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September 13, 2023
From a chance encounter with a library book that changed the course of her working life, to her largest commission to date for an impressive reproduction Roman villa at The Newt in Somerset, Dorset bookbinder Susan Green has been looking over the past 15 years as a maker and small business owner. She says her career to date has been full of "unexpected surprises and steep learning curves".
Susan makes new, blank books including artist's sketchbooks, wedding guest books and scrapbooks, the latter she calls 'Memory Books'. She counts high profile brands and professional creatives amongst her clients, as well as thousands of ordinary people marking significant life events or using her books for writing or their creative practice.
A leather bound scrapbook - aka Memory Book - bound in the 15th century Longstitch with Linkstitch binding style, which allows the book to lie open on a table.
It all started in 2008 when, in a bright yellow spare bedroom, Susan turned a hobby into a job with just a few tools, lots of reference books, an Etsy shop and a Twitter account. After a few years she moved to a professional space within a friend's graphic design studio, and during covid she moved to her permanent creative home, the studio at the end of her garden in Dorset, which she affectionally calls 'the cabin'.
A mid-career high point was having her work recommended by 'Dragon' Deborah Meaden in her '12 Tweets of Christmas'. More recently, Susan was delighted to be selected for membership of the Crafts Council Directory, and Find A Maker by Craft Festival. Her work is often featured in the press, including Country Living and Coast magazines, The Sunday Telegraph and the Guardian, as well as publications including British Artist Book Makers (BCF Books, 2015) and Villa Ventorum: A Roman Estate Reimagined (The Newt in Somerset, 2022)
Despite success in these areas, Susan says that the best thing about the past 15 years in business has been the people she has encountered. Being commissioned to make books for her customers' own creative practices, as well as their significant life events: engagements, weddings and anniversaries, retirements and memorial services, has led to many interesting conversations. She reflects:
"It's a real act of trust when someone comes to me and shares their emotions, memories and financial resources, and then has to wait for an outcome in book form, trusting it will be what they imagined, and that it arrives in time and in perfect condition after travelling through the post and often through multiple international postal services. I appreciate that trust and I hope I always do my customers proud with the books I make and the way I communicate with them".
As well as making books, Susan has found fulfilment running workshops to share the bookbinding knowledge, skills and techniques she has gathered along the way. As a largely self-taught maker, Susan has a unique perspective into the challenges of learning a new skill and likes to provide a supportive and enthusiastic space for learners. Although she does not teach at present, Susan does share her expertise in one-to-one online mentoring sessions for creatives who want to extend their existing practice into the exciting world of book forms.
Whilst she feels she has learned a lot - not just about materials, binding styles and bookbinding techniques - but also about how to run a successful business, Susan feels she has only really just begun to get into the swing of things. She is aware of the richness of her chosen creative practice and how much there is still to learn and master. Susan says:
"as well as undertaking training in specific areas of binding, I am particularly keen to extend my existing work into prop making for film and television, as well as collaborate with creatives in other disciplines".
To find out more about BOUND, Susan's books and her mentoring service, visit www.boundbyhand.co.uk
Since 2008 Dorset bookbinder Susan Green has combined the finest materials with historical and contemporary bookbinding styles to create new, blank books for creatives, romantics and nostalgics. She does not rebind existing books.
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