Rachel’s Blog

Iona Driftwood Binding Retreat 2018

Winds were gusting on the West coast of Scotland in March, yet Calmac delivered my intrepid group of creative adventurers to Iona without a splash.

Goody bags welcomed everybody by name.

We began with word maps and simple stitch. Isn’t Annie’s inkery atmospheric?

Single section bindings and practicing Coptic stitch came next. Charlotte’s instant photos were amazing.

Ethereal text, evoking impressions of Iona. Not only did Winifred produce exquisite pages, she fed us most deliciously.

Annie brought printing kit: Here she’s experimenting with wood grain.

Ali let loose with watercolour on thick Bockingford paper.

A blast of fresh air, and a spot of beach-combing after class.

Selecting exactly the right piece of driftwood (out in the barn full of boats.)

Marking holes ready to be drilled.

Gathering inspiration.

Island calligraphy.

Covers with character.

Carmen’s covers have shells on the inside!

Wonderful to celebrate Tina’s birthday. Hard to believe that those sheep aren’t impressed by Winifred’s paper cuts…

Map, shells and Charlotte’s hands!

Stitched, ripped landscape lines.

Carmen’s carpet work place.

Somehow everything comes together on the last afternoon. A few deep breaths and loops of linen thread. Sewing pages into driftwood.

Tina’s book bursting with loveliness. I wish I could show you inside. She brought along a tiny printer and gave us all brilliant snaps.

Spectacular results.

Thank you to Iona Hostel.

Thank you to Annie, Ali, Carmen, Charlotte, Tina and Winifred.

*Registration for the 2019 Iona Driftwood Binding Retreat will open in June*







The Travelling Bookbinder: 2018 Preview

Happy New Year to you! Are you a planner or do you let life life unfurl in it’s own time? I love knowing that there are creative dates to look forward to; in case you’re the same, here’s a preview of where you will find The Travelling Bookbinder in 2018.

Hope to see you on the journey!

January: On the cover of Cloth Paper Scissors and a how-to project inside!

February: Spring PaperLove (The all-immersive paper e-course starts in time for Valentine’s…)

March: Iona Driftwood Binding Retreat and StAnza exhibition Paper Journeys (First solo show in a long time!)

April: Shetland Lighthouse Workshop. Bookart on the edge.

May: Mallorca: Posting myself off for some jolly R+R.

June: The BookLove e-course: Like a bookart boot camp, but all pleasure!

July: The Travelling Bookbinder is attending summer school: A week at Leksand with Cristina Balbiano d’Aramengo.

September: Exploring Word Landscapes at Arvon with Nancy Campbell.

October: Something new for you, from me – a surprise!

November: Paris Love Letters *FULLY BOOKED*

December: Starry, bookish, papery treasures…

Wishing you a fabulous year!

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The Travelling Bookbinder: 2017 Review

Whoah! How’s your year been? Take a moment to consider all the things you have done in 2017.

Here’s a swift review from The Travelling Bookbinder:

January: Reflecting and planning, helped by misty horizons and island perspectives.

February: Getting excited about the five week PaperLove e-course. Welcoming Alumni to an exclusive Edinburgh workshop.

March: Elemental pleasures on the Iona Driftwood Binding Retreat.

April: A residency and the annual workshop at a Scottish island lighthouse.

May: Mallorca holiday: Stepping up, taking in the views.

June: A workshop with Flow magazine in a magical greenhouse at Snorfabriek Utrecht.

July: Delighted at the enthusiastic response to my NEW online course BookLove!

August: The bliss of stitching Textile Narratives at Chateau Dumas, with Selvedge magazine.

September: Exploring Paper Navigations at the Lloyd Hotel, Amsterdam.

October: A bookbinding special: Three Structures Workshop, Edinburgh, using gorgeous Cambridge Imprint papers.

November: Expressive inkery on the exceptional Paris Love Letters class.

December: Star making: Festive bookart at Golden Hare Bookshop.

Keep making, resisting, progressing! 

Thank you for a splendid year, Best and bookiest, Rachel


Paris Love Letters 2017

Arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport with a suitcase full of materials and inspiration, I board the south-bound RER B and watch as Paris gets closer. Getting a glimpse of the Sacre Coeur before the train goes underground gives my heart a flutter – I’m here again!

