My name is Michelle Skiba, and I live in Charlotte, North Carolina, with my husband and daughter. I make blank journals, guest books and photo albums with wooden covers.
I begin by selecting and finishing the wood. The goal of my process is to highlight the wood’s organic beauty, so I like wood that is close to its natural state. I sand and shape the boards, then use wax and natural oil finishes. My books are very tactile objects. It amazes me how silky the surfaces get from just two hands and a lot of sandpaper. I measure and tear all the papers by hand, then sew them onto the covers.
Of the books I have made, one of my favorites was a blank journal of spalted cherry. Spalted cherry is difficult to come by, and it is rare to find a board suitable for making a book cover. I considered keeping it for myself but decided to list it in my shop. A few weeks after it sold, I received an email from the man who bought it. He was an artist who was looking for a creative way to propose to his girlfriend. He used my book to create a sketchbook illustrating their relationship, beginning with their first meeting and ending with his proposal. I love the idea that making a blank book is only one step of the creative process. When I put it into someone else’s hands, it becomes truly special.
Many people shop on Etsy because they like the idea of knowing that a person designed and created the object they are purchasing. Being on the other side of that, I enjoy hearing about how my books will be used, learning little details about the person I am creating a piece for, or seeing pictures of where the book will be displayed. For me, Etsy is all about that personal interaction.
Owning my own business gives me the freedom to make all the decisions about design, processes and even presentation. For me, the bottom line is always about beauty and quality. I want to create things that are both beautiful and functional. I put a lot of thought into every detail, right down to the packaging.
I really appreciate the thought, time and love that go into making anything by hand. Craftsmanship is something that develops slowly over time through years of steady practice. It is about showing up everyday and doing the same thing over and over. It is something that can only truly be developed through passion. Even though I have sewn hundreds of books, I learn new things about them all the time, and I still feel that same sense of excitement every time I hold a completed book in my hand. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to practice my craft.