Daniel Essig

Daniel Essig got into bookbinding while studying photography at the University of South Illinois at Carbondale. One of his first books was an altered book, printed in Greek, with bindery that was completely self-taught. Rather than mounting his photography on gallery walls, he decided to place them in boxes or books so the viewer had to actively explore the art, rather than passively wandering past. At that time, he met Al Buck, who was making wooden-covered Coptic books. This binding was first used around the fourth century, in Ethiopia or North Africa, or perhaps this is just the area where the books were best preserved. Unlike most hand-bound books, Coptic books open completely flat. Images on the pages were wholly visible without struggling with the binding.

Dolph Smith helped push Daniel beyond the simple Ethiopian book, with his sculptural books that hung paper from wooden structures. Daniel’s bridge books using the same Coptic binding with exaggerated elements were developed under that influence.

After completing his degree at Carbondale, his mentor Frances Lloyd Swedlund encouraged Daniel to attend the Penland School of Crafts, where he concentrated exclusively on Ethiopian Coptic books.