B is for...
I've been making books for a long time. I started when I was a kid with scratch paper folded in half and sewn to a construction paper cover with yarn scraps. I used to write "stories" in them when I thought I would grow up to be an author. In 4th grade I authored and illustrated a pop up book telling a story about a magic pen found by a little boy. When he drew things with it they came to life. Aliens then came back to claim the pen they had accidentally left on earth. The aliens had bulbous fingers. I remember meticulously working on that book, so focused that I missed a few instructions given by my teacher and got a subpar grade on it.
In 5th grade I used to write serial mystery stories. I still have some in a filing box and perhaps I will reproduce some here just for kicks. I used to collect my papers and bind them in little sewn booklets.
After 5th grade, I stopped writing and stopped making books. I had convinced myself that I sucked at being a writer and therefore left it all behind.
But in High School I wanted to make a book to hold my poetry. I was the epitome of teenaged angst in High School. I wore black, I blatantly disregarded teacher's instructions and knit through classes. I got good grades, but didn't feel challenged or cared for, so I wrote poetry. Some of it is pretty good. Others only hold merit to me. But they were cathartic and they deserved a special place, so I made a book for them, which promptly fell apart. So I made another one better.
My researching ways had manifested early, and after the first book fell apart, I started researching better ways to make books. I began to look at books in the library and pictures online of handmade books. I saw the braided spine of a coptic binding (which you can see in the photo above), and figured out a way to do it. Not the best way by any means. It was contrived with toothpicks, thread and beeswax and a crochet hook. Really complicated.
And then I discovered Keith Smith's books. A careful study of his books can make almost anyone a competent bookbinder. By this time I was in college, working as a Library Cataloging Assistant in my Uni's Special Collections. This has been my favorite job by far. I got to talk to the preservationist everyday. I had great resources at my fingertips in the books we had in our collections, and infinite inspiration. And he even gave me scraps of Davey board and bookcloth. I began collecting paper and finding the best sources online to buy my supplies.
If I weren't so damned terrified of the GRE's (and not really wanting to go back to school), I would take them and apply for Grad School at University of Texas, Austin for their Preservations Administration degree. When people ask me what my dream job would be, I say "to preserve ancient celtic texts in Ireland". It is something I dearly love and take great pride in.
I have goals of becoming more of a book artist and less of just a book maker, putting words and images together to make beautiful pieces, but everytime I think of it, I get butterflies in my stomach and start the adrenaline pumping. I still fight those feelings of inadequacy everyday and with every book I make.
Despite making all these journals, I don't keep one myself with regularity. I have almost convinced myself that my words aren't worthy of being written down on anything that I would feel bad disposing of, so I make blank books and sell them or give them as gifts, so I can indulge the love of books, but not make myself vulnerable by putting my words in them.