Karen Hanmer

Artists' Books & Installation

Teaching

To register for a workshop, please contact the sponsoring organization. Workshops are two days unless noted, but many can be abbreviated or expanded. To schedule a workshop for your group, use the Contact form. Now scheduling workshops for 2018 and beyond.

Private instruction or special workshops on topics of mutual interest are also available.

I am also available for onsite training.

Books made as demos in these workshops are often available for purchase. Please contact me for more information.

Note on workshops held at Karen Hanmer Book Arts:

Karen Hanmer Book Arts is a private studio in Glenview, IL, in north suburban Chicago, roughly 20 minutes from O’Hare airport, not at all near Midway. Small class size of three to five students ensures ample personal attention and a collegial atmosphere. Individual instruction is also available at $300/day (10 am-4 pm) plus materials.

A non refundable $100 deposit will reserve your space, balance due one month before the workshop begins. A tool list will be sent upon receipt of deposit.

The studio is attached to my home and up a half flight of stairs. Please follow the driveway and enter by the side door. Note to those with allergies: A friendly cat is a frequent visitor to the studio. Here in deep suburbia street parking is plentiful, food within walking distance is not. Please bring a lunch.

Workshops held in the Glenview studio run 9:30 am - 4:30 pm unless noted in the descriptions below. Please do not arrive more than 15 minutes early.

To register for workshops held at Karen Hanmer Book Arts contact me.

For lodging, search for hotels near the zip code 60025, scroll to the bottom of this page for exact address. Pace Suburban Bus #272 runs down Milwaukee Avenue from West Lake Ave. to Linneman, a short walk from the studio.

Glenview is served by commuter rail, Metra’s Milwaukee District North line. Get off at Glenview (not The Glen/North Glenview). The studio is a ten minute cab ride from the station. The Pace Suburban Bus #210 runs very infrequently several blocks from the train station down Glenview Road to Greenwood Road, a fifteen minute walk from the studio.

Refund policy: The $100 deposit is non refundable. The remainder of the workshop fee is refundable up to ten days before the workshop begins, thereafter 50% will be refunded. No refunds will be issued once the workshop begins.

Student testimonial

"Daily, I'm singing your praises! I've practically worn your handout out, covering all the leads to websites, new books, and general instructions. Yes, I finished all the books from class and am now working on a second and third of some. Plus, I am starting to feel comfortable enough to start exploring some of my own options. You created a class that just keeps on teaching long after we have all gone home."

Leather Binding Series

Basic Leatherworking for Bookbinding

Spring, 2018, Karen Hanmer Book Arts, Glenview, IL

In this two day workshop students will be introduced to the tools and techniques required for fine leather binding. Tools: English or Swiss paring knife, Scharfix, spoke shave. Techniques: lining boards to accept leather; paring for spines, corners, headcaps, and all-over thinning of the leather; paring and edgeparing for onlays; sharpening using microfinishing films; stropping; covering of a plaquette; forming corners; adhesives and drying procedure for leather binding.

Note: This is an advanced-level workshop for students experienced with traditional binding. Students must provide their own paring kinfe.

Prerequisites: Forwarding Basics or equivalent. Students should be making at least several books per year independently, outside a workshop setting.

Duration: two days.

Leather Binding Fundamentals

August 23-27, 2017

Karen Hanmer Book Arts, Glenview, IL
Five days (9:30 am-4:30 pm, studio time until 6:30 pm) $800 fee includes all supplies. Some hand tools are required.

One space remaining.

Summer, 2018, Karen Hanmer Book Arts, Glenview, IL

The basic structure of a fine leather binding has changed little over the past 300 years. The text block is sewn onto supports, the spine carefully shaped, and the boards laced on. The book is covered in leather that has been precision-pared for protection, flexibility, and a sumptuous presentation.

In this five day workshop, students will build a solid foundation in fundamental binding and leather-working skills including sewing, rounding, backing, paring, and covering and will also develop the connoisseurship required to evaluate their own work for continued independent study. The course is also a valuable refresher for more advanced students who would like feedback on their technique.

Students will complete one full leather binding with sewn endbands, and experiment with tooling and multiple onlay techniques. Additional luxury features will be discussed, along with the evolution of the craft from Medieval to contemporary methods.

Read a student's blog post about this workshop Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5.

Note: This is a fast-paced, advanced-level workshop for students experienced with traditional binding. Priority will be given to working practitioners. Students must be able to perform the following tasks proficiently and promptly: mark up, sew on supports, glue up, sew endbands, measure and apply spine linings, hone and sharpen a leather-paring knife. Students must provide their own paring tools.

