Marianna Brotherton BB ’14

January 12, 2020


Bookbinding, Alumni, Profiles
Marianna with a book press

Marianna received her undergraduate degree from St. John’s College before attending the two-year NBSS Bookbinding program. She has served as a conservation intern in labs at both MIT and the Boston Public Library, and was the 2014 Von Clemm Fellow in Conservation at the Boston Athenaeum.

She serves on the The Guild of Book Workers board as Communications Chair, and is also a member of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC).

What led you to become a student at NBSS?

I was looking to round out my liberal arts education from St. John’s College. After briefly talking to an alumni who, at the time had been attending NBSS, I was hooked! The ideals of Sloyd perfectly fit with my undergraduate degree in philosophy; and bookbinding provided a way to continue to work with the books and ideas I enjoyed studying.

What was the best part of your education?

Handling rare books, learning to work with different materials and tools, finding a creative outlet… but most importantly joining a group of passionate and talented colleagues!

What are you up to now?

I’m currently working out of my home studio in Chicago where I bind and repair books. When not at the bench, you can find me baking bread or chasing after my two-year old.

What personal or professional advice do you have for NBSS students in your industry?

Get involved with the community in as many ways as you can! Get on Instagram, take workshops, join groups like AIC or the Guild of Book Workers, reach out to local binders to grab a coffee or tour their studio, explore the Special Collections in your local library – anything you can do to better connect yourself to the work and minds of binders past and present. We’re a very welcoming bunch, and the more colleagues you have (virtual or IRL) to bounce ideas off of, be inspired by/inspire the better!

Marianna working on a historic book

Can you describe your work in just three words?

Detailed. Functional. Connected.

Where do you get inspiration?

Working from home, I have found the internet to be a wonderful place to connect to libraries, personal collections, antiquarian dealers, and artists. Bookbinding has a wonderful history of building off of past techniques, and the detailed photos of books that I have access to digitally has been instrumental in helping me improve my techniques, and take inspiration from global and antique designs. Most of my work is in repairing older volumes, so learning about the appropriate methods and styles helps me make informed treatment decisions that are both modern, yet sympathetic to the original volume.

Favorite tool or machine?

A sharp scalpel and a clean bone folder.

Proudest moment?

Every time I get to hand a restored family heirloom back to the client. Working on historical items is thrilling, but there’s something intimate about helping someone preserve their family’s history.

Best advice you’ve gotten?

Imagine your dream day, and then continue to ask yourself if this project, position, etc is helping you to live it out. Make sure to notice when what you imagined starts to change, because just like your work, your dreams will evolve. Give yourself the grace and freedom to shift directions, and to grow in your craft. In our line of work, it’s often the unexpected that shapes your career.

Dream project or job?

Move my in-home studio into a makers space. Some of the best parts of NBSS was having all of the different creative energies and potential for collaboration under one roof!

View more of Marianna’s work on her website or on her Instagram page.