This past Sunday, February 3, the UK’s very first book arts centre, the London Centre for Book Arts, officially opened its doors in Hackney.
Simon Goode, the centre’s brainchild studied the creative format at university and wanted to fill a gap in Britain’s art world.
He originally acquired bits of equipment on his own so that he could work from home. But without any formal centres in Britain, he was inspired to take three months off from his full-time job to travel around the United States doing research.
Goode said: “I visited from coast to coast all of the centres for book art. It’s been quite an established thing in the US and for some reason it wasn’t here.
“So I thought, best to go see it first-hand and see how centres like that are run and then attempt to replicate that sort of thing here.”
Goode explained that there are printmaking and graphic art studios in this country, but nothing that had quite the “specialised” equipment he was looking for.
He added: “It’s not just about the equipment, it’s about gathering the community.
“There was nowhere like this, that is a resource centre for people to be able to come, work together, to discuss work, to have that sort of feedback that you get.”
This weekend marked the centre’s official Open Day, where members of the public were invited to see the space and Goode, along with volunteers, were on hand to demonstrate printing, paper-making and various other aspects of book art.
Fish Island in Hackney, where the centre is located, used to house a lot of printers in London. Goode said it was called, “printers’ paradise.”
He added: “We’ve got both the print community and the art community around us.”
When asked to define “book art,” Goode said it was “tricky.”
“We use book arts as a catchall term for the processes and techniques involved in producing handmade but not necessarily always handmade works of art realised in the form of a book.”
One volunteer and friend of Goode’s offered his own view on why centres like this were important: “There’s always a need for books. It seems really easy to make things on computers, but once you get into the nuts and bolts of making books by hand, you can go back to the computer with a whole different mind set.”
Goode’s entire staff is made up of volunteers, who offer weekly workshops as well as supervised access to equipment. Anyone can become a member and details are all on the website.
Additional reporting and video by Adeline Svetlana Bailleul