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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Spotlight - Bookmaking Blog

Today, I am spotlighting the talented Elyssa J. Kirkham. A year ago, Elyssa graduated with a degree in journalism and married her sweetheart. She has since had a few articles published in the New Era, a magazine for teens. Elyssa has many talents and varied interests, but one of the most fascinating is her unique talent for and interest in bookmaking, and she has started a blog about it called She kindly agreed to some Q&A...

So how’d you get into bookmaking?

I have always been in love with books. I am a voracious reader, and as a teenager I collected journals (and by collect I mean impulsively buy and then never write in). But it never really occurred to me that I could make books by hand. In college, I signed up for a bookmaking class and fell completely in love.

Why do you love bookmaking so much?

I love the moment when I’m holding a finished book. Sometimes I make books that already have content, but most of the time the pages are empty and waiting to be filled. For me, making a book starts a cycle of creativity; first, I create the book, then somebody fills it with brilliant ideas and sketches, and who knows, maybe they come back to those ideas and refine them even more into a completed piece of awesome.

Why did you start a blog about bookmaking?

I started a bookmaking blog sort of for me. I like having it because it gives me some motivation and fire to be consistent, to try something new, to learn something well enough to explain it to others.

But on another level, I want to share bookmaking and make it seem as easy as it is. There’s not a lot of information out there, so I wanted to make a resource for those who were interested in making books but maybe don’t know where to start. The whole process can be intimidating, so I want my blog to make it more approachable and accessible.

Is bookmaking as hard or intimidating as it seems?

No. A little bit of yes, but mostly no. Everything seems hard and intimidating until you know how to do it, right? Bookmaking is not as familiar as sitting down at a sewing machine or picking up a pair of knitting needles. But learning how to do it is no harder than learning to sew or bake or a lot of things that my readers probably already know how to do. And the materials and tools are often much cheaper!

Speaking of which, where do you get your tools and materials?

A lot of the tools used in bookmaking are used in other crafts as well. Most scrapbookers have probably used a bone folder. Things like thread, crewel needles, paper, glue, blades and a cutting mat can be found at your local hobby store (though I kind of prefer Amazoning it right to my door, call me lazy). Some things may be hard to find locally, so I’ll usually order online. is great for specialty paper, book cloth and book board. also has some incredible decorative papers from all over the world.

What would you recommend to those who want to try bookmaking?

Look around and find something that looks doable and try it! Of course you’ll want to check out my blog about bookmaking. My blog is still a little young, but I have some simple tutorials for handmade books, so you might try that. I also LOVE the book Making Handmade Books: 100+ Bindings, Structures, and Forms by Alisa J. Golden; its instructions are clear enough for a beginner but the projects are cool enough for a tried-and-true bookmaker. And at a little over $10, can you go wrong?

Also, don’t feel like you have to make a huge investment to start bookbinding. Try using stuff around your house, like scrap paper for text pages or cereal boxes covered in wrapping paper for your covers. It’s the same with anything; you wouldn’t try learning to sew with silk, right? You’d start with old clothes or scraps. Do the same with bookmaking.

You can follow Elyssa on Twitter and Pinterest, or ask her some questions on Formspring.

Elyssa, thank you for answering my questions and for familiarizing all of us with the incredible art and craft of bookmaking!