Barnard & Westwood catch up with their latest apprentice bookbinders – Hayley Andrew & Charlotte Wainwright

 

AA – Hi girls. Can you tell us a little about your roles at ‘Barnard and Westwood’?

HA – I am currently an apprentice bookbinder, along with fellow apprentice Charlotte Wainwright. We work in the bindery producing a range of luxury books, boxes and bespoke presentational goods, under the guidance of master bookbinder and mentor Barry Greenwood.

 

AA – How did you first get started in bookbinding?

HA – I found the craft of binding entirely by accident whilst studying for my degree in contemporary photography. I commissioned a local bookbinder to handcraft a photobook and upon walking into his workshop, I was blown away. I had no idea people genuinely still made books by hand and watching him hand tool gold lettering onto the softest, deepest crimson leather mesmerised me. Having a little craft experience and after learning a few basic techniques at home, I returned to the workshop to convince the owner to let me stay for a while and learn from him. Thankfully, he agreed and I spent the next six months working unpaid in his bindery. Following my graduation and a move down to London, I found the wonderful Barnard and Westwood and the rest as they say, is history!

CW – I was introduced to bookbinding whilst studying my BA in graphic design at Central Saint Martins. I began to move away from digital design work as I much preferred making things with my hands, and was able to incorporate a range of traditional crafts and processes into my studies, such as knitting, embroidery, screen-printing and bookbinding! I then went on to study bookbinding for a semester at the University for Art and Design in Karlsruhe Germany, and took evening classes at City Lit last year to further quench my thirst for the art of bookbinding! I have now been at Barnard and Westwood for just over a year and have learnt a great deal already. Although traditionally a bookbinding apprenticeship lasted for 8 years – so there is definitely a lot more to learn. Many of the techniques take years of practice to perfect, for example getting the feel for paring leather, which is something I’m just starting to see eye to eye with!…

 

AA – What is it that you enjoy most about bookbinding?

HA – For me, coming from a photographic background is really important. Having laboriously hand printed images in darkrooms, I have a real appreciation for handcraft and the time and dedication required to build a skill. Particularly in today’s digital environment it is so satisfying to craft something ‘unplugged’; an item made away from wires and computers, crafted by the hand and cogs of age-old presses and machines. Working on so many varied projects at ‘Barnard and Westwood’ gives me the unique opportunity to see many different styles and aspects of contemporary binding and that is one of the things I enjoy most about my job.

CW – Probably knowing that what we do everyday differs very little to techniques used hundreds of years ago. Even some of the machines that we use on a daily basis are centuries old. It’s fascinating to see that the main structures of some of the oldest restoration projects we undertake are still exactly the same. It’s also interesting to think about how centuries ago, before mass production of books by machines, it would have been a much more common job to be a bookbinder, but nowadays we are a rare and dying breed!

 

AA – Why do you think it is important for business’ to hire and train apprentices?

HA – Bookbinding is regarded as a niche skill in today’s creative environment and many further education courses have been cancelled, leading to a real underdevelopment of the next generation of bookbinders. With a craft that can take many, many years of training and experience to achieve full competency it is crucial that businesses encourage this development by seeing the potential in apprentices. Quite simply if we do not pass on these age-old skills now, who will be around in the future to continue them? Being around another apprentice (Charlotte Wainwright) is also incredibly helpful in developing both our skill sets – we explore and investigate new techniques together and learn from each other.

CW – As Hayley says, there is a shortage of new entrants into this highly skilled profession. There are no formal study programmes available, and the BA that used to be taught at London Collage of Communication (London School of Printing) discontinued years ago. The only way for people to really train in this field is to start in a company like Barnard & Westwood and be taught on the job. Many binderies don’t like to take on complete beginners though, as it takes a great deal of their time teaching the basics and they might not get the full commitment from their apprentices. Having said that, it is the only way people can get the opportunity to learn these skills and the only way to assure that these century-old skills are not forgotten! – so, very important!

 

AA – Could you talk us through an average day in the Bindery? 

HA – To be perfectly honest, there are no average days in the bindery! We complete so many different types of work for a very varied set of clients so no two days are ever really the same. We can be doing anything from stripping down, repairing and rebinding old leather volumes, to foil blocking branding onto luxury, bespoke presentation boxes and hand finishing wedding invitations. The work we undertake here is incredibly diverse but the standard required is always the same – we work very hard to create and craft only the finest and highest level of finish on every single job we complete.

 

AA – What is it like to work for a company that are Royal Warrant holders?

HA – It really is quite special to work for a company that holds not only one, but two Royal Warrants for both Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Prince Of Wales. Our recent visit from HRH The Duke of York was incredibly exciting. It was such an honour to be able to show him the work we produce. Every member of our team is a specialist in their respective field and hearing them talk so passionately about what they do really motivates me. Barnard and Westwood holds strong links with many other Royal Warrant holding companies, forming a network which encourages and helps to promote traditional British crafts.

CW – Working with Barnard and Westwood I have been able to help out at some exciting events. Last year we hand a stand at the BAFTA Christmas Fair in Piccadilly, along side some other very exciting companies. Another event, which was great to be a part of, was the David Linley exhibition showcasing ‘British Design, Craftsmanship, Engineering and Innovation’. At both events I was setting type and foil-blocking people’s names in gold onto notebooks for them to take away. This was a great way for people to actually see the process behind personalising a notebook in this way, and really demonstrated what we’re all about at Barnard and Westwood – doing things by hand – letter by letter!

 

AA – What has been the most interesting project you have worked on at ‘Barnard and Westwood?’

HA – I really enjoy seeing projects from the initial stages through to the final product. We recently completed a bespoke box for a high-end London jeweller. From the very first meeting with the design teams, choosing the covering materials and discussing options for the design (which included some complex compartments) through to seeing Barry craft and foil block the final box was very exciting. Seeing a finished luxury product that exactly meets the client’s needs is genuinely satisfying and when products we have created appear in the media, I felt really quite proud to say, “Hey, we made that!”

CW – A particularly nice project I worked on was a range of bespoke CD cases. These opened like a small, square hard-cased book and were bound in a red goat’s leather with gold tooling on the front. The inside had silk-lined pockets to hold the CDs and a hidden magnet held the case closed. I found it particularly interesting to see how bookbinding techniques can be used for so much more than just a book or a box!

 

AA – Finally, can you tell us about your plans for the future?

HA – I will be teaching my first workshop in September, focussing on alternative bookbinding structures. I am planning to complete my ‘certificates of competence’ awards granted by the prestigious ‘Society of Bookbinders’. I will continue to learn everything I can whilst under the instruction of Barry and work hard to maintain the high standards set by Barnard and Westwood.

CW – I hope to learn as much as I can throughout my apprenticeship, and hope to develop my skills to become a confident and capable bookbinder. I was lucky enough to get to go to the Society of Bookbinders Education and Training Seminar a few weeks ago, which was incredibly inspiring and very interesting to meet so many other bookbinders. I hope to get more involved with workshops and events held by the society.