Ask Florian Bieschke if he reads books and he laughs, “You betcha! That’s my form of entertainment. I’m not fond of screens. I just like the page, so I read.”
Bieschke does more than read books, he builds them. He runs Atelier Bindery in Arbor Vitae where he repairs, restores and creates custom books by hand.
Creating a book is time consuming work. Bieschke starts with a packet of raw materials. He uses tools that haven’t changed much since the 15th Century, such as a sewing frame to stitch the pages together. He explains, “Nothing’s changed. The design is exactly the same, and it works. That’s why it’s still here.”
From there, Bieschke chuckles, “It’s like watching different colors of paint dry.”
From sewing the pages together to finishing the cover, each step requires meticulous, careful attention to produce a quality book. Challenges come up minute by minute, depending on the project. That means solutions have to come up minute by minute. “It requires patience, and it requires an eye for detail,” Bieschke says. “And the ability to anticipate disaster, because that’s around every corner.”
Bieschke holds bookbinding workshops to teach these skills to others. He says his students’ happiness comes from the fact that they didn’t realize they could do such precise work with a few simple tools and their hands. He also hopes it will help keep the craft of bookbinding alive. “Once you get bit by the bug, there is no cure. It’s going to be terminal,” Bieschke jokes, “There’s something about it. It’s been around for centuries. This will slow you down and if you’re a perfectionist, this is for you.”