Welcome again to the BEST interview series. Today I want to introduce you to a relatively new member: Jean LeBaron. She joined our team in January. You can find her on her website, and on facebook, she writes a blog, and of course you can browse her works on Etsy.
Hi Jean. Nice to meet you, and welcome to the team! Where do you live and work?
I live in Beachwood, NJ, at the Jersey Shore. I have a small (96 square feet!)studio in our backyard, and it is filled to overflowing with art supplies and books.
What do you do for a living? Do you have a day-job different from being an Etsy-seller?
I am a full-time artist. In June of 2010, the art and framing store I was working at closed it's doors due to the economy, and I concentrated on marketing my artwork. I am a self-taught artist, working in oils, acrylics, mixed media, and bookbinding.
What do you call yourself: Book Artist, Book Maker, Book Binder - or something else?
I usually say I am an artist. I try not to label myself as "Bookbinder" or "Oil Painter" or other specific terms. I love to explore all the aspects of art, and to me, the lines between artist and artisan and craftsman are very blurred, so why limit yourself? We all have artists' souls, you just have to find what you love, and I love it all!
When and how did you get started with bookmaking?
Even before I started making books, I have always been a book lover.
Bookmaking became my creative outlet this past January, when I had the flu and couldn't go to my studio to paint. I needed something to do that didn't involve the use of oil paints and turpentine, and I decided to try and make a small journal. My first attempt was not something I was too proud of, and it became my mission while stuck in the house to make a book that I wouldn't be ashamed of. From that point, I became hooked, and I haven't looked back.
I am still in the baby stages of my newfound passion of bookbinding, and I look forward to many years of learning and perfecting this age-old art. My newest struggle is trying to learn the Secret Belgian stitch technique....it looks so pretty! The thing I like best about bookbinding is I can work on my books anywhere I have a flat surface.
Where is the source of your inspiration? Do you have a special way or place to get fresh ideas between projects? Is it important for you where and how or with whom you work?
Aaaaah. Inspiration. I am constantly inspired. My only wish is to live long enough to complete all the ideas that swim around in my head, and to have the strength and wherewithall to physically create every day. When I need to recharge, though, I go to the beach. I have always lived close to the ocean, first as a child, going to Cape Cod, then I met my husband and we live at the Jersey Shore, even our vacation homes are by the beach, in Mexico, on the Yucatan Peninsula, between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. I think I have salt water running through my veins!
Tell us a little more about your shop and your books. What kind of books do you make? What material do you use? What is the typical customer you have in mind?
My shop on Etsy is the only online selling tool for my handmade books and journals. I produce one book at a time, never the same book twice, and my targeted buyers are those people that love to handle a finely made book. I make artist's blank books with real canvas covers and artist grade watercolor paper texts; and I make notebooks and journals, for writers, moms, professionals and teens. I use archival or acid free materials in my books and journals, and strive to use recycled or upcycled materials if possible. I make my journals to last a long time, so that the buyers can enjoy them for years. Even though I am fairly new to Etsy, I have discovered a goldmine of fellow artists and artisans, and I look forward to many years of camaraderie and friendships
Thank you, Jean, for taking your time for this interview, and all the best for your new shop!
Click here to go to her shop and have a closer look at her books.