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Crescent City Culture: Book-binding class teaches valuable lesson

By Mary Lou Atkinson for NolaVie

It was the most I ever paid for a book: $170. And it’s not very big, only 4 by 6 inches, with a mere 10 pages. But I made it myself: I made the paper pages from a pulp of paper bits, glue and water; cut the cardboard cover to size and covered it in fabric; added end papers; and bound it all together with needle and cord. And I’m pretty darn pleased with myself. The $170 was the cost of a Papermaking and Bookbinding course at the New Orleans School of Art and Craft in Bywater.

Truth be told, I did complete another, larger book, but it was with paper made by other class members, and the binding would not have earned me a passing grade if such things counted. But that’s the point: In this sort of class, grades do not count. You can cheat by watching what a classmate is doing.

In fact, sometimes a classmate gives you the answer you need to solve a problem – which, in bookbinding, can be a knotty problem in more ways than one. It’s not at all like being back in high school or even college, when lessons learned (or not learned) determined the course of your future – or so we were told.

This is learning for the sake of learning, for the pure joy of accomplishment, be it ever so humble. I now have my eye on a pottery class at Sinistra Studio on Metairie Road. If all goes well, I could become the proud owner of a $140 vase.

Mary Lou Atkinson writes Crescent City Culture: Observations on the art of living in New Orleans, whenever the creative spirit stikes, for NolaVie.


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