Workshop: Making Small Books

A workshop on the art of making small books by Brazilian poet Italo Rovere

Weekend workshops are convenient and usually great fun. These quick classes are an easy means of learning something and meeting like-minded people. This Saturday, I enrolled for a bookbinding workshop, conducted by Italo Rovere, a Brazilian poet, artist, and traveler.

Bookbinding involves putting together stacks of paper sheets, either by sewing or gluing them together. Hand-made books are not as precise as the commercial machine-made ones. However, they have a unique charm to them. Bookmaking dates back to the Hindu palm-leaf inscriptions tied together to form a book.

Italo Rovere’s Journey

Making stationary is an art. And, Rovere is famous for his mini journals. He’s been making them for two decades. Equally fascinating, is his life story, of overcoming societal pressures and mental health issues through poetry and art. Twenty seven years ago, inspired by Mother Teresa, he traveled all the way to Kolkata to meet her.  A huge chunk of this journey was hitch hiking barefoot. His Facebook profile still lists Kolkata as his home.

There’s something freeing in traveling. Rovere, who’s always on-the-go, chooses to paint only when he’s in a positive mood. Hence, the use of bright color swirls I think. As expected, he was off to another country the very next day after our workshop.

Rovere started the session with a display of his works, including the very first poetry book he had made, a thumb-sized book of poems by Rumi, and several works of his students. He keeps these books in cardboard box decorated with an ‘I Love India’ sticker. This treasure box was filled an assortment of books in varying sizes. The most fascinating were the collection of poems, Yellow Touch, penned and illustrated.

Snapshot of the Bookbinding Process

The first step was to cut an A4 paper into 32 pieces and fold them in half. These were then bound using Fevicol. Once dry, we learnt how to cover the books. For practice, we made two additional books.

An effortless teacher, Rovere spent time showing each of us how to improve our work. He patiently guided the kids. There were a lots of mom and kid pairs, most children below 10. I felt this activity is suitable for slight older children, given the use of pen knives and the level of patience required.

The venue, Untitled Space, is a lovely terrace studio tucked away in a quiet by-lane of JP Nagar. The place retains an old Bangalore charm. This venture is run by Untitled Arts Foundation. The event was managed by Anuradha and her daughter; they were friendly, helpful, and accommodated a change of room as the workshop took longer than planned. Even their Dachshund pottered around us while we worked with paper and glue. Anuradha is the artistic director at Untitled Space and a core team member.

Italo’s spiritual outlook came across while he performed the demos. It seemed as if all the noise melted away while he folded the paper sheets.

Working with paper reminded me of Pondicherry, and I was tempted to make trip just to buy some fabulous Auroville handmade paper. It’s a good idea to recycle business cards, packaging material, envelopes, etc. for making the book covers.

The beauty of handmade books is in the level of precision. Sheets must be cut to the exact same size and neatly bound. This requires patience and a practiced hand.
Italo said, for him, this is the best therapy. One lady quipped, “Even after making books, our problems will still be there.” Italo smiled and responded, “Yah, but you’ll realize how small your problems are.” What a profound thought! It’s this meditative quality of art that makes it so therapeutic. Maybe that’s why, everyone left the workshop with a smile on their face.

Date: Sat Sep 09, 03:00 PM – 06:00 PM
Location: Untitled Space, JP Nagar
Cost: ₹ 600.00 per person

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