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Paola and Luciano Fagnola – Bookbinders, book conservators – Italy



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Imagine we don’t’ know anything about it… can you describe your profession? We bind books for the 22nd century: We work and take care of books as objects: we give them a shape, we look at their mechanics, how they open, which material to use for the cover, which decoration. Or we restore ancient books and papers as cultural heritage to transmit them to future generations

What materials do you use? paper, cardboard, vellum, leather, book cloth, silk, plexiglass, stone veneer, cork etc.

Who is you “ideal client’s profile? book lovers, bibliophiles, people who love culture, art, history and artisan works

You chose to be a craftsman. How did this decision appear to be an evidence to you? Luciano started his training in a very young age and he still can’t stand still, he NEEDS to create with his hands. Paola felt the need to do something that could be interdisciplinary, in which to combine art, literature, science, technologies, creativity, history and create tangible objects

Would you define your job a passion? What is the best moment you had in your job? It definitely is passion: the best moment is seeing the finished binding for the first time, or the book you just finished to restore: seeing what you created with your hands, how your project has become real and tangible, how your work has shaped it. Even when the job is simple and repetitive and you make several pieces in the same way, at the end of the day you look at the table with all these items and you can tangibly see all the work you have done, curing each one of them

What role do “talent”, “know-how” and “creativity” play in your profession? talent is important but it’s worthless without practice and discipline. the more you do, the more you gain confidence and learn how to solve problems the more items you see the more you can get inspired and try and create variations on you work

And what about innovation, what are the changes since you started? Do you use new materials, tools, processes, marketing. What’s the impact of innovation on your performances? How could your profession be more innovative? when Luciano started the bookbindery was only doing edition binding and titling. In the 80s he introduced boxmaking and in the 90s fine binding and book conservation (in 1992 he was invited to try fine binding and at his 1st exhibition a book collector offer to be his patron and gave him the possibility to learn fine and design binding techniques in Ascona.) Paola went to Ascona herself in 2008-09, and afterwards became Book Conservator graduating at ICRCPAL in Rome, for which she is now teaching and mentoring. The bookbindery has expanded and innovated itself, following the changes in reading and book use habits. Materials and techniques have evolved, digital tools have been introduced in design and project progress and book conservation is continuingly evolving in techniques, tools and materials, following the ongoing researches in the field. Now more than ever, with Internet, marketing and communication have become more and more important: bookbinding and book conservation are a niche, the public needs to be educated to know it

Where and how long did you train before you were ready for creating your business? Imagine that you want to invite young generations to choose your profession, what would be your message to them? Luciano had a professional training since a young age, Paola went to a Conservation School to learn Book Conservation and to the Centro del Bel Libro in Ascona to learn Bookbinding. They both learned two professions, and this gave them the value of respect: each job needs its training, for craftsmen is had to be half theory and method and half practical: you need to know HOW to do something, but also WHY Vocational education and training is important and future generations must not be mistaken: it’s not less worthy than University

In Conclusion, describe a meaningful experience or a personal reflection that you would like to share with us and explain why Both Paola and Luciano at their first experiences with fine/design binding won a prize. This was a great surprise and helped them to acknowledge their skills and talent and was an incentive to do more and do better. Looking at details and constant improvement made them grow as craftsmen into design process and practice, curiosity pushed them to find inspiration in everything around them: a book, a song, a video on YouTube, a DIY project, a piece of art in a museum. Inspiration coming from other fields moved them to experiment and find new way to express their craft… their art.



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