Bookbinding experiencing a resurgence in Saskatchewan

Bookbinding experiencing a resurgence in Saskatchewan

Made to Last is a series of profiles of Regina-based artisans who have a passion and talent for hands-on jobs creating or repairing unique, high-quality pieces that require time and personal care. These arts stand to be lost in the age of mass production and planned obsolescence.

Robin Canham’s fingers deftly weave a needle and thread into a stack of folded papers to stitch them together. She’s a bookworm who’s building her own book.  

Canham learned bookbinding 15 years ago after attending a “Friday night without a date” event at a bookbindery in Toronto. 

“I just got hooked at that bookshop,” she said. 

Engaging in a craft that’s more than a thousand years old is “mind-blowing” for Canham.

“I’ve always had a love of arts and crafts; I’m a librarian by day, so I think that probably says something about me.” 

Canham does her bookbinding work out of a studio in her home. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

In her digital resources librarian role, she values and understands the need for information to be available and accessible online, but she still has a penchant for paper. 

She’s currently working on a rounded spine book, as well as trying to complete books from Keith Smith’s Non-Adhesive Binding, which features different designs for creating books without using any glues.

Many of the books she’s made document her personal travels, things she wants to remember for a long time, or other information she values.

Canham said the art of bookmaking has started making a bit of a resurgence of sorts over the last five to 10 years in Saskatchewan. 

She thinks that’s due to people’s desire to create something original, particularly in terms of books or journals, which are typically mass-produced. 

“It’s nice to take pride in something that you’ve done and you’ve created, some type of beautiful thing that you’ve brought into the world,” Canham said.

Many of the tools Canham uses aren’t unique or special to bookbinding. The only exception would be a paper-knife (not pictured), but even that can be replaced by any thin blade. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

She said bookbinding and book artistry are areas that capture the interest of people from a wide variety of backgrounds, from photographers looking to create custom albums, to calligraphers looking for a medium to showcase their work.

She said members of Saskatchewan’s chapter of the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild have had success in referring photographers, textile workers, artists and other creative people to their peers for guidance. She identified Lumsden as one area of the province where a number of skilled bookbinders and book artists can be found.

Canham says the provincial bookbinding guild is looking at the possibility of setting up a booth at next year’s Cathedral Village Arts Festival as a way to attract new members to the group. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

She said the bookbinding community is ready and willing to share their knowledge with anyone who comes calling. Guild members attend workshops to share their knowledge with their peers. 

“When I first started you’d have to actually leave, or you’d have to bring in somebody from elsewhere in order to get that new knowledge or get those new skills transferred,” she said. 

“We’ve got a very strong knowledge base here. We’re very, very lucky to have a lot of the bookbinders and book artists here in Saskatchewan and be able to share their knowledge with everyone.” 

Anything between two covers qualifies as a book, according to Canham, who has a wide collection of oddities that have been turned into books. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)


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