Bookbinding with… Frank Lloyd Wright


Design mashup

Japanese stab binding and Frank Lloyd Wright.

What is the connection between the two?

Not much.

The famous American architect, writer, educator (1867-1959) was profoundly influenced by Japanese design, but he never did any bookbinding.

So I thought, what if he had?

Wright inspiration

Wright’s vision for a new brand of American architecture was all encompassing. His philosophy extends well into decorative arts, including furniture, textiles, sculptures, windows, lighting and accessories.

It is from his art glass windows that I saw the possibility for Japanese stab binding.

Lines, rectangles, repetition, and grid-like structures. Perfect!

Testing, testing.

Testing, testing.

Elemental variation

My reference: the “tulip” window from his Oak Park home in Chicago.


The tulip design from the stain glass in Frank Lloyd Wright’s children’s playroom window. Photo: ShopWright.

I decided to simplify the design after my tests revealed that the designs cannot be reproduced in the A6 size I had in mind — too complicated.

I created three variations instead, that will, together, capture the spirit of Wright’s design.

Three variations.

Three variations.

Draw it out, consider the proportions.

Use a template.

Start stitching.

Start stitching.

Earthy shades

Nature was a great inspiration to Wright, and can be seen in his choice of material, colour (Cherokee red!), motif or texture.

Earth tones

Earth tones

So I chose a sandy coloured book cloth for the hardcovers, and an off-white book block with two sheets of coloured tracing paper as endpapers.

Set of three.

Set of three.

For this exercise, I decided not to knot off at the end but to leave an extra length of thread.


Done, with a long tail.

Lingering ideas

Looking at Wright’s art glass window designs — Tree of Life, wheat stalks — I am sure they can also be reproduced in stab binding. But the books will have to be giant-size.

I find it extremely difficult to get neat, straight stitches on the back side of the book.

So I concentrated on getting the front of the book as perfect as possible. That meant the holes have to be very carefully stabbed. It’s a challenge.

More practice!

More to come?

More to come?


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