Prerequisites: Forwarding Basics and Basic Leatherworking for Bookbinding or equivalent. Students should be making at least several books per year independently, outside a workshop setting.

Duration: five days.

Fine Binding (Advanced Leather Binding)

Summer, 2018, Karen Hanmer Book Arts, Glenview, IL

In this five or six day workshop, students will refine their binding and leather-working skills. The course is also a valuable refresher for practitioners who would like feedback on their technique.

Students in the five day workshop will complete one full leather binding on a text block of their choice with decorated head, double-core sewn endbands, endsheets with leather hinges and flexi-ends, and champhered boards. Students may elect to stay an additional day and complete an edge-to-edge doublure.

Note: This is a fast-paced, advanced-level workshop for students experienced with traditional binding. Priority will be given to working practitioners. Students must be able to perform the following tasks proficiently and promptly: mark up, sew on supports, glue up, measure and apply spine linings, sew endbands, pare leather for a full leather binding, hone and sharpen a leather-paring knife. Students must provide their own paring tools.

Prerequisites: Leather Binding Fundamentals and Basic Leatherworking for Bookbinding or equivalent. Students should be making at least several books per year independently, outside a workshop setting.

Duration: five days.

The Ethiopian Binding

September 23-24, 2017

Karen Hanmer Book Arts, Glenview, IL
Two days (9:30 am - 4:30 pm) $375 fee includes all supplies. Some hand tools are required.

Three spaces remaining.

November 11-12, 2017

BookArtsLA, Los Angeles

The Ethiopian binding structure may have emerged as early as the fourth century and was in use unchanged for centuries. Characteristics include wood boards trimmed flush with the text block, paired sewing stations, and chain stitch-sewing that enters the board edge to incorporate board attachment. Historically the text blocks were made of vellum.

If the boards were to be left uncovered, no endband was added. If the boards were partially or fully-bound in leather, braided leather endbands were sewn on after covering. The Coptic endband is an option to consolidate and enhance Ethiopian bindings that will not be covered. The sewing for this endband extends across the text block, beginning and ending on the boards.

This humble, elegant binding opens flat and is the inspiration for many contemporary “Coptic” book arts structures.

If presented as a two-day workshop, students will make a full-leather binding with braided leather endbands and cloth board linings. We will begin by folding and punching signatures, and drilling holes into wood boards. If time permits, simple tooling will enhance the finished binding.

Note: This is an intermediate-level workshop. Students must be able to perform the following tasks proficiently and promptly: folding, marking up, sewing.

Duration: As a one-day workshop, students will complete one Ethiopian binding with bare wood boards and a Coptic-style sewn endband. We will begin by folding and punching signatures, and drilling holes into cedar boards. Special attention will be given to the elaborate sewing pattern that attaches the boards to the text block.

If presented as a half-day workshop, the bare-boards binding will not include an endband.

Biblio Tech: reverse engineering historical and modern binding structures (with a focus on board attachment)

November 18-19, 2017 Biblio Tech I

(4 structure models)
BookArtsLA, Los Angeles

July, 2018 Biblio Tech I & II

(10 structure models)
Karen Hanmer Book Arts, Glenview, IL
Five days (9:30 am-4:30 pm) $900 fee includes all supplies. Some hand tools are required.

This workshop begins with a hands-on lecture on a set of approximately twenty-five models of various historical and modern binding structures, with a focus on methods of board attachment. Similarities between historical and modern structures will be stressed. A chart giving brief structural descriptions of all the binding models presented will be provided to aid students in continuing their study.

Students will create ten models from the larger set in a five day workshop, or four in a two-day workshop. These models will remain unfinished so the sewing and board attachment remain visible for future reference. A handout will be provided giving a rough outline of the steps to create the models made in class.

Note: This is a fast-paced, advanced-level workshop for students experienced with traditional binding. Priority will be given to working practitioners. Students must be able to perform the following tasks proficiently and promptly: mark up, sew on supports, glue up, and measure and apply spine linings.

Prerequisites: Forwarding Basics or equivalent. Students should be making at least several books per year independently, outside a workshop setting.

Duration: two days for four structures, five days for ten.

Read a student's blog posts about this workshop: Biblio Tech I Day 1, Biblio Tech I Day 2, Biblio Tech II Day 1, Biblio Tech II Day 2.

Review of Biblio Tech I & II for Hand Bookbinders of California at the San Francisco Center for the book in 2017.

The models made in the Biblio Tech workshop are available in a boxed set, together with a forty-five page illustrated booklet outlining key structural features of each binding, and providing numerous references for further study.

