Friday, 25 June 2010

Blog Interview: Minusplusminus

Welcome back to another BEST interview. Today we are going to meet Katya of minusplusminus, originally from Ukraine, and now living in Bloomington, Indiana.

Hi Katya, nice to meet you! How and when did crafting and bookmaking come into your life?

I have always been making things with my hands. I made my first book when I was 8 and still have it, it's a nice pamphlet stitch with 1 and half poems inside. I was introduced to more bookbinding while in undergraduate school in Minnesota where we had to make journals for our Typography class. After graduating I decided to make more books and started taking classes at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and MCAD.

Do you have a day job different from being an Etsy seller?
I am a full-time student finishing MFA in Graphic Design. I do freelance design work and teach a class in typography at the Indiana University in Bloomington. I also work as a conservations assistant at the Lilly Library where I am surrounded by wonderful rare books, manuscripts and people.

Being around all these books! - That truly sounds wonderful, and inspiring!
Yes, I get to see so many unusual books there, in this I am really lucky. One of the latest surprises was an oversized volume from Middle Ages that still had a chain attached to it from the times when books were a rare commodity and were to be guarded and protected from people. But, to be honest, I don't like the idea of getting inspiration to make books from other books.
I like when the idea comes to me from random place and then I research a way to make it happen. Ideas are all around. I like reading books, looking at people, going through old sketchbooks and scraps. I like taking workshops and help people make books to learn from the way they work.

Do you have a specific group of customers in mind when creating your books?
When I make books I like to think that I make them for myself or one of my friends. It makes it harder to let go of the book, but I like the idea of not having an assembly line and working on one book at a time. If I do have a specific audience, it is probably people who are unique, get attached to their sketchbooks and are not afraid to alter them.

Tell us a little more about your shop and your crafting: What do you make and sell?
I opened my store in March 2010 because I had too many practice bookbinding structures laying around and I wanted to clear space for new projects and ideas. I am fascinated with historical bindings, sewn structures without glue and experimental books that explore the form of the book but merge into other dimensions. While I am constantly exploring book forms and materials, I like to make journals and notebooks for my store that are easy to draw and write in—the ones that open flat and have durable structure. I also like how books age with use and I always think about that when I make my books. Lately, I have been making books that expose the historical structures and use non-traditional materials.

I like to use burlap, leather, hand-made felt and letterpress printed book board in my work. In future, I would like to include more of textiles in my work and combine different dyeing techniques such as katazome and batik with bound book structures. One of my favorite materials to work with is handmade felt. As far as paper, I go for anything. Working in university, I have access to all the scraps students leave behind and I like to reuse and recycle as much of it as I can.
I also make and sell letterpress posters.

Please introduce us to one special piece of your work!
Apart from journals and sketchbooks, I create unique artist books. I often make paper for them and like to incorporate textiles. I would like to share one of the latest books. It explores the idea of a book sharing the same space with people and living alongside us. The book is called Spine, it is made from Thai mulberry paper, Cave paper, handmade flax paper, thread and wax. It is a bound scroll book and it lives in a round box. There are 18 illustrations that were done in watercolor, pencil, wax, ink and typewriter. My journals are very often inspired by the artist books I am working on and vice versa.

What's the most challenging part of your crafting?
I am one-person production and always have many things going on at once, so the hardest part is always to start. To put everything else away and start folding, cutting, sewing etc. My bookbinding studio is also my graduate studio at school which I share with other students. I don't like to put away my work at the end of the day, I like to clean up only at the end of the project, but sometimes space needs to be cleared and I have to switch to another project. Having fun people constantly in and out of the studio can sometimes be nice, but one day it would be wonderful to have a room with a big window and a door.

Thank you for this glimpse behind the scenes of minusplusminus!

If you want to follow up on Katya, you can visit her portfolio site at or her blog at She can be found at Flickr and Behance and of course do visit her Etsy Shop:

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Book Swap #11: MyHandboundBooks

For the final final book, comes a unique design from Rhonda at MyHandboundBooks. From Rhonda:
This is a blank book that opens in two directions, with a little hasp in the middle to secure the two front covers when they are closed. The cover is cream leather with inlaid strips of brown and black leather on each front cover. The inside of the covers is lined with cream book cloth. The pages are black card stock. The two spines are bound using a traditional Japanese 4-hole yotsume toji sewing.

