Christine Preisig visits the UK’s first – and so far only – open-access book arts centre in Hackney Wick

Paper marbling

Christine Preisig

Four years ago, artists Simon Goode and Ira Yonemura opened the London Centre for Book Arts (LCBA) in Fish Island, Hackney Wick.

The centre provides a space where artists, designers and hobbyists can use the specialised and often hard-to-come-by equipment needed for making books.

It was after Simon finished his BA in book arts when he found out that outside of school, there was nowhere he could access the machinery and tools needed to continue making art in book form.

Designed book covers

Christine Preisig

Book arts centres have a long-standing tradition in the US so Simon set out on a three-month trip to visit some of the institutions there. What he found inspired him and Ira (who he met on his travels) so much that they decided to open Britain’s first and only self-funded, open-access book arts centre.

“Here in London – mainly in West London – there is this funny, niche bookbinding culture,” says Simon.

“They are very strict traditionalists who make books that are very, very traditional and expensive.  But here at the LCBA, we want people to make their own books the way they want to. We want the widest possible audience in our centre.”

Letter blocks

Christine Preisig

The two artists’ motivation is to promote book arts, often thought to be a dying craft, as a lively and vibrant art form that can take many shapes.

The centre encourages self-publishing and supports a creative community via collaborations and education.

Workshops taught there include the traditional book-making crafts such as letterpress printing and bookbinding but also paper marbling, boxmaking and foil block printing.

Paper printing

Christine Preisig

Book art is interdisciplinary and involves a wide range of techniques. No wonder a lot of equipment is needed for it.

Ira and Simon have been accumulating it over the years. Some of it is ancient and some – like the neatly ordered miniscule letterpress type – might, in fact, have been produced in the type foundry that used to be situated nearby and that was part of the printing industry that had a long history in Fish Island.

Visit LCBA’s website to find a full listing of the workshops on offer, or stop by to browse the shop and watch the makers at work.

London Centre for Book Arts, Unit 18, Britannia Works, 56 Dace Rd, E3 2NQ. londonbookarts.org