Artist’s Portfolio: Half Calf Case Binding

Completed portfolio after almost a year of use

In 2018, Max Shafer of Glenn’s Tattoo Service Inc. in Carrboro, NC asked me to work with him on a custom portfolio. After meeting several times to discuss what functionality and aesthetics he wished for in his book, we settled upon a half calf case binding.

Because Max is a tattooer, he needed a book that was durable and could contain photos. In order to achieve both of these and stay within Max’s desired aesthetic, I modified the case binding to make room for the photos. A standard photo album has a sturdy spine that’s as wide as the book might possibly get if every page were filled with pictures. In order to accommodate the bulk of adding photos and photo corners, I had to trim out parts of or entire signatures, making more room in the spine.

Now, while this solved one problem, I also knew that the gutter of Max’s portfolio would still experience stress due not just to the bulk of the book and the removed signatures, but also due to the regular and none so gentle turning of the pages by his customers. With this in mind, I let Max know that I’d be back in after the portfolio had seen a month or so of use to doctor up any pages that proved weak. Sure enough, two pages needed a slip of paper pasted into the gutter to secure them back together.

One of the two repaired pages

The sigil on the cover of the book, the runes on the spine, and the runes covering the endpapers were selected by Max after I investigated with him which ones would represent the tone he was trying to set with his portfolio. The sigil I hand drew. The endpapers I hand lettered in red ink and painted in red acrylic. The runes I sewed into the leather prior to gluing it to the covers (black goat hide from Pergamena Leather & Parchment’s dyed leather scraps).

To further stabilize the book, I also sewed beaded endbands into the head and tail of the spine. These are most often decorative in more modern books, simply pasted along the hidden space between the spine of the textblock and the spine of the covers; however, Max’s portfolio required the added stability of true endbands since the spine was already going to endure rough handling and pressure.

To see the portfolio in its home and in action, check out the following photo and video.

The portfolio ready for browsing!

For a mini photo tour of the book, check out the following gallery.

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