Martin Clinch, owner of Querent Press, has been in the business of book making, leather accessories, and illustration since 2012. Martin recently relocated to the new RUCKUS Makerspace and is loving the generous community and family-oriented atmosphere.
What piqued your initial interest in designing your product(s)? A life-long love of books! Learning how books were traditionally made in previous eras piqued my interest, since they were things that revealed how people lived and thought in previous eras. A book is something intimate and personal – you hold it, you see someone’s thoughts, it can be treasured. This is why I use more natural materials like leather, wood, and paper – these things also have life in them that aid in the intimacy of a book.
What principles do you use when designing? The rule of thirds, which I believe comes from cinematography – I like things to be balanced, either symmetrical in half or to have emphasis on the intersection of thirds. I also tend to “float” my designs slightly, which comes from printmaking – when you “float” the design, you give a little extra space at the bottom because the human eye perceives images or focal points to be “heavy”. Giving it more space at the bottom creates a more stable image.
Who and/or what influence your design style? How would you describe your design aesthetics and values? I look a lot toward Medieval and Renaissance books – books that had to be primarily functional, then secondarily beautiful. I also love the designs produced in art deco and art nouveau eras for bookbinding and illustration that really celebrate the form of the books or image that they were making. I find myself coming back to the old adage of Utilitas, Firmitas, Venustas – utility, then stability, then beauty.
What comes first for you, the design materials or the design concept? Materials, definitely! The limitations of the materials define the end product. If I do have a concept in mind, I search through my leather or papers or materials to find the best solution for the idea, and usually the materials end up shaping, changing, or defining my product.
Could you describe the process of creating a piece – from conception to finish? The creative process as well as material selection and labor process, too? Say I have a desire to create a watercolor sketchbook – I’ll find the paper that I want and cut and fold it down into the size I want for the interior. Next I think about what binding style is appropriate for the use and materials. I’ll cut the covers and find bookcloth or leather that will look good and work with the binding style. Then come finishing touches – maybe rounding the corners, or adding a closure, or embellishing with patterned endpapers.
With my illustration work, I’ll begin with an idea and a restriction – usually combining two or more elements or real objects into a new perspective, then the restriction through either a material process (pen and ink, or watercolor, or CMYK process) or paper size. My current project is the Beast Tarot, where I matched each card of the major Arcana to a mythical creature, draw it on pen and ink on narrow watercolor paper, and fully watercolor it.
What is your favorite tool, and why? Bone folders. They’re useful and make your life so much easier when folding paper, and can be made of plastics, bone, or horn. The ones made of animal products have really wonderful quality – rigidity but flexibility, they don’t scuff or mar the paper. Medieval and Renaissance artisans would use a boar’s tooth to buff and polish in gold leaf, and I’ve used my bone folders in the same way.
Describe a piece you’ve created that you are most proud of. What was special about it? I made a book out of marble once as a challenge in a college course. I love the feel of marble, so I used the same process that I’d use to make wooden covers to end up with marble tile covers. I made three chunky little stone books, and the reactions from people who see and feel them are so great. Someone described them as “caveman books”. I think they’re like geodes, with paper in the middle instead of crystal deposits.
Describe the commissioning process. What are the best and worst aspects about doing commissions? You can do some really amazing things with commissions. I was able to rebind a religious text for one patron and upgrade it from plain bookcloth covers to fine kid leather and personalize it for him. To know that the patron really loved it, and that it will last for far longer than it previously would have, is great. Other times, a patron might have conflicting ideas on what they want from their commission or have difficulty putting it into words. I can translate that back into aesthetic results.
What advice you would give to aspiring makers like yourself? Experiment, but also keep notes or records. I make one-off books sometimes, which are great, but I should have measured the individual parts or kept example/rough copies so I could recreate them.
What is one thing that the creative/design community can do in Indianapolis to help grow an audience for custom or handcrafted work? Give people more locations to find and purchase hand-crafted goods. We see pockets of it in physical locations around town – Broad Ripple, Mass Ave, Fountain Square – but if local artisans could have their goods in front of a wider variety of locals, they’d get more reach and more interest.
Dream commission/client? Thelemites! I’m only half kidding, but anyone who has a custom book in mind for their writing, drawing, research, or personal library.
What makes your work different from anyone else’s? It’s not as rough-hewn as some other bookbinders, but more rough than others. I try to hit that sweet spot of elements that make the book easier to use and more sturdy that give it the machine-made look, but enough elements to give it the hand-made look.
What’s your most rewarding memory in your business? I had a customer come by and love one of my books at one local vendor event, then she and her fiancee came back to my next vendor event and bought that same book for their wedding reception!
The limitations of the materials define the end product. If I do have a concept in mind, I search through my leather or papers or materials to find the best solution for the idea.