Monday, March 14, 2016

Measure twice…..

Many years ago, while living in Canada, I was fortunate to be introduced to the 
(CBBAG - lovingly pronounced Cabbage)

I'm reminded as I work today of the many courses I took there during the five years
I called Toronto home.

I recall at the core, CBBAG was a very serious group. I often sat with librarians, who were there to learn book structure, not really the craft. Sometimes I found it tedious to sit through the lessons, which were detailed and academic.  At the time there were a prescribed set of courses a student had to take in order to advance through the levels.  At the outset of my instruction, I remember that all I really ever wanted to do was learn to make a 'box', best covered in leather.  If I remember correctly, back then, a student had to advance to level 3 before they could enroll in the 'box' class. What I learned by eventually taking the class, was that it was really was a book 'enclosure' class. I learned a lot as I progressed. I'm not sure how much I retained about book structure, but the discipline, patience and appreciation for precision I gained in those courses has stayed with me.

What I learned about the tools and process used in bookbinding has been invaluable. I duplicated the provided tool kit and developed expertise using them over the years.  I found the principles that were taught, not only apply to bookbinding, but to many other creative disciplines. 

Today I was thinking of one final class I took with Betsy Palmer Eldridge, in the basement of her grand old home in downtown Toronto.  I had finally accrued enough credit to enroll in her Leather Bindings course just before I moved back to Michigan.  Betsy is an esteemed Master Bookbinder, in the German Tradition, and VERY serious about teaching her craft.
 I felt, once again, over my head, as I was just there to learn a few things about working with leather…….
and was more than a bit intimidated by her VERY thorough and academic approach to tooling leather for bookbinding.   

But the one thing I learned from Betsy that I recall today as I set about hand stitching the second of two drapery panels for my front window…….

…..that I hold as a cheerful nugget of wisdom….

And I paraphrase……

"50% is about making it perfect 
50% is learning how to fix your mistakes"

What a relief!

to know that

(even) she made mistakes, 

(therefore mine were OK)

and that

(in fact)

 mistakes are part of the process


  1. How interesting.
    I took a class from Betsy Palmer Eldridge in her basement too. I didn't take the leather binding - but did take a beginner bookbinding class from her. Martha Cole was in the class with me along with a well known small press binder from B.C.
    You are very correct about her being very thorough.
    I made two books in that class and a picture frame - and I would say that she hovered over me making sure I did everything perfectly. Sometimes she did it for me. But they are lovely books, and I have lovely memories of her and her home and the other members of the class. During one lunch hour, a student from the Royal conservatory gave us a lunchtime concert on her grand piano - as a practice session before his real concert.
    And your curtains look gorgeous. x

    1. Dear Judy, there are not enough words to express how much I wish I'd known you when I lived in Toronto. Our paths surely crossed in many ways. Your recollections have jogged more memories for me as I took a master class from Martha Cole and found her to be one of the most generous human beings and teachers I've ever come across. And thanks for the compliment……I'm close to being inspired to dress one more window! ox