Bookbinder Mary Carol Koester of Azalea Bindery shares her collection and talks about the business side of craft.
ABI: How has your bookbinding evolved over the years?
MCK: I took my first class in 2000. I quickly found the art of fine binding is highly technical. I started with simple spine treatments and progressed to more difficult structures such as clam shell boxes. I now do two and three piece sets combining, for example, a guest book and wedding album in a matched presentation box.
ABI: What influences your work in the book arts?
MCK: My first love is fashion but I’m drawn to things that are both beautiful and utilitarian. I combine silk, linen, goatskin and fine papers to make an attractive and durable collector’s piece that is often kept for generations. Persons who inspire my work include Jackie Kennedy, Diane Von Furstenberg, Georgia O’Keeffe, and William Morris.
ABI: What markets are you currently pursuing?
MCK: I have organized my business around four product lines – wedding pieces; journals, assorted notepads and cards; milestone event pieces; and custom binding. Each line has a different niche market where I wholesale, retail, and consign. I have had a couple of years now market testing my work and am currently reformulating my marketing strategies based on that critical feedback. What are my best sellers? Where is the best profit margin? How do I gain entry to such and such a market? These are the questions I’m answering so that I can focus my time and money in the best possible ways.
ABI: What have you learned from workshops that has helped your business?
MCK: In the beginning, I took workshops in all things art related– design, color theory, drawing, marbling, calligraphy, book binding. Now, I’m very motivated to understand how a small business is run. In the last two years, I’ve taken classes on business planning, accounting, taxes, record keeping, pricing, branding, marketing, advertising, even my elevator speech. I feel focused workshops are a critical step toward good business management.