Carol Kearns, Illustration: The Blog

Little Handmade Concertina Books with Hand-Stamped Covers

My ‘Flowers for…’ books are now in production.  Featuring watercolour illustrations of the flowers in my garden that attract either butterflies or bees (and often both), these little concertina-folded books are handmade from art quality prints.  The covers are made from natural 250gsm textural card and hand-stamped using archival ink and stamps made to my own design by Rubber Stamps Direct – a wonderful company who’s site is really easy to use and who always produce my stamps in super quick time.

The books look lovely displayed on a window sill or mantlepiece and at just £5.00 each they make wonderful small Christmas gifts or stocking fillers and are available from my online Etsy store The Museum Shelves.





I worked on a project when I was at NUA entitled ‘That Environment Thing’ where we had to go out and undertake reportage illustration. I went into my garden and quickly sketched a flower border so that I could map the journeys of all the different bees that came along.

At college we had to use this initial research to put together a teaser campaign for a newspaper article.  But, thinking about the project the other day prompted me to think how I might use the idea to make a foldout concertina book.

I’d actually just had a play with some paper to work out the mechanics of the folding and glueing but then couldn’t resist sketching some thoughts from my head.  Off now to sketch the actual plants in my garden for version two…

Book Binding

I was fortunate enough to learn the skill of book binding while at Norwich University of the Arts.  The Drawing Workshop Manger, Sarah Beare, ran a range of excellent workshops you could sign up for and I learnt marbling and paper making from her, too.  I used the techniques I learnt to make books for my degree and since then I have read up on the subject and, of course, improved my skills just through making lots of books.

I now sell handmade books through my online shop The Museum Shelves but what impresses me about book binding is that you can make a book with little more than a needle and a length of linen thread.

Over the years I’ve been book binding I’ve added to my equipment.  I’m particularly fond of my pressing boards – although a  few wooden chopping boards and some hefty books will suffice.  (If you use this method, remember to wrap your chopping boards with cling film if you don’t want to inadvertently impart an aroma of chopped onions and garlic to your books!)

I’ve now got some fairly hefty G-clamps for holding the book blocks in place when gluing mull to the spines, but I still use the bulldog clips I bought a number of years ago – and before that I used to press the book blocks between two pieces of board projecting out from a pile of books.

I’ve bought much of my book binding equipment, such as those pressing boards, specialist adhesive and the many book cloths I use from Ratchford’s who have always been extremely helpful, even in the days when I was a student.


And my top tip for book binding? Nothing makes a book look more professional than using good bookcloth.