GRINtroducing: The Eloise Bindery
Eloise Lee, creator of the Birmingham-based bookbinding studio ‘The Eloise Bindery’, joins us for a chat to talk all things books!
1) Hi Eloise! Thanks for taking part in our GRINtroducing series. For those who don’t know about The Eloise Bindery, can you tell us a little more about your work?
I’m a bookbinder specialising in exposed spine bindings, which means the intricate stitching in the book’s binding is on show. I make sketchbooks, journals, photo albums and wedding books in colourful and contemporary designs.
2) How did The Eloise Bindery first come about? How did you first get into book binding?
I studied photography at university and we had a bookbinder give us a short lesson for a book project we were working on. For my final project I made a book for my exhibition and I really enjoyed the process, so after university I got some books from the library and taught myself coptic stitch (my most popular style of binding) and I started making books for friends and family. Over the years my technique improved and I decided to start selling them.
3) Can you tell us more about the creative process? How do you go about creating your beautifully bound books?
I always start by playing with colours. I choose what I’m going to use for the cover and then play around with my colourful threads and handmade papers to get the perfect combination. Everything is done by hand, from gluing the covers, to cutting and folding the pages and sewing the book together. The sewing is my favourite part because it’s very therapeutic and it’s exciting seeing the book coming together.
4) Which project or product are you most proud of and why?
One of the projects I’m most proud of is a recent project I did for an adaptable clothing fashion show that was held in collaboration with Birmingham Children’s Hospital and South & City College Birmingham.
Patients from the hospital with limb conditions or injuries modelled in outfits designed by the college students to be adaptable. I made a book for each child which contained photos of them taking part in the fashion show. I matched each book to the child’s outfit so each book was personal to them and it was a lovely surprise for each child after the event was over.
“I’m inspired by everything around me. I often take photos of scenes or things I see when I’m out and about where I’m inspired by colour combinations, and use the photos to choose my colour palettes.”
5) Where do you get the inspiration for your assortment of cover designs? Can you tell us how your influences inform your work?
For my marbled designs I’m inspired by everything around me. I often take photos of scenes or things I see when I’m out and about where I’m inspired by colour combinations, and use the photos to choose my colour palettes.
For my cyanotype book covers (cyanotypes are photosensitive prints made using UV light from the sun that reacts with the chemicals painted onto the paper/fabric) I’m inspired by nature. I spend a lot of time in the outdoors, and I often pick up fallen leaves and feathers when I’m out exploring to take home and press for using in my cyanotypes.
6) In addition to running The Eloise Bindery, you also work as a full-time medical photographer in a children’s hospital! How do you find balancing your time between the two?
It’s actually really difficult! It’s very hard fitting in time for bookbinding without it completely taking over my life. I also take part in lots of sport so I don’t have any time in the week to work on my books apart from packing the odd order. I often spend my lunch breaks at the hospital emailing customers or doing my accounts. I have learnt to say ‘no’ more these days and limit the number of commissions I take on each month so I don’t get overwhelmed.
The hardest thing is because I have so little time, what time I do have is always spent on working on orders, so I rarely get time to experiment or spend quality time on product development. At the moment I’ve stopped taking on any new commissions for a little while so that I can focus on some personal projects.
7) Do you have a designer / illustrator / filmmaker / creative that you’re currently obsessing over and why?
There are so many! I’m a big fan of Kate Kato of Kasasagi Design, she makes incredible paper sculptures that look like real plants, mushrooms and insects. Charis Raine Illustration who paints mesmerising Scandinavian landscapes occupies a whole wall of my living room.
8) What is your favourite thing about Birmingham and being part of its creative scene?
I think my favourite thing about Birmingham is actually the food! Birmingham has so many amazing independent cafés, bakeries and restaurants, you could eat somewhere different every day for years.
The creative scene is really supportive and I’ve made some good creative friends through doing markets and being a part of the Birmingham Etsy team.
9) What’s next for The Eloise Bindery? Where would you like to take it next?
I’d love to experiment with more styles of binding to be able to expand my product range. I would love to eventually be able to go part-time at the hospital so I can dedicate more time to The Eloise Bindery.