Alice Jane Smith fell in love with the centuries-old tradition of handcrafting fine books about 10 years ago, but her love for reading, history and libraries began when she was a child.
“My father read to us when I was young. There were books all over the house, and I grew to love libraries and bookstores,” says the Indiana University graduate who majored in English, creative writing and journalism.
The avid book lover and journal writer attended a Kentucky bookbinding workshop in 2009, where she learned how to bind books and marble paper. Hooked on the process of handcrafting fine books, Alice Jane expanded her knowledge at workshops in North Carolina, Ohio and Indiana.
Retiring in 2011 from her career as a mental health therapist, Alice Jane decided to start her own business, Birdsong Book Arts in Madison, Indiana.
“It is a joy to make unique books by hand and to design papers for the book covers and endpapers,” she says.
For some books, the artist uses papers from 13 different countries.
“The majority of my books are covered with papers I have designed, often using leaves and other materials from nature,” she says. “They are bound with silks, linen and other fabric and “found” objects.
“The books come in a variety of sizes and forms, such as case-bound or Japanese Stab Binding,” adds Alice Jane, explaining how she experiments with dyeing techniques such as marbling, Japanese suminagashi, batik, Japanese katazome and nature painting.
A lifelong Hoosier, Alice Jane lives in the woods just outside the historic city of Madison with her husband, Australian Shepherds, cats, cockatiels and a conure.
“Animals are as important to my life as books, art and music,” says the self-proclaimed animal lover and vegetarian.
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