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President's Report 2023 AGM

Welcome to the 2023 AGM of the NSW Guild of Craft Bookbinders.

I would first like to acknowledge the passing of Rosemarie Jeffers-Palmer on the 9th November. Rosemarie was involved with bookbinding and book arts for many many years with her bindery first in Enmore then in Marrickville and finally in St Peters. She is the bookbinding half of Amazing Paper. She was involved with the Guild as a member ans also was on the committee. Her passion has touched many people who are still binding today.

A normal but exceptional year
When the new committee took on running the Guild at the end of 2019 within months we were rocked by the first lockdown and all the uncertainties that this COVID period brought with it. This last year 2022–2023 could be called our first normal year! But in the same breath I add this year has also been exceptional. 

In March, Karen Vidler from Book Conservation Services based in Adelaide ran paper repair and leather binding conservation courses. The professional standard of Karen’s teaching and the incredible amount of information she imparted left all the students completely satisfied. I would like to thank Karen and I hope she will come and teach here at the Guild again. I would also like to extend special thanks to Cali Andersen who billeted Karen (and husband) and ably assisted Karen on all the courses making the experience that much better. Thank you Cali!

After a short respite for normal classes, Michael Burke and Dominic Riley were upon us with a diverse selection of courses in a lead up to Queensland Guild’s postponed national conference, Bind 23. Again we worked with Andersen’s Bindery pooling resources. Many happy students. 
Coming together, sharing resources has to be one of the ways forward into the uncertain hand binding future.

Note for the diary: Already planning is under way in New Zealand for the next conference to be held in 2025 in Auckland.

The Guild’s membership seems to have stabilised at about 130 members. Last year the membership had a boost in the second half of the financial when the half year membership became available. It peaked at c.160 members. This membership size is good, not too big so we can manage it ‘by hand’ and not need to resort to online based systems and add-ons.

A normal year
Perhaps it will be this current year 2023 – 2024 that will be our truly first normal year. Planning of the class program for 2024 is already underway. The bindery is used almost every weekend. The majority of weekends are for teaching classes. We are committed to the 4 stage bookbinding course setting the ground work for hand binding. The beginners classes are usually programmed on the first weekend of the month. The other classes are spread through the year. We are slowly working out the scheduling; how many Level 2 classes (3) and Level 3 classes (2) per year and the Level 4 taught by Ted Chapman once a year in January. 

We understand not everyone will become passionate bookbinders. The variety of other classes we offer are to broaden people’s exposure to binding and the book arts; sketchbook, coptic binding, simple leather binding, introduction to tooling, various boxes, Japanese binding, suminagashi, bookcloth. We are planning on adding others, drum leaf, long stitch… were already on the list but with the extra courses mentioned above we ran out of weekends.

Our connection with Sydney Community College continues to bring new people into our space. It is the most successful outreach program we have ever had. We run 9-10 beginners’ courses a year and the majority are at capacity with 10 students per class. The feedback through SCC from students for Avril’s teaching, the bindery space and the course itself has been overwhelmingly positive. The cost for the weekend is still very competitive.

There is always a demand for book repair. This is harder to teach as book repair is complex and every book throws up similar but different problems. Even if the one day course we offer simply helps students to a deeper understanding of the book’s structure and its complexity I figure we have broadened the respect for bookbinding.

It still strikes me as totally inadequate learning bookbinding in a weekend. In fact it is ridiculous! Not possible. But we don’t have the TAFE courses anymore. For those who can make it on Wednesdays, first Tuesdays or second Saturdays, these access days are where you can really embed skills and learn. If I’m honest I prefer monitoring on Wednesdays, helping members with their projects step by step, week by week. Other members are happy to share their knowledge. New members get to see what long-term members are working on. The mood is jovial and welcoming. We share the ups and downs of bookbinding. I would like to thank Margaret Scott here for her long-term commitment to the Guild and monitoring on the first Tuesdays and second Saturdays of the month. All members are welcome to drop in and work with her.

I would like to thank our tutors Avril Makula, Petra Weber, Ted Chapman, Nicholas Beckett.
An aside: If you know a binding really well and are bursting to teach it please let us know! 

The bindery
All of you who haven’t been here to the bindery for a while will no doubt notice the changes. The main changes have been to the blocking/tooling area. A plan that was hatched over a year ago has been realised. We have moved and concentrated the blocking and tooling into the back corner of the bindery. For all this work I would like to thank David Moore who spearheaded the project and is king of the labelling machine, Simon Grimes, Edwin Barnard, Lars Bryndum, Brett Rawlins. We have reached, if not an end point, at least a rest point. 

Also thanks goes to Liliana Navarra who has been doggedly working on the new catalogue of the library. And again to David Moore for his sorting and labelling of the books. It’s a slow process and we are just starting. When Karen Vidler looked through the library her comment was “You’ve got a great library!” It’s a library that’s been built over the 40+ years of the Guild. We need to care for it.

The new constitution
I would like to thank Tony Baker for his work on re-writing the constitution. It was a fiddly and nitpicking task and not for the faint hearted. The constitution is not gripping reading but now it is updated with current technologies and we have had a chance to revise and think through its stipulations and restrictions and demands. It is set for the next 40 years!

The incredible diversity of skills amongst the membership and members’ willingness to share them never ceases to impress me. My intention is to create an organisation in which members feel welcome and can contribute how they wish and most importantly enjoy bookbinding. It’s your Guild and the committee is simply here to facilitate the running of it.  My final thanks must therefore go to the committee: to Avril Makula, to Jules Dalgliesh, to Gayle McGovern, to Tony Baker, to Simon Grimes, to Kerry Blake, to David Moore, to Dave Edmonds. Thank you.