When Scott Horner sits down at his workspace in Paonia, he dives into his work, carefully concentrating on the task at hand. His hands graze over waxed linen threads, matching the thread color to the paper he’ll choose.
It’s simple, this craft he does, which is what makes it remarkable. In this day and age of a highly technical, mechanical, computerized world, a man who sits down and patiently makes a book from hand — ripping the pages, gluing, stitching —is no ordinary crafter.
Scott creates handmade journals, scrapbooks, photo albums, sketch books and watercolor books. They are beautiful books, hardbound and hand sewn, a book lover’s delight, with rich, heavy, creamy papers, soft textures and lovely colors. They are so beautiful you almost don’t even want to use them.
“They are elegant and rustic at the same time,” Scott said. “The materials are so fun.”
He has dabbled in the art of making books for a while as a hobbyist. It was while he was working as an organic farmer in Washington that he learned the basics of the bookmaking trade from a friend. “It is a simple, easy-to-learn craft,” Scott said.
But he realized his job as a farmer was really a three-season job, so he looked around for something to not only fill his time, but something that could grow to be a business. So he revisited the bookmaking idea. He played at the craft for a while, but again it fell off when he traveled and moved around with his family.
He really got back into bookmaking about five years ago. At that time he lived in Durango. He moved to Paonia about a year and a half ago, and he brought his hobby business with him — Rocky Mountain Bound.
When he made the decision to make books for a living, Scott wanted to make sure his product would be produced as sustainably as possible. He did a lot of research before he found the materials he wanted to use.
His cover papers are handmade by villagers in Nepal, from the lokta plant. The plant is fast-growing, so its use for paper doesn’t harm forest ecology. The dyes in the cover papers are derived from all natural vegetable dyes. “As far as natural papers go,” Scott said, “it’s probably one of the best to purchase.” The papers are beautifully crafted in brilliant hues and patterns. “The decorative papers are amazing,” he said. “I owe a lot of credit to the people who make them.”
Scott’s bookbinder boards are a USA product, made from recycled materials. The paper he uses for the inside pages come from a mill in Wisconsin that makes the paper from recycled materials using green energy sources.
Scott recognizes that the sustainability of his product is hindered by the distance the materials travel to get to him. It’s his wish to use materials that are made on a more local level, but he hasn’t found any papers made closer to home. “Sustainability is a balancing act,” he said.
Living as sustainably as he can is Scott’s passion. He took some college courses in environmental science, which started him thinking how he could be a better steward of the earth. Then, while working as a farmer, he witnessed the effects of chemicals and fertilizers on the land. “For a long time, I’ve been sensitive to my impact on the environment,” he said. “My goal is to live as simply as possible.” He takes to heart the idea of living off the land, eating foods grown locally, and homesteading.
He incorporates this simple living philosophy to his bookmaking. Not only are the materials sustainably produced, but when someone purchases a book, they help fund local projects and ideas that are near and dear to Scott’s way of life. For instance, in one journal, a card in the back says that the purchase of that particular book will help, in some way, local honeybee production. “That’s been a real focal point for me,” Scott said about this way of giving back.
Making a book by hand is a process Scott has down to a science — a quick science, since it takes him about an hour to make a book. He starts by cutting his bookbinder boards to size, then covering the boards with the decorative cover papers. He tears by hand the inside pages, creating jagged, nested edges. The pages and covers are stamped with a bookbinder’s awl, then everything is sewn together using heavy linen thread. Stitching the books together is his favorite part of the creative process. “It’s kind of meditative for me,” he said.
Scrapbookers will like his books, because nestled between the blank pages are colored and textured pages, ready to be filled with photographs and mementoes. His watercolor books feature a super heavyweight paper so the paint won’t seep through the pages and run. All the pages in the books are archival quality, so that in years to come, the sketches, thoughts, and photographs will remain as fresh as the day they’re put on paper.
His books can be found at area and regional art fairs and farmer’s markets, and at Expressions Bookstore, the Blue Sage Center for the Arts and Backcountry Coffee, all in Paonia. The books are featured in shops in Tucson, Telluride, Basalt, Aspen, Pagosa Springs and Durango, as well.
Making books has grown into several different directions for Scott. A faction of his work is book art, where the books are used for decorative purposes only. He is working on getting a showing of those books in art galleries. He is also offering a journal-making class that introduces students to the craft of bookmaking. He makes custom books, too, for wedding guest registries, for example.
His big dream, though, is to turn Rocky Mountain Bound into an employee-owned business that incorporates the bookmaking in addition to bookbinding, old-style printing and handbound limited edition runs of books.
It’s also a dream of his to write children’s books, something his three daughters are helping him with. He is teaching his three girls how to write and illustrate a story, and then, when the stories are complete, they’ll put ink to paper and create a book.
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