And the winner is...

When I decided to host a handmade book giveaway, I was flooded with comments on Instagram and Facebook, each sharing an idea for how this book could be put to use. I enjoyed reading everyone's creative and meaningful ideas, and it was difficult to choose a winner.

Handmade book by linenlaid&felt

After carefully reviewing all of the entries, I've chosen a winner. This book will be headed to Instagram user @msshawnflowers. Here's her inspiring and thoughtful idea for how she plans to use this book:

"I'm newly engaged at 37 years old. My fiancé and I have been together for almost two years and plan to marry this October. We would fill these pages together as our bedside communication journal. Anytime either of us has something to share with the other that can be more easily expressed in writing we would write an honest note and leave it on his/her nightstand. Perhaps some pages would be filled with prayers for one another... or confessions of difficulty in one area or another... or invitations to make love... or words of affirmation... or concerns... or love poems... or honey-do-lists!! 💛"

Congratulations, Shawn! I hope you and your fiancé will enjoy filling this book with messages. And I wish you both all the best in your lives together. 

Handmade book by Katie Gonzalez

For more creative ideas about how you could fill a book of your own, check out the #myusedbook campaign and this gallery of books in action

Enter to win a handmade book!

As you probably know, I’m passionate about the way books can be used to enrich our lives, which is why I created the #myusedbook campaign to showcase books in action. And now I've decided to give away one of my handmade books to someone who has a creative idea for how they'd use it. 

handmade book giveaway

So to win this little Coptic bound book, please post a comment on either Facebook or Instagram that explains your idea for how you would fill this book in a meaningful or creative way.

I’ll choose a winner on May 31 based on the idea that’s most inspiring. And I’ll hope that the recipient will share photos of how they put this book to use.

I can't wait to hear all of your clever ideas for how you would fill this book. And best of luck to you!

A big birthday sale in my Etsy shop

For the first time ever, I'm hosting a sale in my Etsy shop. In celebration of my birthday this month, I've put more than a dozen books on sale. 

Throughout August, you'll save up to $20 per book on my high-quality hardcover Coptic bound books and a few other styles. Take a look at the sale section, and pick out your new favorite journal.

This sale will help me make room in my studio for some of the new designs I've been working on. You can see some of those books in my shop now, and I'll be adding more throughout the month (like new leather Instagram photo albums, hardcover books with my original screenprinted patterns, and softcover notebooks) so check back often. 

A global wedding captured in a map book

world map handmade book by linenlaid&felt
A couple living in Australia. The bride from the U.K. And a wedding in Bali, Indonesia. If ever there was a wedding guest book fit for a map design, this was the one.

For this international destination wedding, I ultimately decided to use a map print paper from Paper Source for their book. It has a vintage map feel that Laura liked. And I made sure to include all of this couple's important places across the covers.

wedding in Indonesia by linenlaid&felt in Nashville
map book for international wedding by linenlaid&felt in Nashville
wedding book for destination wedding by linenlaid&felt in Nashville
map globe bookbinding by linenlaid&felt in Nashville

Book arts class for repurposing vintage book covers

Handmade book with vintage book covers
This bookmaking class was a long time coming.

For years now, my husband and I have been collecting quirky vintage books, both to display in our home and with the inkling that they would spur creative repurposing in my bookbinding. But for the most part, I was doing more collecting than repurposing, whether it was radio operator manuals, Gregg shorthand books, 95 Russian Authors, or A Treasury of Cat Stories, to name a few.

In February, I found out I wasn't alone in my affinity for old books when I hosted a sold out class through The Skillery to teach the Coptic binding, using salvaged books to serve as the front and back covers.

I brought a couple dozen books from my own collection, which has grown slowly, usually just one book at a time, by shopping at antique stores and estate sales, and at one of my favorite stores ever: Book Thing of Baltimore, where all of the books are free! Really, they are. But there is a rule at Book Thing: each visitor is only allowed to take out 150,000 books per day. If you still don't believe that they're free, you're not alone: the Book Thing FAQ suggets many are skeptical.

I also encouraged my students to bring their own books. Many did. Among my favorites were a variety of colorfully illustrated children's stories and a little book about the Tennessee Capitol building.

We met at Dandelion Salon, where I have hosted classes before. I taught the students how to carefully remove pages and spines and then walked them through a complete Coptic binding lesson. The journals we created have new blank pages on the inside, between two vintage covers.

