Handmade Vintage Guest Books Will Leave You Spellbound
Here at Inked Weddings, we marvel at originality and unique products. So it’s no wonder we were captivated when we stumbled upon an Etsy shop that offers gorgeous guest books re-purposed from vintage books. Meet Karen Rudd, the woman behind Spellbinderie.
“I’ve been collecting beautiful, old books since I can remember,” Karen said. “[I was] completely drawn in by the decorative covers, lining them up on my bookshelves and selecting different ones to feature as part of my home decor.”
Though she’s originally a Brooklynite, Karen now lives in Lyon, France. The big move meant making some hard decisions about what to bring, she said. “That’s when I got the idea to take them apart and save the covers for a future project after the move.”
She formerly worked as a documentary film editor, but when she relocated to Europe, she said she knew it would be hard to find work in her field right away — particularly because she didn’t speak a lick of French. “Therefore I needed to find something to do from home, in English, on a flexible schedule while taking French classes,” she said. A friend from home encouraged her to open an Etsy shop to sell her journals online. “So I dug in, studied more about bookbinding, practiced my skills, then opened my shop,” she said. Karen had already taken a few bookbinding courses in NYC for fun, and said she was excited to continue with it. “The idea to transform the old books into blank journals came fittingly during my own new beginning,” she said. “Somehow everything just fell into place perfectly with the shop and I haven’t looked back since.”
Luckily for Karen, France is the place to be to find all the materials she needs to craft her gorgeous custom guest books. “This is a great city for old books with lots of small shops and vendors along the river,” she said. When she first started the project she found most of the vintage books at local antique markets and vide-greniers (which means “empty attic” in French). She said she recently started buying online from vendors all over France as well.
Though she offers a wide variety of products, such as sketchbooks, journals, and scrapbooks, Karen said these wedding guest book alternatives are her number one seller. She also offers antique bookmarks, brass wallet cards, and plaques for her books. She said she’s always looking for new ways to re-purpose the paper from inside the books. She sells paper bundles for DIY projects, confetti hearts featuring French text (sounds like a great alternative to throwing rice!), and vintage shabby chic book stacks for decorating. She’s also going to take classes to learn to work with up-cycled leather, and plans to launch a leather line next year.
At first glance, the gorgeous, ornate covers are what catches the eye — one of the more popular styles is made from books from the 1800s, and Karen said they’re unlike anything she’s ever seen in terms of sheer opulence and rich detail. But there’s a ton of hard work and craftsmanship that Karen puts into making these beautiful products. She uses two methods to rebind the books, as many of the old books she uses have damaged spines that need to be removed to save the covers, she said. She’s also working on a new style featuring ring binding inside so the journal can be refilled.
Most of her items are made to order, and she even offers a custom service to find books for clients based on color, style, and theme. “I’ve had clients contact me to find books about a poet or a certain period in history, in order to create a journal or sketchbook for them that includes text and illustrations from the book.” She’s had customers ask for books by certain authors and receives other special requests, which she said really helps her grow as a bookbinder. She’s up for challenges — a man once asked her to create a journal with a secret safe inside to hold an engagement ring so he could propose. “I really enjoy working with clients to create something unique, especially when their creativity inspires me to try new things and push my own limits,” she said. Her only restriction is that she only uses books that are at least fifty years old — books that no one really wants anymore.
While the memories of a wedding can fade away, wedding guest books are keepsakes that can be treasured. Karen’s passion and workmanship makes these books even more special. A manufactured product is ordinary; Karen’s products are one of a kind. She said she never expected such a rewarding experience from selling online, in terms of meeting and interacting with people all over the world, right from her home studio. “Thanks to my Etsy shop, I’ve had the opportunity to come in contact with so many amazing people, hear a bit of their story, and play my own part in it by creating something that they will cherish for years to come.”
Karen’s exquisite vintage guest books can be purchased through her Etsy shop, Spellbinderie, but will also sell on Amazon’s new site, Handmade on Amazon, and eventually on her own website. She ships worldwide, and if you’re in France, at craft markets in Lyon from time to time. Inked Wedding readers can save 15% on a Spellbinderie purchase over 95€ (about $108 USD) until March 2016.
Shop: Spellbinderie on Etsy
Location: Lyon, Rhône-Alpes, France
Contact: spellbinderie [at] gmail.com