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Meet Rebecca Gonzales of Black Sheep Binding in East Los

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rebecca Gonzales.

Rebecca, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I have been writing since I was about nine years old. when I was eighteen (with the help of my adopted mom), I self-published my very first collection of poetry and hand bound the books myself, I took the bus all over LA County with my backpack full of my poems; from the West Side to Whittier to Pomona, I walked into independent book stores, showed them my work and asked simply “do you want to buy my book of poems?” Most of the shop owners were lovely to me and would buy a couple of books, and offer me lots of encouragement. A couple of years later I wrote another collection of poems (around the time of the Bush Administration) called “Uprising of Minors and Peasants” I made the book as a scroll, it was full of anger and frustration. The scroll itself was very DIY I had no idea how to make books or scrolls, but I was raised by a lady that would just say “I want to do this thing” then she would do it, she would learn as she went, so I suppose that really stuck with me. Fast Forward ten years, I tried to make a journal for myself, it was difficult and tedious and I loved it! I loved the act of sewing paper together of knowing that I was building a little temple for writing, it all became so very romantic and felt as if I was meditating as I sat at my desk alone braiding pieces of paper together.

After about a year of binding, I became more concerned with the materials I was using. I wanted to be responsible and I wanted what I was making to work on more than one level. I started looking for recycled paper distributors. I happened upon a distributor in the San Fernando Valley that made paper from fruits, tabacoo leaves, and hemp! I loved the way the hemp felt so I started making all of my journals using hemp paper, which is much more costly, and I didn’t think anyone would pay the price I was asking, but I found that when you tell people the price, initially they will wince but when I let them know the materials I use, they typically open up and become really excited about the idea. I was binding alone in my living room for about a two years, when I started to feel restless and stagnant so I went online and started search for Binderies in Los Angeles, I found a woman who has a bindery on Melrose, her name is Charlene Matthews, I contacted her and asked if she might want to take me on as an apprentice, she agreed and I study with her for about six months. Charlene is an amazing book artist! I would be in her bindery with these hundred-year-old presses and such and she was like a mad scientist, she would take me in her tiny storeroom and pull out all of these gorgeous books she made. Through Charlene I learned about Hiromi Paper and so many binding techniques, since then I have been wanted to further my craft by taking classes at the Center for Book Arts in NY, unfortunately, the stars have not aligned.

For now I am working with what I have, I am very fortunate to come from such a supportive community of writers and artist that give me space to sell my journals whether at their storefronts like the lovely folks of Espacio 1839, or Libromobile in Santa Ana or the amazing fold of Seite Books, always showing love and support. For now, I am binding in my living room and working on my first full-length book of poetry, prose and short stories on my kitchen table, I hope to find a publisher this year.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has definitely not been a smooth road, I am a mom and I have a day job and I’m working on a book. Sometimes I am just exhausted and sometimes I get bored if I’m not having new ideas or I get frustrated if I feel uninspired, Some times I get too much in my head, I think what am I doing I didn’t go to school for this I am such an imposter.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Black sheep Binding – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
I make hand-bound journals using post-consumer and hemp materials. I would say that the materials are what sets me apart the most from other folks binding books. I want to be conscious and feel good about what im putting out in the world and I want my customers to feel good about what they are supporting. I love using images that evoke a response, so I use images of some of my favorite thinkers and writers.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I am really looking forward to finding a way to get certified at the Center for Book Arts in New York. I would absolutely love to take classes there. I am also looking forward to finish this book I have been working on for years now. Also, I want to start incorporating my binding skills with my writing and make more installation pieces, I just never want to stop exploring and learning and making things whether it be books or art or both!

Pricing:

  • $20-$45

Contact Info:

  • Instagram: @blacksheep_binding

Image Credit:
All photos by ciscoctreetlenz

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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