E mbroidery adds a rich, textural quality to the bespoke books bound by Hannah Brown. The London woman with a crafts degree from Brighton University discovered bookbinding at an evening class a few years ago and quickly grew enamored with the dying art. “The appeal of a hand-bound book is owning an item that is one of a kind, which is what I love about it,” Brown says. “Each binding is different and not mass-produced, which adds something special.”
Brown first picked up a needle as a young child, when her grandmother taught her how to cross-stitch. “I loved to work with all of the different-colored threads to create an image on canvas,” she says. “I have since inherited all of her thread, which I am still using to this day.” Given Brown’s early exposure to embroidery, it only seemed natural to incorporate that skill into her bookbinding work.
Brown uses hand-embroidery to give depth and a tactile quality to the images on the covers of the books she binds. “Books are made to be handled and enjoyed,” she says.
One book may take Brown as long as 200 hours from start to finish, but the effort is worth it to collectors, who are willing to pay thousands of dollars for her efforts. Brown says the most stitching she did on a book was in 2012 for a copy of Flowers from Shakespeare’s Garden. The book is bound in deep purple goatskin and features a colorful flower garden rendered in colored silks and metallic threads.