Lisa Van Pelt
Fine Edition Binder
Lisa Van Pelt spends her days in the territory of handmade books, surrounded by beautiful materials, heavy cast iron equipment manufactured in the late 1800’s and all manner of glue. She is an edition bookbinder, hand binding fine press books mostly in the French tradition of the livre d’artiste, finely crafted, small editions featuring original art, along with the cases, boxes and paste papers that go along with them.
As an undergraduate at Hampshire College she studied architectural design and now finds that many of the same skills are employed in designing and building books, albeit on a much smaller scale. The book content and text paper establish the initial parameters, like the terrain and climate of a building site. Choices regarding structure and materials proceed from there and are realized in collaboration with the artists, writers, printers, and publisher behind the work. The overall goal is to bring together the visual and tactile elements in a manner that allows the text to emerge effortlessly.
It was in Western Massachusetts that she learned her craft, a hotbed of bookmaking populated by an established array of skilled craftspeople. There she trained as a hand bookbinder with Claudia Cohen, in a modern-day apprenticeship. As part of her training she learned the technique of making paste paper, which has been used in books for over 400 years as endsheets and cover material. This technique of painting pigments and starch on paper, then imprinting with designs lends itself to all sorts of creative work within and outside of the realm of books.
In 2003 Lisa established her own bookbinding shop in Easthampton, Massachusetts. Then in 2007, as a result of her effort to flee the ice and snow of New England winters, she relocated her bindery, eventually landing in the middle of an apple orchard in the Anderson Valley of Northern California.