Oct 08, 2023
Reviving the centuries
Angie Sotiropoulos deftly twists the handle on her copy press. It squeaks into place, flattening the many sheets of paper that will soon make up a book. Then she moves across her home studio to her
Angie Sotiropoulos deftly twists the handle on her copy press. It squeaks into place, flattening the many sheets of paper that will soon make up a book.
Then she moves across her home studio to her desk, where she scores and cuts more paper to be used later.
Sotiropoulos, 44, has been making books since 2015. While she considers herself still new to bookbinding, she has been in business for herself since 2020 when she started Dragonfly Book Press.
She makes and sells a variety of handcrafted books that are primarily intended to be used for art and journalling.
In an interview, Sotiropoulos said she loves the craft because she's always learning something new and working with different materials.
"There's always a new paper," she said. "There's always a new thread. There's always different combinations of things and it's fun for me to come up with fun new combinations.
"I get to use my books that I make too, because I test them all before I make them for other people."
Sotiropoulos is among a growing number of people turning to the accessible craft, which goes back centuries.
The comeback of bookbinding has been captivating audiences across social media platforms, where artists show off their work processes and results.
Bookbinding is the process of taking sheets of paper and putting them together to form a book.
Sotiropoulos said the craft is seeing a resurgence because it's another artistic outlet that produces something original and doesn't require a lot of equipment.
"Even if you don't make it durable, depending on how you make it, you can take it apart and make it again," she said. "I think there's something that's appealing from a reuse and sustainability aspect."
There are many different ways to bind books; the most common way is to sew the papers together by hand.
Sotiropoulos said she finds the sewing relaxing. She learned early on to work in batches, preferring to cut paper one day and leaving the sewing for the next day.
All of the books Sotiropoulos makes start off as a giant piece of paper that she folds, cuts and then flattens overnight.
"Some books are easier and there's only sewing," Sotiropoulos said. "Other books you have to sew and glue and build covers for all in a separate step."
Sotiropoulos was introduced to the craft while working on A Christmas Carol at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton.
"Theatre people do a lot of bad things to books in general," she told CBC's Edmonton AM.
"Usually we're throwing them across the room or off the shelves, but every book befalls some sort of horrible life."
She was part of a two-person team tasked with fixing broken books after performances; she enjoyed the bookbinding process enough to pursue it as a hobby.
An avid sketcher, Sotiropoulos decided to make sketchbooks for herself. She said she could never find ones that worked for her.
"I used a lot of cotton papers and there weren't, at the time, a lot of cotton papers that were bound together in book form," she said.
Soon after, Sotiropoulos added different styles of books to her roster, including accordion and up-cycled books.
Bookbinder and book conservationist Andrew Huot said bookbinding as a craft has exploded in recent years because people see it as a form of art.
"It used to be a utilitarian trade; it was all about passing on information," he said. "It was more of a job and less a creative option."
Huot has been working as a bookbinder and conservationist since the late 1990s, and now owns Big River Bindery in Toronto.
He said people are now keen to work with their hands and explore the tactile quality or working with the book.
"If you like to sketch, you can make sketchbooks exactly the way you want," he said. "If you write or journal, you can make books exactly the way you want."
"The explosion of interest in bookbinding is here to stay."
Ishita Verma is an associate producer for CBC Edmonton, focusing on local and diverse voices in the city. Got a story? [email protected].