Sunday, August 29, 2010

Papers, Notebooks and Memories

Back when I was a school girl, summer vacations began and ended with bookbinding. At the beginning of summer, my father would handsew tons of pamphlet journals for us to practice our handwriting and write "dictionary meaning" (which was looking up meaning for words in Tamil-to- English and English-to-Tamil dictionaries). We spent the last week of summer, before school opened, covering our brand new textbooks and notebooks with crisp brown kraft paper. We would cut the paper using an old razor blade (neither my father nor my mother would part with their scissors) and glue the covers with homemade rice starch. And then, we would carefully write our name,-- in cursive of course, that was whole point of practicing handwriting--class and the room number. Oh, what fun it was! More fun than the school itself. Interestingly, we were never allowed to decorate the covers which was seen as frivolous and would garner a good scolding not only from the parents but also from the teachers.

My father passed away eleven years ago and my mother just recently. And, I find myself cutting, pasting, sewing and binding notebooks and journals once again. I have also resumed my teaching. There is something deeply meditative about bookmaking--as one immerses oneself in carefully measuring, aligning, punching, cutting, sewing and gluing, one enters into a zone of deep silence, just the hands and the papers moving together in quiet harmony. During these moments, I find myself doing a lot of thinking not just about my parents, but also about the course materials, the syllabus and the students.

With the amount of junkmail that I get at home and at work, there is never any shortage of materials for making journals and notebooks.  The one above and below are some of the mini journals I made using junk mail, brown paper bags, unused papers, notepads etc.

This one below is more than six years old. My daughter bought it in Rajastan, India way back in 2004. The cover is made of camel leather and embossed appropriately with an image of a camel. It is handsewn and has held up quite well even after so many years.

Below is a stash of repurposed notepads as bookboards, handsewn signature--all ready to be transformed into a notebook or a journal.



  1. I love this blog post Indira. It reminds me of making the same book covers from brown paper bags too - and we didn't decorate them either! Maybe thats why we love to embellish everything now!

  2. Very nice, Indira, must bring back many fond memories for you. I love the texture you added to the brown paper! And I love that you utilized that normally irritating junk mail, brings a whole new life and purpose to it!

  3. Beautiful journals, Indira! You've inspired me to dig out my journaling books and supplies again.

  4. I love this blog, and the pictures of the journals are fabulous. I remember covering school books with brown paper bags, but that's as far as it went for me. I love what you do with yours.


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