Balancing craft, art, and function is no small task, but Kari Bronaugh from BocHord Bookbinding seems to have found the perfect harmony with her custom made hand bound books, journals, and art. Kari’s home studio in Owen Sound is a wonderful collection of paper, leather, and other book binding materials. She also shares her skills through workshops throughout the county.
How did you discover book binding?
Bookbinding is my third career and I discovered it quite by accident. I have always been a crafty type of person – love to make things with my hands so I was a prime target. I used to work in advertising as a project manager/studio manager and I worked in Toronto in Liberty Village back when it wasn’t at all trendy! The Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artist Guild (CBBAG) used to have a space in one of the Artscape buildings in Liberty Village. And I walked by the building one day in 2005 to catch the streetcar and saw their sign. I found their website and immediately signed up for a 6 day intensive workshop called Bookbinding 1. I was obsessed from the first session! I dove in headfirst without even looking back and have continued to be enthralled to this day! In 2017, my family moved to Owen Sound and I have been doing this full time since then.
What’s the best part of the creative process when you’re making something new?
I really love working out a new binding process- a new sewing, a new cover attachment method, a new format all together. The making of books is an ancient art and the forms are incredibly varied, but they all have a basis in the idea of making something that will survive being used by a human. And let’s be honest – humans aren’t always the most respectful of books! It’s a tough love! But books are meant to be used – handled, bashed about a bit. I often think ‘could this book survive being thrown in a backpack for a day’ when I approach learning a new book structure. The challenge of making something beautiful but hardy is fascinating. I have a particular fascination for making historic structures, trying to recreate something historic but from modern materials is quite the thrill.
Where can folks find your products?
At this stage I’m selling my books primarily at craft markets – mostly local to Owen Sound with an eye to some of the bigger volume markets next year. I will be at some shows in late November and early December. I don’t produce a high volume of product as hand bookbinding is a fairly slow and labour intensive craft, so I have to work up to online selling or even larger craft shows. I do take the occasional commission directly. I have done a number of protective boxes and other kinds of containers for precious books too. I can be contacted through my website bochordbookbinding.ca
I’ve seen you do some collaborations with other local makers. What other offerings do you have?
I really enjoy co-teaching when I can manage it. I love to make books for the sake of making books so I’m not so fussed if it’s a blank book or a book full of content. But regular folks often like to have something in their book! The collaborative workshops have all been at the Georgian Bay School for the Arts. The first one I tried was called Bound to Write with Richard-Yves Sitoski, the 2019-2023 Owen Sound Poet Laureate- where he taught folks poetry and I taught them 5 book structures to house poems. He was a brick about all the fussing over paper and bookmaking and worked right along with the students to make his own books! I’ve tried a couple of other ideas that haven’t flown as high as that one did, but I’ve got a workshop coming up this October with Leah Springate and Paul Hunter from Mammoth Hall Press to make a Haunted House Tunnel Book. Students will print their own spooky elements under Paul & Leah tutelage and then we’ll put them together to make a tunnel book! I do teach fairly regularly at GB Arts – I try to offer a beginner’s level workshop every month if I can swing it!
I also have a newly established substack account under the name of my company Bochord Bookbinding where I am discussing making different book structures and talking about the bookbinding manual I used to figure it out. It’s free to subscribe!
What’s your favourite part of being a maker in Grey County?
I find the pace of life here to be very conducive to creativity. The gorgeous scenery, the excellent community of artisans, the clean air, and space to breathe. I feel like I can connect to creative people easier than I could have in Toronto and I can let a community of like-minded people slowly and intentionally grow up around my work. And the level of creativity of folks around here is astonishing – so many interesting people who are so generous with their positivity, time, and energy.
Location: Owen Sound. ON