This is question that has come pouring in from friends and relatives ever since we announced our plan to shift to full-time RV living. People who love me and who don’t want me to lose this right-livelihood craft work are asking how I will fit presses, papers, tools and equipment into the RV and outdoor living that is ahead.
The short answer is: I do not know. I keep envisioning possibilities from outdoor canopy space to shared space in an art coop to letting it go entirely. So, I do not know if, where and how it may find its place in the next phase of my life.
What I do know is that I enjoy bookbinding and repair work. It was a life-saving discovery for me when I let go of the identity and role of being a full-time Zen Center guide. Since my childhood, I had carried the “Teacher” self-image and though it had gone through a number of adaptations through the years, I held that as a core understanding of what I had to offer in the world. When it fell away, there was a huge gap and I was delighted when the art and creativity of making and restoring books emerged as a next step. It was a wonderful place to put my time and energy. In providing that bookbinding has already fulfilled a vital role in my life.
Over the past 7-8 years, I have invested both financially and physically in taking training in bookbinding and repair; equipping a studio with tools and supplies for various projects; and developing a craft fair booth design to enhance NW Bookbinding/ Cherished Books. I have even gathered a small handful of investors who have added their financial support to the business.
While in the early years, I did quite well binding Bill’s Tao books, (great success with The Parent’s Tao Te Ching and Sage’s Tao Te Ching), more recent years have brought less financial return. I have continued to do hand bound gift editions of Bill’s Tao books, and this year added three books in the public domain to the list. (You can see all available title at NW Cherished Books ). Journals have sold moderately well at many craft fairs. The repair business has been steady and incredibly interesting through the years. Yet, whether due to my lack of determination and drive, (craftspeople have to work extremely hard to make a living wage) or the diminishing interest in journals and books, NW Bookbinding has been a minimal success. Big expenses of equipment and training have added to our debt and the moderate income each year barely meets the ongoing expense of materials. Yet, shifted to the smaller scale of our more simple life, it may be one of those little creeks of income flow that will nurture us. Who knows?
More important to those who are asking: Bookbinding is not a core identity for me. I enjoy the work and will continue it if I have the opportunity, but I will not feel diminished in any way if it does not fit with this next phase of my life. When I envision living “in deep connection with the Earth and for the benefit of all beings,” the bookbinding area is not something that first comes into focus. Being willing to let it go may open the way for it to find a new form, or it may just be another enjoyable chapter of my life that weighs too much to carry forward with me.
In the meantime, there are craft fairs coming up this fall to prepare for. Just this week, I entered an arrangement with the owner of a Gift shop in McCloud to sell journals, books and art pads on consignment in her store. Basically, I handed over 2/3 of my stock and will be spending a good bit of time in the studio to have a good selection for the Apple Harvest Festival in mid-October. For now, I remain a bookbinder and repair person and will be working to use up as many of my papers and other materials as I can in the coming months.