Dear Gary Frost,
Let us start by reading a paragraph from your paper on the Oxford conference (GBW Newsletter #96):
"Another trend is the expression of structure as art. The difficulty here is that book structure does not lead to visual effect but to action. As a result there may be no familiar esthetic for a trend toward structure as art. Action is not decor. Action is dance and manipulation, watching not looking. Structure as art would require a different manner of exhibition. The new AIRneuf group based in France did put its bindings out on a table, but then adjoined them with fourteen pairs of white cotton gloves. "They just dont get it!". Some sewn boards structures in the exhibit had to be de-cased, splayed opened and left out on the floor in hopes that someone would stumble over their meaning."
I wonder if you really did attend to my conference. If you did, you must have heard one of my introductory sentences saying: "Designers such as myself use old structures or invent new ones in the service of ideas for the design of a specific bookbinding."
I do not pretend to make art; I am making bindings. I do not look for structure as art; I am trying to express my emotions concerning a book by making a binding on it; for this I use materials, structures, my hands, heart and brains. I am not complicated at all.
The problem is that you have confused three different things: my talk, the white gloved exhibition, and AIRneuf. My talk was about European book structures made by different bookbinders, presented not as a new art form, but as part of their bookbinding work. Among others, I described an original idea of Carmencho Arregui, called Crossed Structure Binding. I have not even mentioned the word "art"; I made a technical description. The white gloved exhibition consisted of a dozen models, made on blank books illustrating the Crossed Structure Binding, put on tables so everybody could handle them. Not Art, not Expression, just Technique!
Last, but not least: AIRneuf had nothing to do either with my talk, or with the white gloved exhibition. I just mentioned that AIRnef was born.
So who is the one who "didn't get it"?
Yours sincerely, Sün Evrard
PS: it may sound stupid, but the use of white gloves avoids the destruction of many hours of work.
PPS: by the way, as I usually put many hours of work into my bindings, and considering the fact that they are mostly commissions, I would not like anybody to stumble over them on the floor. Nevertheless, as you said, it is always possible to stumble over their meaning.
Lisbon, February 1995
I had this idea of writing to all the participants of New Horizons Designer Bookbinders Conference, last September in Oxford, where I was the only Portuguese person present.
Being, also, one of the few (if not the only one!) who is interested in the history and development of bookbinding in my country, where this art/craft is dying, but has a rich tradition, I have been working for some years on a project for establishing a bookbinding school in Lisbon.
I am very happy and proud to say that finally our school is going to open next October, when we are going to receive 15 pupils from 18 to 25 years of age, who will attend a 3-year course on conservation, restoration and bookbinding, according to a thoough program.
The school will be in a part of a very prestigious institution, the Academia das Ciências, which was founded in the 18th century, and where there is one of the finest libraries in Portugal.
We will also have a small reference library for students use, but unfortunately we cannot show them any good examples of fine 20th century bindings, for the simple reason that there are no such bindings in Portugal. During this century our binders have concentrated on copying old style models from the past. So I am writing to you to ask if you would be so kind as to send us a few color slides or photos of your own work, of bindings from your collection or from your institution.
I would also be pleased to welcome you whenever you wish to visit our beautiful, peaceful country, where you will be surprised to find so many important books and libraries. Just let me know in advance.
Pedro de Azevedo
Rua Custódio Vieira, 2 - 2 Dto - 1250 Lisboa,Portugal.
Tel: 01-69 16 21
(This letter was recently received by the Editor, who attended the New Horizons Conference. It seems to us to be of general interest to Guild members and, we are certain, response by members, whether they attended the Conference or not, would be welcome.)