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Re: [BKARTS] How to become an artisan bookbinder, from soup to nuts

Hi Dan,

I think you need to refine your criteria a bit. Is it that you want to be self-employed or a binder or a printer? If self-employment implies good money to you, you really don't want to become a bookbinder. Really. Letterpress, on the other hand is hot right now and there seem to be a number of successful letterpress shops doing quite a bit of work. On the third hand, if you're not dead set on working for yourself, institutional book conservators make pretty good salaries these days. With benefits.

As for education, if you're looking for a degree program other than an MFA there's North Bennett, as you noted, and the American Academy in Telluride. The thing you'd get from North Bennett is two years at the bench, which you won't get anywhere else. As you say, it's expensive. You mention working assistantships; other than Arion, that just ain't gonna happen. At the paltry $10/hr that Arion pays, over four years you're going to cost them about $80 grand. Do you think you'll be producing over $100,000 of value for them? Andrew Hoyem deserves a lot of credit for offering such an opportunity.

I see you're in San Francisco. I suspect there's a book arts community there and that there are classes available. I'd suggest taking as many classes and workshops as you can, to get a feel for the work and whether it really is for you. In doing that you'll also be meeting people who might be able to help and advise you.

If you do decide to go out on your own as a binder you should be able to do the following things well:

-Case bindings in cloth and paper from scratch and
-Quarter and full leather bindings from scratch (not that there's a large market for the above, but that these things teach you about the structures that you'll be working on)
-Simple paper repairs
-Simple cloth rebackings and repairs
-Leather rebackings
-Clamshell boxes and slipcases
-Stamp labels with a Kensol or Quikprint
-Simple hand tooling with foil
-Run a business
That's for starters, and you need to always be trying to better your own work. It's a serious commitment if you want to get really good.

Lastly, regarding your final question. If you're not daft, you probably shouldn't be doing this stuff.

Hope this helps a little.

Good luck.

Don Rash

Dan Kappus wrote:

I have a question.

Context: I'm exploring jobs and careers for self-employment. I have taken a couple of bookbinding workshops. I find books to be fascinating. I have thought about working towards the skills I would need to create artisan blank books, restore old books, and provide production services like proofreading and indexing for publishers. So far, I've run into the internship program at Arion Press in San Francisco, several MFA programs, and the two-year program at the North Bennett Street School in Boston. My feeling is that the internship at Arion is too poorly-paid relative to living costs in SF (four years at $10/hr), the MFA programs require more artistry than I currently profess, and the two-year program at NBSS would leave me $60k in debt.

Questions: How does one develop bookbinding and letterpress printing as a career-track craft? Are there working assistantships for this? Am I daft?

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