Find Rhonda's books here:

This really does bid farewell to Book Swap #11. My apologies for the confusion! Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, 21 June 2010

Journal Keeping: Conversations

Please excuse me for being a week late with my monthly post, I was out of town last week visiting some friends and successfully unplugged! Aahhh....a much needed break with friends.

For a lot of us makers of handmade goodness, this time of year is craft show season. I can't be the only bookbinder who hears people say things like "I wish I could keep a journal" or "I'm just not a very good writer." Why do we all think we have to Oscar Wilde to keep a journal? Hearing comments like this were the original inspiration for my monthly post.

I've talked a lot in my posts about visual ways to capture a moment, but I got thinking about what kind of things I write in a journal, and decided to focus this month's post on just writing.

One thing I consistently smile about when I look through past journals, is quotes that I write down from people I've met along the way. I'm definitely a chatty person, and when I travel I love to talk to locals. If I hear something that really makes me laugh, or shocks me, I write it down, verbatim. Sometimes it's totally out of context, I just jot it down before I forget it, or sometimes it's later that night when I write down the whole story. In a lot of ways, these little snippets are some of the most powerful jolts to my memory and bring me right back to that moment.

Often, they are simple, like the delicious and relaxed dinner we had in Costa Rica when the waiter told us, "You're in your house tonight." Just reading that makes me exhale and relax, aahhh, no rush. Or, the people in Ecuador who would often interject "my country" into a sentence with such pride and ownership, "Is this your first time in my country?"

This month's post may seem obvious, but there's something special about writing down what you hear that can bring you right back to a moment. We shouldn't feel compelled to only record the earth shattering or mind blowing, the little details that made a place or experience unique or often the most important.

Book Swap #11: KupoKiley

The last book for book swap #11 is from KupoKiley. Here's what Kiley has to say about her book:
The book is a Celtic Weave stitch on the outside stations and a 2 needle coptic in the center. The entire book is made from recycled pieces and was featured in an April exhibit at my local craft reuse center M.E.C.C.A. (where I also teach bookbinding classes). The cover materials are cut offs from a custom order and the inside paper came from M.E.C.C.A.
Kiley's books are in her shop:

Thanks for joining me on this little journey through all these wonderful books from the BEST book swap. Come back in a couple of months, and we'll do it again!

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Book Swap #11: UsefulBooks

I almost forgot this entry for our swap, since I didn't have an email from the contributor: me! I made a coptic journal with covers of vinyl tile. I cut the tile to size with a band saw and used the adhesive backing to affix Kraft paper lining. The cover is embellished with little birds punched out of map paper. The pages are a mix of ivory Italian Velata and camel Hahnemuhle ingres. The closure is a double length of waxed Irish linen thread, finished at the end with a stone bead.

My journals and notebooks can be found in my shop here:

Friday, 18 June 2010

Book Swap #11: ElizabethRosemond

Elizabeth Rosemond created a long stitch journal out of a slightly tattered, but sturdy, copy of Tom Sawyer. The signatures are made from lightweight cardstock and the last signature features a kraft envelope for collecting treasures.

Elizabeth's creations are available in her shop at

Book Swap #11: papersmithpaperco

This journal from Tim and papersmithpaperco will really wake your eyes up! The text block is made from approximately 100 pages of "firecracker red" card stock. The front and back covers are chip board that collaged with red cutouts from a variety of comic books. The covers are held together with a piece of black nylon.
Tim's books and paper creations are in his shop:

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Book Swap #11: KristinCrane

KristinCrane made this map covered travel journal for her book swap partner. Kristin says,

This journal is made using a map found in a vintage atlas. The front shows North America and the back shows South America. It has plain white drawing paper inside, and lotka paper is used as the end pages. I bound the book using a coptic stitch, which opens flat and makes for easy use. This collection of travel journals is inspired by my love of traveling and learning more about the world.

Kristin's travel journals and more are in her shop:

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Book Swap #11: KarleighJae

Karleigh Jae made this leafy coptic journal for this swap. Here's what she has to say about her contribution:
The book is about 4" x 6" and is a hardbound coptic stitch book. I used an Ethiopian coptic stitch with waxed brown linen thread. The paper on the cover is an embossed leaves paper that was bright white. I tea stained that paper, as well as the inside paper, which is Mohawk Superfine 80lb Smooth paper. The book is still completely archival as I buffered the acidic tea with sodium bicarbonate. (I have a blog post about that in the works!)
The button was from my sewing box (a lost button from a sweater) and I braided linen thread as the tie for the book. The thread shows through on the inside of the book to add to the handmade feel of it. The waxed thread was left long in the back as I like to curl it and give it extra design qualities of it's own.

