San Marcos, Texas

Sometimes, you find yourself in the right place at the right time. When I visited the Austin Book Arts Center a few weeks back, I did not know what wonderful opportunities would be presented to me. Some doors are worth opening!

I had the good fortune of meeting Craig Jensen a fine master craftsman. Craig produces custom designed housings and fine limited edition bindings. He executes bindings for some of the best-known libraries and private presses in the world.

It was an inspiring mid-day visit at Craig’s home and studio, BookLab II in San Marcos, Texas. 

On arrival, a friendly four-legged muse—whose mission is to greet people—welcomed us with a smile. Most studios have a muse, a force who is the source of positive feelings in our space.

 © 2017 Louise Levergneux, Craig Jensen's muse playing the "are they leaving so soon look"

© 2017 Louise Levergneux, Craig Jensen's muse playing the "are they leaving so soon look"

Craig was generous with his time and shared his work stories and process in a natural open show and tell session. In front of his library filled with bindings and casing he has created, I was like a child in a candy store.

What would you like to see? Craig asked.

I thought any book will do, there was so much to choose from. Craig picked the first one, this book was the one Craig called the most technically difficult piece he had ever bound. Gaylord Schanilec's Lac des Pleurs, a study of the 22-mile length of the upper Mississippi River known as Lake Pepin, near Schanilec’s home in Stockholm, Wisconsin.

 © 2017 Louise Levergneux, Craig Jensen talking about the process of binding Lac des Pleurs

© 2017 Louise Levergneux, Craig Jensen talking about the process of binding Lac des Pleurs

 © 2017 Louise Levergneux, Lac des Pleurs with full map open

© 2017 Louise Levergneux, Lac des Pleurs with full map open

 © 2017 Louise Levergneux, Lac des Pleurs

© 2017 Louise Levergneux, Lac des Pleurs

On the many shelves of bindings a box covered in black Italian Canapetta lined with red rowlux caught my attention. Booklab II teamed up with Moving Parts Press to create the book DOC/UNDOC part of a grandiose collaboration between Guillermo Gómez-Peña and book artist Felicia Rice who created a work that stimulates all the senses.

 © 2017 Louise Levergneux, a page of  DOC/UNDOC  

© 2017 Louise Levergneux, a page of DOC/UNDOC 

 © 2017 Louise Levergneux, next, Craig displayed James Siena's book entitled Sequence One. 

© 2017 Louise Levergneux, next, Craig displayed James Siena's book entitled Sequence One. 

After a couple of hours, we went out for a healthy meal and lots of conversation.

Craig’s career began in 1977 when he was appointed Library Conservator for the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. In, 1977-78 Craig interned at The Library of Congress Restoration Office under the keen direction of Peter Waters and Don Etherington to eventually become a bench conservator and bookbinder at The Library of Congress. In 1981, Don Etherington recruited Craig to serve as the Head of Book Conservation at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center Conservation Department at the University of Texas in Austin. 

In 1984, Craig established the Jensen Bindery, for book conservation and box making, then focused on limited edition binding. Craig worked for Acme Bookbinding as Vice President of Imaging for a number of years then returned to the concept of a small book bindery, reestablishing a workshop, BookLab II, in 2003. After spending some time exchanging ideas and opinions with Craig, you can understand why he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from The Guild of Book Workers in 2011.

Here Craig is featured in the Oxford American: SoLost video series filmed by photographer and videographer Dave Anderson.

Craig Jensen demonstrates rounding and backing, techniques used in hand bookbinding with Olivia Primanis at the Conservation Department book lab of the Ransom Center, University of Texas, in 2009.

Guess who I met immediately afterwards—next week!

Tu dois juste ouvrir ton esprit à la rencontre de nouvelles expériences !