I’ve been reluctant to fall into the trap of new-hobby-dabbling while on my sabbatical. The goal here was, yes, to find some space for reinvention but also and probably more importantly, focus on the long list of things I’ve been meaning to go deeper on for years but have neglected due to my goldfish-like attention span.
There is an inherent contradiction there, I realize, as if I am trying to actually find a new purpose in life then digging my ruts even deeper may not be the ideal way of approaching this problem. Yet, simultaneously, I do contend that the ruts I needed to abandon were those of an unfulfilling job and a career path that I’d tripped over my shoelaces into, not the creative exponential lifestyle that I had been unsuccessfully and largely-causally pursuing in my dwindling free time.
So, all that said, I have given myself some vague guidelines around (a) being more completionist and focussed on existing hobbies and interests and working on honing those to a finer point, but also (b) understanding that distractions happen and while I should not chase every one of them, reinvention sometimes comes from exploration and following paths presented by the universe.
Thus my reluctance to follow distractions is more of a reluctance to chase new ideas in themselves. Not, say, browsing the stacks at the library or the aisles at the art store and then picking up the shiniest object to dig into, but rather tracing a natural curve along the related disciplines of my existing endeavors.
This post is not randomly timed.
I’ve spent the last couple days following one of those curves and I come here seeking justification for myself and the future.
While in California a couple months ago we went to a farmers market and there I found a stall selling notebooks. This might seem like a no-big-deal revelation, but the vendor had handmade these notebooks and had used traditional bookbinding techniques to create beautiful writing tomes that had for their covers recycled covers from all manner of novels, famous and otherwise. The effect was that of a kind of one-off unique book purged of its fiction pages and replaced with blanks, not as a means of censorship or literary destruction but more of as a second life for these books likely bound for the trash following a useful first life as a novel.
I didn’t buy one. Not because I am cheap (though the price tag combined with the exchange rate combined with my current lack of income didn’t help) but rather because I was more in the market for a blank-paged sketchbook than a ruled diary.
That little craftwork idea has been lurking in my head.
I should learn bookbinding and make my own, I thought, then filed it away in the back of my head for a future day.
A chance social media post took me down a instructionary rabbit hole yesterday morning and before I knew it I was doing a bunch of rough math and pinging through google to find if the hobby was economical enough that I could dabble in a beginner tutorial without buying a kitchen drawer full of supplies.
Paper. Glue. String. Cardboard. Fabic.
Check. Check. Check. Check. Check.
I did a quick swing through the local shopping complex, hitting up a Staples and a Walmart for the cheapest “good” supplies I could buy, spending about fifty bucks though most of that was on a ream of the best, heaviest paper I could find because why spend all that time binding together shitty copy paper when I might end up with something usable. To put a cap on that though, the result was me buying 120gram laser printer paper which turned out to be silky smooth and just about perfect for ink drawing and very nice sketching paper no matter if I bind it or otherwise.
I did bind it. About twenty of my five hundred sheets found their way into two different miniature sketchbooks, each about 4 inches square, as per two runs through of the tutorial I found. Simple covers made from failed watercolour paintings turned them into unique and actually-quite-functional little sketchbooks.
And this morning I started on a third, roughly 4×6 inches and (if you’re following the thread here) about the right size to fit between a pair of recycled covers from a mediocre science fiction novel with a cool retro cover design that I picked up at the used book store last year and which was soon destined for the pulp mill soon as it was quite dated and should probably never be read again by anyone. Not censorship. Just opinion. Go read whatever the hell garbage you want.
And to bring this story back around this bookbinding investigation was not a distraction from my art as much as an expansion into the value chain of the whole process. As I explore my personal style maybe that style includes filling up handmade sketchbooks with interesting drawings and journaling that becomes a whole piece. Maybe I could bind smaller signatures and sets together to create one-off-works. Maybe the art becomes part of the book which becomes the art itself in a great big circular deconstructed exploration of artistic weirdness.
Or maybe it’s just a good way to get a lot of reasonably priced sketchbooks to practice in.
I’m thinking it’s gonna be that last one for a while.
But then reinvention is a sometimes a blind path.