Friday Interview: Melissa Chao! August 03, 2012 15:52

Happy Friday, everyone! This week I'd like to introduce you to Melissa Chao, the bookbinder behind To Boldly Fold. Melissa is based in nearby Watertown, Massachusetts and her gorgeous books have been gracing our shelves here for awhile. Read on to learn a little about what inspired Melissa to start making books. Have a great weekend! 

Please introduce yourself and tell us about your handmade business.
My name is Melissa Chao and my business is To Boldly Fold - Handmade Books & Paper Goods. I've been an artist my entire life, and began bookbinding about 8 years ago. I started making books in response to the low quality of mass manufactured sketchbooks and journals. As an artist, I wanted books with high quality paper and a binding that wouldn't crack and fall apart with daily use. These are the principles of my business, and my goal is to create books that will last a lifetime.

Describe your studio for us.
My studio is crammed full of materials and images of inspiration, but everything is a bit obsessively organized. I find I can't work well without a well organized and planned space. The main space has a big table for working, two flat files for storing paper, and a couple of very heavy nipping presses.

What are the tools of your trade?
I'm a very minimal bookbinder. The main tools I use are a bone folder, x-acto knife, and awl. Many bookbinders use big paper cutters and guillotine cutters, but I find enjoyment in tearing paper by hand, one sheet at a time.

What are your favorite materials to work with?
Paper has always been my favorite material. I love an acid free artist paper, with a cotton feel. So many artists start off sketching on paper they pull from their home printer, but there is such a wide range of papers available at local art stores. I always recommend experimenting on new papers. There's everything from super thin rice papers to bulky textured watercolor sheets.

In this age of all things electronic, why are handmade books still so important?
Technology has made incredible advances, but there really is no better tool than your own hand. I believe that books are something that cannot be replaced. There's a magic to the feel of paper and the mark that you create with your own hands.

What does handmade mean to you?
To me, handmade means that an individual put their care and excitement into a unique creation. It means there is a story behind this object, beyond where it was made and what it is made of. There's care taken to make sure that each piece is perfect.

How did you first become involved with Craftland?
I first heard of Craftland when my brother was a student at RISD. I thought it was incredible that such a shop even existed. When I started selling my work in stores, I jumped at the opportunity to apply to be a Craftland artist. Since then, I've enjoyed selling my work there, and also becoming involved in some of their great events, like creating a piñata for this year's Cinco de Mayo party!

Little known fun fact about you?
I used to go to the National Gallery of Art just to lay down in the room full of Calder mobiles and stare up at the them.