A rare profession in Seine-et-Marne: art binder, he brings old books back to life
Through Yoann Vallier
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By pushing the workshop door off art binding from Laura Carlu-Favennec to Nemours (Seine-et-Marne), it feels like stepping back in time. Amazing hodgepodge of tools and machines mingled with old books. It was here, across from Loing, that he chose to land and revive the book, perpetuating ancestral knowledge. Laura is the one below 300 art binders and gilders in France and at the age of 35, he defends this profession that has become rare, eager to pass on this valuable knowledge.
Passionate about art since childhood, he studied applied arts, studying Fine Arts before studying his future profession at the prestigious Estienne school in Paris.
“It’s a calling that’s getting clearer bit by bit, he remembered. My mother was a volunteer at the library, I grew up surrounded by books. I’m also passionate about genealogies, and since I’m working on old works, I want to restore them ”.
Settled in 2011 in Paris, he settled in Nemours in 2019: “I needed a room of sufficient height to accommodate my press. I have complicated specifications, and I fell in love with this city I don’t know.”
Our profession must be practiced so that it is not forgotten
Laura does everything by hand, using lots of unusual tools. His specialty? Art binding: “The goal is to bind books so they last. These are often precious books entrusted to me, with strong sentimental value.“.
Because of this, he worked to revive many works, such as the first Mickey album which a grandfather entrusted to him to pass on to his grandson. With, of course, a lot of patience and thoroughness. Laura uses her impressive press, which supports a two-tonne load, to “flatten paper that has shape memory”, scalpels, bone folders, a pointing compass for measuring, vices for supports.
A small metal object caught our attention: “Here is a peg, like in Little Red Riding Hood. It is used to stretch the strings to sew the ends together.”
If Laure tied, she also gilded, marking her work in gold leaf. Another knowledge inherited from centuries of practice that he passionately defended: “We heat bronze to mark leather and paper”. A series of moves that he learned mostly by himself, at the expense of countless hours of practice, but also library research to unearth old, endangered techniques.
Describe your job
And so that this knowledge is not lost, Laura emphasizes the importance of transmission. He gives lessons to candidates for Binding Art CAP, but also in the evenings at the association: “ I also stepped in at school to explain my work. It is important to convey so as not to lose our knowledge. In France, we are the best in the world, now Canada and Japan are ahead of us. It must be said that it is difficult to make a living from it and less and less hours are devoted to this specialty in schools ”.
And who says there are fewer hours of ongoing practice, certainly says the loss of this valuable knowledge: “I know that handicraft is not a priority, but it absolutely must be preserved. We are in a profession that must be practiced in order not to be forgotten.” Laura is part of “Artisans du Tourisme”, the new label awarded by the Chamber of Commerce. Another way to talk about your work. So rare, so precious… and so fragile.
The Livrasphère bookbinding workshop, accessible by appointment at Nemours. Tel: 07 70 14 44 71, website: www.livrasphere.com.
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