It's a unique book but I plan on making some similar to it to add to my Etsy Shop and one for myself since I love it so much.

Karleigh has a large selection of books and supplies in her shop here:

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Book Swap #11: SilveryMoonbeams

This book, covered with embossed designer paper and embellished with a floral embroidery design in yellow, was made by Brenda at SilveryMoonbeams. It's 6" x 4" and filled with lined paper.

Brenda's designs can be found in her shop:

Monday, 14 June 2010

Book Swap #11: CinderLisaDesign

Lisa (CinderLisaDesign) describes her book for our swap perfectly:
I've been calling this book Flashdance in my head. This was really an excuse for me to play with my new sewing machine! I took two pieces of felted wool, and then laid double strips of embroidery floss down in a somewhat wavy pattern. I then proceeded to use different color threads to machine quilt the pieces of wool together, over the embroidery thread design to hold it in place, which also makes the cover a little more substantial. The result distorted my waves a bit, but turned it into its own pattern, which is a lot of fun. It reminds me of beams of light breaking apart. It is finished off with a simple button closure.

Lisa's "paper and string and magical things"can be found here:

Book Swap #11: LinenLaidFelt

This cheerful, stab bound album comes from Katie at LinenLaidFelt. Covered with patterned paper and bookcloth and bound with matching ribbon, it's the perfect size for 4x6 pictures with room left on the pages for captions. I suspect this may be filled with baby pictures soon!

Katie's books and more are in her shop:

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Book Swap #11: OliveArt

Kristi from OliveArt covered the boards of her coptic bound swap book with Sunprints of the Colosseum in Rome. The photos were taken using a Holga camera, transferred into Kodaliths, then printed using the natural light onto Sunprint Paper. At 6.5"square, it will make a great for travel journal. I wonder if the grateful recipient has a trip to Italy in their future? It's filled with 72 pages of white drawing paper and has signature covers made from blue paper to lend both style and durability.

Find Kristi's books and other creative handmades in her shop:

Book Swap #11: PaulinePaulette

This book from Paola of PaulinePaulette happens to be the book that I am thrilled to have received. I'll let her describe it:

The book is a blank book bound in full bookcloth with cork decoration. That piece was just waiting to be used. I love the texture, and I kept the lines simple to let the material "speak for itself." Like wood, cork is so alive and reminds me of trees and forests. The white light paper of the book block is sewn on ribbons with a decorative orange endband.

Paola's work is offered for sale in her shop:

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Book Swap #11: RoundtheWorldin80Pgs

Here's what Beth from RoundtheWorldin80Pgs says about the book she submitted for the swap:
This book was bound with a coptic stitch using waxed linen thread. The size was inspired by the idea of those who collect ACEO art or smaller photographs (wallet size etc). I love albums with black pages, just the fact that the pages help the colours in the photos POP is wonderful to me. The cover paper is a floral paper with a colouring to it that gives it the feel of old paper. Once I took out the window in the cover, I really fell in love with this book. It allows either a peek to a title or to a photo etc. I really liked the small size of the book since it allows you to easily carry it with you where ever you go.

Look for Beth's other creations in her shop at

Friday, 11 June 2010

Blog Interview: UsefulBooks

Welcome, to the BEST interview series. We interrupt the showcasing of the contributions to our book swap for an interview with the swap organizer Cindy of Useful Books. She is located in Toccoa, Georgia, USA, in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains 2 hours northeast of Atlanta. If you want to follow up on her outside Etsy, go check her blog at

Hi Cindy, thank you for the chance to getting to know you a little better! I am always interested to know: How did you choose your shopname?

I enjoyed reading children’s classics to my sons when they were young, and we particularly enjoyed A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh. (Not the Disney anti-Pooh—the real thing!) In one adventure, Pooh was very proud to find a Useful Pot for Putting Things In. My shop name is taken from that. My little bunny mascot is an original design which I drew and painted. He is meant to be evocative of an illustration from an old children’s book as well.

Tell us a about your shop and your crafting: What do you make and sell?

I enjoy using recycled and unconventional items in my journals. I feel it lends a unique character to take old things that have outlived their usefulness in their current form and recycle them into new journals to be used and loved again. I started marbling and making paste papers, and I recycle vintage papers from books and atlases to use them for my books. I’ve used old 45 records, paper grocery bags, discarded tea boxes, floor tile, old calendars, cigar boxes and, of course, obsolete books. If it’s flat and lies still, it might be a book. Nothing’s safe!

