BOOK ‘EM! Provo’s Artisan Bookbinder
by Ted Scheffler
Amanda Stokes, founder and owner of Provo-based Tightly Bound Books, has been a bookbinder for 12 years, restoring old volumes and Bibles. She says that “When I began renting my first studio, I was inspired by the other artists surrounding me to begin the creative avenue of my business.”
What is her business? Well, Amanda hand binds unique leather journals, sketchbooks and artists books, themed with travel and adventure, artistic, and nature themes. “We love customizing paper to an artist’s medium, or personalizing a journal for a Missionary or loved one’s gift,” she says, adding “At most of our local events [such as the Made in Utah Festival], we bring make-and-take materials with us so that you can sit down on-the-spot and be walked through making a journal of your own to personalize and take home.”
Inspiration from those around her helped prompt Stokes to create Tightly Bound Books: “When I started to talk to people about my business of book binding, I would see a glimmer in their eyes. They thought what I did was intriguing and many people would ask if I taught classes, or how they could possibly get involved in this unique art. I still see that glimmer when I tell people I will walk them through sewing and personalizing a journal or sketchbook, and it’s what keeps me going!”
Describing her niche in the marketplace, Stokes says “We pride ourselves in customizing high quality journals for individuals and making unique, often one-of-a-kind bindings that you won’t see anywhere else. We also strive to equip people with the ability and joy of getting involved in the craft by teaching the consumer how to refill them with a common book arts stitch.”
She works with local graphic artists to bring a line of Utah images laser etched onto her covers, including tracings of Mount Timpanogos, Mount Nebo, and other uniquely Utahn images.
For now, the website TightlyBoundBooks.com is the best way to find out where Amanda will be appearing with her products. Ultimately, she hopes to have a storefront, “chock full of beautiful leathers, unique paper, and charms to fuel creativity. It would be a make-and-take space available for the public to stop in with friends or parties and make a journal or sketchbook on their schedule,” she says.
As with most business enterprises, they aren’t created alone. Stokes credits the support of her good friend Julia Stanley, who “worked through and advised me on so many aspects and pains of being a business owner on top of teaching me book binding. I am forever in her debt,” she says, also giving props to “Lifelong, renowned artist Christy Ann Skuban, and the entire crew of The Artisan Forge Studios in my home town of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, were so incredibly encouraging and supportive of me branching beyond book repair and into the journals when I joined their awesome community. Without their constant praise and specific help in where to go and how to get there, I wouldn’t be here.”
As for mentoring others thinking of embarking on a similar venture to Stokes’, she advises: “Just jump in! If you have a talent or skill set, don’t hesitate to get yourself out there right away. You will always be learning and changing and growing, so don’t be afraid to start at the very beginning. Find a mentor and always be asking questions to everyone around you. Be a student of business and of your art. You will need both equally!”