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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

Forget the Kindle, let's sew a book

Some book lovers are discovering the joy of making their own books using basic materials such as needle and thread
The Straits Times - September 11, 2011
By: Corrie Tan
| More
Forget the Kindle, let's sew a book Next month, BooksActually founders Kenny Leck and Karen Wai will hold book-binding and print-making classes at their store. -- ST PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN

Corporate communications manager Jaclynn Seah, 27, had never been particularly interested in making books from scratch.

Then she stumbled across freelance writer and educator Pooja Makhijani's blog, where she was offering informal book-making classes. So Ms Seah thought, why not?

After taking introductory lessons in April this year, Ms Seah says she has developed a new-found appreciation for why some books are more expensive and why some old books can last so long without falling apart.

She also runs an online blog shop, The Occasional Traveller, which sells travel-related items such as passport holders and wallets, and she may now add handmade travel journals to her inventory.

Ms Seah says: 'Unlike normal journals, I want something that has compartments and can hold stuff. I like to insert and stick things in my own travel journals.'

The slow art of book making might seem obsolete in this day and age when you can download an e-book onto your iPad or Kindle in a matter of seconds.

But to a handful of crafters in Singapore, this slow movement still matters.

Ms Makhijani, 33, decided to conduct a second round of book-making classes at her River Valley condominium this month after the positive response to the first round in April. Registration for this second session filled up in less than two weeks.

She says: 'Even with the prevalence of electronic stuff, I think people still get a lot of satisfaction from making things by hand. Like, there's a convenience about going to a restaurant, but there's something very satisfying and beautiful about making the same meal at home.

'And I think that's almost the same thing when it comes to doing things like book making, even though there might be easier ways of doing things in our modern life.'

Originally from New York, Ms Makhijani moved to Singapore 10 months ago with her partner, who works in financial services here. She took book-making classes for several years at The Centre for Book Arts in New York.

'I found that there wasn't the same culture in Singapore that I'd left behind in New York. So being the American that I am, if it doesn't exist, we make it happen,' she says in jest. She is hoping to organise more workshops in the future.

Book artist Eriko Hirashima, 44, shared similar sentiments when she arrived in Singapore at the end of 2000. She discovered that hardly any stores here sold artists' books or book- making materials.

So the Japan-born Singapore permanent resident founded La Libreria at the Goodman Arts Centre. It is a centre for teaching book making and the book arts, as well as retailing artists' books.

Ms Hirashima says of her book-making classes: 'The people who came to my workshops were mostly office workers. I asked them, why did you come to this class? And they said that they didn't like to use computers every day, so doing something with their hands, like making books, was a healing exercise.'

She takes in students on an ad-hoc basis, but for two weeks this month, she will be conducting a crash course in book making at the National Library (see box).

For those who think that the only two categories of books are the paperback and the hardcover, think again. There are hundreds of methods that can be used to put a book together.

There is the coptic-bound book. This employs a special method of stitching along the spine of the book that ensures that it can open flat on every page. In an accordion book, the pages fan out like the folds in an accordion. And a Japanese stab-bound book has holes punched along the margin of each sheet of paper. The pages are sewn together through these holes with a needle and thread.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Ms Karen Wai and Mr Kenny Leck, founders of independent store BooksActually, are launching Month Of Book Making to coincide with the Singapore Writers Festival next month. People can sign up for book-binding and print-making classes held at the store.

The duo have experimented with making books from everyday materials, such as needle and thread and double-sided tape.

Ms Wai, 26, says: 'We didn't want to rely on things that we didn't actually understand. It's easy to use a mouse and move things around on a computer, but you don't know the technical details behind it.

'Whereas if you make a book by hand, you know the entire process. It makes your hands ache and your shoulders ache, and the product that comes out may not be perfect, but there's a beauty to it as well.'

Mr Leck, 33, adds: 'I think there's a natural progression. For people who appreciate wine, they'll eventually want to know things like where the grapes come from. I think the same goes for those who love books. Somewhere down the line, you'll want to know the history of the printed word and how the book is made.'

 

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