Welcome to today's interview with Alison from the shop kurberry. Of course you can find her on Etsy, and also on Flickr - click here to browse her Books.
Hi Alison, thank you for sharing some of your time with us! Let us start with your location: Where do you live and work?
I live in Civita Castellana which is a town of about 18,000 north of Rome in the province of Viterbo in Italy. I'm originally from Pelham, NY and we bought here in 2002 to escape George Bush's presidency. Let's say it was voluntary exile due to politics.
Is there a story behind your Etsy-Name?
It's fusion of my last name and my husband's. Nothing book-related, I'm afraid.
How and when did crafting and bookmaking come into your life?
About 10 years ago as an off-shoot of print-making after a very inspiring class with Bonnie Thompson Norman in Seattle through the Experimental College in Seattle and attendance at ArtFest one year. When I was in college I only took art history courses, no studio, and at that time bookmaking courses were not on offer either. In Seattle I took a certificate in painting and drawing but I'm crap at both of those!
I enjoy monoprint especially and I started to incorporate prints into my books.
Do you have a day job different from being an Etsy seller?
I'm sort of retired after working for many years in high-stress jobs. My formal training was in the history of art, and I got my masters in London in that field before deciding I was not cut out for the life of the academic. For twelve years I worked in Sotheby's Collectibles department dealing with vintage toys, dolls, textiles, scientific instruments etc in Chester, London and then New York. While I was working in the UK I began buying Victorian ephemera and I'm starting to try to sell some of it through my Etsy store and to incorporate it into my books. Other than book stuff I also teach English here and am involved in some local tourism efforts too.
Is there something you miss about your former job?
Being in Italy I miss the efficiencies of American business and good old American ingenuity and the availability of courses in book related fields, but the good food and wine and beautiful surroundings go a long way toward making up for all that. The landscape and architecture are a constant inspiration and the setting is overwhelmingly wonderful but also a constant distraction from being a full-time maker and seller!
Tell us a little more about your shop and your crafting: What do you make and sell?
I adore paper. I've been amassing it for about 20 years and working with it is very gratifying. I still make and try to sell some prints and collages, and I've lately been experimenting with making paper beads too. I also make some shadow boxes with printed elements but those would be impossible to ship so I would not sell them through Etsy. I am not a fan of Coptic binding, or of leather, in general for my books though I can appreciate their appeal for other bookmakers. I like simple, blank books and I love the split cover format because it allows me to use two different papers and not to interrupt the cover with book cloth. No one helps me in my studio or with the shop, but my cat sometimes hinders me. Due to my nature I am overly precise and sometimes obsessive. My favorite techniques are collage and photocopy lithography both of which cover up my inability to draw.
If you have a specific group of customers in mind when creating your books?
I most emphatically do not work with a specific market in mind and I almost never work on commission. Because it's play for me I just follow my own path and experiment and play. I like vintage themes and certain types of subject matter. I don't make address books or diaries. I make what I make. If people like my books and prints they can buy them, if they don't, they won't. If they speak to you, great, if not, go elsewhere!
Please introduce us to one special piece of your work.
I love this print/collage that I did about ten years ago. I found a book by chance on eBay called "The New Calisthenics" that was illustrated with these figures of blank-faced children doing the exercises. I did a series of prints from them for a show in Seattle and this one remains a favorite.
What do you call yourself: Book Artist, Book Maker, Book Binder - or something else?
I resist calling myself anything maybe because I never felt that I was an artist but an art historian. My training meant that I had trouble seeing myself as a "creative". I'm getting a bit better at that now but still resist labels. It's more play than work for me. If I had to rely on sales I'd have starved years ago. For now I refer to myself as a book maker.
Thank you for this interview, Alison!
If we managed to tickle your appetite for more vintage inspiration, go visit kurberry and browse the shelves, or have a look at Alison's work on Flickr.