While we stayed busy, local photographer Kate Cauthen also stopped by to capture the class in action to bring attention to The Skillery, which I've written about often. The Skillery helps coordinate classes throughout Nashville. Kate was kind enough to share her photos.
book arts classbook arts teacher class Nashville
Leading up to the class, and since then, I've continued to work with my vintage book collection, completing a few projects that will soon be shown at the Porter Flea art show.

I think we're still taking on more books than I'm upcycling into new blank journals. But having a few more books around has never seemed like much of a problem to me.

rescued library books
Photos by Kate Cauthen.

Collage books with Lokta papers, now on Etsy

Handmade coptic book collage photo
I am constantly surrounded by beautiful, handmade papers. It's one of the perks of bookbinding. But sometimes, I've found that it takes a bit of a shakeup to see them in a new way.

My husband was working late one night, and as I rooted around in my paper scrap bin, I noticed an intriguing pairing of bright Lokta papers. These are among my favorite papers. They come in many gorgeous colors, have great texture, and are easy to work with. They respond well to glue and don't crinkle. Plus, they're sustainably made.

That night, I had a spur-of-the-moment urge to collage with these bits of paper. (Ironically, my husband often harps on me about all the scraps that I save, and it was only when he was away that I decided to put them to use.)

I began a free-form binding project without my usual careful planning. I focused on color matching.

Two coptic books by linenlaidfelt 
The first collage covers I made were striped. For the second, I assembled the papers in a patchwork. For this second book, I also rubbed away at pieces of the paper, distressing portions and allowing the color layers to blend. I also preserved the deckled edges of the pages and composed with those in mind.

The books I came up with — a sister set — are now in my Etsy shop. I hope you'll take a look, and show them to friends. They'd be good journals or sketchbooks or a fun guest book for a summer wedding.

:: Striped collage book
:: Patchwork collage journal

Handmade coptic books

The Skillery hosts weekend conference to inspire creative entrepreneurs in Nashville

The Skillery Nashville Creativity Summit logo

It's an exciting time to be an entrepreneur in Nashville, and an event coming up in a few weeks will celebrate all that we've got going on here, as well as helping artists like me to push forward in the new year. I'll be attending the Nashville Creativity Summit, hosted by The Skillery, which includes one day of workshops to empower the creative community, and a second day for those creators to share their skills through hands-on classes across the city.

The lineup of speakers on Saturday is impressive (and includes some friends!) and on Sunday I'll be leading a (sold out) bookbinding workshop in which we'll be making handbound journals with upcycled vintage book covers. There will also be classes about letterpress, green business practices, freelance writing, and more.

In advance of the event, The Skillery interviewed me for a write-up on the company blog, which really got me thinking more about how far I've come as an entrepreneur. Here's a little bit of what I had to say:

"... If someone would have told me in college that I'd own my own business one day, I would not have believed them. The whole process just came about so organically. It began with a dream of having a more fulfilling, creative career. I quickly found myself spending hours poring over business blogs, and loving it. I actually enjoy branding, marketing, self-promotion, and product development ... "

You can read the full interview here.

This isn't the only time I've been on The Skillery blog lately. I was excited to read a first-hand account of the bookbinding passion that one of my classes inspired. Right before Christmas, I taught a class on binding miniature book ornaments. My student wrote:

"That class, quite unexpectedly, launched a new passion in me. I spent the next few days making books that were slightly less mini, based on Gonzalez's tutelage. Then I set out to learn other binding methods ..."

Find the full story here.

I feel like The Skillery has come a long way since launching in November 2011 — and so has my business since I came to Nashville. In some ways, these go hand-in-hand. I actually taught the first class that The Skillery ever hosted, and I've happily sold out four more classes since then.

So I'm looking forward to the Nashville Creativity Summit on Feb. 9 and 10. If you're here in town, consider signing up.

What: Nashville Creativity Summit presented by The Skillery
When: Saturday, Feb. 9 and Sunday, Feb. 10
Where: The Emma Bistro, 9 Lea Ave, Nashville, TN 37210; and locations throughout Nashville
Admission: Conference registration $180; workshops priced individually

Spring bookbinding classes at Watkins College

Community education classes are starting back up at Watkins College of Art, Design & Film in just a couple of weeks.  In addition to my Introduction to Graphic Design and Typography class (which is already full), I'm teaching two different book arts classes this spring that still have some open spots. 

The first one is a nine-week intro to book arts course, which will cover the basics of bookmaking, plus lots and lots of different handmade book structures.  You'll learn how to make single sheet books, hardcover and softcover pamphlets, multiple variations of accordion books, flag books, star books, photo albums, four different types of books sewn with the Japanese stab binding, an Italian longstitch journal, and more. This class starts in less than two weeks, so be sure to sign up soon!

