Soon after moving to Lopez Island in 1996, I enrolled in a bookbinding class. Over the course of a weekend, I painted paper for the covers (paste paper technique I refer to as finger-painting for grownups), folded 18” x 12” sheets for the pages, and bound covers and pages with a Coptic stitch. Voila! I had a beautiful, functional, handmade blank journal.
By the end of the weekend, I was hooked on bookbinding. The textures and colors of papers and the tools (bone folders, needles, awls), fed my desire to create.
Since that first workshop, I’ve attended many others. I started a business, Blue Heron Studio, and made hundreds of blank journals of all sizes as well as artist’s books and boxes for private clients and galleries.
I’ve taught the craft to kids and adults. And I’ve made stacks of journals for my own use. As I devoted more time to writing, though, my enthusiasm for bookbinding waned. I still make journals for gifts and the occasional special order, but the days of producing quantities of books and boxes are behind me—at least for now. My appreciation for handcrafted books, however, remains strong.
About the time I started to think about creating the Writer in Residence position on the Washington State Ferries, I went to a show by one of my favorite book artists, Brenna Jael of Slow Art Studio and Bindery. I’m a fan of Brenna’s cards, hand-printed papers, upcycled books, and leather journals. Her heirloom journals are stunning, too. It was a Box of Blank Journals that captured my heart at her show. I knew I’d be working on essays while riding the Interisland ferry, and this handbound book set seemed ideal for handwritten notes.
I was right. I filled two of the books with journal entries from my writing sessions on the ferry. In the other three I wrote observations, interviews, and research notes. I flipped through these elegant pages as I turned those jottings into prose and poems for my forthcoming essay collection, Writer in a Life Jacket—Essays from the Salish Sea.
Two weeks ago, I submitted the completed manuscript to Homebound Publications. Editor Leslie M. Browning will likely suggest revisions before the collection is published next spring. If so, I’ll return to my box of leather journals to make any necessary changes.