introduction | at the workshop | resources

Daniela K. Rosner, Hannah Perner-Wilson, Jie Qi, Leah Buechley

Extended Abstract [ PDF ]

As technologies, finely bound books are compact, durable forms passed from one generation to the next. As handcrafted objects, they exemplify manual control and dexterity, patience and care, and continuity with the past. Paper-based electronic books, by contrast, are relatively new objects that enable an undetermined range of interactions with the page. Here we explore connections between centuries-old and contemporary building techniques by adding electronics to traditional binds. What past material interactions might be worth retaining? How could we revisit gilded edges and metal tooling through conductivity? What could the introduction of new conductive fibers tell us about our interactions with books? In this studio, participants will build basic bookbinding and e-textiles skills to enable new material explorations.


Fine bookbinding is an age-old handwork practice that requires detailed understanding of materials and techniques. Through a series of discrete, skilled activities — folding, sawing, sewing, pressing, gluing, chopping, rounding, backing, lining, pairing, staining, covering, and lettering— books develop from parts and pieces into encased archival objects. By contrast, e-textiles activities have recently developed from experiments combining fashion with electrical circuitry. Novel interactive wearables, objects and surfaces push the boundaries of techniques (painting, sewing) and materials (conductive paints and fibers) by producing a variety of unusual forms, from handcrafted textile sensors to computational sketchbooks and painted electronic pop-up books. Here we look at fine bookbinding as a site to explore the intersections of past and future handwork practices.

Studio Proposal

This studio will be structured in four parts. The first part of the studio will involve brief presentations of a personal book that participants bring to the workshop. In order to better understand how a book is structured, participants will spend the second part of the studio learning basic bookbinding techniques by creating a simple book using plain and decorative papers, boards and paste. In the third part of the studio, participants will get a feel for how to integrate a microcontroller and electronic circuitry with one of their books by testing and extending a simple prepared Arduino program. The forth part of the studio will involve material explorations using old books and materials. Techniques will be based on Daniela's ongoing apprenticeship-based qualitative study of fine bookbinding in the UK and US.

Our studio is for participants with an intermediate level knowledge of electronics and programming. We expect participants to have the following skills:

  • Basic hardware skills: competence with prototyping simple circuits on a breadboard, such as turning on an LED with a battery and resistor.
  • Basic programming skills with Arduino and either Processing or Java.
  • No prior knowledge of bookbinding is required.

This studio will cover the following topics:

  • Sewing to connect individual pages (“leaves”)
  • Setting and assembling a spine
  • Pasting up end papers and covering boards (“splunging”)
  • Hand tooling with gold/silver foil, gold leaf
  • Creating circuitry with copper tape, conductive fabric tape, conductive glue, conductive thread, velostat, conductive paint (copper and carbon), pencils (graphite),

Studio Learning Goals

We hope that participants will gain a better appreciation for fine binding practices as well as learn basic techniques for integrating electronics with paper and binding. By experimenting with materials, tooling and techniques, participants can extend their existing skills in electronics and computation into the developing paper-based domain.


This workshop was made possible by the generous instruction offered by Brignell Binders and the mentorship and support of Alex Taylor at Microsoft Research Cambridge in the UK.