iBB Podcast #15.1 – Kathy Abbott – Male-Dominated 1980s, Restoration & Book Dealers, Islamic Bindings

Our podcast’s guest this time is Kathy Abbott. A bookbinder, bookbinding teacher, and book restorer (with a conservation lilt). Watch the episode on our YouTube channel or listen to it on major podcasting platforms.

We talk about Kathy’s early days as an apprentice bookbinder in a male-dominated bindery, her experience in restoration while working at a rare books dealer, her shift to Islamic bindings, and her teaching experience.

In the second part of our talk, Kathy will show us her studio and talk about some of her works. Stay tuned!



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00:00 – Beginning
01:00 – Being a female apprentice bookbinder in the UK in the 1980s
02:52 – “They didn’t want me to work there. They thought they were offering me a job in the women’s sewing shop.”
04:43 – So what’s the situation in the bookbinding industry now?
06:00 – At college with only one other female apprentice
06:37 – Trainees vs. apprentices
07:36 – New apprenticeship program at the Queen’s bindery
10:46 – The current state of the Bindery where Kathy had her apprenticeship
11:24 – Changes that happened over the past three decades
12:53 – The moment when you realize “Now I’m a bookbinding master” and losing fear
14:45 – The disconnect between book dealers and book restorers/conservators
15:54 – And what about the ethics?
16:50 – Where do you draw the line?
18:40 – Detectability of restoration
20:43 – Reversibility
21:13 – PVA vs. EVA
23:53 – Rapid changes in the conservation field that happen every year
25:46 – Not hesitating to share work with other specialists
27:13 – Mold, fungal, and pest infestation
28:28 – Are book worms still a thing? 🙂
28:59 – Working with Islamic bindings
30:38 – Respecting the traditions and styles
31:23 – Minimalism in Kathy’s design bindings
33:32 – Not limiting yourself with your own style
35:36 – Simplicity is often very deceptive
36:00 – Variety of Islamic bindings and styles
37:50 – Is there enough literature dedicated to the Islamic bindings? What other sources are there?
40:40 – Are the old bindings held in the collections of British libraries accessible?
42:18 – Kathy’s teaching experience; Creating a book about bookbinding

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