Devotion: Gravity/Lightness and the Art of Bookbinding

Updated: Apr 24, 2020

The first draft. Written on a typewriter in an old hotel room in Tanger.

Surprise! I've embraced the Internet. Digital Age I've been railing against you for a while, b u t Evolve or Die. Or let some aspects of self Die and Evolve. Anyway.

After several years of focused writing, re-writing, travel, research, physical labor and labor on manuscripts, cash scrambles, a bookbinding apprenticeship and swearing to every one in my immediate vicinity I would never pick up a pen again once this project is done, (not a soul believed me) my first novel begins to come into being.

I am pouring my time, money, energy and love whole heartedly into this endeavor.

Every page handfolded with a bonefolder....

I've been blessed to have the aid of a few fantastic individuals on this project.

There's a wonderful pair of editors currently carving holes in my manuscript, trimming the fat from it, and helping me distill the potency of the book. A graphic designer is working on a beautiful jacket design I'm excited to unveil soon.

And I pursued an apprenticeship in a bookbindery in Seattle earlier this year to provide a skillset for the actual production and mechanics of bookmaking. An opportunity which came about in a bizarre fashion.

I innocuously walked into a bookbindery one afternoon in Pioneer Square to ask the man I found there if he knew the code to the building's bathroom. A gaunt, intelligently sharp eyed man, surrounded by vellum, iron presses, sheets of leather, rolls of snakeskin, reams of parchment, ribbons of gold and silver foil, racks of strange tools whose function I couldn't guess, and extraordinary ink drawings pulled from illuminated manuscripts and blown into poster sizes hung on the brick walls in his workshop which smelled of glue, fresh cut paper, and cigarette smoke.

"That." He rasped, "Is the single most boring question I've heard all week."

This response delighted me.

Sewing the books together with beeswaxed thread.

"Right. A better one then. You're not looking to take on an apprentice are you? I've always been curious about your trade, and I'm in the process of finishing up a novel."

"That's better." He said, "But I've got pneumonia right now, so we won't discuss these things this moment. Come back in three days and we'll talk. The code is XXXX."

I came back in three days. We didn't talk about bookbinding. We got onto the subject of jewelry being a form of advanced magical technology, Ibn Battuta the Moroccan scholar and explorer, my own period of time in Morocco, and the half year that this bookbinder, Joel, spent in Algeria studying Arabic.

I spent the next year learning the fundamentals of this craft from Joel and his wife, Mie, who he taught his trade to and now proudly admits is a better binder than he by a longshot. They are both undoubtedly masters of their craft and have been at it earning their joyful, aesthetically precise living for thirty years.

An incredible experience, which taught me much about the practicalities of material production and how much time, devotion, and attention to detail goes into the things we interact with, even casually, in the world.

Zoomed out, at the sewing frame.

Through all of this, I've decided to collaborate with them at Ars Obscura Bookbindery and put out a special, limited printing. I'll be there doing most of the work myself.

A thing I am simultaneously excited and nervous about. I put as much of the deep strata of soul onto the page as I knew how to into this book. This voyage toward total transparency and publication is a curious one.

Part of the writer's task is to illuminate the wonder of life with a ferocity and grace of language. To tell stories and truths which aid in liberation, transcend fear and violence, which unify, empower, soothe pain, comfort, entertain, encourage, inspire or unveil.

So, with one hand comfortably in the old world practice and traditional craft of bookbinding, another hand necessarily exploring the digital age of websites, social media, and blogging, I begin the adventure of getting this novel out into the world.

As anybody who knows me, my love of letter writing and typewriter music, this is, of course, exactly the place I would be found.

107 handbound and handprinted.

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