Jonna Twigg's bookbinding kits help create a space to dream
Paper, thread, needles and sometimes leather: These are the simple tools that Jonna Twigg uses to create her unique handmade books.
Twigg started her bookbinding business, Twigg’s Bindery, while living in Brooklyn, New York, and working as a paper preparator and conservation technician for museums such as the Guggenheim and the 9/11 Memorial. While her day job was about preserving the work of others, Twigg began making books as an outlet for her own creative impulses. This brought her focus on paper full circle, giving her clients the opportunity to create their own works of art on Twigg’s carefully bound pages.
Since returning to her hometown of Columbus, Twigg’s bindery business has been on the backburner, but her work as an artist continues to pull her in exciting directions. Most recently, Twigg was one of four named to a new Community Artist Group at the Wexner Center. In this role, she’s looking for ways that art can help people connect, especially during this time when they are physically distant. One of the solutions she came up with was to create book kits for people to learn the craft of bookbinding at home.
Although stitching pages together may sound like a solitary pursuit, Twigg has always found camaraderie in bookbinding, even in the days before connecting over Zoom. “What I liked about it was it allowed me to collaborate with other people, galleries, artists, make sketchbooks for people, and then ultimately gifts,” she said of the early days of her business. The way she’s adapted the artform for the COVID-era is in keeping with this tradition. “I actually think the kits are a really interesting community building tool.”
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Originally conceived as part of the Wex’sPages program for high school students, binding your own book is in many ways the perfect project for our remote era. “In a distanced learning environment, these kits will play a role in binding the class together and give them a shared, tactile experience,” Twigg said. But she imagines them being used in the community, as well, suggesting that a Zoom bookbinding party could be a fun and safe way to gather with friends this fall.
Twigg’s DIY books are just one way that the Wex is adapting its programming to our current world. More than offering virtual opportunities for connection, Twigg said the museum is also being intentional about its vendors. When it came time to purchase blank books for Pages, the museum chose to approach Twigg directly rather than buying them pre-assembled from a larger national brand.
“That’s a really interesting illustration of some of the new value propositions, I think, that are coming out of this time,” Twigg said. “It’s like, you’re paying more, but what are you getting for that dollar? … What does that mean for the institution, for the children, the vendor, et cetera, et cetera?”
For her part, Twigg is planning to use her platform at the Wex to engage directly with the community. “I’m gonna do Zoom workshops throughout the Pages experience and be there when they’re binding their books,” said Twigg, who also plans to open each session alongside the teaching artist. She’s also planning “office hours” as part of the residency. “It will be an hour long and anyone is welcome to hop on. … I will plan to spend my time in the studio sewing a book or two, waiting for folks to drop in."
Twigg encourages anyone who’s interested to give it a try, and to not be intimidated by the possibility of making mistakes. “This is how we learn,” she said. “As people are coming together and binding a simple book, they're also creating space for themselves and those they care about to ... imagine, reflect, plan, heal, process or dream.”
During these challenging times, we could all use that space.
Twigg will hold office hours through the Wex at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 30 via Zoom. Follow her on instagram @twiggsbindery and visit twiggsbindery.com to purchase a book kit.