Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Message from the Universe

For a while, it seemed every book I read had a similar thread, whether I read juvenile or adult books. I read the Ink- books by Cornelia Funke, The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber, People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. For those of you unfamiliar with these titles, the thread is bookbinding. I wasn’t looking for books that included bookbinding in them, they just kept showing up. At the Renaissance Festival last summer, I noticed there was a bookbinding school booth (unfortunately, it was closed when we stumbled upon it). Recently, a customer came into Beagle Books and ordered a book on the art of bookbinding. When the book came in, I called the customer to let him know the book was in and he told me, “You know, I’m going out of town for two weeks. I’ll pick it up when I get back, but you should look at it while I’m gone.” Before the universe began dropping bookbinding equipment on my head, I decided to pay attention to the message. I spent some time at the library researching. The Loft in Minneapolis of course has courses on bookbinding, but Minneapolis is 200 miles from my home and I really hoped to find something closer. Maybe there would be something offered in connection with Bemidji State University? (Bemidji is about 40 miles from me). No luck there. I kept looking and found there’s a bookbindery in Detroit Lakes, about 50 miles from my home. No website or email (does anyone do business without a website these days?), but there was a phone number. So I called. Someone answered. It was a bookbinder. His name is David. And yes, he would be willing to meet with me and if I was still interested, he would teach me his craft. Wow! We picked a day to meet and I waited for the day to arrive. At first, I waited with great anticipation. Then I began to wait with great anxiety. What if the bookbinder did shoddy work? What if he didn’t like me? What if I didn’t like him? I decided to bring along a friend of mine who is remarkably (sometimes frighteningly) good at reading people. This friend is my husband, Tom. So last Saturday, we drove over to Detroit Lakes, found the bookbindery and entered the building. Inside we discovered something that felt akin to magic. Papers, leather scraps, type, machinery. I felt a little bit like I did in wood shop class in junior high, fascinated by the materials and equipment, but a bit shy to step up and demand my share of time with the equipment. But this wasn’t 7th grade with a room full of 7th grade boys. This was an opportunity to be led, one on one, by a gentle man eager to pass on his knowledge. David is 82 years old and he’s nearly ready to be done with his career as a bookbinder. I think he’s just as excited to have a student as I am to be his student. When we left, I fought off the urge to hug David goodbye. Now I just have to figure out how to pay David. There are scholarships and grants available for artists that I have to explore. Some of my friends and family members (bless their hearts!) have opened their wallets and said to me, “You have to do this.” I hope I don’t have to cash their checks, I hope I can get a scholarship, but it’s wonderful to know I have their support. Now that I’m over my fears about meeting David, I’ve moved on to fears about my abilities. But the universe has better things to do than send me messages to learn bookbinding only to chuckle at my expense, right? Bookbinding journey, here I come!

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