Juju Books is a contemporary design and bookbinding practice, founded in 2017 by prize-winning bookbinder Gillian Stewart. A QEST Ambassador and graduate of Glasgow School of Art, Gillian’s background is in design, illustration and printmaking. Combined with traditional bookbinding skills gained through years of experience and intense training across Europe, Gillian seeks to make beautifully crafted objects to elevate, archive and inspire for years to come.
A prize-winning bookbinder, printmaker and graduate of Glasgow School of Art, my work is underpinned by a high level of technical skill that explores conceptual thought. I work across fine bindings, artists books, print and illustration to create book-objects that allow me to explore a theme as a cohesive object, speaking to both craft and concept simultaneously.My work employs skilled surface decoration through gold tooling, leather and paper onlays/inlays, transfer and cyanotype print techniques, as well as creative binding structures that incorporate innovative materials like carbon rods, Tyvek and magnetic closures. As a maker from a working class background, I care a lot about making craft accessible. I also share skills regularly through workshops and teaching for institutions and members of the public.
What craft do you work with?
I got into bookbinding first at art school where I studied illustration. I began making books of my own illustrations and soon became much more interested in the precision and process of bookbinding. I gained a QEST Scholarship in 2018 and have now been working for myself for 6 years.
What inspires you to work with this craft?:
I know that I’ll never know everything about bookbinding, and there will always be something new to learn and improve upon. This keeps me interested and stops me getting bored! I also love that the breadth of processes give endless opportunities for expression. I feel that leather allows me the most creativity in my bindings. I dye, pare, print and tool the leather, and I love how varied the results can be.
How do you start your creative process?
When creating a binding I need to get an understanding of the contents, ie the pages. If working with a client who has created the contents then I need to understand what they’re saying with the work. If I’m binding an existing book or letterpress sheets, then I need to read the book and decide what I feel and want to say about it. Overall, I try my best to communicate the essence of the book through my designs.
How would you best describe your workspace and what tools could you not do without?
I work in a rented studio in the East End of Glasgow, along with makers and artists of different practices. Bookbinding requires quite a lot of hand tools and heavy equipment like guillotines and foil blockers. My hands are the most important tools I have! And after that, I need my collection of folders – perfect for folding paper, scoring card, wrapping bookcloth around board and forming leather headcaps on books.
Are there new techniques you would like to try?
I would love to learn more about printmaking techniques like etching.
What have you learnt or the best advice you have received that you would like to share with fellow crafters?
I’ve been very lucky to learn from generous and talented people. The one phrase that sticks in my head is to take my time and do it right. My advice would be to learn from as many people as you can, look after your suppliers and keep practicing !
What other types of craft do you dream of collaborating with?
I’d love to collaborate with illustrators and writers too!
What professional dream do you have?
My dreams for the future involve starting my own artists press, making books of my own writing, illustrations and bindings.
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