Skip to content

Telegraph Cove, BC

September 19th – 24th, 2023

Enjoy the following slideshow of highlights from the retreat:

Stay tuned for 2024 dates.

Telegraph Cove is tucked away on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island. Named for the small telegraph that fishermen and loggers used to communicate over a century ago, the Cove has been built up since then on the strength of its picturesque views and pioneering ecotourism. Today, the boardwalk is filled with colourful buildings and many passionate people excited tell you about the location and the incredible wildlife.

During our time together you will learn the bookbinding and woodworking skills necessary to create your own unique sculptural books from locally sourced driftwood.

Our time together will begin on Tuesday at 5:00 pm as we gather for a wine and cheese reception; an introduction to each other, our work space and Telegraph Cove.

Over the next four days, I will lead you through the basics of bookbinding and will guide you into the two needle coptic method of binding a book. By the end of the first day you will have created a book with basic wooden covers which will prepare you for transferring those skills to the making of books with ‘unusual’ wooden covers.

You will learn how to create individual templates to follow the unique contours of your driftwood covers. We will explore a variety of paper treatments that will allow you to personalize your books including paper dyeing, image transfers and slow stitching techniques. Approachable woodworking skills will be introduced using basic hand tools, preparing you to continue your journey of creating unique sculptural books when you leave the island.

Our oceanfront workspace overlooks the Johnston Strait where there is a good chance we will see whales from the windows as we work together on our books.

Instruction will be daily from 10-4, allowing for plenty of time to explore all that Telegraph Cove has to offer – explore the shorelines, forage for driftwood, hike the nearby trails, kayak or wander the boardwalk community.

One of our evenings will include a guided tour of the Whale Interpretive Centre, home to the largest collections of marine mammal skeletons in British Columbia; an absolute must see while in Telegraph Cove.

A whale watching tour is being planned for those who are interested with my good friend Captain John Geraghty of North Island Adventures.

We will end our time together on Sunday morning with a farewell breakfast.

Accommodation and meals are not included and need to be booked separately. There is a wonderful variety of unique accommodations from cozy cabins and historic homes to modern condominium suites and new lodge rooms. The beautiful Forest Campground, nestled in a stand of old growth trees, is also nearby. Check out accommodation options HERE.

Options for food include a café bakery, pub, restaurant and a general store. Port McNeil is a 20 minute drive by car.

HOW TO GET TO TELEGRAPH COVE:   You can fly into Port Hardy,  take a bus to Port McNeil ($2-4) then take a 26 minute taxi ride to Telegraph Cove ($55-70).  You can also arrive in either Comox (3 hour drive away) or Victoria (5 hour drive away) and rent a car – the drive up the island is spectacular!

For more information on how to get To Telegraph Cove, click HERE.

COST $1695 (+ 5% GST)

Price includes four full days of workshops and instruction, materials and art supplies, welcome wine and cheese reception, guided tour of the Whale Interpretive Centre, whale watching adventure and farewell breakfast.

Registration is now open – payment can be made HERE.

A deposit of $500 (+5% GST) will secure your spot on the retreat and is due at time of registration.

The balance of $1195 (+ 5% GST) is due on June 17th or before.

I hope to meet you and make books together in Telegraph Cove!

If you have any questions contact me at


Please read carefully. Your registration assumes acceptance of these terms.

$500 (+ 5% GST) deposit is required to secure your spot on the Telegraph Cove Retreat.

Balance of $1195 (+ 5% GST) is due on or before June 20th, 2023.

Because of the time, expense and effort involved win preparation there will be no refunds issued after July 20th, 2023. Refunds for cancellations before that date will be charged the applicable service fees.

Should you need to cancel for personal reasons after that date and a replacement can be found for your spot a full refund will be issued.

Debra Frances reserves the right to cancel the retreat for any reason including if there are too few participants. In this case a full refund would be issued. You would be reimbursed for your retreat fee, not your travel or accommodation costs. Please ensure that you are adequately insured.

Highlights / Testimonials from past Bookbinding Retreats


The Malcolm Island Retreat is so special in its all encompassing experience. The eco dyeing and printing on different papers, bound into scavenged beach finds, the coptic binding technique used to create a book structure which is in itself a unique sculptural object. The sharing of food and conversation with other creative souls, some of whom traveled long distances. Let’s not forget the little sea otters and humpback whales. Thank you Debra, Robin and Sue.

– Gale, Victoria, British Columbia

The retreat was a life-changing experience – to be in the company of serious yet irreverent artists who each brought a unique style and vision to the work. I left feeling refreshed and inspired – not only by the company, but by the beauty of the island.

– Wendy Craig, San Diego, California

If you can possibly make it to the Malcolm Island Retreat, you should sign up right away! I highly recommend it! Last year was a fabulous experience. I would give it a solid 5 stars right across the board. The location, the food, and last but not least the instruction far exceeded my expectations. The instructors were more than generous with their time and expertise. You won’t find an experience like this anywhere else. I would love to be there again this year because I know the instructors are busy planning another fabulous retreat. I will miss all the new friends that I am sure will be back. I will be there in spirit while traveling in the Arctic!

– Pauline Braun, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Malcolm Island Retreat is My Happy Place Found myself! It was a fabulous week of driftwood hunting, Canadian forest/beach hiking, whale watching, fresh crab and salmon dinners, wasabi education, eco dying, mono printing and of course BOOK BINDING! Malcolm Island was the perfect setting for a personal and artistic retreat. Learning new art skills from Debra, Sue and Robin while we looked out the Oceanfront Hotel windows to the ocean is almost indescribable. Inspiration was everywhere, and especially in the fabulous group of strangers that became friends by the end of it. I have been on an artistic binge ever since. This retreat awakened a long lost passion for making that had been quelled by the unrelenting structure of “real life”. I hope to return for more skills, more friend making and more artistic wakening. This is my happy place.

– Ayoka Paek, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

Thank you to Janet Etter and The North Island Eagle for this lovely article on our 2019 bookbinding retreat.

%d bloggers like this: