How to Give Bookbinding Workshops

How to Give Bookbinding Workshops

and other joyous undertakings.


It doesn't matter if they're four or eighty...the first time a person makes a book they always exclaim the same thing:


“Look! I made a book!”


The glee is contagious.


For me, a natural side effect of being a writer and a bookbinder is sharing with others what brings me such happiness:


the freedom to turn my ideas into handbound books


(Festival de la Palabra, "Books on the Fly" Workshop. Alta Gracia, Córdoba, Argentina, 2014.)



After more than a decade of giving bookbinding workshops to people of all ages and abilities in both North and South America, here are some things that I've learned:


1. Location. Binding can be taught anywhere, anytime.


Our most exotic classroom was at over 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) at a mining camp in Southern Bolivia. However, we've found that our own studio, libraries, schools, cultural centers, museums, retirement centers, writers' workshops, art galleries, book fairs and book stores work just as well.




2. Class size is key. Keep the numbers to the amount of people you can attend to without losing anyone in the current.

It's great for you, it's great for them.

(Our Binding Studio in Central Argentina, 2015.)




3. Combining the binding technique you are presenting with creative expression makes for powerful workshops.

It empowers and enables people to express themselves in new and diverse ways.

Júan learned Japanese Stabbinding and created his own guide to insects found in the high sierras of central Argentina. 2005.

Josefina also learned Japanese Stabbinding and used it to tell about mining practices and traditions in Southern Bolivia. 2003.


Binding + Sense of Place + Personal Knowledge.



4. Always cite your sources. Where did you learn what you are teaching?

Even if the concepts are universal, it is good karma (and the right thing to do) to give credit to those who taught you.
Some of my favorite resources:

Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord · Keith Smith · Carol Barton




5. Whenever possible, give workshops to school teachers. I enjoy teaching all age groups and I feel very passionate about bookbinding in the classroom. Teaching students how to make their own books empowers them with tools for self expression, self confidence, and it gives them versatile solutions for showing their teachers and classmates what they have learned. In an effort to reach even more students, I found that proposing to the schools that I teach directly to the teachers allowed me to be a virus, and get to many more students.

(Bookbinding Workshop for high school teachers in Rio Tercero, Prov. de Cordoba, Argentina. 2015.)




6. Stress recycling and re-using materials. Not only is it good for the planet, it challenges us to see the possibility for transformation in everything that surrounds us.

Susan K. Gaylord's books and PDF files are a great resource.

(Bookbinding Workshop during the International Poetry Festival. Goethe German Cultural Institute. Cordoba, Argentina 2013)




7. No matter where you are, use tools and materials that are easily available to the students so that afterwards they can keep making books without getting frustrated or feeling inadequate.

(Bookbinding Workshop for Teachers at CEDILIJ*. 2013. Cordoba, Argentina
*Center for Promotion of Libraries and Reading in Schools. Non-profit.)



8. Encourage students to practice what they've learned soon after they finish the workshop. And/or encourage them to teach someone else. This way they take possession of what they've learned outside of the workshop environment AND they don't forget as easily what was presented.

(Pop Up Workshop at En Un Lugar de la Mancha Book Store. Cordoba, Argentina. 2015.)



9. At all times during the workshop, have people put their names on their projects! For example, a very civilized group of people such as this can turn rabid (very quickly) if there is confusion over whose book is whose at the end of the workshop!


(Non adhesive binding workshop 2012. Our studio.)



10. When they've made their first book, celebrate! Do a little dance and exclaim "Circus Boots!"


Stabbinding with pre-schoolers. 2011. Sierras of Cordoba, Argentina.


I simply love how much happiness a handbound book can cause. You know, sometimes, folks even break out into song.

(Book Arts Seminar at Retirement Center in Cordoba, Argentina. 2014.)




That little blurb that goes at the end:


Alex Appella has been teaching bookbinding workshops regularly since 2003. Subject matter for her workshops varies greatly and can range from book repair, to pop up books with movable parts, to non-adhesive bindings oriented towards writers, to her particular passion: bookbinding projects for the classroom. Alex has taught binding to people of all ages and abilities in both North and South America. Her most regular hang out, however is Córdoba, in central Argentina, where her binding studio is located.



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