By July 9, 2012 Read More →

Unusual home working jobs – the bookbinder

Unusual home working jobs - Polly Bird, bookbinderToday I’m starting an occasional series about people who work from home doing jobs a little out of the ordinary, and we begin with Polly Bird, who is a bookbinder:

‘I first learnt bookbinding at evening classes at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts in London. Then life intervened. I raised a family, became the author of eighteen business and training books and successfully completed a PhD. I also took art classes when I could. I then retrained under master bookbinder, Derek Bradford, at classes at the Lit & Phil in Newcastle.

‘This career change led to a practical problem – where to put the bulky and heavy equipment that a bookbinder needs. Bookbinding also requires a lot of supplies such as paper and leather; storage is always a problem. Working in your home is possible and many bookbinders do just that. But when my visitors were greeted by a metal press in the porch and there was no space in the front room, action had to be taken.

‘I asked InsideOut Buildings to build me a studio to my specifications. It had to have space, light, extra height, reinforced floors to support heavy presses and (a luxury) a wooden beam on which I could hang finishing rolls.

‘Working in my studio has all the usual advantages that ‘shedworkers’ cite – away from distractions, a professional environment for meeting customers and getting the mess out of the house. Bookbinding can also be a surprisingly noisy activity. My studio ensures that I don’t disturb my family or the neighbours.

‘My workspace is ideal for working with books. The good light ensures that detail can be examined and work can be accurate. Excellent draught-proofing means that papers put down on a bench do not move until needed. Rolls of leather and cloth piles of paper are stored under the benches and I can work from a long table in the middle of the studio.

Bookbinding is a creative and practical craft. Old books can be repaired and rebound, new books can be made and given their first binding, boxes can be made to hold books – I love the fact that bookbinding is endlessly challenging and exciting. To make a book pages are sewn, endpapers made and boards put on which are covered in cloth, paper or leather. The covers are titled and decorated in gold foil or gold leaf.

‘I enjoy the variety in the work. It brings new challenges with each book. I might be working on an eighteenth-century leather bound volume one week or repairing a modern paperback the next. You never get bored in this job.’

Photo credit: Rebecca Bird

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8 Comments on "Unusual home working jobs – the bookbinder"

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  1. Liz says:

    Ooh, I love this. Been book-binding once a week in the little local shop for 2 or 3 years now and enjoy every minute. Good luck to you, Polly; yours is a fascinating craft and I envy you your studio!

  2. Polly Bird says:

    Glad you enjoy bookbinding, Liz. It’s fascinating work. I’m always pleased to hear of other people who get as much fun from bookbinding as I do!

  3. The library where I have my office (pic in Judy’s home office gallery 5) has hundreds of really old books – from 18th century. I love looking at them, and reading them, and yes, they get repaired too.

    The feel of a properly bound book is completely different to a paperback. It’s a good solid experience.

    • Judy says:

      And completely different to a Kindle, no doubt!

    • Polly Bird says:

      That’s my idea of the prefect office – surrounded by lots of books, old and new. As a bookbinder I’m pleased that they get repaired as well as read. I think if you love books you want to ensure that thier pleasure lasts for future readers.

  4. Lee says:

    Hi I like your site because it touches on alsorts of subjects that are not just the same old stuff. This post on book binding is the same. Another great post. Your site shows to people that the variety of jobs you can achieve in is varied and you can enjoy your job

    Great post again thanks lee

    • Judy says:

      Thank you, Lee, that’s a huge compliment, as that’s exactly what I aim to do – talk about the aspects of home working you never normally get to hear about, but that make all the difference in their own small way. And you yourself have a very targeted niche 🙂

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