Penguin by Hand - A Cover Story

The Penguin by Hand collection is six of Penguin’s best-loved titles written by women in recent years, each with a beautiful craft-inspired jacket. 

Designer Genevieve Dionne talks about the inspiration behind her cover for Melissa Bank’s The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing, and her love of the art of wood burning.

Which aspects of The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing did you want to convey on the cover of the book?

I wanted to depict a few key elements from the book: water, nature, and books. I also liked the idea of a solitary and reflective scene.

What were the challenges of creating a book cover using wood burning? 

The main challenge for me was not messing up any of line work. Usually I would burn the text on a separate piece of wood and bring it into the final image digitally, but in this case it was important for the text to exist on the actual artwork. I think part of the appeal of wood burning by hand is the accidental variation in line, but I still needed it to be legible, so I had to have a very steady hand.

What’s your creative process from getting an idea, to making it?

I usually have a few ideas right from the beginning; if necessary I find reference images to help with preliminary sketches. At that point I might make a small and rough mock-up before starting the final work. This is the same for any medium I may be working with. If it’s a wood burning I will draw the complete image to scale and then transfer that with graphite paper to the wood before burning.

Who taught you the art of wood burning? What’s your background in design?

I taught myself using a cheap hobby kit from a craft store. Later I upgraded to a wood burning tool for serious hobbyists, with more control of temperature and line quality. My background is in fine arts, with a focus in drawing and printmaking.

What is it about this medium that you love?

I love the idea that the wood and the line are intrinsically and permanently joined. I also love the cosy smell of burning the wood.

What else is in the pipeline for you at the moment?

I’m currently developing window displays for a women’s fashion retailer, and working on a few ceramic commissions.

The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing is part of the Penguin by Hand series, with artwork commissioned by Gill Heeley and Alison O’Toole.