Based on Waiheke Island, bibliophile Louise Thompson is the steady hand and practiced eye behind the gorgeous journals and photographic prints of Bibliographica. Highly crafted and characterised by a close attention to detail, Louise’s work has an ethereal quality worthy of becoming an heirloom.
What do you make?
I make journals, books and sketchbooks by hand, and use predominantly recycled materials to do so. Everything is made by me, and is unique – I’ll never repeat the same journal twice although I could attempt something similar. I also sell my photographic prints which are botanical collages created from macro photographs of NZ flora and fauna.
How did you get into your craft?
I have kept a diary / journal since I was 12 years old. I always wrote in fine black ink, until I discovered the 0.05 Staedtler pen, as I am left handed and it doesn’t leave a smudge. If I liked my journal a lot I would make my writing ridiculously small towards the end so I could prolong its life; all the words would be squashed together. I made my first book when I was about 19; it was a coptic binding with vintage postage stamps on the panels.
I was studying photography at the time and took an elective in book arts. Over the next several years I pursued bookbinding by hobby, often studying the way my bought journals had been made. I found over that time that I wanted a particular kind of journal; an old worn looking leather one. I always felt very inspired when I came across something like this, I just wanted to write and never stop. I found my Staedtler pen only looked and felt really wonderful on particular papers, so my search for this perfect journal became sort of a habit. Even when I didn’t need one, I would seek them out, just to hold them.
I didn’t sell my first one for another year as I had trouble parting with them. Often they became gifts, or houses to store my photographs. I started selling them at markets before I began selling online.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
It was while I was studying for my Honours Degree in Photography that I took a couple of evening classes in Bookbinding which really got me going. I took to it like a sponge and became addicted to making books. Other than that I am self taught. I have studied an actual binding, and taken books apart solely to put them back together again to figure out how they were made. I have read a lot of books about making books. Hands down bibliophile!
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
Materials: soft worn leather, my awls, good steel rulers, black staedtler pen with a 0.05 tip, pails of cool tea, lots of time and good music. All this put together is bliss. I love to coptic bind, I think it’s a beautiful timeless style. The plaited stitching is very inspiring for me.
I love the fact that it’s such an ancient process yet has remained unchanged through the years. I feel quite moved by that.
What inspires you?
Music, antiques, old books, illustrative art, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, street photography; particularly that of old Paris by Eugene Atget or Henri Cartier-Bresson; botanical photography by Karl Blossfeldt, bric-a-brac stores, flea markets, crazy cultural busy cities as much as wild barren coastlines void of people, being caught out in whistling stormy wind.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
That something is never really complete. That is can keep on creating, as I make something for someone to add to. I love this.
Describe your workspace:
My studio is cluttered, beautiful, haphazard, inspiring, cramped and breezy, with big windows and a view of the ocean. In summer I managed to reach out the window and pick a plum off my tree. I’ve got a workbench (that was once my dining table), a desk with my computer, scanner and printer on it, lots of cupboards and shelving (full of books!), my beautiful olde green book press on a chair, a gorgeous wooden sewing frame, also an old leather case full of leather! There is also my treadmill in here – so very cramped.
I feel very grateful for what I have as I used to live in very compact, dark damp apartments underneath houses. While at University in Sydney I had a tiny apartment with barred windows and a view of the footpath. I crammed everything into a space that is now the size of my studio and kitchen combined!
Five words that describe your mind: Stirred. Inspired. Open. Creative. Grateful.
What are you currently listening to?
My music tastes vary a lot. I am still listening to Antony & The Johnsons a lot, I love Antony’s mournful piercing voice. I have also been revisiting some old CDs I have, which are great for background music, such as Nawang Kechong, he is a Tibetan flute player. I just leave it on repeat and go about my work. Between that I like National Radio!
Recommend an album: Antony & The Johnsons – self titled album.
Your favourite childhood book? The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
What are you reading now?
I recently finished reading Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, which was very inspiring and I am pleased that someone can verbalize what I often think about. Right now I am finishing Ravi Shankar’s autobiography Raga Mala which is a truly wonderful life story that I recommend. He has a gorgeous sense of humour.
Your hero/heroine: Henri Cartier-Bresson, for opening my photographic eyes.
A favourite quote: Everything changes, everything returns.
Do you have any pets?
I have one pet, Jojo, a 13 year old tortoiseshell cat who I adopted 18 months ago. She dribbles and steals my bed space but I love her. I also have my plant boxes growing mesculan and two house plants.
If you were a crayon, what colour would you be?
I don’t think my colour would be there, I would have to mix it up with other crayons and steal some glitter, with which I would make electric blue.
Louise has a wealth of beautiful creations available from her Felt shop, Bibliographica. She’s a familiar face at Ostend Market on Waiheke Island every Saturday morning, and will be making her Kraftbomb debut on Sunday 25 April, so if you’re in Auckland, head along to Grey Lynn Community Centre from 11am till 2pm and say hello!