Designer Bookbinders Annual Competition 2014

Last Friday we hosted the awards for The Designer Bookbinders Annual Competition 2014. The event, led by our very own Lester Capon, celebrated the efforts of 39 entries and also signalled the beginning of a new exhibition in the Layton room.

The first of these bookbinding competitions was in 1957, although back then it was known as The Thomas Harrison Memorial Competition. Designer Bookbinders took responsibility in 1975 and consequently gave it the name it has today. Regardless of sponsors or monikers, the aims of the competition have remained the same since its inception: to encourage fine bookbinding and illuminate the skills of craftsmen and students.

Although there is an open category, allowing entrants to design a binding for any book, the majority of entries are for a specific publication. This year’s set book was Truman Capote’s novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Considered one of the quintessential American stories of the 20th century, it was the perfect platform for all to exhibit their craft.

We chose a few of the winning entries to give you a sneak preview into the collection, which is on display at St Bride Foundation until 5th December.

The Mansfield medal for the best book in competition:


Name: Hannah Brown

This isn’t the first time Hannah has won the top prize. She also came first in the 2008 competition with her bookbinding for Don’t Look Now and Other Stories – an award which consequently earned her the title of ‘Licentiate of Designer Bookbinders’.

Hannah graduated with a BA (Hons) in Three Dimensional Crafts from Brighton University in 2004. She began attending evening classes in Bookbinding during these studies before transferring to classes at The Institute in London in 2005. Nowadays she works at her home studio in Provence.


According to Hannah, the design is based on a specific scene in the book when Holly Go Lightly hosts a party at her apartment. The front cover of the binding shows the character smoking a long cigarette, surrounded by a majority of men. Also included is Holly Go Lightly’s unnamed cat, which contrasts the dark blue background. It is a significant visual addition to the design that Hannah believed was necessary, as the character’s attachment to the cat was greater than one initially thought.

(For more on Hannah’s work, you can check out her website here:

2nd prize for the Folio Society set book:

Name: Nicky Oliver

Book: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Nicky is another Licentiate of Designer Bookbinders, and has been an active member with the organisation for a very long time. Her education began in design and illustration, which then progressed to bookbinding where she felt she could combine her art skills with a craft that she loves. Nowadays, Nicky owns and runs her own independent bookbinding studio, Black Fox Bindery.02-Nicky-Oliver---Breakfast-at-Tiffanys

This is a full leather binding, bound in fair goat. It has been de-bossed with fine pieces of lace and then dyed black. It was then lightly blocked with strips of metallic foil. There are pink foil lines and a metallic pink cocktail glass tooled onto the spine – with “bubbles”. The endpapers and doublures have been printed using the same lace – in pink. The same foil fragments on the cover have been repeated on the inside with the addition of black foil lines.

“This tale isn’t sugar coated like its cinematic offering. It is dark but exudes elegance and a naive glamour. I wanted to avoid iconic imagery and focused instead on texture and colours that synergised the story and the book’s illustrations”.

1st prize for Clothworkers’ Prize for Open Choice Book:

Name: Miranda Kemp

Book: Four Hedges

03-Miranda-Kemp---Four-HedgesMiranda first came to bookbinding at Oxford polytechnic, whist studying for a degree in Visual Studies and History of Art. One of the compulsory modules was Bookbinding, taught by Ivor Robinson. According to Miranda, Ivor was very much her mentor at college.

Twenty years later Miranda attended a bookbinding class at Richmond college of Adult Education, which was ‘great fun, but still somewhat limiting due to the equipment’. It wasn’t until she met Mark Cockram at the Flow gallery bookbinding exhibition before her craft really took the step-up. Mark has been Miranda’s tutor at Studio 5 for a few years now. It’s here where Miranda has receieved a wealth of knowledge and, most importantly, the philosophy that there are no boundaries in design.

Elizabeth Greenhill Prize for gold tooling:

Name: Pamela Richmond

The driving force behind Pamela’s bookbinding is her passion for books and reading. This passion was so encapsulating at one point that Pamela decided to leave her position as a teacher to focus on bookbinding. Pamela studied at Guildford under Maureen Duke and Daphne Beaumont-Wright, who worked with William Matthews. It was Matthews’s work with gold leaf which inspired Pamela to incorporate the material into her own projects. Pamela draws her inspiration for the bindings from the contents within the book.08-Pamela-Richmond---Sweet-Thames-Run-Softly

While working on Breakfast at Tiffany’s, for example, she was inspired by 1940s and 1950s fashion illustrations and various other illustrations within the text. Although most of her work is commissioned, if given the choice, she prefers binding books of poetry given its more interpretive nature in comparison to novels.


Arthur Johnson Prize (awarded by Bernard Middleton):

Name: Luke Hornus

Prior to working on bookbinding, Luke exercised his love for art through studying illustration at the Kent Institute of Art & Design in Maidstone and the University of Creative Arts in Farnham. After initially falling in love with letter press printing and etching, he decided to expand his knowledge into book binding. Luke applied to Shepherd’s Bookbinders where he ‘learnt all he now knows’ from Dan Wray, Eri Funazaki and Ben Elbel.


These entries, as well as 34 others, are all on display in the Layton room until 5th December. Opening times are Mon – Fri (12 – 6pm).

Thank you to Designer Bookbinders, as well as Hannah, Nicky, Miranda, Pamela and Luke for providing us with words and photographs. Click here for the Designer Bookbinders website.


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