This year’s Love Letterers meet the night before class begins, to introduce each other and drink red wine. I outline the itinerary ahead and show them where we’ll rendezvous.

The New Zealand participant gets a gold star for bringing Whittaker’s artisan chocolate to the table. (It didn’t last long.)

Lettering began: Building up texture and pattern using the double-pronged nib of a Size 10 Automatic Pen.

Our first foray into the bookish city takes us to Relma, for marbled papers, bookcloth and ribbon.

…Then to browse the bookshelves and admire the writing facilities at Shakespeare & Co.

On the way ‘home’ i’m obliged to stop by the heaven that is BHV‘s stationery department. It is SO good. Several fundamental items are acquired.

The writing continues, abstracting letter shapes, merging words, using ink from J. Herbin (of course.)

Our next jaunt is to the paperiest street in Paris! You can see these fruit papers at Calligraine.

Swoon at the spectrum of handmade books at Papier +, try out dip pens at Melodies Graphique…

and don’t resist popping into Petit Pan for some wrapping paper while you’re in the area…

Oh. Do Not Miss the opportunity to gasp at the conucopia that is Au Petit Bonheur La Chance.

Preparing papers with postal/Paris rubber stamps. I love Cavallini’s boxed sets.

Flea market foraging: A worn patina is what we’re looking for and, my goodness, the selection is incredible.

N.B. Old books are heavy. Take a good bag, or a sherpa.

Here is Charlotte’s haul. Will you look at those airmail envelopes – what a find!

Adeline Klam is a candy shop for paper lovers.

Envelope making. Slow and extremely satisfying.

A diversion to the pastel emporium. These are the most intense, rich and lumnious colours i’ve ever seen.

A drink with a view, to recover and take a breath before perusing the fabulous bookshop at the Centre Pompidou.

Constructing bespoke pockets.

Binding and filling each envelope with letters and little books.

How can five days of making fly by so quickly? Correspondence has been written and bound, the best Parisian paper pleasures explored. Such unique and truly personal books have been produced.

Paris je t’aime!

(If you are interested in attending this most exclusive workshop in 2018, please enquire.)




Five Best Bookish Books

Are you drawn to books about books? I’m a complete sucker for them, and hope this (incomplete) list gives you some reading ideas for the holidays.

The Journal of Dora Damage, Belinda Starling

It’s rare to find a book about bookbinding (I love Peter Greenaway’s Pillow Book because it includes a section of Japanese stab binding…) and this novel delivers the detail, stitched into a fantastic bodice-ripper.

Read a review and get your hands on this book if you haven’t already.

Inkheart, Cornelia Funke

In Inkheart characters come to life, blurring reality and fiction. A fantastical bookish adventure – read the synopsis here…and let me know what the film is like.


People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks

How often do you wish a book was not fiction at all? I was desperate for this story to be absolutely true. A whole history, spanning continents and decades, is told by a rare book expert. Scintillating details and epic scope. Find a critique here, and make your own mind up.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, Katarina Bivald

Dark humour bound up in a charming plot, makes this story of community and compassion a winner for any book lover. I adored the whole thing.

The Floating Book, Michele Lovric

Locating historical fiction in Venice’s unique surroundings is a very fine thing, in my opinion. When that’s combined with the telling of how the printing press came to be there…Well that makes for a superlative tale.

And one more for luck:

Salamander, Thomas Wharton

A fantastical adventure in magical realism – a quest for the perfect book – which is worth being caught in the children’s section for…. Find a review here.

The wonderful library, pictured at the top of the article, is at Lumb Bank – one of the Arvon Foundation centres, where you can go and write your own books…and this is the view from the very same room. (Get on their mailing list for news of upcoming courses, including one with me!)

Please leave a comment with your favourite bookish books – i’m sure there’s room on the shelf for more….

Paper Navigations: Lloyd Hotel: Amsterdam

It’s good to be back at the Lloyd Hotel for another Paper Navigations workshop!

