A Bookbinder’s Tool
I recently took a short but inspiring bookbinding class in upstate NY. It was hosted and organized by J. Morgan Puett, of Mildred’s Lane and The Mildred Complex(ity), and it was taught by one Leon Johnson. He, along with his wife Megan O’Connell, and son Leander, are the founders of Salt & Cedar, a letterpress studio located in the Eastern Market district of Detroit. They produce custom design work and printed matter – an extremely prosaic way of saying that they are extraordinary designers and thinkers. They also appear to have created a modern day salon of sorts, encompassing performance, food, film and more. This scarified hunk of beeswax is one of Leon’s tools. Bookbinding uses waxed thread as a means to hold together the sets of pages, which are called signatures. You can buy prewaxed thread, but most serious bookbinders prefer to wax their own. I was told that this piece, which, at the time I saw it only measured about 3.5″ x 2″ x 3″, began as quite a large block. Figure one or two pounds. It wasn’t just the beeswax that caught my attention. It was also the way Mr. Johnson used it to wax the thread. When someone is so accomplished at their craft/artform, they do things with complete ease and confidence, and a kind of artful rhythm. A ritual motion that is part of them, unlike the halting actions performed by relative neophytes.