Book binding in Goulburn, and George Ivanoff speaks!

On Saturday 12 Nov in 2016 I attended the inaugural Goulburn Readers Writers Festival. It was small but very well done, and bodes well for the future. The two events I went to were the bookbinding workshop, run by Erika Mordek of the National Library of Australia, and a talk on his career so far by George Ivanoff. Both were excellent. George is an enthusiastic and engaging speaker, and extremely down-to-earth about the writing business. I’d recommend any aspiring author who wants to make some actual money out of it (a tough gig!) listen to him speak if the opportunity arises. He did not waffle on about literary theory or self expression. He talked about how to make a living by writing stories. Writing for the education market, taking the opportunities when they come and running with them as hard as you can, making connections and then delivering on time as promised every time, so you get a reputation as reliable. And writing and writing and writing so you keep getting better.

And I spent about four hours learning about bookbinding, sewing pages together. I have not concentrated so hard for so long in ages. The presenter, Erika, was enthusiastic, and relentless in her encouragement and in pushing us through the task. Key phrase — ‘trust your eye’. Erika runs courses at CIT, and works as a book conservator at the NLA — so she knows her stuff. We went from a pile of pages to a completed little bound notebook. We started, though, by sewing together our notes.  Here is the cover of the notes booklet:


The little instruction booklet, on which we first tried sewing a signature.

The little instruction booklet, on which we first tried sewing a signature.

So lesson #1 was a sort of ‘booklet stitch’, which was remarkably simple once you were told what to do and potentially quite useful of itself. Then we started the main project — sewing six signatures of three folded A4 sheets each into a hardback notebook. There were a lot of tricky little things, but mostly it takes patience and method — like make sure there are no blobs of glue on the work surface before you put the book down…. Anyway, the final result looks like this:

The final notebook. Not bad for a first try. They supplied nice papers and cloths and everything.

The final notebook. Not bad for a first try. They supplied nice papers and cloths and everything.

So you can see the cloth spine, the decorated paper that was used for the cover, and some of the inner bits showing at the bottom edge, where I did not make the blue bit quite big enough….

What you can’t see are the stitches that hold it together, the endpapers, the card that stiffens the covers, the card that stiffens the spine…. There’s a lot in there that is not immediately apparent to the eye.

It was a fascinating experience. I fully intend to try to make a few more little volumes, and sooner rather than later so I don’t forget too much.

Oh, and the sordid subject of money? George’s talk was free and the workshop was $10 — for four hours tutoring by an expert, and all tools and materials supplied and a little notebook to keep at the end.

Impossibly good value.


Well done, Goulburn.


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About Darren

I'm a scientist by training, based in Australia.

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