Stab Binding

Stab Binding Workshop

Japanese Stab Bound Book

In the wilderness of creativity, I explore many, many things, and sometimes I lose my way. The current show at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis fascinates me. Titled Living Proof: Drawing in 19th-Century Japan, it covers drawings and prints usually destroyed in the process of making various publications. Like any good institute, the Pulitzer hosts workshops and events that correspond or relate to the exhibitions in some way. I was keenly interested in this Japanese stab binding workshop.

Signing Up

I veer away from certain things for a myriad of reasons. Lately I actively combat that by swallowing these reasons and soldiering on. If anyone asks where I’ve been, I merely reply, “I’ve been traveling.” This isn’t entirely untrue. Anyway, I signed up late, got put on a waitlist, and showed up anyway. I didn’t feel like I quite fit in, but it came back to me as I looked over the supplies and various handouts.

prep work

Bookbinding team force assemble!


As I settled in with the other folks who signed up, Things began to surge back. I’d likened it to PTSD, but the trigger and coinciding memories were positive. Studying under a truly great and gifted mentor in college imparted to me such a fundamental approach to many things. I felt I was back in my classes with the ate Carl Kurtz.

I put my hand on the back of a clear folding chair. Sitting down at the white, plastic folding table, I picked up the supplied papers. The thin, delicate dryness of the rice paper felt crisp and homey. Running my hands over the the lined decorative paper, I breathed a sigh and formed a small smile. The waxed linen practice book cord also reminded me of care and detail as I let it caress my finger tips when it tangled around them.


practice book

A bit rough, but I got it

As the sensations of remembrance became commonplace, my muscle memory began to respond. These types of things trigger mentalities as much as motions. So it went: thread the needle, sew from the back, over the spine, back through the hole, up to the next hole, rinse, and repeat. So it followed: the clean white studio space, the rickety table, the shuffle of papers, and the dry, tense scrap of the thread through a hole. Thus followed: precision of the brain, emotions leveled to intellect, the care for detail for detail alone, but at the same time abundantly ware how this detail applies and is eventually lost to the whole.


When one travels as I have, one gains distance from oneself. One risks becoming lost or a stranger to oneself. One may even believe that self one was cannot be retrieved. I realized this was not the case, after worrying for, well, awhile. The workshop was great, if a bit rushed, and everything was supplied for us. I’m not sure some of the university students/professors selected to work with us were very prepared. this was perhaps due to the original instructor became ill or something (we weren’t informed as to why).

All this leads to skills, abilities and intellectual spaces I had not dwelled in for awhile. I considered them foreign to me, like I wasn’t welcome back to them. This has changed, and through these various ventures I realize my resolve to return to a truer self increases. Last of all, it’s fun.

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