With the help of her highly discerning critics, Wheaten Terriers Roscommon and Tipperary, paper artist Rai Peterson designs, constructs and embellishes a truly unique canvas: hard-bound books.
She builds her treasured journals and sketchbooks from loose paper, often using a mix of fine and vintage elements, gathered during travels, and especially while poking about in Indiana.
“I like to think that there is a certain Midwestern forthrightness about my work: what you see is what you get. We use honest materials like cotton-rag paper; hand-marbled decorative sheets; vegetable-tanned goat- and calfskin; pigskin; and Irish linen or Belgian threads,” she says.
Rai’s books are ones you can judge by the covers, which she adorns with precious metals, coins or medals. A colophon on the last page of each journal tells the book’s story and identifies its components.
Rai earned M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in English from Ball State University, where she also was a faculty member. After more than four decades of teaching and founding Book Arts Collaborative, a public letterpress and hand-sewn book bindery in downtown Muncie, she shifted to hone in on her long-time interest in bookbinding, taking it to a new level with the creation of her artisan business, High Class Booker.
Some books begin with a purpose in her attic workshop space, Rai explains – a travel journal for a family headed off on the vacation of a lifetime, a sketchbook for an artist, a photo album for a milestone occasion, or simply a solidly traditional blank book suitable for a myriad of uses. She uses 19th Century presses and guillotine cutting devices as well as hand tools that include knives, brushes, scalpels, bone presses and patience that date back to the beginning of the Common Era to make her one-of-a-kind books that inspire writing, sketching, deep thoughts and sentimental reminders.
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