| I've been making handbound books for over 25 years. Initially I bound my own books because I was on a quest: I was looking for the perfect sketchbook to contain my visual journals.
Today I recognize my non-monogamous attachment to paper and use a variety of papers for the pages of my books. I look for paper that is smooth enough for pen and ink, yet toothy enough to take colored pencil; thick enough to be a stable support for collage; and sized sufficiently to take at least light watercolor washes. But I no longer look for the perfect paper (I found that, a British made paper that had been discontinuted by the time I found it).
I love the look and feel of western case bindings, but I hate to sew on tapes. As a bookmaker I developed a way to create a case bound book, not sewn on tapes, that is sturdy and can withstand field use: either urban or wilderness. An 80 pound Alaskan Malamute can knock it out of your hand and the binding will survive. A friend dubbed this the "the Roz Method." It is a blend of English, French, and American binding techniques that enables the binder to get elegant repeatable binding results without expensive bookbinding equipment.
I have been journaling since I was a child. On a trans-Pacific cruise from the Philippines to the United States when I was 3 and a half years old, my mother gave me a watercolor sketchbook. Since then I've kept both written and visual journals.
I keep my written journals private. They provide space for me to work out ideas about life, my beliefs, story themes and outlines for projects I'm working on, and research notes.
Over time there has been a tendency for the written items to spill into the visual journals. I think this is in part a function of proximity (the visual journal is always with me and the written journal stays at my desk). I don't question or fight the process. As long as the journals retain their usefulness for me I'm happy.
One of each type of journal is always going and a new one doesn't get started until I complete a book. Upon occasion I do travel journals which last the duration of the trip.
I allow students to look through selected visual journals. (I make selections from these journals to place on my website.)
I believe that my journals form a chronological record of my creative process. Everything from shopping lists for class supplies, to meeting notes, to sketches of flora and fauna appear in these books. My visual journals have become workbooks for experimenting with new media, working out painting ideas, or simply documenting my daily surroundings. Collaged items appear side by side with my sketches and writing.
A simple method of indexing has allowed me to use my journals as one huge, ever expanding filing cabinet. The indexes also allow me to see at a glance how ideas grew out of certain circumstances.
I teach classes in bookbinding and journaling because I believe journals have been a positive force in my life keeping me engaged, curious, and grateful. I like to encourage other people in this pursuit of being present in the moment.
Illustration © 2000 Roz Stendahl; All Rights Reserved
Photo © 2000 Tom Nelson