Durham man keeps bookbinding trade alive
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It was a desire to turn thoughts and musings into a keepsake that set Michael Greer on a path that resulted in him finding his life’s work.
"Just seeing some sheets of paper turned into something tangible like this, that was, that's where it all began,” said Greer from Leatherbound Book Works.
Intrigued by the process that transformed his writing into a cherished book, Greer set out to learn the bookbinding trade.
He served as an apprentice under a master binder in Morocco for nine months, gaining enough knowledge to open his own business back in the states.
"It combines working with books and, and ideas, somehow, with working with your hands, and I like the combination,” said Greer.
Now in the basement of his Durham home, he plies his trade.
The work is varies from a repair job on a 1754 book about leaves to this small project to turn poems from a soldier serving in Afghanistan into a treasure for his sweetheart.
“To make something that really is like an heirloom object, for somebody else, is pretty neat,” said Greer.
This vocation takes patience and involves working with leather until it has just the right feel.
"Early, early, early bookbinders sacrificed function for looks,” he said.
Greer uses thicker leather for increased durability but is intent on the finished product being elegant.
"It doesn't look clunky, but I am striving to, to balance the function and the appearance of it,” said Greer.
Leatherbound Book Works came into being just as many people were finding that they preferred using electronic readers.
"A friend of mine who owns a bookstore locally just said, 'oh, another, another sucker in the book trade,'” said Greer.
For a number of reasons though, he expresses optimism for his chances of staying relevant.
"I don't feel that is a threat to what I do, because there are still many people who want the tactile feeling of a book,” said Greer.
At one time, Greer was an English teacher. He then became a student of bookbinding techniques.
Someday, he sees himself taking on an apprentice of his own to pass on what he has learned and keep this trade alive for another generation.
“The passion and love I'm gonna have as I begin to teach this skill to other people, is just gonna be so much greater than my experience teaching English was,” said Greer.