Friday 7 November 2014

Crafty Ladies: Meet Kaija Rantakari

This week's Crafty Lady is Kaija from Paperiaare, who makes beautiful handmade books, art pieces and other treasures from paper and linen. She sells her work in her Etsy shop and writes about her projects and their inspiration on her blog

I've been a fan of Kaija's work for years - in fact one of my first purchases from Etsy (way back in 2007!) was a couple of her lovely botanical brooches.

Hello! I’m Kaija Rantakari, a master bookbinder, artist and poet. I’m the maker behind the brand Paperiaarre, which stands for a paper treasure in Finnish.

I live in Jyväskylä, Central Finland, and I’ve just learned our city has over 300 lakes and I find it troubling because I only know like five of them. Obviously I’m not an explorer - I’m a maker more than anything else, and I enjoy being able to create my art in my small home studio (with my poet spouse V. working in the other room!). I’ve got Asperger’s, which at times makes communication very tiring for me, so I’m over the moon about the possibilities both blogging and Etsy have opened up for me. I can get my work out there and my voice heard in a way that suits my personality and needs. 


Recently I’ve been making…

... a huge lot of new books for my shop. For once I tried to prepare for the holiday sales in time, since I know the rest of the year will be a busy one with very little time/energy left for bookbinding. For health reasons I’m unable to work full time, so planning ahead is super important when there are actual deadlines involved.

This latest lot of books includes plain hardcover linen journals as well as ones decorated with vintage lace or gold leaf. I aimed to create a large selection of sizes with different types of paper suitable for a variety of purposes.

All my books are one of a kind, and picking out the combination of materials for each is quite a task. One that I really enjoy, though! I think knowing your materials inside out is crucial in any craft; it has such an important role in the end result. Books are functional objects, after all – it’s not enough they look pretty; they also need to be durable and pleasing to use. I do think I have an engineer’s perspective into bookbinding rather than an artist’s, as for me it’s so very important to do a good job at assembling the chosen materials for a quality end product. Regardless of my focus on the functional side, I think my books have a recognisable Paperiaarre-look, which usually consists of one part beautiful linen, one part minimalism, two parts super neatness, and sometimes special effects (like added vintage elements).


I’ve been working on…

... my first proper art exhibition and poetry book. I’m having a combined book release and exhibition opening party in February, and there’s still so much to do! My part of the poetry book is pretty much done (i.e. it’s written, now it just needs to get designed and take the form of a book and get published), but the exhibition is still at a very early stage. I need to make quite a few larger mixed media pieces, and I’m also daydreaming about making a type of jewellery wall out of art jewellery inspired by my poetry book. I’m planning to blog about making of the exhibition pieces and include loads of poorly lit work-in-progress photos I snap in the creative hours some time past midnight.


I’ve been blogging about…

I’ve been a very infrequent blogger for most of the past couple of years, but I’ve now gotten back to a routine of sorts, just as the crafty blogosphere seems to be slowly withering away.

Just a little while ago I had to write a not-so-nice blog post after I ran into a photo on Pinterest featuring a book that was just like mine except it wasn’t, it was Anthropologie’s The matter was quickly resolved, but I still think it’s important to raise discussion about copyright and intellectual property, as well as about indie artists facing large corporations.

Now, onto nicer things: Lately I’ve blogged about many mixed media assemblages, this being one of my favourites. I also wrote a post about my go-to places in London after I got to visit there again in August. Visiting London always gives me a huge creative boost, and I love reading about the Nice Days Out here on Bugs and Fishes because it feels like I can get a bit of the same boost through your words and photos.


I’ve been reading…

... much less than I’d like. I read Jessie Burton’s book The Miniaturist while in London, just because I have a thing for miniatures and needed something light to read while traveling with a cold. It was a good read, even though I generally prefer more serious literature. While I’ve lately found it hard to reach the state of being able to focus on reading a book, there are some blogs that are on my must-read list. Amelia Critchlow’s 101 Bird Stories is always an inspiring place to visit, and Cathy Cullis creates amazing art and writes insightfully. Piilomaja is in Finnish, but you don’t need to know the language to enjoy the beautiful photography.


While I make stuff, I’ve been watching…

... detective drama series (mostly British) on Netflix. One after another, from start to finish. V. can’t be bothered with any of them, so I can binge on them on my own as much as I want. I just finished watching Inspector Lewis and started New Tricks. Watching is not really a good word, since I mostly just listen and peek up from my work only when there’s something interesting going on. My crime-solving mates just keep me company and make sure I don’t start thinking too much in the middle of hard work.

Kaija’s 3 Top Tips for Bookbinding

The thing amateur bookbinders complain to me the most is how their books are messy and wonky, and how they’ll never reach the quality they aim for. I’m not going to give you fun tips (sorry!); I’m going to give you useful tips (you’re welcome!).

1. Respect the grain. Your paper and board have a grain direction; make sure it runs parallel to the spine of the book. Never think it doesn’t matter! Wrong grain can result in a warped book that constantly misbehaves. (No it won’t steal your lunch, but it won’t be nice to write in it.)

2. Mistakes multiply themselves.
From the very start, keep an eye on possible mistakes: things not staying square, loose sewing, etc. – fix them before moving on to the next stage or your finished book will be unavoidably wonkier, and you end up being disappointed in something on which you just spent hours and hours. If necessary, start again. Don’t be afraid of starting again; that’s how you learn.

3. Understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. Understanding causality helps pinpointing what needs to be done differently in order to reach a better result. Once you understand the function different materials and structures have in a book, you also have a solid base for making experiments that aren’t doomed to begin with. It’s much harder and slower to work back from a weird but not quite working experiment into a fantastic book.


Visit Kaija's shop to see her books and other handmade pieces, or visit her blog to read more about her work. You can also follow her on Twitter.

Click here to read more posts in the Crafty Ladies series.

Please note: the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links.


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