Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Who wants a handmade book anyway?

Who writes anymore?  Don't we simply type brief messages into Facebook or Twitter, send IMs or emails, and text on the phone?  Who reads an actual book?  We have e-readers and i-Pads; we have devices for listening to podcasts and audio-books while we are driving or running or knitting.  Why hold a book when you can get 2 or 3 things accomplished simultaneously?

I like books - I like the feel of them in my hands.  I like the tactile pleasure of turning pages.  I like pausing to reflect on what I am reading after a few paragraphs or perhaps pages.  I know I am not alone in this.  At least one other person in world agrees with me!  In her book, Howard's End is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home, Susan Hill writes: "I love the book.  I love the feel of a book in my hands, the compactness of it, the shape, the size. ... I am astonished by the versatility and practicality of The Book.  It is so simple.  It is so fit for its purpose. ... no e-reader will ever give me that sort of added pleasure."

I believe there are others of you out there who also share this feeling that a well-crafted book is a treasure to hold and to use.  Here is one example of a book - in this case a Fanny Farmer Cookbook - that was so well loved and used, it fell apart.

I am delighted that I was able to give it back to her in a condition to be used again.

There is value in technology, but there is also value in turning it off at times.  Recent ice storms in my part of the world have reminded folks that we cannot always take electricity for granted and that a printed book can be read by candle light.  We don't need to wait for power outages to unplug and get back to basics, however.  Our physical well-being demands that we make the effort to slow down and breathe, balance our lives and be mindful or our activities.  Reading or writing in a book can do that for us.  Reading and writing in hand-bound books provides additional aesthetic value.

The books I create can be read and looked at; they can be written in.  I and others have come up with well over a hundred uses for a handmade book.  I will be writing about these categories and more in future blogs:

  • journalling - a diary, travel journal, notes on books read, etc.
  • sharing favorite childhood stories (a hand-bound copy of Alice in Wonderland would make a terrific gift for someone who loves the story)
  • special occasion guest books
  • celebrating a special relationship
  • collecting recipes, quotations, or profound thoughts
and the list goes on!  Check out whaddaya-do-with-a-blank-book on Pinterest for another look at the topic and stay tuned for my updates, which I hope will inspire and motivate!

In the meantime, check out my website, my Etsy page, and my Facebook page.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Who will read this blog?

With the goal of starting my new website and its blog off well, I signed up for the self-study version of “Blog Triage” with Alyson Stanfield ( and Cynthia Morris (  The first assignment is to describe the people I want to visit and read my blog.  But please do not go running for the delete button if you, dear reader, do not believe you fit the following description!

My ideal reader is either female or otherwise well in touch with his feminine side.  I am writing about a craft and an art that encompasses activities more associated with creation, feeling, values, and expressiveness than with thinking, logic, or getting a task accomplished.  I visualize my reader sitting with laptop or tablet and a cup of tea, using the ideas within my blog to stimulate her own creative spirit.  There are many reasons for owning and using a hand-bound book and so my reader is someone who is actively engaged with the world as well.  She expresses that engagement through travel, reading, learning, and/or conversations.  Busy, active, engaged people enjoy stimulating their brains and souls through the ideas and words of others.

My typical reader is likely to be over 40 also.  It is sometime in one's 40s that one’s attention shifts from actively making the future happen – building long-term relationships,  having children, getting the bulk of one’s formal education, and building one’s career – to living in the present.  My reader is someone who has made that shift in attention and realizes that relationships and experiences matter more than things; that paying for quality is usually worth it; and that getting a little philosophical about life is a good thing. 

Last – at least in this particular list – my ideal reader is someone who is willing to engage with me in conversation over these blog entries.  I recognize that I have to be willing and able to write concepts that are worth reading, while I hope that readers will then let me know what their reactions, challenges, and creative responses are to what I write.  I find that when I read other blogs, I often gain as much value from the ensuing commentary as from the original post itself.  So I am hopeful that my readers will create discussion that expands my own thoughts such that I and other readers will obtain increased value.

So let’s begin the conversation by letting me know how well I described you, dear reader.  Will you let me know something about you?

Introducing Anne and this blog

I started blogging almost two years ago when I knew that I had received a Fulbright Fellowship to go to Romania to teach for a year (see target=new).  I enjoyed keeping the blog and using it to share my impressions of the culture and my activities while there.  That blog came to a screeching halt in May 2013 when I got so very busy trying my best to fit in EVERYTHING before my daughter and I left Romania.

My trip to Romania had a number of impacts on me, one of which is very relevant to this blog.  While there I had a profound sense of balance in terms of the way I was living life.  When I returned home to North Carolina I had to work very hard at maintaining that sense of integrating work with play, feeding my soul along with my wallet when I engaged in work.  I came to the realization that it was time to stop considering what life might be like if I were a full time bookbinder and paper maker and actively work to make it happen.

Thus I have spent a few months working at creating Anne’s Books and Papers as my business and am actively making plans to transition from full time academics (my current “day job”) to fulltime craftsman and entrepreneur.  This blog is one of the ways I want to share my process and engage with people who are interested in books, bookbinding, paper, papermaking, and the myriad uses to which one can put a hand-bound book.  Writing about my processes will help me clarify for my own self and also opens me to the feedback of others.  I know that I learn best when I am in constructive conversation with others.   There are few if any truly original ideas in the world, but there are many unique applications and variations on themes.  I am writing this blog to share my perspectives in such a way that will help me grow as both craftsman and entrepreneur.  Please join me on my journey!