The Bee Sting

Showcase Image
Bound by Nicky Oliver

The Bee Sting by Paul Murray
Hamish & Hamilton an imprint of Penguin Books
Published 2023
Bound 2023
Dimensions 242 x 164 x 61mm

For over three decades, Fellows from the Designer Bookbinders society have crafted exclusive editions for each title on the Booker shortlist.

A standout moment during the annual Booker Prize season occurs when shortlisted authors receive a distinctive, hand-bound edition of their nominated works. These bespoke creations, meticulously crafted by Fellows from the Designer Bookbinders society, are truly one-of-a-kind. The entire design and production of these extraordinary books unfold between the shortlist announcement and the winner ceremony.

Each of these remarkable books is the culmination of approximately 150 hours of meticulous work. The intricate process involves at least 25 distinct stages, encompassing elements such as the decoration of page edges and the final lettering. Typically, such an undertaking would require up to four months; however, this year's designers managed to complete the process in approximately two months.

This is Nicky's contribution for this year's awards.

Technique - Full Hewit Faircalf leather with linen board attachments. Hand dyed and decorated with foil stencil and tool work and 23ct gold leaf. Inlaid silver squirrels to the front and back boards. Painted and printed doublures and black suede fly leaves. End-bands part leather and part sewn. Edges decorated with graphite and pigment.

Design - This fabulous story is rich with imagery. I harvested as many elements as possible for the design. Without giving too much of the plot away, I shall simplify the details:
I chose the storm, flood, forest and the "bunker" as the backdrop of the composition. I incorporated 'VW's' within the line-work, which is a nod to the family business. The circles represent the characters; Dickie, Imelda, Cass and PJ and 12 people whom I believe had influence over them in some way. Dickie and Imelda's fractured marriage; the distorted gold ring and the pearlescent mesh ring (representing the wedding veil). The two smaller circles, the indentations of which were made with the bottoms of glass bottles; a water bottle for PJ (innocence) and a beer bottle for Cass (alcohol). They were then embellished with coloured foil. Copper and grey for PJ (copper hair/grey squirrel). Red and grey for Cass (should have been the grey squirrel but wanted to be red). The pink circle on the back represents Rose and her teacup, with golden swirls as the tealeaves. The two silver squirrels are an additional salute to Cass and PJ. On the verso of the front board, there is an impression of a bee design which appears, ghost-like, on the suede fly leaf opposite - there, but not there. Detailing in the end-bands: within the head end-band; the LGBTQ+ flag colours. Within the tail end-band, I incorporated the Trinity College logo colours and the Irish flag.

You can see more of Nicky's work on her web site, Black Fox Bindery and on Instagram at @blackfoxbindery.


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