Volume 1 - Spring 1996


Agent Profile - USA

The Bookbinder's Warehouse, Inc.

The book arts are alive and well in America, just as Karen Crisalli, owner of The Bookbinder's Warehouse, Inc. in Keyport, New Jersey, who has been Hewit's sole agent in the United States for nearly a decade. "The first year we were in business we had around 600 bookbinders on our mailing list, about two-thirds of whom were customers. Today our mailing list is several thousand and our customer base has probably quadrupled."

When The Bookbinder's Warehouse took over U.S. distribution for Hewit's leather and supplies in late 1986, they were a one-woman business occupying two small rooms totalling 600 square feet. Today, there are five employees (including part-timers) who work out of a 2000 square foot space. "We've also grown from a three-page hand typed price list to an illustrated, professionally printed forty page catalogue!! While Hewit's leather, supplies and sundry items still comprise the bulk of their line, the firm has picked up may unique items from around the world and is regarded as a truly 'one-stop shopping source' for bookbinders.

Part of "BBW's" success comes from being in the right place at the right time. There are virtually no tanneries in the States that sell single skins of bookbinding leathers and in the 1980's the retailers who distributed supplies on behalf of the U.S. tanners were either phasing out the materials for hand binding, or were increasing their minimum orders to such an extent that bookbinders were having a difficult time getting the supplies they needed. Mrs Crisalli started her business just as the hand binders were beginning to go into a panic over diminishing sources.

The hand bookbinding community in America is undoubtedly larger than in any other country in the world, in part of course due to it's sheer size and population. With a 3,000 mile wide territory to cover, it is no surprise that The Bookbinder's Warehouse operates almost exclusively as a mail/phone order company. "Because we ship out thousands of parcels a year, it's a special treat to get a visit from a bookbinder passing through our area, usually on their way to or from New York City, which is an hour and a world away."

The United States has about a dozen different bookbinding organisations, the largest of which is The Guild of Book Workers, with nearly 900 members world-wide, although most members are in the U.S. The Centre for Book Arts is another nation-wide book arts organisation, and there are many other, smaller regional groups. As part of her continued dedication to serving the binding community, Mrs Crisalli serves as the current President of the Guild of Book Works and for several years has been a member of the Board of Directors at the Centre for Book Arts.

BBW's customers cover every conceivable aspect of the bookbinding community; hobbyists learning the craft for their own pleasure, professional book conservators and book restorers, design binders, fine binders', limited edition binders and those who make artists' books. "The artists' book community is probably growing faster than any of the others" says Karen. "There are incredible things being done with artists' books today, demonstrating a creativity and imagination that surpasses anything we have seen before. Book artists are working with innovative materials, found objects, untraditional supplies and creating true works of art. Then with a laugh she adds, "it doesn't sell much leather though!"


Skin Deep - Volume 1 - Spring 1996

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