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 http://www.katyareka.com or her blog at http://www.minusplusminus.com. She can be found at Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/minus_plus_minus/ and Behance http://www.behance.net/katyareka and of course do visit her Etsy Shop: http://www.minusplusminus.etsy.com/