Why do you choose to make books by hand, when they can be produced so cheaply and easily by others?
I started as a reader, then a student of literature, a librarian, and now a bookbinder. Just a logical progression. Really it is just like someone with a love of fine wine who decides to learn how it is made, cultivates a vineyard, and sets up a winery - all for the love of tasting a fine wine.
I enjoy making books. I enjoy designing books and selecting papers and colours and planning the closures or embellishments, etc. It is a process that is very satisfying for me because the result is always a book, and I love books!
I am not much of a writer, though. I use some of the books I've made, but it pleases me more to know that someone else who loves to write has one of my books and is using it. I want the books to be used. Many of my buyers contact me to tell me what they are using the book for, or why they need it, or how much they like writing in it, etc. and that makes me happy. I like knowing that those books have found good homes.
Do you feel that people desire unique hand crafted items such as handbound books, more because of our mass produced culture?
When mass produced items imitate an object that was created as a unique art piece, the value of the original piece is lessened. Particularly when that original art object did not establish its presence in the art world prior to its mass duplication, so nobody became aware of it. Everyone has seen the duplicates and gives no thought to the possibility that there was once a single original art object from which all the duplicates have been derived. So even if the original is encountered, there is no recognition of it as an original piece of art. Everyone has one like it, we all know what it looks like, seeing the original is just the same as seeing the mass-produced item that I have placed on the mantel or thrown in my backpack. So the original has no special value in that case.
So, yes, the people who desire to have real original art objects need to look harder to find unique items that haven't been copied or imitated. The true unique original art object is scarce.
Anyone can take photos with their digital camera, and manipulate the images to make something stunning without the skills and techniques needed to make a painting. They need an artistic eye but not an artistic hand. Is this still art and are they still artists? Does this digital art make the tactile arts more or less valuable as a result?
Digital art is art. Artists will use whatever medium is available to them and Photoshop is just another tool. True digital art (original artwork produced by an artist who is consciously creating art digitally) will not affect the value of the tactile arts. It is all art and the makers are all artists, only their medium changes (although I'm not sure how a book artist could go completely digital).
However...digital reproductions of art can make the original art less valuable. This all comes back to Walter Benjamin’s work, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." He wrote it before the introduction of digital media – he was concerned about photography and film – but it is the same discussion. And of course, photography and film are certainly fully accepted mediums for art now, so digital art will no doubt follow in that level of acceptance.
This is a selection of the questions I was asked to answer for a student who is researching the state of tactile arts in our society.