Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Featuring: Independent bookbinder, Yohana Doudoux

Handbound books are artworks, and we love learning from bookbinders how they interpret the contents of a book in the cover.  Yohana Doudoux’ approach is nuanced and lovely– and her vision for an ideal library is a treat!  Enjoy. ~Erinn

Library as Incubator Project (LAIP): Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.

Yohana Doudoux (YD): I studied art history at the University of Toulouse, but quickly felt the need to work with my hands.  I completed a degree of bookbinding at Tolbiac High School in Paris. Over the last 6 years, I worked in different binderies in the U.K. and France, and had the chance to approach different aspects of the trade: traditional, restoration, and artistic creation. Four months ago, I created my own bindery in Avignon, in the south of France. I do traditional and contemporary bookbinding. My bindery also has a shop corner where I sell notebooks and boxes made in small series.

LAIP: What are you working on right now that you’re excited about?

YD: A lady recently contacted me with the request to make three books in homage of her late husband.  After a moving discussion, I provided her with a sketch she really liked. After she pulls all the pictures and documents together, a graphic designer will do the page setting. It will then be printed, and I’ll take the sheets and bind them. Each of her grandchildren will receive a book. This project, for me, represents what bookbinding is about: transmission! It is really exciting to be part of the process of making a complete book. 

I have also entered a miniature bookbinding competition organized by The Dutch Handbookbinding Foundation. I love small books, but never had the opportunity to work on such a small scale!

LAIP: How do you see your work interacting with narrative or story?  What does working in books allow you to do that you can’t pull off with other media?

YD: I always read the book before designing a binding. The story is a real source of inspiration, as well as the format, the paper, and any illustrations… I aim to put my impressions of the book into the design as an introduction to the content.

There are technical constraints in bookbinding (the book must open properly, be solid, etc), but I think I need those constraints to experience all the freedom and creativity of the process.

LAIP: How have libraries informed your creative work? Tell us about the first library you remember playing a part in your artistic development.

YD: During my studies, I had the opportunity to do a work experience at the bindery of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (site Richelieu) in Paris, which is the French equivalent of the National Library. My training was focused on restoration, which helped me in understanding the structure of the book. (Besides, learning to fix damaged books, means you can fix your own mistakes when necessary!)


I also had access to many technical books. I particularly remember one about medieval endbands, the small embroidery at the head and tail of books. They consolidate the headcaps, and give a discrete but delicate touch to the bindings. On Shakespeare’s Sonnets, I tried to adapt those centenary techniques to a contemporary structure.

LAIP: Can you describe a particular library-incubated project for us? 

YD: A few years ago, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France organised a wonderful exhibition about children books. There were many pop-up books and I was fascinated by their diversity and ingeniousness.

At that time I was working on the design of Dictionnaire des idées reçues, by Gustave Flaubert. This satire  challenged me, and I decided to use pop-up techniques in order to physically implicate the reader in his discovery of the book.


LAIP: As an artist, what would your ideal library be like?  What kinds of stuff would you be able to check out, and what could you do there?

YD: A library filled with books about books! I love strolling into catalogs of books, from bookbinding exhibitions, or from book sales. it is a source of inspiration to see how other bookbinders have done the job, and sometimes I wish I could take the book out of the picture and manipulate it for real.

Ideally, all the books of my library would be bound by hand…


portraitnbYohana Doudoux is a great lover of books, and studied bookbinding at Tolbiac high school in Paris. She perfected her technique and skills in various workshops in France and England, and now works in her studio in Avignon, where she offers a tailored binding service. Visit her online on her website, and on Facebook: yohanadoudouxlatelier and Twitter @YohanaDoudoux

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