How Artisan Books began: Chapter 2

The Designer

Andrew Barron of Graphic Design studio ‘thextension‘ tells us his side of the story.

I first met Sam in 2010 when we were introduced by an editor and old friend I had designed books for. Sam was a young photographer who had spent a year being tutored by David Montgomery – best known for his portraits of high-profile celebrities. Perhaps his best known commission was for the infamous cover of Electric Ladyland by guitar legend Jimi Hendrix. Heady times.

Sam, however, was a different breed. To celebrate the year spent with David she wished to make a book of her best images – the book was to act as a memento, a portfolio, and as a thank you gift for her parents who had funded her. I was to help with the design, layout and production of the book.

 

This was a gift of a project compared to the rigours of main-stream publishing. The pictures were beautiful, the design and planning pleasurable and the schedule barely perceptible. It was all going far too well – one knew it couldn’t last.

The problem was the production. Sam only wished to make a dozen books, but to the highest possible standard. Printers capable of producing a book of this nature were not interested in such a short run, and printers interested in such short runs could not be called printers!

 

Despairingly we searched through the photography titles lining Sam’s shelves, scanning colorphons and acknowledgements in the hope of finding a name or contact that could help. It took several trawls before we found a small and beautifully made book of Landscapes by John Swannell. As soon as one took it off the shelf you knew it was different – it felt right in the hands. The binding was neatly sewn in sections and the pages opened nice and flat, the paper was thick, matt and slightly textured like a traditional water-colour paper, and the colour images glowed with life. John Swannell must have been thrilled!

A modest credit  on the last page – to The Hurtwood Press in London, was enough to enable us to track them down and lead us to a first meeting with Francis Atterbury.

 

It is often, at this moment – when the printer takes command, that one’s noble intentions and high aspirations are brought down to earth. The vision you cherished of the perfect book is replaced by a forlorn hope that the first copies will not disappoint too greatly. Inexplicably you lose control of the project and a greater, darker force takes over. How does this happen!

 

But it was not to be.

Francis was a joy, he not only ensured that the vision was maintained, he expanded upon it. The books were produced – only the twelve copies as required – quite beautifully. The client was thrilled, the designer (me) was astonished and relieved, and the whole process was a pleasure (and fun) from start to finish. And then that was that!

 

Until nearly two years later, a ‘phone call from Francis suggested a meeting to discuss the possibility of making the Sam’s Book format into a template, to be useful to other photographers. Did I think this might work? Of course I did!

At this moment the tentative foundations for an Artisan Book were laid. All the components that we both cherished were brought together – classic fonts, elegant typography, and harmonious layouts, with traditional bookmaking methods, fine paper and the newest print technologies. This was to be something rather special.

See the most recent developments of Andrew’s work on our books here

 

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