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OPEN SET: An AAB Traveling Exhibition

Submitted by jackie_scott on

The American Academy of Bookbinding’s first international juried exhibition of fine bindings, Open Set, opened at the North Bennet Street School, its fifth of seven venues, on June 8. The show features binders from all over the world, including the UK, Argentina, Singapore, and America. As the exhibition’s name suggests, there are two categories that binders were able to enter works in: an Open category, allowing submissions of any book binders were drawn to, and a Set category, which required binders to submit bindings of David Esslemont’s Inside the Book. As a celebration of the “beauty of the craft and a commitment to the public toward a better understanding of this art form,” the show was hugely successful. The bindings ranged from traditional and meticulous fine bindings to those that pushed the boundaries of traditional structures. It was so exciting to see such a range of international talent all in one room, and really emphasized how deep and wide the art of fine binding runs.

At the North Bennet Street School opening, the gallery was full of binders and appreciators of the craft. People mingled for a while, chatting and looking at the bindings in their cases, before gathering in the Windgate Gallery to hear the four local binders in the exhibition speak about their work. Mark Esser, Todd Pattison, Colin Urbina, and I (Jackie Scott) all spoke for about five minutes about our designs and the techniques employed in making them. Mark and I spoke about our books in the Open category, while Todd and Colin spoke about their set books. Audience members enjoyed hearing about the personal and technical aspects of each binding, and spent time afterwards looking the the books up close and asking the binders further questions. I particularly enjoyed seeing Mark’s flawless back-pared onlays up close, a technique he explained was new to him but hopes to experiment more with in the future.

There were a number of Guild members exhibited in the show. Coleen Curry had an exquisite binding in the Open category that won an award for its interesting onlays and inlays. Samuel Feinstein and Susan Hulme both won awards for their bindings in the Set category: Samuel for his gold tooling and Susan for her onlays and inlays. In addition to these three binders, there were 13 other Guild members who exhibited bindings in the show, as well as many more who submitted work for the catalog. In a show as international as this one, it’s encouraging and inspiring to see such a strong showing of Guild members!

The show closed at North Bennet Street School on July 14, and will open next at the Seattle Public Library from September 8-October 28 (coinciding with this year’s Standards of Excellence Conference!), and then will finish at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City from November 10-January 19. If you haven’t had a chance to see this display of artistry and craft from all over the world, I highly recommend you make a trip to one of the two remaining venues. It will be well worth your time!