creating beautiful journals and books

Weekend at the Bindery

Bookarts BinderyAt Bookarts Bindery in the inner suburb of Griffith, Canberra, Joy and John Tonkin specialise in the creation, conservation and restoration of books and works of art on paper. Both are experienced and generous teachers and offer a range of masterful instruction in the book arts.

The Tonkins’ bindery is the most amazing place, packed with the sights, sounds and leathery smells of the craft. I had the privilege and pleasure of spending last weekend there, learning to make a so-called ‘simplified binding’ using traditional techniques. It wasn’t simple at all!

bookarts bindery.1John has been a bookbinder for over thirty years, having trained in Ascona Switzerland, and in Paris. He has taught at le Vésinet, the Canberra School of Art and Canberra T.A.F.E. and at various institutions in Canada and the USA. Joy is an Applied Science graduate of the University of Canberra, specializing in book and paper conservation, and has since studied in Switzerland, Belgium and Italy.

They now offer workshops in a range of techniques to both novice binders and experienced practitioners through Bookarts Bindery They also provide general and specialised bookbinding services including beautiful one-off fine bindings. Both exhibit and sell their fine bindings internationally and in Australia. The works of Joy and John are known for a wide range of binding styles both traditional and contemporary, as well as for using experimental materials and techniques.

Guided by Joy and John, eight of us (one travelled from New Zealand and another from Melbourne) spent two days making our books. We were able to experiment with their tools and equipment including leather paring machines, a guillotine that required the strength of my whole body to cut the board and a the beautiful old nipping presses. The bindery is like a museum, filled with bookbinding history with everything in excellent working order and meticulously displayed for ease of use.

I have taken several photographs of my completed book but, for some mysterious reason, I haven’t been able to upload them to my blog. So I will leave you to imagine a beautifully crafted (portrait) book with an abstract paste paper cover, kangaroo leather spine and handmade rag end papers. The text block comprises speakers’ notes with photographs from the Canberra Craft Binders’ Guild Conference in March this year and have been expertly compiled and presented by none other than Joy and John.

bookarts bindery bench




2 comments on “Weekend at the Bindery

  1. greengaze
    August 22, 2017

    What a wonderland and delight for the book artist. Great pictures.

  2. Marilyn
    August 22, 2017

    Great blog Marama. That was a fun and enlightening weekend. Maz

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