Guest Entry: Reflections from Water Bound

Blacksmithing. Textile weaving. Writing a letter (by hand).

Lost arts? Most of us don’t own fountain pens or butter churns anymore. Does that mean they’re gone for good? Perhaps the digital age has, surprisingly, been a catalyst for the resurgence of true craft. Maybe because we no longer do it out of necessity, there’s something more satisfying and meaningful about creating by hand - the length and complexity and scaffolding of the process, the tactility and richness of the materials that come together with practiced skill to make something truly unique.

Last Saturday, I observed artist and teacher Judy Major-Girardin lead a book-binding workshop at the BRIDGE Centre for Architecture and Design as part of the summer-long Common Waters project.

Participants were guided through the process of measuring, folding (yes, there is a proper and precise way to fold paper and I’ve never done it that way, which might explain why my folds look the way they do), punching, and threading paper to create a blank, hand-bound book. Even with many of the materials prepared in advance, it took a full two hours of careful work by the group to complete their books. 

Perhaps working with materials in this way reminds us of a simpler time, a time when we were more in tune with, and appreciative of, our resources. When our skills and stories would be passed on to the next generation and become our legacies. When survival and sustainability were not taken for granted. When we were rooted and more deeply connected to our Earth and the gifts it has provided us.

After the workshop, several participants made their way to the banks of the Grand River to put their new hand-bound books to use by writing or sketching their reflections, drawing from their new experience and the inspiration of the river. It was a timely reminder that water is the source of everything, an element required in the creation of our books, our tools, our tech, our bodies and those of all beings. An element we can’t exist without.

We simply can’t afford to lose that, too.


  • Vanessa Pejovic, June 26, 2019