A guidebook to the bindings made in the Biblio Tech workshops is available directly from Lulu.com

Forwarding Basics

Spring, 2018, Karen Hanmer Book Arts, Glenview, IL

A handsome, functional book is built on a solid foundation of traditional forwarding skills. In this two-day workshop students will review and reinforce these skills, by going through all the steps of crafting a traditional binding prior to covering:

Finally, we will anchor the text block into a folded paper case.

Note: This is a fast-paced workshop for students who have some experience with traditional binding. Students should be making at least several books per year independently, outside a workshop setting.

Duration: two days.

Contemporary Decorative Techniques for leather bindings


In this three day workshop, learn a variety of decorative techniques for use on leather bindings. These techniques require minimal equipment and modest leatherworking skill, and some can also be applied to cloth or paper. Techniques demonstrated will include: backpared onlays, inlaid lines, stamping texture into leather, feathered onlays, Lacunose (abstract sanded leather collage), craquele, various inlay techniques, laminating a paper illustration for use as an inlay, various methods of creating sculptural boards, transfer of computer-printed onlay shapes from paper to leather, and laser printing on leather.

Students’ completed set of four goatskin plaquettes together with a detailed handout covering all the techniques presented will be a valuable reference for future projects.

See examples of the techniques covered in this workshop here

Note: This is not an entry-level leather working course. Students must be proficient with edge-paring, use of the scharfix, covering boards in leather with paste, and forming leather corners, honing and sharpening a leather-paring knife. Students should be making at least several books per year independently, outside a workshop setting.

Prerequisites: Forwarding Basics and Basic Leatherworking for Bookbinding or equivalent.

Duration: three days.

The Medieval Girdle Book

April 23-26, 2018

San Francisco Center for the Book

The girdle book is a Medieval binding structure featuring a long extension of leather which could be attached to a traveler’s belt. The leather extension terminates in a decorative knot.

In this four-day workshop, students will construct a girdle book on the foundation of a typical Medieval binding:

Text block sewn on double raised supports; wooden boards shaped all around, with special attention given to the inside spine edge to match the text block’s shoulder, then laced on and pegged; sewn headbands; covered in vividly-colored leather; strap and pin closure, simple bosses at the corners, parchment page markers.

Note: This is a fast-paced, advanced-level workshop for students experienced with traditional binding. Students must be able to perform the following tasks proficiently and promptly: mark up, sew on cords. Some wood and metalworking tools are required.

Prerequisites: Forwarding Basics or equivalent. Students should be making at least several books per year independently, outside a workshop setting.

Duration: four days.

Read a student's blog post about this workshop Day 1, Day 2, Day 3.

Medieval on the Go: The Girdle Book, complete instructions for crafting a girdle book with numerous illustrations, tool list and extensive bibliography is available directly from Lulu.com

Artists’ Books/Artists’ Bindings

November 2018

BookArtsLA, Los Angeles

The book: text, imagery, sculpture. Ideas engineered into physical form. This workshop will lead you from simple folded and sewn pages to both multi-section books and complex experimental structures, all built on a sound foundation in traditional bookbinding, and made using a few hand tools and no specialized equipment.

Each day we will explore one traditional and one modern book structure, emphasizing both craft and content. A final day will be reserved for refining technique or using your library of models as a springboard to create a new, innovative structure. During this information-packed course you will build the knowledge, skills and inspiration to continue making books in your own studio.

Duration: four days.

Contemporary Paper Bindings

For centuries paper cases have served as quick, elegant, and economical covers for books.

This workshop can be condensed or expanded to fit a time frame of one to five days. Longer classes could begin with a session on making decorative papers, which would be used as endsheets and to cover our books.  

We will explore two to three book structures per day depending on skill level and workshop hours. Structures range from unsewn folded sheets to multi-signature books with structural and decorative sewing. Some of the books will have soft paper cases or wrappers, others may have stiff covers. Some will be sewn on supports. Most will be close to or completely nonadhesive.  

Beginners will be introduced to the basic tools, techniques and materials of bookbinding. During this information-packed course you will build the knowledge and skills to continue making books in your home studio with a few hand tools and no specialized equipment.  

Experienced bookbinders will discover how features from multiple bindings be combined to create a new, custom structure to met the requirements of any project.

Structures for a two-day workshop could include laced cases with supported and unsupported sewing, chain stitch with decorative guards, long stitch, and a variety of folded paper cases. A longer session might include a multi-signature pamphlet, the German stiffened paper binding, crossed structure, drum leaf or sewn boards.

This attractive set of models, together with detailed handouts, will be a valuable reference and inspiration for future projects.

