Sylvia, bookmaking extraordinaire and our teacher for the evening, delicately handled the multitudes of paper strewn about the table in front of us. Her company, Middle Dune, produces meticulously handmade paper goods. (A few of which we sell right over here under ‘Jotter Notebooks!) Over the course of a couple hours she imparted some of her paper-wielding knowledge on a lucky few at the HausWitch shop.

First she taught us a little about the paper and tools, then began going through the steps of actually cutting and binding a little notebook. The key was to choose a hefty enough paper to hold up to the kind of beating a notebook can take being tossed into a bag or pocket. After that she drove home the “measure twice, cut once” mantra. Working with such pretty bits of paper, none of us wanted to waste any!

Of course her enthusiasm for paper immediately rubbed off on everyone in the room, from newbie to comic book writer. We took our time choosing the perfect paper stock. And totally nerded out.

Bookmaking is a precise process, and Sylvia didn’t let us cut any corners—pun definitely intended. In the photo below she’s starting to put together the inside pages of one of our notebooks. In order to cut them correctly you had to take time and separate the pages. It was a test of patience for some!

We grabbed a few minutes with her to learn more about how she got into the paper and book making biz:

How did you get started working with paper and making books?
I've been designing little books since I was a kid. I would write and illustrate them myself so the next step was to learn how to bind them! It wasn't until I took a book making workshop in college though that I really learned the techniques. At first I just started making sketchbooks for myself and my friends but the more I did it, the more I realized I missed working with my hands and thus Middle Dune was born.

Do you have a favorite kind of paper and/or paper tool?
I'm a paper hoarder. I keep everything. If I really had to choose a favorite paper though I'd go with brown kraft, like a basic paper grocery bag. It's super versatile and a really nice (and dirt cheap!) blank canvas. My favorite paper tool would have to be a hand carved bone folder my mom gave me that has a beautiful two tone inlay in the handle—Or my brand new letterpress. Does that count as a tool? It's an amazingly huge and beautiful machine. Her name is Belle and she weighs a ton.

Do you have any advice for budding paper artists?

Practice! Practice is really the most important part of making paper goods. The more you work at it the more precise and better you get so don't give up if something looks sloppy or falls apart the first time.

That last bit we took to heart! More than one of us had to fix a mistake…or two, or three. By the end, though, we managed to put out some really spell-binding notebooks:

Are you a bookmaker or candlestick maker, or maybe just a clever craft person looking to expand your knowledge? Keep an eye on our events page for more workshops like this one and join in the fun!

Photos by Cheryl Rafuse