What do a Cheez-It box, a paper bag and a “Reader’s Digest” book have in common? An opportunity to create a new book, at least for Bess Ratsimbaharison.
When inspiration strikes or a request is made, Ratsimbaharison takes out her tools and starts away at the craft she’s been doing since her undergraduate days – book binding.
On Saturday, she will teach this craft at the Aiken Center for the Arts. The class will focus on something she particularly favors within book binding – using recycled materials.
“I just do with what I have because it’s a lot easier and cost effective,” she said.
She favors recycled paper because she likes the way it looks. One thing she uses is paper bags. Her friends will save their bags for her. Then, she will take the bags and iron them out for future material.
Another thing she will do is take old “Reader’s Digest” books and replace their pages. One example is the Bible she carries around. She has made so many different books, she has lost count.
She also makes books for her friends.
“I had a friend obsessed with Cheez-It, so I made a book out of a Cheez-It box,” she said.
She’s currently working on a guest book for her friend’s wedding.
There’s no limit how to big or thick the book can be.
“It’s totally endless possibilities,” she said. “You just have to have the patience to stitch the pages in.”
How Ratsimbaharison starts is with a book block – the book itself.
Basically, you take four to five pages and, then, fold and put them together in signatures, or sections. Keep doing this, until all the pages are put together. For this, you can use whatever paper you wish. However, you might not want to go too thin, Ratsimbaharison advises, because it could make the process a bit difficult.
Then you take a tool called the awl to poke holes in the crease. This is to set up stitching the pages together.
The binding material is up to the person. What Ratsimbaharison uses is embroidery floss ran through beeswax. The wax is important for texture and to make the material stick. There is book binding thread that is already pre-waxed, Ratsimbaharison said.
Next, take a book binding needle, basically a long sewing needle, loop the thread in and start sewing.
You sew one section together, and then attach each section until complete.
How you do the cover and what you use is up to you, as well. Ratsimbaharison often uses mat boards, rubber cement and flexible paper.
She glues the paper down onto the mat board. The paper is a half-inch larger than the board. You fold the edges over the board, “like a present.” Once the paper is dried on, it can be glued onto the inside pages of the book block.
This will give you the final product.
Ratsimbaharison majored in textile design at Savannah College Art and Design. It was there that she picked up book binding.
Through her experiences teaching others, she has found there hasn’t been many problems.
As long as they are a bit “crafty,” people should be able to pick it up, she said.
Currently, Ratsimbaharison lives with her husband and their dog, Louis. Both she and her husband work with the ministry Young Life.
Her book binding class is $40 and will be at 10 a.m. The ACA front desk has a supply list, though Ratsimbaharison does ask people to bring their own paper.
The ACA is at 122 Laurens St.
For more information, call 803-641-9094 or visit www.aikencenterforthearts.org.
Submitted Photo Some of Bess Ratsimbaharison's creations.×
Staff Photo by Stephanie Turner Bess Ratsimbaharison prepares the cover for her book.×
Staff Photo by Stephanie Turner Bess Ratsimbaharison examines her finished product. She said she prefers external stitching, because you are able to see the binding.×