Variations on the Sewn Boards and Drum Leaf bindings

The sewn boards binding is an elegant, modern adaptation of an ancient binding.

The drum leaf binding is the perfect structure for printmakers, photographers, or anyone who desires to present visual narratives with no sewing thread to interrupt the flow of imagery. Because a drum leaf book is made of single-sided folios, not signatures, the complexities of imposition are not necessary when laying out text.

Both structures can be dressed up or down with a variety of spine treatments and edge decoration techniques. The books open very flat. They can be constructed quickly, are perfect for edition work, and can be made in a sparsely equipped home studio.

In this two day workshop, students will make at least four book models, and experiment with various spine wrappers, decorative spine linings and board finishing options.

A detailed handout will be provided with instructions for all the structures and techniques presented.

Additional images of sewn boards and drum leaf bindings here.

Note: This is an intermediate-level workshop. Students must be able to perform the following tasks with proficiency and at a reasonable pace: folding, marking up, sewing.

Duration: As a one day workshop, students would make one sewn boards and one drum leaf binding only, the basic structures with break-away spine piece. Spine and board finishing variations are not covered. As a half-day workshop, students would make one drum leaf binding.

The Springback Binding

The nineteenth century Springback Binding with its enthusiastic opening is ideal for journals, guest books, sketch books, or any application where it is desirable that the book open flat, and then some. The book both opens and closes with satisfying jolt.

The Springback Binding is also a perfect way to delve more deeply into traditional binding. The book features two-part “split boards,” reinforced “made” endsheets, and a “spring” made of layers of card and paper.

With its robust aesthetic, the Springback Binding is a great way to begin working with leather. The paring requires minimal finesse, and the modest leather headcap is easy to form.

Note: This is a fast-paced, advanced-level workshop for students experienced with traditional binding. Students must be able to perform the following tasks proficiently and promptly: mark up, sew on supports, glue up, measure and apply spine linings, hone and sharpen a leather-paring knife.

Prerequisites: Forwarding Basics or equivalent. Students should be making at least several books per year independently, outside a workshop setting.

Duration: two or three days depending on group’s overall level of experience.

The Simplified Binding

The Simplified Binding has an elegant, streamlined look. Our workshop model will feature a spine of thinned leather, a rolled leather headband, and boards that are attached to the text block after being covered with decorative paper. Leather hinges finish the interior.

In this two to three day workshop you will become more comfortable working with leather and explore which features of a binding are necessary for function and protection of the text block, and the additional refinements that can transform a book into an elegant showpiece. Students will reinforce their skills in marking up and sewing on supports, preparing boards, rounding, lining the spine for support vs. aesthetics, and paring leather.

Note: This is a fast-paced, advanced-level workshop for students experienced with traditional binding. Students must be able to perform the following tasks proficiently and promptly: mark up, sew on supports, glue up, measure and apply spine linings, hone and sharpen a leather-paring knife.

Prerequisites: Forwarding Basics or equivalent. Students should be making at least several books per year independently, outside a workshop setting.

Duration: two or three days depending on group’s overall level of experience.

The Split Board and Simplified Bindings can be combined for a five day Advanced Binding Intensive.

The Split Board Binding

The robust, nineteenth-century Split Board Binding is a perfect structure for beginning to work with leather. The paring requires minimal finesse, and the modest leather headcap is easy to form.

In this two to three day workshop you will become more comfortable working with leather and explore which features of a binding are necessary for function and protection of the text block, and when to consider additional refinements. Students will reinforce their skills in marking up and sewing on supports, preparing boards, rounding and backing, lining the spine for support vs. aesthetics, and paring leather.

Note: This is a fast-paced, advanced-level workshop for students experienced with traditional binding. Students must be able to perform the following tasks proficiently and promptly: mark up, sew on supports, glue up, measure and apply spine linings, hone and sharpen a leather-paring knife.

Prerequisites: Forwarding Basics or equivalent. Students should be making at least several books per year independently, outside a workshop setting.

Duration: two or three days depending on group’s overall level of experience.

The Split Board and Simplified Bindings can be combined for a five day Advanced Binding Intensive.

The Medieval Binding

The Medieval binding may be the archetypal book: heavy wooden boards, partially or fully covered in leather, prominent bands on the spine, held shut by straps terminating in metal clasps.Though the materials differ, the construction of these bindings is surprisingly similar to how a fine leather binding is made today. Paper has replaced parchment for the text block; thick, dense paper has replaced wood for the boards; and the sewing is now often done on flat supports to present a smooth spine. The sewing supports are still laced into the boards, the boards still nest into the shoulder but with a different profile, spine linings still provide support though they now stop at the edges of the spine rather than extending onto the boards to function as levers to aid in opening. Carefully formed corners are now designed to be invisible rather than merely protect, endbands are now decorative only instead of structural elements that lace into the boards. Clasps are no longer necessary to hold the book closed.

