You know how a piece of art will just call to you? Like seeing the one you will spend the rest of your life with for the first time, from across the room and your eyes lock. You see that one thing. That piece that grabs you and won’t let go. A handcrafted book did this to me.
These handcrafted books grabbed me when I visited the Des Moines Arts Festival for the first time many years ago. Walking through all the displays, participating in a community drum session, buying a pretty hand-painted clay tile for my kitchen, there it was.
Under a simple tent, was tables and shelves laden with the most beautiful, thick leather books with old-world stitching. Some had rustic hardware with a lovely patina. There were bright reds and turquoises, and soft, deep browns, blacks, and purples. Some were scrapbook size and some could fit in your hand.
Opening one of these books revealed thick, rough handmade paper. The weight and texture enthralled me. The blank pages were full of possibility.
To me, these books were magical. From another time or another world like Middle Earth. Elvish script or dwarvish runes would be right at home in these books.
This post contains affiliate links. Read here for disclosure. This is not a sponsored post. I treasure my Iona Handcrafted Book and want to share with you something that is special to me.
Art makes a home unique and expressive. It is chosen by the heart and is a reflection of the soul of the one who is drawn to it as well as the one who creates it. I think that’s why Mychal, the Austin, Texas artisan who creates these books, and I became fast friends.
A Blessing in Disguise
Mychal Mitchell had just graduated from Arizona State University and was traveling Europe in 1992. In Rome, a young boy stole her backpack containing all her travel essentials. But she was most despondent over the loss of her journal in the theft.
Lamenting her loss to a local street artisan in Venice leads to a blessing. He takes her down a small alley to his friend’s bookbinding shop where she encounters the kind of books in which she’d only dreamed of writing. She and the bookbinder become friends and he teaches her his craft.
Needing another journal when returning to the States, she creates one for herself using a piece of scrap leather and hand-made paper from an art store. Her hand-made journal draws admiration from others who ask if she can make one for them.
And that’s how Iona Handcrafted Books was born.
Hand These Books Down Through the Generations
Most works of art are kept in a safe place and never touched. Mychal’s books are made to be used. I like to think my family will value my book long after I leave this world. 🙂
More Than a Craft – Craftsmanship by A Real Artisan
The leather is sourced as surplus from boot, handbag, and belt manufacturers. She chooses the pieces that are discarded because of their imperfections. The imperfections give her books personality and lend a unique quality.
The paper in the books is archival quality, contains no wood pulp, and is hand-torn. Mychal uses different kinds of hand-made papers created to her specifications. The bamboo paper is not handmade, but it still has a hand-torn edge. Each book has a different feel and use.
Mychal uses only hand tools in her creative process. Everything is hand-cut, hand-torn, and hand-stitched using the same creative process as in old European monasteries.
Salvaged hardware adds personality to some of the books. Mychal chooses pieces that are interesting and have a nice patina that adds to the sense of longevity her books possess.
A Work of Art for Your Life as Well as Your Home
Many people use Mychal’s books for travel journals where they sketch or paint their experiences as well as write about them. For others, they are photo scrapbooks, journals, sketchbooks, a place to write poetry, record family stories and history, and keep favorite passages from stories.
My book holds sketches, photos, and passages that have meaning to me. I’m no great artist, but I like to draw and this book offers a special kind of creative outlet.
I plan to take a watercolor painting class at the Des Moines Art Center this spring. I have so many unfinished art projects from being a full-time mom! 🙂 I’m at a point in my life that I can take my treasured Iona book with me, sit on the side of a trail, and sketch.
I have favorite passages and quotes from favorite books written in my Iona book.
A Beautiful, Unique Gift
What a lovely gift to mark a special occasion such as a wedding or the birth of a child! The graduate embarking on a new beginning, the traveler, the one who journals – all will appreciate Mychal’s craftsmanship. It is truly a work of art that you make uniquely your own.
Thank you for stopping by! You can learn more about Mychal’s beautiful books here. What story will you create with a beautiful book and blank pages filled with promise?