Review: Alisa Golden’s Making Handmade Books

Ich hatte ja schon vor einer Weile eine Reihe von Reviews angekündigt. Dies ist nun das erste davon. (Worktable Wednesday wird vielleicht morgen nachgeliefert, falls ich heute nachmittag noch was vorzeigbares produzieren kann.) Weil das Buch auf Englisch geschrieben ist, wird auch das Review auf Englisch sein. Sorry, keine weitere Übersetzung. Aber eine kurze Zusammenfassung: Das Buch ist super, und eine Investition wert, auch wenn man nicht so viel Englisch kann: Die Bilder zu den einzelnen Schritten sind ziemlich selbsterklärend, wenn man schon ein bisschen Erfahrung mit dem Büchermachen hat.

I told you a while ago that I have a large stack of books that are waiting to be reviewed. In the meantime I bought even more books. So it is time to start with working through that pile – of course with the last book I bought. A summery right at the start: I love this book. I think it is the best I have found on the subject of easy to make structures for artist’s books so far. But let me start from the beginning.

Why I bought it:

Ellen wrote on her blog a very nice and good tutorial for making a volvelle; I found it especially interesting to see how to create the hub out of cardstock – because the rest of the construction is more or less obvious from looking at the finished pieces. She mentioned that she learned to do it from this book. So I looked it up, it looked good, and I immediately bought it more or less just from looking at the cover.


There are twelve chapters plus a foreword and different appendices. Each chapter is further divided to the individual structures and instructions. The subtitle 100+ Bindings, Structures & Forms does not lie. This are the titles of the chapters:

Materials & Methods
Folded Books
Simply Glued
Simply Sewn
Scrolls & Accordions
Movable Books
The Codex
Codex Variations
Envelopes & Portfolios
Cover Techniques
Boxes & Slipcases
Ideas & Concepts

Although most (sub-)chapters focus on the technique of a certain structure, Alisa Golden’s interest clearly is with artist books. The imagined audience seems to be visual artists who want to introduce books in their body of work. She focuses on overall simple structures that can be learned rather fast. With only very few exceptions all have an open spine and most won’t need to be glued. Even the books in the “simply glued” chapter are not very complicated. You will find flag books there, for example, but also a simple method for perfect binding.

The instructions are divided into individual steps, and each of them is illustrated by a computer generated picture to make it very clear what needs to be done in each step.

Each new book form is introduced with a book as an example with at least one photo and a quote from the artist who made the book; usually you will find a reflection about why he or she chose that structure for this specific content. And so content and form always are shown in a relation to each other. The last chapter is then specifically dedicated on the question of how to find content and how to present it.

My comments/Do I like it?

On first sight when I opened the book, I was a little annoyed by the layout of the pages. Maybe that was because the titles and artist quotes are set in a non-serif type. Somehow the spreads looked like internet pages to me, which is good for webpages but I think is a little disturbing in printed books. But that is really the only downside I could find, and after a while of reading, I hardly noticed it anymore.

This it is a great book. The presentation of the different structures is so inspiring, you will feel your fingers itching to start creating after you read a few pages. The only problem that remains is that you won’t know what to make first, given the wealth of information and motivation to be found there.

The instructions are written in a clear style that is easily understood, and also the graphics alone make everything so clear that I would recommend it even for those who are not very fluent with English language, provided they have some experience with similar paper works, and with reading such diagrams.

Would I buy it again?

Yes, without a moment’s hesitation.


Author: Alisa Golden
Title: Making Handmade Books. 100+Bindings Structure & Forms
ISBN: 978-7-60059-587-5
Published by Lark Crafts, A Division of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
The book is comprised of material from two previously published books: Alisa Golden, Expressive Handmade books (1998), and Alisa Golden, Unique Handmade Books (2001). This is the first edition, published in 2010.

5 replies on “Review: Alisa Golden’s Making Handmade Books”

  1. Hilke,
    I love this book also -even though there’s a lot in it of her previous books. Now I own 5 of Alisa’s books and I just love them all!
    best, Annie – the Netherlands

  2. Hi Hilke,
    I love this book too, even though I have to agree with Annie that there is quite a bit of repetition from her other books. However, it’s presented differently and, with all the different things put together, I found that I didn’t mind this so much. It’s a really nice resource to have on hand.

    Thanks for the link! I’m pleased to think I led you to the book. One small clarification, though. I didn’t actually learn to do the volvelle from this book. I learned it a while back from a few different sources put together. What I found interesting was that she shows a very similar structure, but makes the turning mechanism out of Tyvek and uses a much smaller hole than mine. I’ve always used heavy paper. I was pleased to see the structure in there, because it is awfully fun and useful. Many people don’t realize you can make turning wheels and such without using a brad or other hardware in the middle.

  3. PS Another mention of Tyvek! I fear that when you finally find some, you will be terribly disappointed after all of this build up! 😉

    1. Sorry for quoting you incorrectly – I should have looked it up more carefully before writing about it.
      I got me a stack of tyvek envelopes this morning. I’ll see what I can do with it and will let you know whether I’m disappointed or not 🙂

  4. Not to worry–thanks for mentioning it. Glad you liked the volvelle. Ironically, I’ve misplaced my copy of this book and have been looking *everywhere* for it for days…!

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