Who doesn’t love to pick up a book, to run their fingers along the spine, to smell the pages, and to wonder what lies between its covers? Man’s mystification with the written word stems from a history that pre-dates the first century AD.
Wax tablets (wood covered with wax), diptychs (doubled leaved), and polytych (panel paintings) are examples of hinged texts. The Roman codex from the Latin word caudex means “the trunk of trees, the pages of which were sewn together between wooden boards.
With the digital age, some people have chosen to set aside print media for the sleek yet sterile ereader; however, there are still millions of bibliophiles who relentlessly pursue the natural beauty and feel of books. Realistically speaking, can you imagine reading the 9th century Irish text, the Book of Kells on an ereader? No, not at all!
Book binding may be an old art form, but it is one that will remain no matter what the techno ideologues think. You need look no further for proof than the thriving book binding business, Three Trees Bindery, founded by horticulturist and book lover Michelle Skiba.
Skiba, as her friends call her, is an avid journal keeper and book collector who moved to Charlotte as a child. “Captivated by the unique and varied characters of wood,” she loves working with her hands. “It’s very intimate,” says Skiba. Owner of a landscaping business specializing in gardens – flower gardens, seasonal color, containers and vegetables gardens – Skiba enjoys the diversity that the making of books and journals affords her.
She started making books when she was 20 years old. “I was making paper in my apartment, and I had stacks and stacks of it. Not knowing what to do with it all, I decided to start making books,” says Skiba. “My motto has always been do what you love, and I believe the only way to find any measure of lasting fulfillment is by doing what I am passionate about. It may be a non-traditional way to approach business, but I measure my success on my level of joy and excitement.” To some this philosophy might be a bit of a gamble; however, Skiba wakes up every morning excited to start the day. Three Trees Bindery specializes in designing and creating custom wood photo albums, guest books, and blank journals. Most of the pieces are custom-made, but Skiba keeps an inventory of books ready to be sold on her online shop. At present Etsy.com is her biggest “revenue stream.”
Binding books is a “meditated process.” The action takes place in the present with a great deal of concentration. The process takes about six hours. You can’t do it from start to finish in one day, says Skiba. You work in stages. The bark for her covers come from Maine but also from her wanderings in the woods. Birch bark is her specialty. “I peel the bark down to a thin veneer and put the bark on the oak using a press similar to ones used to make furniture,” explains Skiba. Each book is then sanded and finished with tongue oil, so the bark has a natural look and feel. Skiba utilizes a Coptic binding stitch, a very old method of sewing the leaves and pages together with an exposed crisscrossed stitch. Her method of binding also incorporates some unique techniques that make the books even more gorgeous and one-of-a-kind.
Skibas love of books combined with a respect for storytelling and the preservation of memories makes book binding, for her, a very personal experience. “Its a privilege to work with people, to hear little pieces of their life and to provide them with the keepsake to preserve that special memory, says Skiba. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to utilize my skills, passion, and creativity while earning a livelihood in the process. For more information visit www.ThreeTreesBindery.com or her Etsy store at www.ThreeTreesBindery.etsy.com.