Bookbinder Mychal Mitchell fell into her career accidentally. Or maybe it’s more apt to say that a thief pushed her into it.
While on a trip to Rome her backpack was stolen, along with her journal. She was understandably upset, but then an Italian friend took her to a bookshop to replace it. She instantly fell in love with the gorgeous handmade books, as well as the craft, and has devoted her energies to bookbinding ever since.
Her technique mirrors that of the Venetian monks that honed the art for centuries. Each book is handmade, using remnants of leather and handmade paper, and is lovingly stitched together to create timeless and stunning books just waiting for the creative soul to fill.
She’s been selling her books for over 17 years, but she’s still enthusiastic about the craft. She says, “What excites me about books is that they have unlimited possibilities…There’s a million different reasons to get a book and everybody has a story and that means something to me.”
Her Austin, Texas workspace has a small retail area in front, where you can choose from a number of books that are already created. They range from simple leather wrapped with a cord to the fancier ones with treated metal hardware to lock your secrets away from prying eyes.
Mychal also fills custom orders. You can pick from a wide variety of surplus leather remnants that she gets primarily from boot makers and handbag factories. Also you’re not relegated to traditional browns and blacks – her leather comes in all colors of the rainbow, with a variety of fun textures to explore as well.
Each book is filled with handmade paper and then hand-sewn with twine. “All the books are stitched with one long piece of hemp twine,” say Mychal. To ensure the twine doesn’t break, it’s rubbed over and over through a giant block of beeswax to make sure it’s coated enough to stay strong as it’s sewn through each of the holes in the book’s signatures and cover.
Mychal travels to second hand markets to find icebox hinges, doorplates, keyhole covers, and other intricate metal hardware fastenings to decorate her books.
Each piece is then added to the right book by with rivets, hammered in with love.
See how things come together in the Iona studio:
These books can be used as traditional journals, sketchbooks, scrapbooks, recipe keepers, art journals, or any other kind of way you want to preserve memories and keepsakes.