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  • Venus and Adonis, William Shakespeare, Rachel Ward-Sale. Photo: Leigh Simpson

Directory Maker of the Week: Rachel Ward-Sale

Rachel Ward-Sale will be exhibiting at Collect with Designer Bookbinders

Our Directory Maker of the Week, Rachel Ward-Sale talks to us about getting into making, what inspires her and what she loves most about her work

Who or what got you into making?

I have always been creative because as an only child growing up in the 70s I had to make my own entertainment. My parents were both illustrators, so the house was full of art materials and books, of which I made full use.  My original aim was to follow my parents into illustration, but I gradually began to realize that my strengths lay in 3D work. The first time I became aware of bookbinding was when a family friend showed me samples of the work she had produced on a bookbinding course. I had already decided to apply for an art and design foundation course, at Brighton, and was able to choose bookbinding as one of my subjects.

After two weeks I became totally hooked and at the end of the foundation year I was awarded a discretionary grant to stay on for three further years studying bookbinding full time. After leaving college I set up my own bindery, creating exhibition pieces as well as undertaking general binding and teaching. I became a Fellow of Designer Bookbinders in 2005 and have won silver awards in national and international competitions.

Tell us a bit about your work

Bookbinding is unusual in that the process starts with a finished item - the printed book. Whether the design relates to the interior or not, its physical presence has to be considered in the final design. The size and weight of the book, the materials used and its construction, all have a bearing on the finished piece and the processes required to get there.

My work utilises mainly traditional bookbinding techniques; I work with papers, which I decorate myself, suede and leather either natural calf, which I hand dye, or ready dyed goatskin.

I always start by reading the book then use my designs to interpret the text and illustrations in a way that feels relevant to my working style. In a way I feel I am producing a bespoke version of the book jackets my parents illustrated, enticing the viewer into the book.

What are your inspirations?

Texture is probably my main inspiration, which I return to regularly. Damp leather readily accepts impressions, the colour and texture changing with varying degrees of pressure. These results give the books an enhanced surface, which makes them very tactile to handle. The objects I use for impressing come from many sources, natural objects such as leaves and feathers, found objects such as metal mesh and textured plastic, or items discovered in hardware and junk shops.

What is your favourite part of the making process?

The design process is the one I find most exciting, researching ideas, deciding on colours and selecting materials, developing techniques, making samples and pushing processes to their natural conclusion. Then there is the pleasure of executing the binding, putting the ideas into practice, the physical satisfaction of assembling the materials and seeing the piece come together at the end.

What are you working on right now?

I have just finished a pair of books for Collect at the Saatchi Gallery in February, which will be shown on the Designer Bookbinders stand. The books are a copy of The Hunting of The Snark and a companion book cataloguing all the previous illustrated editions of the book. The two books share a design theme, but with different colour ways and will be shown together. The designs are a shift from my usual style, using a grid pattern as their starting point.

Rather than trying to emulate the striking illustrations by John Vernon Lord, I chose an un-illustrated verse from the Bellman’s speech for inspiration “He had bought a large map representing the sea, without the least vestige of land and the crew were much pleased when they found it to be a map they could all understand”. The resulting design uses marbled leather and tooled lines to suggest the Bellman’s map and the meandering course of the ship.

View Rachel Ward-Sale's Directory profile

See Rachel Ward-Sale at Collect with Designer Bookbinders

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