Out of all of my classes, bookbinding is perhaps the most unique one, if not my favorite. It is held in a workshop and store, and I feel as though I am an apprentice, among papers, leathers, brushes, inks, tools and presses. There is a tabby cat who likes to sniff my shoes (and I let her even though I am allergic) and a beautiful garden with fruit and olive oil trees and chili plants overlooking the old hospital and valley. I always wanted to learn bookbinding— perhaps it is because I love books and empty, pretty journals, or maybe it was because of the book, Inkheart, I read as a child. But out of all of my classes, this was the one I was most excited for. My teacher, Piergiorgio, has been a calligrapher and book binder and restorer for many years. I could tell on the very first lesson that he was part of the community because many locals came by to greet him, invite him for coffee, and talk about the current news. Born in Lucca but raised in Siena, and now living right outside of it and working at this workshop. As one of the students who doesn’t live inside the walls, this little window into the Sienese community is a valued one.
I spend about 4-5 hours here each lesson, twice a week, but I feel as though I could go on for many hours more. Bookbinding has many steps but each keep me focused and relaxed- almost like meditating. But the end result fills me with contentment and the meticulous steps become worth it. I hope that once I’m back in the U.S. I can continue making books, creating new designs.
Bookbinding is probably my favorite activity in Siena. I have met people I wouldn’t have met, learned new and useful skills, and seen things I wouldn’t have seen. Before, because I don’t live in the city, I still felt a bit outside of the community, but after bookbinding for a bit, now, I do.
Siena Art Institute student