There was special post waiting, from Flow Magazine and Like Stationery

We got straight down to mapping and charting

The team from Elbel Libro wowed us with detail of the finest bindings

Any time in Amsterdam is incomplete without a visit to Posthumus Winkel. We had a arranged a wax seal demo, which was so brilliant that I now have the potential to heart-seal every envelope and parcel…

Ah Vlieger! You are the BEST art shop ever – so many must-have tools and materials. I wish we were closer

Although the weather for our exclusive boat trip was not conventionally wonderful, we LOVED the empty canals and different perspectives

Susanna embraced the conditions and made them work for her. These watery marks became the base for the finest line drawings of Dutch gables

Carmen’s dynamic sketch belies the drenched surroundings

A word map by Marchell

Here’s our bright airy studio space, suspended in the elevated design heights of the Lloyd Hotel

Nienke maps her brain in full colour collage

Henriette’s extraordinary three dimensional phrenological head

Jan charts her multi-lingual, multi-media journey

We went to Like Stationery because we like stationery

…and Boekie Woekie, because we love books! Artist’s books!

Luggage tag tales

Paper cut world

Discovering the incredible Mouse Mansion was this year’s top find, and is now firmly on any future Paper Navigations itinerary

A Monday morning mission to Noordermarkt for apple pie and flea market finds

The grand finale of our folding – hurray for maps, paper and shadows!

Thank you Paper Navigators!

This workshop was fueled by Tony’s Chocolonely…




Textile Narratives at Chateau Dumas

Good Morning from Chateau Dumas!

…When I saw these type trays propped in the entrance arch, I knew i’d arrived in the right place

Our Textile Narratives studio for the week!

Sumptuously stocked with everything we could desire to stitch with…

What colour thread would you like?

We began with folds

Using pages from falling-apart books ‘rescued’ from Auty’s Vide Grenier

Wire shadow drawings

Here are the sun-warmed steps to our work space

Every morning and afternoon, tea was served on this table, amongst all the textures

Sunshine stitching by Andrea

Susan’s process: Placement, rearrangement, attention

Dreamy picnic, in the splendid company of Christine Meyer and her upcycled fashion drapers

Stepping down to the pool

…for daily dips in salt water

Wonderful woad-dying day

Peggy experimented with dipping blotting paper in the woad vat…

and had the genius idea to create a tonal sequence of hankerchiefs. (That’s a narrative right there)

One of Debra’s pockets.

The main book structure was folded from rag-rich Zaanschbord from a windmill in the Netherlands

The amazing button-man brought a van full of exceptional wares, much to our delight

Oh the boxes! Such treasure!

Handmade invitations for the final show

Comrades-in-Textiles examining the weeks creations. Note tailor-made outfits

Debra’s embroidered scroll, parcels of small books and woad-dyed pocket for her Textile Narrative

The most enticing of titles?

Andrea’s pocketfuls of wonder

Peggy’s open hearts

Happy testimonials

Did I mention the rosé? We were SO well fed and watered.

Thank you Sarah!

The Textile Narratives bookart workshop was a collaboration with Chateau Dumas and Selvedge Magazine

Thank you Lizzie, for having a chateau-full of stories to stitch

The Travelling Bookbinder returns to France for her final (most exclusive) workshop of the year: Paris Love Letters.*One last place remains!*










Bookart at Snorfabriek with Flow Magazine

There is a dreamy magazine, filled with papery mindfulness, called Flow. This is the latest International edition (You can have a peek at my house inside!)

This year, in a splendid collaboration, Flow have created a workshop space at Snorfabriek. It’s this way!

Here is one small part of Snorfabriek: You can see that Annemarieke Piers and Claudette Halkesare are  magic-makers, can’t you?! They also publish cool books.

In my room at Mother Goose Hotel, I put the finishing touches to the Map of My Heart workshop goody bags…

…sealed with neon orange ribbon!

We began by folding a series of books containing different map elements.

Including compass rose details,

and a word map!

Busy in the Flow Kas, surrounded with art materials and friendly conversation.

Fuelled by Tony’s Chocolonely, of course.

Jen gifted these vintage postcards to each of us.

Using a fantastic array of Flow paper goodies, we made map folds…

…into composite wonders!

In glorious technicolour

…and elegant monotone.

Then we explored emotional landscapes

…finding ways to chart and navigate.

With words and windows.

Powerful imagery

Incredible intricacy

and luminescent pigment that made our universe glow.

Bound in beautiful packages

Impressive productivity

Finishing with a round-the-world show + tell!

