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A Closer Look at the Book

Cathy Adelman working on a series of leather binding samples in the Penland books studio earlier this month.

The book is an unassuming object. So ubiquitous that one—if not hundreds—can be found in just about any home, business, or school across the country. Checkbooks, magazines, instruction manuals, notebooks, thrift store paperbacks, coffee table books, planners—they’re so universal that it’s easy to overlook their basic nature as books. But, more than watering down the specialness of the book format, this ubiquity points to the incredibly adaptable, relatable, accessible, protean nature of the book. What it might not make clear is how seductive a book can be. Books hold potential; books connect community; books share wisdom and keep secrets.

Cathy Adelman, like many Penland book artists we know, came at bookbinding obliquely. In the late 1990s, when the Penland workshop that had originally sparked her interest was full, she enrolled in a books workshop as a second choice. The bookbinding process surprised and intrigued her. She returned for a second books workshop, and then a third, quickly falling for the care, the personalization, and the elegance of the process. Cathy went on to earn a degree from the American Academy of Bookbinding and to study and show her work in Switzerland, Estonia, France, the UK, Italy, Greece, and across the United States.

This spring, Cathy will return to Penland’s books studio as an instructor for the workshop Flexible Leather Binding. She and her students will spend a week answering the question “Why make a book?” through process, material, and presence. Whether seasoned bookbinders or absolute beginners, all students can expect to end the week with a selection of handmade, flexibly bound leather books, new insights into the binding process, and inspiration for future projects.

Join us in the studio March 24-30 and learn to make a physical home for your ideas, dreams, questions, memories, and inspirations—in other words, learn to make a book. Like Cathy, you might just get hooked.


Two books bound by Cathy Adelman. Left: “‘The Raven,’ by Edgar Allen Poe,” reliure articuléis style binding, 9.75 x 6.75 x 0.5 inches. Right: “Lonely the seabird lies at her rest,” flexible leather design binding, 11.5 x 8.5 x 0.5 inches.


Flexible Leather Binding

Cathy Adelman, March 24-30, 2019
This workshop will explore variations on a flexible leather binding. We’ll start with text block preparation and choice of materials. From buffalo, goat or boxcalf, and suede, we’ll design and execute an elegant binding. We’ll cover endpapers, sewing, adhesive selection, leather paring, and decoration, and finish with a cloth- or paper-covered clamshell box, custom sized for your binding. All techniques will be thoroughly covered for the beginner with many advanced techniques demonstrated for the more experienced. All levels. Code S01B

Studio artist; teaching: Guild of Book Workers, Penland; exhibitions: Bodleian Libraries (UK), Bibliotheca Wittockiana (Belgium), Gutenberg Museum (Switzerland), University of Canberra (Australia).