Life of a dying art form

Store manager Diana Roach cuts paper for a pamphlet she is working on with Karen Moore during The Open Book's bookbinding workshop. Ryan Mancini/The Signal
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Over a month ago, Karen Moore walked through The Open Book in Santa Clarita and stopped at the store’s blackboard to read about an upcoming workshop on bookbinding.

“I love books, I love book stores and I went, ‘What? What is this? What’s going on?’” she said. “So I came in here and was just kind of poking around and saw their blackboard.”

Growing up, she used to fold pieces of paper and staple them to make little books. She saw this workshop as a new opportunity to get into an artistic endeavor, she said. Each month, the store holds a bookbinding workshop on a select Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

The store manager, Diana Roach, teaches the workshops. Beginning with putting “spell books” together for the store’s Harry Potter birthday celebrations, she decided to work it into the store as a regular event.

For Saturday’s workshop, Roach taught Moore the pamphlet stitch, a technique used to make childrens’ books, journals, sketchbooks and other smaller books. Roach also teaches classes about the kettle stitch, which securely weaves through the binding, but takes more time.

The more she learned and the more she handled more fragile, older books, she found a passion for the bindings – the “anatomy of a book,” she said.

“The more I researched on it, the more I learned that it’s a dying art, like not a lot of people know how to do it,” Roach said. “Not a lot of people talk about it and a lot of the schools and workshops that are offered are just so far away. I know there’s some at BookArtsLA. They do bookbinding workshops, but they don’t do book repairs or book restoration, the real book conservation stuff.”

Although December saw an increase in workshops, Roach considered more workshops on weekends or perhaps during the week. She also thinks there’s a possibility to include more intense stitches, including the coptic and do-si-do stitches.

“If there’s enough of an interest and if time allows probably,” she said. “Maybe summer or something. It might be a little easier then, or spring even, that I can start doing something like this.”

As they discussed whether or to implement curving spines into future classes, Roach hesitated, as it requires use of a hammer. Moore responded in the affirmative.

“I’d be game for that,” she said.

Though it looks like two books, the do-si-do stitch incorporates two covers but also two spines. Ryan Mancini/The Signal

To find out about the next bookbinding workshop, go to

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