Thank you Flow, all at Snorfabriek, especially Annemarieke Piers, you Heart Mappers, and all those who appreciate the fact that, because the Miffy Museum is shut on Mondays, i’ll have to go back to Utrecht...










Shetland Lighthouse Bookart Workshop

Sometimes on Shetland you get all weathers in one day. This year there was sleet on arrival at the ferry, and then this big blue sky at the lighthouse!

We’re perched on the edge of Bressay Sound, looking North across to Lerwick.

The further you climb up the hill, the easier it is to see the heart-shaped natural arch…Such an inspiring place.

Everybody’s room was labelled.

Goody bags waited on the studio pew.

On the first day we measured, marked and stitched these one, two and three section bindings.

There’s something SO satisfying about stitching paper.

Books and bits on the window sill.

Here’s where we worked.

Helen made a bespoke stamp for the workshop – amazing!

Jill’s Five Fish book is a gem!

Winifred printed glorious boat shapes using lo-tech cardboard collagraphs.

Helen read island poetry to us!

There was time for foraging and fossicking. (And lots of cake….but no photographic evidence of that. Not even crumbs.)

It’s rather distracting when the Coastguard helicopter on exercise dangles a winchman down on to the rocks in front of you. Isn’t the propeller pattern on the surface of the sea amazing?

Denyce’s desk of delights.

Claire’s nautical notations.

The un-waxed coloured linen thread (from Shepherd’s) required running through this fragrant block of beeswax before using.

Saturday night is Shetland Salmon Night. Thank you Dave for the freshest fish.

Constructing custom-sized slipcases involves a certain amount of precision.

Made to fit, perfectly. I am very proud of each and every one’s attention to detail.

The skeleton of a slip case. Made from the most delicious Zaanschbord paper from a Dutch windmill.

Helen’s DIY poetics.

Ah the end came too soon.

Bressay Bindings all encased.

VERY touched by this fabulous Thank-You card, which buoyed up my spirits when everyone had gone.

A lighthouse is an extraordinary place to make books.

With thanks to the Shetland Amenity Trust, Emma Gibson, The Peerie Shop, Kit & Ewen, June & Bernard, The Handmade Fish Co. and all who ferried and flew to be there.

Exceptional gratitude to Winifred, for feeding us so very well.







Bressay Lighthouse Art Residency, Shetland

At the end of a recent talk at The Fruitmarket Gallery, I told of my desire to be a lighthouse, guiding people through the journey of creating their own books from conception to completion. How apt then to arrive here, at Bressay, on Shetland, for a short residency.

Everybody needs to be able to press the ‘Reset’ button once in a while. I am very grateful to the Shetland Amenity Trust and Sumburgh Head Art Residency scheme for the opportunity to concentrate on my own work in a uniquely pertinent surroundings. The engine room has fabulous machinery (and acoustics.)

This is home for two weeks.

One has to stock up on materials first….! Shetland sketchbooks from The Peerie Shop.

Also important to put up a mission statement: Forget Reactive Be Responsive. OK.

I began painting lines of hill.

And established a daily habit of walking up above the lighthouse. Great perspective from up there.

These landscapes will become book covers.

Most mornings i’d hop over the wall to see what the water was doing, and wave to the pairs of fulmars on the cliffs.

Radio Four is a lifeline when solitary. Not a bad studio view eh?

There was treasure to be found on the jetty below the lighthouse.

Every morning at 7am the Northlink ferry from Aberdeen would steam by. Sometimes i’d go and wave a welcome in my pyjamas.

Slowly ideas made their way onto paper.

The Annual Shetland Lighthouse Bookart Workshop took place in the middle. They created a series of bindings in a slipcase. Great gang. Great work.

Afterwards I found these discarded pages and glued them down in sequence.

Creating a concertina. To be continued…

Finished binding twenty-one Lines of Hill.

Wrote a poem.

Painted pages sea blue.

Watched the Swan go by.

Made posters to spread the word about an Open Studio.

Reveled in the light. Content.

Cold mornings. Clear skies. This cloud made my day!

Have you ever heard a lighthouse gate singing in the wind?!

All too soon, it’s time to show what’s been achieved. And offer the chance of making a book. Tea and shortbread.

Unique bookworks. Inspired by Shetland.

I’ll miss this.


Rumi said: “Be a lamp, a lifeboat, or a ladder.”

I want to be a lighthouse.









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