What sets you up for a day in the studio?
I currently work fulltime as an executive assistant therefore I have to plan carefully to have full days in my workshop at the weekend. I find a clear space helps – not at my creative best with a lot of clutter around me. I often have a mug of tea, but if I don’t stop to drink it, it will be cold which is common practice amongst bookbinders I believe!
What’s your favourite part of running a creative business?
I love creating beautiful, tactile products in different styles. I have been asked what are my best sellers, but this can vary as very much the choice of the person buying and the reason. I find if I am having a bad day that the process of making a beautiful journal helps restore the equilibrium in my world!
Tell us about your sustainability ethos.
Books aren’t known for being particularly environmentally friendly, however as much as possible I use recycled or surplus print run papers, offcuts of handbag and upholstery leather which would otherwise go to landfill, and as not everyone likes leather, I also use cork fabric with cork being known as a sustainable material. To finish my wraparound journals, I use recycled sari silk.
I have developed efficient working practices to avoid waste in my manufacturing processes, and also make small products such as mini clipboards & notebooks, which use the smaller pieces of paper, board, leather and cork to avoid waste.
What’s next for Colville & Gibbs?
I have missed face to face sales and exhibitions over the last 12 months or so, therefore am keen to rebuild those areas of my business again. I was approached to attend a festival this year, but until I work less hours in my day job, realise it would all be too much – maybe next year!
I am delighted that I have a lovely, loyal customer base but am keen to take to the next level and find new creative outlets.
Hazel is also a member of Artful Collective. Click here to find out more about becoming a member.
Hi Hazel, When did you first get into making books?
I started making books at the beginning of 2016. I had an idea that I would like to become a book restorer, but of course needed to learn how to make a book first. I can honestly say I didn’t understand any of the processes at this point. It was hard to find meaningful courses, as many university binderies and courses had ceased to exist for quite some time.
I eventually settled on an initial course run by Shepherds Bookbinders and held at the St Bride’s Foundation just off Fleet Street in London in 2016. On the first day I cut my finger with a scalpel and stabbed myself with a needle a couple of times – it didn’t bode well, but with the aid of plasters and a lot of concentration I completed 4 days and came away with 5 books.
Exciting times, but I managed to forget what I learnt very quickly although a few weeks later I was back at St Brides where I sat through 5 demonstrations by very experienced, professional bookbinders as part of London Craft Week. I was most impressed by Mark Cockram and his ‘mojo’ binding and so much so I signed up for a 6-day course at his studio in Barnes in the summer of 2016 where I relearnt how to make 2 styles of traditional books. At this point I had a lightbulb moment and realised I had the seed of an idea as to what I wanted to do which wasn’t restoration!
What personal touches do you like to include in your work?
My books always have a small stamp at the back of them with my logo which is simply a circular ‘Colville & Gibbs’ – the name decided upon when I set out on my bookbinding journey. This is very personal as my business name is from my maiden and married surnames. I often receive commissions to make journals with certain papers or colours which are personal to the customer.
Who or what inspires you?
I belong to a number of groups on social media where some (not all!) professional & amateur bookbinders post photos of their work. I particularly admire the clever box makers and also those who work with leather fine bindings and gold tooling.
What are you currently working on?
Most recently I have been working on a number of commissions but also adding to stock levels which had become a little diminished of late but this has to be a good thing. I have also been trying to work hard on social media as it is a great medium for marketing!