Kris Stewart’s Scroll & Ink bookbinding studio is located on the third floor of her 1890s brick Victorian home in Old Louisville. Here, up among the treetops, she cuts, folds, assembles, glues, and stitches to create her blank journals and albums. She has been creating handbound books for over 20 years. She is a juried member of the Louisville Artisans Guild. You can see her work here.
How were you introduced to bookbinding?
I took a beginning bookbinding workshop at a scrapbooking store when we were living in Portland, Oregon. It was a three-hour class, and I was completely and totally hooked. We learned three simple techniques, and I bought a book (Making Books by Hand by Mary McCarthy and Philip Manna) after the class and worked my way through it.
Describe your studio.
It is about 200 square feet. I have a 6-by-3-foot work table in the middle. There are various utility tables around the room — a shipping station, a photo studio, storage, book press, and my desk.
What part of the process do you like best?
Designing a new product and coming up with creative solutions. My most recent bookbinding project was creating a refillable leather journal. I came up with six or seven prototypes before I found the one that I liked. And, most days I enjoy the repetitive nature of the work.
A fear that you had to overcome?
Speaking in public. Last year I had a 5-minute presentation to make for the Support Women Artists Now event, and I have had to do live on-camera interviews. That was big for me.
Do you teach?
I am registered with Airbnb Experience meant for travelers. I can take two to three people in the studio per class. I’ve been doing that since January 2019. The classes were doing very well until the COVID-19 shutdown.
Where do you seek inspiration?
I have a library of 15 or so bookbinding books. I turn to favorite books for instructions on certain bindings and for inspiration and ideas. I’m inspired by the landscape that I see from my studio — the patterns and textures and colors — and try and incorporate them into my work. I like playing with the juxtaposition of different materials — cloth and leather.
Three years ago my husband and I were at Mellwood Antiques and turned the corner and there was a book press with a 20 percent off tag on it. I said, “That’s mine!” It’s attached to a sewing machine stand, is very heavy, and it was quite a job getting it up the stairs and into the studio.
Best bookbinding advice?
Don’t thread the needle, needle the thread.
Advice for others starting out?
Get a mentor who is strong in areas you’re not. When I started thinking about selling my work, I contacted an artist friend who was already selling online, and I picked her brain over a couple of lunches. That saved me so much time and money. I was getting answers before I set up my business, so I set it up right the first time.
WRITTEN BY LUCY M. PRITCHETT
PHOTOS BY JD STEWART