It felt fortuitous that I happened to be reading Marianne Tidcombe’s Women Bookbinders 1880-1920 when I was given Stitch-illo to bind. Tidcombe explores the excellent design and execution work that early women bookbinders achieved without significant acknowledgement from the field simply due to a bias against their gender, and here was a textblock in my hands celebrating 46 women making art from embroidery, itself a historically underrated medium due to the gender of its workers. I knew immediately that I wanted to pay homage to some of the early women in bookbinding who, though not yet permitted to do the “manly work” of bookbinding in its completeness, were permitted to execute the more feminine arts of book decoration through painting and embroidery.
I created a parchment-over-boards structure for the book, but covered it instead in watercolor paper. This allowed me to calligraph the title in an umbra-watercolor design, and create watercolor borders on the covers. I then chose to dovetail aspects of traditional embroidery with traditional bookbinding design, while incorporating a more modern flare. Honeycomb smocking on silk provided the traditional diaper or diamond pattern found in gold tooling, but gave the book the added twist of dimensionality, as the smocked pleats stand tall above the surface of the boards. The final design aspect, embroidered directly into the watercolor paper, is a pair of bird-shaped embroidery scissors inspired by the art of Danielle Clough, who challenges herself to embroider atypical mediums like tennis rackets and chain link fences. Though my binding in many ways looks back at the women who lay the foundations that allowed me to become a binder, it also looks forward with the artists of today to push our arts into exciting and unanticipated approaches.