London Craft Week 2017: Fine Printing and Bookbinding at Barnard & Westwood.

By Oliver Burns

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May 5, 2017|Luxury Design

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  • 017 marks the third year of London Craft Week, an annual celebration of the capital’s finest craftsmen and artisans. The event showcases the very best of both British and International creativity through a carefully curated programme of over 200 inspiring events. Exploring everything from millinery to saddlery, London Craft Week highlights the skill and talent required to produce something truly exceptional and timeless in quality.
Image via Royal Warrant

This year, the esteemed fine printers and bookbinders Barnard & Westwood opened the doors to their King’s Cross workshop for an evening of traditional craftmanship. Providing a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of a working factory, the event enabled guests to experience all elements of the making process including die stamping, foil blocking, embossing, gilding and book restoration. The Oliver Burns team where very excited to be able to attend this fascinating event and to learn more about these time-honoured skills and how they fit into the landscape of modern British luxury.

Image via Beyond Bespoke

Established in 1921, Barnard & Westwood proudly hold two warrants from both the Queen and Prince Charles. Along with being printers to the Royal Family, the company also produce exquisite stationary for clients as diverse as Westminster Abbey and Burberry; a testament to the skill and versatility of its staff. This passion for their craft is evident as we explored the workshop, guided by master bookbinder, Barry Greenwood. The rhythmic sound of the pulsing printers and the smell of the ink combined to create a truly multisensory experience, very little of which has changed since the company was established more than 90 years ago. A sense of this lineage and history can be gathered from the handles worn down by years of use and the patina of ink drops.

Image via Barnard & Westwood

As we explored the factory, we quickly gained an appreciation of the skill required to operate the highly intricate machinery. Barry gave a demonstration of die stamping, a process which dates back to the 15th century and which uses engraved copper plates to create a raised, 3D image with incredible clarity and quality. He informs us that this is often a popular option for printing coats of arms, crests and symbols as well as corporate logos owing to the pure rich finish of the 80% pigment ink.

Image via Constance Zahn

The next part of our tour saw us discover the art of bookbinding and book restoration. From ink speckled page edges in an array of dazzling colours and patterns to hand sewn pages, there is endless opportunities to craft something wholly bespoke and beautiful here. A keen eye for detail and quality such as gilded edges and sustainably sourced leather ensures the end result is nothing short of exquisite.

Image via Beyond Bespoke

Before our evening drew to a close, we were treated to one last surprise: a personalised foil blocked notebook crafted by one of their specialist bookbinders, who skilfully lined up the metal block by eye before pressing and releasing the gold foil onto a notebook of our chosen colour. Beautifully hand-stitched and hand-printed in house, this notebook is thoughtful luxury exemplified and proves the importance of preserving these longstanding skills for generations to come.

Composed by LE.

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