LIVERPOOL – “I design every aspect of how my journals will look from start to finish, including designing unique closures; some are quite simple while others are more intricate,” says book artist Beverly Wong-Kleinjan of Liverpool.
Short of making her own paper or tanning her own leather - although she does dye it from time to time - Wong-Kleinjan creates her journals completely by hand, selling them through her online business, La Paperie & Cozy Handmade Journals.
Wong-Kleinjan says she has kept a journal since she was a little girl and has never grown out of the habit. Living in a small town, journals of any kind were not easy to find, she says, so she ended up using scribblers, notepads or loose-leaf sheets tied together with string. As a teen, she loved using leather-bound journals whenever she could find one or save up enough to buy one, but these were a rarity.
Based on her love of books and journals, in 2007, Wong-Kleinjan decided to learn how to make her own journals by reading multiple books on old-style binding techniques. She says it was a lot of trial and error initially and took almost a year to perfect.
“The type of bookbinding I use dates back to the 1400s in Germany,” she says. “It's humbling to realize I'm using old-world techniques in our modern age to create versatile leather-bound codices which were made and used mainly by scholars in medieval times.”
When others saw her handmade books, she began getting requests to sell them. Friends suggested selling to a larger audience online. The idea appealed to Wong-Kleinjan and, in 2007, she established La Paperie & Cozy Handmade Journals on Etsy. Today, she still sells on Etsy but has also designed her own shop at www.lapaperie.ca.
To add to the uniqueness and creativity of each piece, Wong-Kleinjan prints inspirational quotes on the title pages of some journals and selects leathers and/or closures that pair well with the quote. For instance, she says a nice rugged, brown leather seems to go well with a quote from Charles Dickens or Thoreau, while a more 'refined' tan or burgundy leather fits a Jane Austen or Bronte quote.
La Paperie journals have been shipped around the world to as far away as Japan, Afghanistan, India and Australia. They have been used as daily diaries, guest books at weddings, had wedding vows read from them during ceremonies, read from at memorials, used as pregnancy journals, "baby's first" books, given as house warming gifts, gifted to artists at recording studios or used as business gifts - and the list goes on.
One of the most interesting uses, says Wong-Kleinjan, was in 2012 when one of her handmade leather journals was used as one of the main props in Sisbro Studio's The Shark Riddle DVD, an educational children's program produced by the sister-brother duo Laura and Robert Sams. The 30-minute program won Best Children's Program at the International Wildlife Film Festival and Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, and Best Educational Short at the International Family Film Festival.
The experience of writing in a tangible journal, especially one that's been made by hand the way books were created centuries ago, is very special, says Wong-Kleinjan.
She says there is something so gratifying about the feel of ink on paper, the sound of the pages turning, and the feel of the leather in your hand. It is a raw, authentic experience and is something electronics could never replace.
“I love being a part of offering that experience to others through my work,” says Wong-Kleinjan.
To learn more or order a journal, visit http:/www.lapaperie.ca.