How and when did crafting and bookmaking come into your life?

I have always adored books and have always been driven to create, so it was inevitable that the two paths should cross at some point. Several years ago, I became practically obsessed with altered books and then bookbinding. In May of 2007, I took a bookbinding class at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina, and I was hooked. I’ve made hundreds of books since then and am still fascinated with the process and the infinite forms and functions that books can take.

Do you have a day job different from being an Etsy seller?

I’ve recently started a new chapter of my life after raising and home educating my three sons for the last 20 years or so. I’ve had several administrative jobs, part and full time. Right now, I work very part time as administrator for the church I attend, so I’ve got a lot of time to call my own. I’ve only recently begun to focus on making books more of a business than a hobby.

That sounds like you have to be a master at time management, with family, a job and your craft to coordinate!

Disciplining myself to put the petty demands of life aside and actually sit down and work is the most challenging part for me, yes. I am attempting to treat bookbinding as a part time job with “studio hours” from 9 am till 2 pm four days a week. I turn my phone off during these hours and try to stay off the computer. I’m not always successful at the last part, as I’ll often get on to look something up and find myself still there 20 minutes later having wandered far down one bunny trail or another. Distraction, thy name is internet!

What do you like about working as an Etsy seller?

I really love connecting in a personal way with many of the people who buy my journals. It thrills me to hear that a book is being purchased for a once-in-a-lifetime trip or to be used as a non-traditional wedding guest book. I’ve even had customers send me pictures of my books after they’ve filled them with their own drawings, note, mementos, memories of precious events in their own lives. I feel as though I’m part of these special times when my books get to go along!

It never fails to amaze me a little when one of my books actually surfaces in the vast sea of beautiful things available on Etsy and someone likes it enough to spend some of their hard-earned money on it. That’s really special.

Do you have an artistic role model?

Grandma Moses, a hard working farm wife who, at the age of 76, gave up embroidery because of her arthritis and began to paint for the sheer joy of it. Though she never had any training and did most of her paintings on cardboard, she is renowned as one of the America’s great primitive artists.

Is there a special piece of your work that you could show to us?

The collage journal that you can see above and below is one of the first in this series of books for which I distress and paint Kraft paper, fuse it together with Tyvek, more Kraft paper and put on layer upon layer of paint and glaze. The end result is a lovely, strong, flexible material that I really enjoy using for these soft cover, long stitch journals. I’m actually particularly proud of it because it’s a process that I developed myself. I used images and text taken from an old children’s textbook, an old map and scraps of my own marbled paper for the collage.

That really sounds like an interesting technique, very clever and beautiful! Thanks for lifting the curtains, and granting us a glimpse behind the scenes of Useful Books!

If you want to see more of her wonderful, vintage style books, click to visit Cindy's shop.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Book Swap #11: Baghy

Anca, known also as Baghy, named her journal "Silver Gate." She took special care make a selection that would be appropriate for it's male recipient. Anca describes Silver Gate as follows: "It's cover is made from smooth brown leather and painted with silver special color. I've made a sweet lock shaped buckle out of a silver piece of leather. It has 168 pages, counted both sides, thick 160gsm acid free white paper, great for drawing and writing."

Anca's journals can be found in her shop at

Book Swap #11: MinusPlusMinus

From Katya at MinusPlusMinus comes this 6" x 4" sketchbook. The book is sewn on raised double cords with sewn endbands. The wooden covers are covered in burlap which has been embellished with embroidered decoration. The text block is handmade paper which she made from a variety of recycled materials, such as flax fiber, beaten jeans, newspaper, etc. A leather clasp keeps it shut and stable.

More of Katya's creations can be found here in her shop:

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Book Swap #11: ZhineStudio

Renee from ZhineStudio made this small coptic blank book using papers she picked up from a "sale table" at PaperMart for the signatures, handmade paper for the inside covers, grocery bag paper for the external covers with an off set 3-D version of one of her own Polaroids on the front. Inside there's a special treat -- a fortune from one of her Chinese dinner fortune cookies!

Find Renee's books and original Polaroids in her shop at

Book Swap #11: AnticoValore

This diminutive(4.5 x 3.5 cm) volume comes from Simona at AnticoValore. The cover is leather combined with pages from an old book (about XVII sec., History of Italy by Francesco Guicciardini). She's used strong Italian Fabriano paper inside and stitched it all together with linen thread.

You can find more books and other goodies from Simona in her shop: