Bookbinding might sound esoteric in the age of digital but it's actually an ageless art which keeps its current practitioners as spell bound as in centuries past.
For Julie McCarthy, who will hold her second bookbinding workshop with Friends of NERAM at Packsaddle on May 23 the lure is sensual as well as practical.
"I fell in love with parchment, vellum and mediaeval binding when I first travelled abroad through Africa, the Middle East and Europe," she says.
"Islamic bookbinding opened my mind, particularly the beauty, aesthetic care and craftsmanship of the medieval books. Back then each book was created afresh, could take months to make, and no two were the same."
Not that Julie expects such dedication from her students but she has found that the fascination for creating books from scratch has created many devotees.
After each three-hour workshop participants emerge with a distinctive book. They have chosen the size, the binding and the cover. Choices from an immense collection of Japanese to modern European printed paper can be agonizing.
"People get to know how individual a craft it is," she says. "Books can be tiny, very large, horizontal, vertical using whatever material you like- it is endless and that is the fascination. Creating a book with a distinct purpose is very satisfying. It is also a peaceful pause in a busy world."
Julie studied conservation of cultural material at the University of Canberra and worked for some years at the National Library and the National Archives in Melbourne conserving works from those collections.
She moved to Armidale five years ago to live closer to her family and worked at the UNE Library in collection management for five years. She now runs her own business Papers Past from home.
"Book binding started as a hobby and I took a course at TAFE just for fun," she says. "I liked the idea of making miniature books for children, pocket sized treasures."
It grew from there and her skills have extended from traditional case bindings in leather and buckram, to Coptic binding, stab binding, accordion binding and various other methods which she now passes on to her students.
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