Jobs They Love: Bookbinder
Updated: Apr 4
Lucky are they who look forward to Mondays with joy in their hearts! Meet the folks whose talents and passions are happily matched to the jobs they have.
In fairytales, when a long-lost book of magic spells or celestial secrets is discovered, the precious object is always an enchanting wonder to behold, with gorgeous bindings and marvelous page designs inside. Such are the treasures lovingly fabricated and bound by artisanal bookbinder Anna Hollingworth in her LeximbueJournals studio, for use as very special personal journals in real life.
Hollingworth’s one-of-a-kind works are exquisite journals designed in Medieval and nostalgic styles – “The Bard,” “Arthurian Journal,” “Lady of the Lake,” and so on. Most are ornamented with satin ribbons, secret pockets, handmade papers and tipped-in old maps, photos or found objects that enhance the journals’ themes. These are beautiful collector’s items meant to be used and cherished by their owners for many years to come.
What was your very best-loved book as a child?
My favorite book as a child was a compilation of “Grimms’ Fairy Tales,” a wonderful vintage edition with the most amazing illustrations.
How did you get started designing and binding journals?
I started my self-employed career as a writer after I had my kids. I published two novels in Greek. I have an unpublished one still waiting! The general climate of publishing though, put me off from continuing with that.
I happened upon a YouTube video of a creative bookbinder and I was enraptured by the idea of being able to create my own journals. It took me a few weeks before I decided to take an online course and get started.
Where do you get your inspirations?
Art, historical personalities, poets, the Arthurian times, and Dark Ages, myths, legends, fairy tales, and anything fantastical have always captured my imagination.
I studied the Dark Ages at Glasgow University and even the setting of the main campus – founded in 1451 – was inspiring to me. My background in Medieval studies, a period in history that was characterized by myth as much as colorful legends was very inspiring.
Every so often I visit galleries and museums here in London or when I am traveling. I have had so much inspiration from wandering inside the Prado, the Metropolitan Museum, looking in detail at the depth of the colors in El Greco paintings in Toledo, studying fabrics in the V&A, and walking around Rome through the night so that I could observe the ancient architecture in the shadows. I have always been drawn to details and that is what I like to do in my journals. Pay attention to minor things that will catch the eye and create inspiration for the person who is using it. Art is a live energy that flows.
While I am planning and creating a journal, I am envisioning my next project. While I am researching a topic that interests me and in the process, I often come upon another theme. It happens as a natural process.
Have you ever held any of your journals back from sale because you couldn’t part with it?
I have never held back a journal from sale. All the journals that I create are journals that I would love to own. They are parts of me, waiting to be adopted and developed by someone else.
Every time I finish making a journal, I think I would love to recreate it for myself. But there is that other one out there that is waiting in the queue, so I have to put it off.
What’s your favorite time of day to work in your studio?
I am in my studio from morning until late afternoon. I take a break for an hourly walk in the fields on the back of our house in the middle of the day. Even then, I miss being in my own creative environment.
I have never been a morning person. But this type of work requires natural light so the best time for me is daytime. However, I love researching and decorating the journals in the afternoons and early evenings. That is my favorite part.
I very often find myself sewing signatures in my dreams. It is a soothing activity, and it is the final part in the creation of a journal.
Do you keep a journal?
I have been keeping a journal on and off since I was 8 years old. It has been a routine that has helped me keep my sanity and constantly uplifted my spirits. I am a firm believer that writing one’s thoughts down on paper is the best form of release.
Through the years, I have always wanted to make for myself the ultimate journal. A book that I could put together, decorate and bind.
Your studio is fittingly located in Sunbury-on-Thames, a historic village southwest of London which boasts its own commemorative tapestry. Were you involved in that project?
Sunbury-on-Thames is a delightful village. We moved here eight years ago from Richmond which is not that far away. We are close to Kingston, a Medieval market town. So, the location is very inspiring.
What I love most in this area is the Thames Water site with gorgeous Victorian, recently renovated buildings.
Sunbury features its own little gallery situated inside the Secret Gardens. The tapestry is in there. I was not involved in the creation of this tapestry in 2000 but we have a print in our house. It is a brilliant piece of work and the locals are immensely proud of it.