In 1974 a friend and I cooked up a plan to write, illustrate and somehow produce children’s books. Research led to All Saints Day School in Carmel Valley where the Guild of the Book Arts met for summer classes. We jumped at the chance to learn about bookbinding and making paper and the fine art of calligraphy.
My studio of the moment was squeezed into a back bedroom of our new house, having graduated from the “far out little pad” down the road. Soon, we collected equipment and paraphernalia - book presses, drawing boards, trays for paper making and decorating. We dove into the pool of bookbinding so deeply that the idea of writing for children was set aside and instead we made beautiful books: she studied antiquarian book repair and gold tooling and the closets filled up with Moroccan leather and gold leaf and paste. I focused on Japanese bindings, journals and scrap books, stacking the cupboards with rice paper and dyes and silk. Papers of all kinds draped over dowel rods hung along the wall like towel racks.
An electric hot plate burbled with a pot of fish glue which wafted fumes like anchovy pizza through the house. I could hear rain drizzling and, beyond the garden, the rush of the Carmel River.
We harmonized with John Denver: Country Roads and Annie’s Song and Sunshine on my Shoulders. We gossiped and shared secrets and talked about men and ate grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup and laughed and cried and created beauty with an ever growing assortment of materials.
It was powerful good fun in that back bedroom studio with our two workbenches facing each other under the window. In the winter, the wood stove in the living room and mugs of herb tea kept us warm while we examined and took apart old books and put them back together again.
Although I can say that I wrote my first book at nine years old (How to Be Obnoxious in Twenty five Easy Lessons - more on that in another post) and I have been in love with books and reading since long before that, those two seasons of classes at The Guild of the Books Arts took my love of books to a new level, where it is not just the contents, but the containers that inspire.