YouTube offering tutorials on the many methods of making books. My go to introduction to bookbinding method is pamphlet binding, this helps you learn the basics.

The most basic equipment you will require to get started are:

Paper, waxed thread, needle, patterned craft paper, a metal ruler, awl, and a craft knife.

The joy of handbound books is that they don’t have to be perfect, they tell the story of their creation and creator.  A book is a beautiful object.

One of my favourite things about teaching bookbinding is the look of pride and achievement on everyone’s faces at the end. That is a big part of why I do what I do. To inspire, encourage and hopefully keep this beautiful craft alive.

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