In this three-day workshop, students will construct a small book with many features typical of an early Medieval binding: Text block sewn on double supports; wooden boards shaped all around, with special attention given to the inside spine edge to match the text block’s shoulder, then laced on and pegged; sewn headbands; covered in full alum-tawed leather; strap and pin closure.

Note: This is fast-paced, advanced-level workshop for students experienced with traditional binding. Students must be able to perform the following tasks proficiently and promptly: mark up, sew on supports, glue up, and measure and apply spine linings.

Prerequisites: Forwarding Basics or equivalent. Students should be making at least several books per year independently, outside a workshop setting.

Duration: three days.

Medieval Cutaway Binding Model

In this two-day workshop, students will create a cut-away model of a medieval binding: the lacing and covering will be left in process to reveal how the binding is constructed.

The model will have many features typical of Medieval bindings: text block sewn on double supports: wooden boards shaped all around, with special attention given to the inside spine edge to match the text block’s natural shoulder, then laced on and pegged; sewn headbands also laced into the boards; spine linings extend beyond the text block and attach to the inside of the boards.

Note: This is fast-paced, advanced-level workshop for students experienced with traditional binding. Students must be able to perform the following tasks proficiently and promptly: mark up, sew on supports, glue up, and measure and apply spine linings.

Prerequisites: Forwarding Basics or equivalent. Students should be making at least several books per year independently, outside a workshop setting.

Duration: two days.

Gilding and Colored Edge Decoration Techniques

Decorated edges range from simple protection to a key design element. They can add a touch of elegance – or any other effect the binder desires.

In this two-day workshop students will experiment with a variety of edge decoration techniques including several gilding techniques using gold leaf, graphite, and a variety of techniques with color: solid color, sprinkling, sponging. Gauphering, sprinkling with metal leaf and hot tooling on edges with foil will also be presented.

With the omission of gilding, this workshop can be presented in one day.

A detailed handout will be provided with instructions for all the techniques presented.

The hinged triangle book

This artists’ book structure functions on numerous levels: as a codex held in the hand and read page by page in sequence, as a sculpture, and as a delightful object to play with. Students will have the opportunity to examine a variety of finished pieces and models.

Discussion will include cutting triangles of consistent size and angle, techniques to ensure flexibility of the structure, how to determine a path through the structure for text and imagery, and various patterns for assembly. Importance of creating and refining prototypes will be stressed.

In this one day workshop students will make one or more models as time permits, with the triangles hinged to form different patterns and plans for adding imagery and/or text to future books.

Note: The Jacob’s Ladder structure can be added for a one day Engineering Marvels workshop, or add the Flag Book for a two day.

All Shook Up: Fragmentation and coalescence in the flag book structure

The foundation of Hedi Kyle's deceptively small and simple book "flag book" structure is an accordion folded spine. Flaps attached to both sides of each of the spine’s “mountain” folds allow the artist to fragment and layer a number of complementary or contrasting images and narratives. When the flag book spine is pulled fully open, the fragmented images on the flaps come together to create a large, panoramic  image. This transformation is accompanied by a delightful flapping sound. The spine and covers provide opportunities for additional imagery.

In this two day workshop, students will make two different styles of flag book. For both styles a sample will be made from kits provided by the instructor, plus a more finished book with students’ imagery and hand written text will be made for one or both as time permits. This could also be conducted as a one day workshop, making only one of the two styles of flag book.

Students will experiment with complementary and contrasting text and images. The class will discuss the effects of different spine and page dimensions, direction of motion, and which images will be most successful for different book styles. Students will learn a tidy, non adhesive method of covering boards and use a jig to facilitate quicker, more precise assembly.

Before creating books using their own text and imagery, students will review books from the instructor’s collection, as well as discuss the success and possibilities for improvement of their book models. The instructor will stress the importance of prototype construction and critical thinking at the onset of a project.

While this is not a computer class, digital printing and setting up PhotoShop templates for pages, covers and spines will be demonstrated.

See additional images of flag books here

Download Hanmer's Bonefolder article that this workshop is based on here: (PDF 1.6M)

Additional Text Blocks

The Forwarding Basics, Leather Binding Fundamentals, Springback Binding, Split Board, and Simplified Binding workshops use a US letter-sized text block of 12 signatures, four folios each, 192 pages total. A ruled, paginated text block of this size is available here.