I've been taking a multi-week course in bookbinding.
This will surprise absolutely nobody who knows me well and has therefore heard me pine wistfully for a press and a bindery to call my own.
I'm enjoying it. The teacher is excellent, the fee is reasonable, and my first efforts are imperfect but promising. Last time we did Japanese stab bindings:
The studio itself has taken getting used to.
I'm usually surrounded by fiber arts folks. Here's the thing about fiber arts folks: they're humble. Doesn't matter who they are or what they've done, you'll have to look hard to find a knitter who will throw attitude at you because she's got four decades of professional experience and has written a string of classic books.
This is probably due at least in part to the greater world's general sniffing disdain for textile arts, especially knitting and crochet. These are (so they say) unserious, unimportant, practiced by the sad and the shut-in. They're wrong and stupid about that; but on the positive side it does tend to keep us grounded.
Snobs there are, yes, and those whose folies de grandeur make for fun industry gossip. But they're a distinct minority.
So it was a bit of a cold bath to be reminded when I walked into the print studio for the first time what a room full of extreme self-importance feels like. Absolutely everyone in sight (except me) was a Serious Artist to Be Taken Seriously.
I heard more theorizing, posturing, and pronouncing in five minutes than in all the previous year. I heard an early-twentysomething who was silkscreening a cartoon owl onto a t-shirt refer un-ironically to "my earlier body of work."
I don't do very well in situations like this. I get scared and I shrink. I mumble. I took my bone folder and awl and sat in a corner and tried to disappear.
Last week I went into the room where the paper guillotine* lives, and just as I was getting ready to chop the head of my little perfect-bound book, one of the Serious Artists looked up from her bench–she was scrutinizing a very gorgeous letterpress poster–and asked me about my scarf. This scarf, which was made of leftovers from Longer on the Inside:
"I love those colors," she said. "Where did you get it?"
"I made it," I said.
She was taken aback.
"You mean you...what? You sewed it or something?"
"No, I made it. I wove it."
"You wove it? You mean you made the actual fabric?"
"Yes. On a loom."
"You made fabric?"
"Oh my god," she said. "That's incredible. You actually made fabric? From scratch? Can I touch it? Would it be okay if I touched it?"
I let her touch it.
"I just can't believe you made fabric," she said. "That's like...magic."
Good to hear. Good to be reminded that what we do can startle even Very Serious Artists.
*Ohhhhh, the paper guillotine. It's so beautiful. Cast iron, almost five feet high, easily a century old. Can slice tiny slivers off the edge of stack of telephone books. Enormous, graceful curving lever to lower the blade. The paper guillotine. Mmmmmmm.