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Maybe You Can Judge a Book by its Cover

By Jennifer O’Connor

In need of conversation and a saucy new notebook, I packed my bag full of fabric, paper, embroidery thread and sparkles and went to my first Bind and Blab at Akemi Nishidera’s studio, KOZO, in Toronto to learn the basics of bibliopegy.

Last fall, Nishidera, a papermaker, bookbinder and printmaker, began regularly hosting this event on the last Thursday of every month. “I was lonely,” she says, laughing, when asked why she started Bind and Blab. “It’s nice that there are other people doing what I do out there, but it’s very hard to find them, and it’s very hard to…network, you know talk about where people can get supplies and everything…. It was just an idea to start to build more of a community, especially with younger bookbinders.”

The Bind and Blabs are a way to get feedback, talk about ideas, discuss workshops, and keep in touch. On average, about six people come to each event, and you don’t have to be a pro: scrapbookers, newbies and interested observers have all made their way to KOZO. Nishidera finds that more young people are becoming interested in bookbinding. “I think it’s that whole craft movement,” she says, explaining why, “you know, making things yourself and being able to create things that are unique, that you can keep for yourself or make for a friend, for a special occasion…. When I go to craft shows and stuff there’s always some people who do some type of bookbinding, whether it’s very simple or much more complex, whereas 10 years ago there was no one. Ten years ago it was really hard to find supplies, and now it’s very easy to find things like awls and whole punchers and PVA glue.”

When I was at the Bind and Blab, Nishidera had put out some basic tools on the worktable. As she walked me through constructing my project (a pink/floral-themed number about the size of a chequebook), I chatted with the women there about other things that interested us: public school funding, the Martha Stewart trial and where to get cheap art supplies. After one evening of binding and blabbing, I’d finished my first butterfly-stitched notebook. How would Nishidera feel about other chapters starting up?

“I think it would be nice. My original inspiration was Stitch ‘n’ Bitches. If you can do it for knitting, why can’t you do it for bookbinding?”

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