The second class I'll be teaching is a weekend workshop devoted to the Coptic binding.  In just two days, you'll make your own hardcover journal with an exposed spine binding.  This workshop isn't until March, so you have a bit more time to sign up.  

No previous bookbinding experience is required for either class.  To register, please call the Watkins Community Education office at (615) 383-4848 or register online.  And the view the complete spring course catalog — for classes like clamshell boxmaking, darkroom photography, printmaking, and stop-motion animation — click here

Fold, tear, glue, and stitch:
An introduction to book arts

When: Tuesdays, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.; February 5 – April 2 (9 weeks) 
Where: Watkins College, 2298 Rosa Parks Blvd., Nashville
Cost: $205, plus $40 materials fee 
Description: Learn the basics of bookmaking and more than a dozen binding styles as you become familiar with the materials, tools, techniques, and vocabulary of handmade books. The course will begin with simple folded structures and build toward intricate and exciting books that can be used as journals, sketchbooks, photo albums, and sculptural displays. Instruction will cover essentials of paper grain, folded signatures, hardcover and softcover books, and binding by hand. The class will also include the opportunity to view and handle a collection of professionally made examples. You’ll leave with an assortment of your own handbound books, and the skills and resources to continue binding at home. All tools and supplies included in materials fee.

Handmade journal with Coptic binding

Binding handmade journals

When: Saturday, March 2, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., and Sunday, March 3, 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. 
Where: Watkins College, 2298 Rosa Parks Blvd., Nashville
Cost: $90, plus $20 materials fee 
Description: Learn to bind your own unique and functional book, perfect for journaling or sketching. This two-day workshop will teach the Coptic binding style, which features hard covers, exposed stitching on the spine, and pages that lay completely fl at when open. The Coptic stitch, developed by early Christians in Egypt, remains one of the most popular bookbinding styles. All tools and supplies included in materials fee.

A wedding album to hold Polaroid photos of guests

Japanese stab binding hardcover thread

Picture this: a little table at your wedding that holds a Polaroid camera and your guest book. Your best friends and family members snag the camera, take awesome photos, and immediately mount them into the book and write messages to mark the day.

This particular book was made just for that purpose.  I've found that more and more brides are opting for something a besides a traditional book with lined pages in which guests merely sign their names.  Rather, a book with more space for guests to leave messages and plenty of room for photos leads to a more meaningful keepsake, and one that's more likely to be treasured and enjoyed long after the festivities are over. 

Another exciting thing to note about this book is that it was just featured in Nashville Lifestyles Weddings magazine among their round-up of "lovely local details."  The most recent issue is on newsstands now, so if you're in the Nashville area pick up a copy and check out all of the local talent in our city. 

Aside from binding books and scoring magazine features (this is my second one of the year; check out the first one here), I've been busy applying to art shows, planning new classes, and filling my Etsy shop to the brim.  

Be sure to take a peek at my latest e-newsletter to find out about all the exciting events I have coming up this fall.  (You can sign up for my mailing list to ensure that you'll never miss out on my beautiful, informative e-mails packed with gorgeous photos.)  My busy season is starting off with the Handmade & Bound book arts festival this weekend. I hope to see you there!

A sweet gray and yellow baby book

Handmade book with Japanese stab binding and floral print

If you've been looking around lately (hint, hint, on Pinterest) you're probably familiar with "grellow." That's the chic gray and yellow combination that's as popular in home decor as in fashion. This book takes that scheme and glams it up with silver accents in one of my favorite handmade papers.

Floral print paper handmade book

This baby book was made for a little girl named Zoe, and in my opinion, she has one of the prettiest baby books around.  The paper used for the covers was made in India from natural plant materials, and was printed with a yellow floral pattern.  Depending on the way the light hits the book, the silver outline around the flowers shimmers.  The hinged spine edge of the book is covered with a grey linen bookcloth that I made myself, and the book is sewn together with a sunshine yellow ribbon using the Japanese stab binding. 

Custom handmade baby book

I designed the pages of the book to coordinate with the yellow and gray color scheme, and handmade photo corners are attached to each photo spot so pictures can easily be added to the book.  There are pages for Zoe's parents to record all of the important details, starting with pregnancy memories and baby showers, and spanning through the delivery, her baptism, important milestones, and holidays. There are also pages for a family tree, for handprints and footprints, and for Zoe to write a message to the future on her fifth birthday. 

Handmade baby book

Handmade baby book family tree

Japanese stab binding with ribbon