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Book Camp NZ 2020

Put me in a room for four days with a group of creative women who all love creating unique handmade books as much as I do, and I'm in my happy place! Book Camp NZ is an inclusive and experimental experience in which we create a range of book projects.

But let's start with our arrival at Book camp. As soon as you see this sign on the long driveway at the beautiful Bella Rahka Retreat Centre in Oratia (West Auckland, New Zealand), you can't but help let out a long sigh.

We're here!

It takes a HUGE amount of effort to prepare for Book Camp. We set up a 'lounge' area (which you can't see in this photo). We move a tonne of chairs and tables around, make up the beds and pop personalised welcome letters in the rooms. Camp Mother and myself make handmade name tags for the bedroom doors.

We put out fresh flowers in vases and personalised packs on the tables for the campers. By the time they arrive, we can greet and meet and help them to settle in.

Our theme this year was Botanical.

I invited my printmaker sister Jo from The Design Space, to be my co-tutor. She spent the first day printing up a storm with us all using an etching press. Later in the day we got stuck in to gelli printing.


The results were fabulous and oh so varied.

I simply present three bookish ideas and then let the campers loose. Some follow the theme, some go totally off piste. Some attempt all the projects AND keep going on their own projects.

Other campers work deeply on one project.

It does not matter WHAT the campers do as long as they're enjoying it, having fun and learning.

The botanical theme was brought into the books however the campers wanted it to.

OH these campers were HARDCORE.

I left them creating at 10pm one night.

I couldn't keep up!

I loved how old book covers got repurposed in some of the projects.

Each book had its own gorgeous character.

We do make a BIG glorious mess at book camps!!

We saw books at all stages of creativity.

I LOVE watching them emerge as we progress throughout the week.

It's such a beautiful experience seeing each others styles and approaches to creating handmade books.

One of the projects this year was Japanese stab binding. Everyone who chose to do this project made books using material or papers they felt drawn to.

Playing with type was fun!

As book camp is experimental, it's up to the camper themselves to go in the direction she choses. As a teacher, it's wonderful to watch the book projects unfold.

We create in a room that opens out onto a deck, then a lawn and then forest. We're surrounded by native birds and trees. The room is available to create in the whole time we're there!

Playing with prints and Japanese stab binding a winning combination.

Book Camp gives campers the chance to explore and create using their own papers and style. They each get a kit to create three projects, but certainly make them their own when they begin creating.

Working at your own pace, judgement free, without boundaries or fear is the ultimate goal.

The unique flair and attention to detail is something I enjoy watching emerge.

Leanne made her Japanese stab binding book all the more special, by using lace that once belonged to her Grandmother.

And then, just like that. It was all over.

I have one rule at book camp. And that's that everyone stays to help tidy up. We did this in record time this year.

We also don't take photographs of people unless they're happy to be photographed. We tend to take photographs of the books as they really are the stars of the show.

Taking only photographs of the work offers an environment in which people can be relaxed and create to their hearts content.

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