Andy Johnson Explores the Art of Book Making with Elizabeth Willow

I visited and really enjoyed ‘For the Love of Books’ at the Huyton Gallery, Huyton Library (which runs to 30/6/12 & has been reviewed in the Art Feast section of this website.)

I noticed there was a workshop with one of the artists Elizabeth Willow and decided it would be interesting to attend. I had worked with books for 38 years as a librarian and although I have limited artistic skills I have enjoyed the occasional community style art workshop. I rang to book a place but found it was fully booked but luckily they had decided to run another workshop in the newly opened Prescot Library, One Stop Shop and Museum.

I arrived early and was greeted warmly by Elizabeth and sat down in the meetings room which had
tremendous views across to the Pennines. The other course participants arrived and we were a
mixed bunch of ages, backgrounds and artistic experience but all quickly bonded around the task of
making a range of art books.

Elizabeth went through the basics and I was surprised to learn paper had a grain and this effects
the way it reacts to glue and being folded. We were also informed of the various technical terms for
parts of a book including one I was unsure of, folio, which is a sheet of paper which is folded once to
make 4 pages of a book.

We settled down and under clear and friendly direction made a range of books which included a
simple saddle stitched notebook with a soft cover; a trouser book with an endpaper & stitched
binding; a maze book plus were shown a couple of flower folds that could be developed to make
interesting art books. Although it is possible to buy specialised tools we were shown how to make
the books using simple tools that can be found at home.

The session ended all too soon and we all left to go out into the unseasonal rainy weather
clutching bags that were full of our sample books and paper to practice on. I have gained a greater
appreciation of the craft behind art books, a new skill to add to my new found interest in writing and
memories of a happy time shared with people like me who live in the Knowsley area. Others were
leaving with ideas to use in schools, craft clubs and at home where they are building up folios of

I look forward to doing more sessions that are organised by the Knowsley Arts Service.