Like always, first draft (blah blah blah). This is the story that’s been poking at me for a couple of weeks and keeps getting narrated by Peter Lewis in my head. 833 words, so it’s a short one.
A New Kind of Moleskine
I am a bookbinder; I make books. Various sizes and thickness. You may have seen my work on etsy.
Bookbinding has always been a fascination of mine. The calming of searching for the perfect paper, basing each piece around the texture and colour; choosing between clear, sharp edging and jagged, uneven ripples that would be the the first thing noticed after opening a brand-new book. Finding the perfect thread for sewing the folded sections to one another and deciding whether or not to use that same colour of thread when pulling all the sections together. Coming to the realization that calm, muted colours were the best to bring people a subtle happiness. This helped me decide early on to ignore the stark-white thread that I would keep coming across when searching for supplies.
You’d think that the paper that I would meticulously search for would be the determining factor of the size of the book I would make, especially since I had also decided that working with clean, blank pages would be the best. I know people do prefer pre-lined pages to write on, but there’s something so…calming about a completely blank page.
However, I had found that working with leather was going to be my determining factor for size and shape. I had grown up with a family member who sold leather pieces on the side. Large swaths of leather, scraps of leather, strings of leather you could use as bootstraps of braid for belt-making. He had many different sizes in thickness and colour and was a well of information every time I had a question.
Getting in touch with a small group of leather workers helped with any other questions that I couldn’t find answers to. The best ways to shave down the thickness, the best materials to help stretch the leather, the best glues to work with, the best place to find shears and how to keep them sharp enough to cut the leather.
At one point, I found myself in the middle of the woods, standing in front of a strung-up deer with a knife in my hand and a buddy of mine laughing himself sick. Sometimes the best way to learn a thing is to start exactly at the beginning. For me, it was going through the motions of skinning and tanning a hide. It was a great experience, but I decided to stick with my contacts.
I found that sticking with these guys helped with staying away from having to actually skin anything. I’d receive various sizes of leather. Pieces where I’d be able to make at least two average size books, with very little scraps; pieces where I could make small picture-book-sized sketch or memo pads. Thin scraps that I had left over would be set aside and put together later on to make a modern Prometheus styled notebook, which became very popular when Halloween rolled around.
I found ways to dye the leather, creating beautiful blues and greens. I thought the darker the colours, the better. Some of my clients preferred the more bleach-white that I could work with on occasion, using some old Native American recipes to get the leather as close to white as possible. Every once in a while, I’d receive an email stating that I was a murderer for working with mutilated animals. I’d reiterate what I have on my etsy store page: All leather is ethically sourced. If you are uncomfortable with this, then I urge you to find your gifts elsewhere.
I’d usually shake my head and go back to my workroom, turn on some light music, and get to work on the latest piece. Measure twice, cut once. Measure once, cut once, and work around the mishap. Each book as unique as a finger print.
Thinking on unique—I received my latest batch of leather earlier. Always hand-delivered since my clients like to have their items fast thanks to this modern age of gimmegimmegimme nownownow.
The box is about the size of a milk crate and stuffed with pieces of leather. Different colours, varying sizes, but the same shapes over and over again. Long, fat cresent shapes and wide, curvy triangles. I’ll have to separate them later as I spot a few pieces with hints of freckles. Freckled leather always goes in the dyed pile. It’s simpler to hide the freckles than have to make excuses that it’s a genetic thing that happens in certain strains of rabbits.
I could call the collection of books that come out of this new delivery my “Face Book” collection. They could be diary-thick to give an air of sharing. I chuckled to myself, mulling over the idea.
Like I said, my leather is ethically sourced. Sourced from bodies donated to science and executed by whatever method their state determined. Sourced from others who are hired to go after murderers and rapists, even animal abusers. This collection comes from the latter while one of my contacts moves to another county.