Last weekend another Singapore-based writer, editor and book-artist Pooja Makhijani ran a hardcover book-binding workshop at The Arts House. I met Pooja recently at a writer’s event and was really pleased to take part in the workshop. Over two days, we learned how to make a strong structure for a hardback book, bound the pages by hand using specialist, organic, acid free materials, and also crafted the hard cover from scratch. Pooja brought the materials and instructed us firmly but encouragingly on the practical details of the craft. I was really excited to be there, as I have much inclination for craft but very few specialist skills. I came away feeling like I could make something strong and durable. Look out for Pooja’s workshops in Singapore, and check out her blog here.
I am interested in this field for a number of reasons. Firstly, while I appreciate the sustainability issue regarding craft work (use of paper vs interweb), it still satisfies me to connect with the tangible, especially in terms of personalised items. I grew up making cards, birthday presents, mixtapes, read: TAPES, and come from a partial lineage of stout Dutch women who made all the family clothes, cooked up jams, baked bread, crocheted, darned, and generally did not buy anything of they could make it. I still am resistant to buying clothes or even eating out at places if I feel I could do it myself. As they said multiple times on slightly slapdash British- Asian comedy Goodness Gracious Me, ‘ I can make it at home for nothing‘.Considering my time here has enabled me to engage more deeply with environmental issues and sustainability, I feel there are additional reasons why self-making crafts could have more space made for them. If I buy an notebook at a stationary shop, how far has it travelled to get to me? I acknowledge that making one notebook is hardly a revolution, but it does bring up questions for me about how I spend my time and how much I take for granted in the resources around me. My grandmother and great grandmother made all their clothes because it was cheaper that way- and they fit, lasted, and carried a value that belied the constant turnover of clothing that we have now in affluent societies. I’d be interested to see who else is practicing forgotten skills, and will definitely seek out other opportunities to develop the skills I learned at Pooja’s workshop, for my own practice, and to pass on to others.