London Centre for Book Arts

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London Centre for Book Arts is my kind of printshop. Within seconds of walking through the door, I was offered a proper cup of tea (with biscuit). Not only is it full of my favorite genre of heavy dated machinery, but also its founder and director Simon Goode spent years and years collecting this equipment and storing it wherever he could tuck it away. He waited for the right moment to open a shop where he could share his facilities with the printing masses, filling a void in London’s print and book arts community. Come late 2012, following a three-month trip across the United States visiting printshops and book centers, Goode opened what was and remains the United Kingdom’s only open-access resource and education center dedicated to book arts.

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Now well into their second year of operation, London Centre for Book Arts (LCBA) is bright, spacious, and houses an abundance of equipment. From their website: LCBA fosters and promotes artists working in book form and self-publishing. We offer access to specialist letterpress printing and binding facilities, and run teaching and workshops in the book arts. We encourage collaboration and dialogue, and run an exhibition programme highlighting work being done regionally and beyond.

LCBA is located in Fish Island, a warehouse district in east London and the former heart of London’s printing industry, and it’s an ideal spot for such a studio. The industrial area has experienced a great influx of creative individuals and organizations in recent years, as well as residential development. This is partially thanks to it’s close proximity to London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic park – built for the 2012 summer Olympics – which is only a stone’s throw away from LCBA across the River Lea.

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As would be expected from a studio carrying the title of the UK’s “only open-access resource and education center dedicated to book arts,” LCBA offers a great deal of versatile letterpress and book making equipment. A nice trio of proofing presses is off to the left when entering the space, and a designated bindery area to the right with numerous nipping and finishing presses large and small. Toss in a handful of additional presses, guillotines, a Risograph, a hollander beater… I’m certainly leaving quite a bit out. The facilities are all but lacking, certain to make most any letterpress and book artist happy. I was definitely impressed during my few days of printing at the shop.

LCBA offers regular workshops ranging from introductory printing and bookbinding to more specialized classes on foil stamping and specific bindery and boxmaking techniques. Their relationship with East London Printmakers (recent printshop tour here!) allows crossover between the two studios and print communities in the form of discounted workshops for members of each. They also host private and corporate workshops and events.

A core group of eight long-term members and a number of shorter-term project-based members keep the studio busy, and there were a handful of people working away each day I spent at the shop. Additionally, the support of a growing group of over 100 Friends of LCBA keep the shop funded and running.

The studio has established a presence beyond Fish Island as well. LCBA is part of the upcoming London Art Book Fair at Whitechapel Gallery where they’ll be running a series of workshops. The fair runs 9/27 – 9/28, so if you’re in London later this month, you know what to do. More on the London Art Book Fair here.

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A small store section at the front of the studio, featuring a selection of books and bindery tools and materials – some common and others specialized and harder to find.

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The monster Autovic above is a ‘parallel-approach’ platen press, as opposed to a hinged design like most clamshell-style platen presses, such as the three Adana presses below. This design ensures constant even impression across the form, making it great for printing not only type forms, but also wood engravings and other relief blocks. On the other hand, Simon told me that a surprising number of rollers are involved in this machine, making cleanup a bit of a process.

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This ink chart was quite possibly my favorite little find at LCBA. One of their members assembled a beautifully and methodically organized chart of all the ink LCBA has on hand (which is a lot). A labeled sample of each ink in the chart corresponds with a sample on the appropriate can of ink. So simple yet so effective. With so many inks on the shelf, this makes finding the right one that much easier.

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Do this.

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Passing through London now or later? Pay LCBA a visit. They’re open five days a week (Tuesday through Saturday) and would love to show you around the studio. Many thanks to Simon and Ira for the warm welcome.

London Centre for Book Arts is located in east London at Unit 18, Ground Floor, Britannia Works, Dace Road, Fish Island, London E3 2NQ. They’re only a short walk from the Hackney Wick Overground station.

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