I am an amateur bookbinder, having started in January of 2002. I started binding books because I wanted an inexpensive source of beautiful blank books, but the craft quickly grew into an obsession in its own right. The area I live in (Edinburgh) has a proud history in publishing and binding, but virtually no current practice in the matter. There are no evening classes, weekend seminars, or adult education courses on the subject in the area. So I have learned from books and trial and error, from repetition, reflection and analysis.
I spent my first three years as a binder in a kind of apprenticeship. As an apprentice, as a beginner, I would rarely take money for my bindings. I gave a lot of them away, to friends, family, strangers, and even politicians. I have since "graduated" myself to journeyman status. I feel that my bindings are good enough to sell to others, if I have created something they want. (I still bind things to give away, but I rarely bind something and then try to find a recipient these days.)
I am in luck in one area. Just outside of Edinburgh, the long-established firm of J. Hewit & Sons still runs a tannery. Not only do they specialise in bookbinding leathers, but they also sell tools and materials. They welcome passing trade, as their excellent website explains. And they sell the hides that fail their quality checks at a deep discount. But most importantly, their extremely helpful staff take amateur binders who blunder into their factory seriously, dropping bits of advice and generally making them feel like they belong. I don't know if I would still be binding without Hewit's nearby.
My real name is Abi Sutherland, but I have been using "evilrooster" as an online name for several years now. I've even incorporated the logo into my bindings, first in the form of a rubber stamp, and now as a finishing tool.
The name "evilrooster" comes from twisting Elizabethan sayings. In Shakespeare's day, one could say "He is as full of mischief as an egg is of meat", because meat meant food in general at the time (a usage preserved in lines like "One man's meat is another man's poison.") In conversation with my husband Martin, this slowly morphed into "as full of mischief as an evil rooster is of eggs". (I guess you had to be there). When I was looking to adopt an online identity shortly afterward, evilrooster was the obvious choice. It has the advantage of being both memorable and unusual.
(You can tell that the rooster in my emblem is evil because it faces left, or sinister.)
I believe that the only way to become a good binder is to bind books. I believe that the only way to know how to bind is to understand why each step is performed, and why it is performed the way it is. I believe there's no such thing as a stupid question, or a wasted experiment.
I also believe that every binder has his or her own world of bindings to create, which will never be the same as mine. Even as a beginner, I feel that it is my duty (and pleasure) to help and encourage other bookbinders.
If you have any questions or feedback on the Boowkeb, please feel free to email me on abi-at-evilrooster-dot-com. I always love hearing from fellow binders.