Each year the city of Sint-Niklaas (BE) is hosting a Bookbinders' Fair, an annual gathering of bookbinders, book and paper restorers, paper artists, calligraphers etc. It is aiming to attract both professionals and amateurs. The participants, coming from the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, Belgium and France, present a wide range of products, from paper, leather and parchment to various bookbinding accessories, tools for calligraphy and books (on books).
So if you are interested in bookbinding and looking for a high quality products you can't normally find in your local art supply store, you definitely need to attend this fair. Besides finding the right material, getting advice and general networking you can also participate in various workshops and demonstrations in bookbinding, envelopes and paper making, calligraphy etc. As well as receive relevant information regarding events, particular courses or upcoming publications. One single day, one single location.
I must admit I'm not that experienced in bookbinding (I'd rather be busy typesetting and printing), but I always had a fascination for handmade books and curious about the types of binding.
The fair, hosted on the ground floor of the 't BAU-HUIS behind the central train station of Sint-Niklaas, took place in two main halls of the building. Upon arrival, I was slightly overwhelmed by the quality (and quantity) of hand-made paper of all colours, textures and sizes, colourful leather and parchment carefully laid out on the tables. Then moving further to the second hall I found rows of tables filled with beautifully bound books of all possible shapes and sizes, supplies and a few improvised workshop areas. While wondering around I end up at the table of Buchbinderei Stenzel (DE) and was greeted by friendly Wiebke Stenzel, an experienced bookbinder, book restorer and teacher bringing the craft of the bookbinding to schools, museums, and other cultural institutions. She gave a demonstration of Multibookpress, a handy tool for pressing, sewing, trimming and cutting. Seemed very convenient to me: one tool for all your needs.
A few bookbinders showcasing their work were also active as calligraphers, for instance Christiaan Ketele & Vera Engelen from Antwerp (BE), specialised in calligraphic bindings. The pieces of their work carefully assembled on the table transported me in a fantasy world. Rabbit skulls mounted on the colourful canvas, dry fish kept in a glass jar and little skulls of animals calligraphed with black ink were accompanied by lovely little hand bound books with a dreamy watercolour drawings of fishes, insects and fine pieces of calligraphy. Forming a harmonious blend of tradition and modern.
The table filled with large format books designed and bound by graphic designer and gifted bookbinder Geert Stevens from DeBoekbinder (BE) attracted my attention the most (well, I have a soft spot for books:). Even though displayed onder the glas, his meticulously bound books stood out from other books I've seen at this fair. In 2016, for the third year in a row, he won the Elizabeth Soutar Bookbinding Competition* for the best creative bookbinding in Edinburgh. It takes exceptional skill and years of training to reach this level of craft and I hope to see more of his work in the near future.
*In 1993 the Elizabeth Soutar Bookbinding Competition was initiated by the National Library of Scotland in order to recognise excellence in the field of craft bookbinding.
more pictures of the fair - link