Kathy Abbott – In Focus

Kathy Abbott will be teaching in Sydney and in Canberra later this year when she will be speaking at the Bind19 Australian bookbinding conference. You can read Kathy’s bio here however I thought it would be fun to ask some other questions which I will ask each of the binders we feature In Focus.

When did you start bookbinding?

I started bookbinding in 1989 as an apprentice, in a bindery where I was the only girl amongst 65 men – a baptism of fire!!

What training have you had?

I trained for 8 years in total: 4 years apprenticeship, 2 years studying for an Higher National Diploma at the London College of Printing and then I attained a BA (Hons) degree in bookbinding at Roehampton University, in the outskirts of London.  I also worked at an antiquarian bookdealers (Bernard Quaritch Ltd.) for nine years and that too was a huge learning curve.

I am quite a rare breed – bookbinding has been my only career path; most people I know come to bookbinding after other careers.  I feel lucky I found what I love to do so early on in my life.

Where are you working now?

I am self employed, working from my studio in London, which I share with another binder, Tracey Rowledge.  I work for myself: predominantly Islamic book conservation and Fine Binding to commission, and I have a business with Tracey (Benchmark Bindery) where we mainly undertake book conservation jobs as well as box-making etc. I teach Fine Binding one day per week at the City Literary Institute in London.

What is the best & worst job you have worked on?

I think the best and worst job I have worked on are one and the same:  I once had to repair a complete Shakespeare’s First Folio, (one of the few in its original binding) which was worth 3.5 million pounds whilst a security guard waited for it in the doorway of the bindery.  I had one chance to get it right in a very short period of time – the pressure was immense!

What aspect of bookbinding do you think you do best?

I am a bit of an all rounder but I think I am probably best at book conservation/restoration and problem solving, which feeds well into my Tomorrow’s Past work.

Who is or was the bookbinder you admire most?

Can I have a few?  I wrote my thesis on Douglas Cockerell: he was such a pioneer; introducing a conservation ethic into the way we work as bookbinders, which definitely influences the way I work.  I love the work of Edgar Mansfield: his designs are magnificent and his composition, perfect.  His bindings blew my socks off when I first saw them.  Lastly, a living bookbinder: Hedi Kyle.  She is a genius, and is the originator of nearly every new book structure in existence today.

What book are you most proud of? (and could you include a picture for us to show in this blog?)

I think my binding of On a Calm Shore by Frances Cornford with designs by her son, Christopher Cornford.  Here, two of my interests: bookbinding and relief printing, came together to create a binding that I think has the deepest connection to the original text and illustrations.  Interestingly, after I posted this book on Social Media, Frances Cornford’s grandson/Christopher Cornford’s son wrote to me to say how much he loved it.

Thank you Kathy for taking the time to share a little of your bookbinding life with us.

If you have any questions you would like us to ask bookbinders on this blog let us know.