rough drAft books

Isn’t there something wonderful about a fresh notebook? That first, crisp page staring blankly at you can be intimidating, and yet inviting—receiving the mark of your pen is its purpose after all. A book that also happens to be a beautiful work of art in itself can become quite the treasure.

Today we meet E, proprietor of Rough Draft Books and maker of amazing pieces with a noble goal. She’ll tell us a little bit about what she does, why she does it and how her work ended up being carried by Anthropologie! Along the way, she dispenses some advice we can all take to heart. Enjoy!

Tell us about your work—why do you create what you do?
The work I make for my book studio, roughdrAftbooks, is mostly hand made book forms. Their purpose is simple: to aid in this obsession I have with recording stories and storytelling. I am making spaces for people to document their lives. I am hoping in some small way it serves to keep the art of writing and oral storytelling from ever completely disappearing. I am hoping if people write their stories, they will then tell their stories and as the history of the world is being recorded each day, all these new voices will be heard. And hopefully, collectively, that history will be more reflective of all the people who have lived lives here. That’s a lot to ask of a hand made book I know, but we like to dream big round these parts! [laughs]

How did you learn your craft?
A dear friend of mine started making books after we graduated college and she started showing me some simple forms. I got really interested and started taking a few classes here and there and finally was hooked. From then on, it was just practice, practice, practice. My training is in graphic design and art history so I came to book binding later on in the game. But once it found me, thanks to that friend, I knew it was the perfect fit for all my aesthetic sensibilities.

Where do you find all your beautiful papers and materials?
Most of the books I make now are hand painted using spray paint and acrylic or drawn on in marker or pencil right on the cover boards. They really are these intimate little paintings that just happen to be book covers. Most are one of a kind. When I do use papers or found objects, they are coming from a variety of places and most are scraps actually. The metal is from junk yards and the paper is from years and years of hoarding! I do get some of the specialty papers from Talas or Hollanders online.

How has your work evolved?
My work specifically to book making has evolved so much in the last 10 years. I think when you are learning a new craft in the beginning the learning curve is steep so you are just mastering the skill of how to make something, you are just getting used to the vocabulary. As you get better and the actual making becomes second nature, your ideas can finally be more clearly realized. I’m at a point now where I am simply trying to say what I mean in the form and in the content, making those two serve each other is difficult at times. In the end though I hope for the user, it’s still a beautiful object that doubles as a space for someone to tell their story in.

What is your greatest challenge?
I guess my greatest challenge is always time. I always have more ideas than hours in a day or energy I can muster! I just keep copious amounts of lists and sketchbooks filled with notes and ideas in hopes one day I will see them through to creation. Wishful thinking!

What inspires you?
There is a constant thread of things I am inspired by on a visceral level and then there is always some newly “found” love of my life things fluttering about inspiring me to no end. Right now—this second—I am enthralled by banjos and fiddles, filtered light, crushes, army green, scarf-wearing weather and owning a camera again. But the list of inspiration that is embedded inside me is: lines, land masses, cracks, horizons, territories, earth surfaces, natural patterns, chance. crevices, stories, the space between things. pauses. Words and their fluid meanings, memory, tension, shape; the way one line meets up against another, or where one colors starts to change into its opposite. I like thinking about middle grounds. I don’t know, I suspect I am pretty transparent, you can kind of see those influences in the stuff I make… ok not the banjos.

Tell us about your etsy business.
I don’t feel like I am very good at etsy although I do love it. I came to it as a customer and an admirer way before I decided to sell my books on the site.
I started selling them in 2009 on etsy, but I’ve been making them for about 12-15 years now. I think I am still a beginner so I make mistakes daily. Etsy isn’t my full time job but making things is. I just make them for a variety of platforms not just online.

What advice do you have for new etsians?
Good luck brave souls, go forth and MAKE.

Where can readers find your work?
You can find my work in Philadelphia shops like ArtStar and the Art Shop at Moore College of Art & Design. If you aren’t in Philadelphia, check out your local Anthropologie store and give a look. Also on too!

How did the relationship with Anthropologie come about and what was it like working with a national retailer?
Yes, thanks so much. I have been collaborating with Anthropologie for about 4 years now in terms of making objects for their stores to sell. For me, I was lucky because I already had a relationship with the company and we have an aesthetic that compliments each other. I think that’s the best thing to try to find if you are trying to get your work out into the world. Find places that speak to your work’s inherent aesthetic sensibility because everything is not for everyone. Find the people or the environment that will appreciate and support your kind of work.

Shop Local: Madison

Shopping local is probably one of the easiest ways to go green. It also supports and gets you involved with the community in which you live. To that end, I’m starting a new series to highlight artists and craftspeople from communities across the nation. And I thought I’d start with my current residence of Madison, WI.

Projector Journal
Projector Journal

Susan is the woman behind Art Kitten handmade journals. Any of her hard cover, coptic bound journals are perfect for the writer or designer in your life, or for anyone who wants a beautiful place to jot down a note!

Satsuma Luxury Cold-Processed Soap with Shea and Cocoa Butters
Satsuma Luxury Cold-Processed Soap with Shea and Cocoa Butters

Mad City Soaps are made in small batches with olive oil and both shea and cocoa butters. They smell as beautiful as they look! Sue also offers a bevy of parfumes, creams and scrubs if you’re not the bar soap type.

ESEN — Pleat Messenger Bag
ESEN — Pleat Messenger Bag

Known for a clean, modern design sensibility, Pravina Studios creates gorgeous bags perfect for everyday use. Each one is meticulously crafted from high quality textiles, including some limited editions employing vintage fabric. Owner Diana says “Creating things people like and want to use is very gratifying.” I can’t help but agree.

Would you like to see a feature about your hometown or a place you love?  Simply leave a comment and I’ll get right on it!


I’m a sucker for a great notebook. A beautiful cover, pristine pages, a rigid binding — it takes me months to just to mark the first page. Here are a few I’ve been eyeing from la Paperie and Surya Designs:

Distressed brown handbound leather journal with Turquoise spike closure
Distressed brown handbound leather journal with Turquoise spike closure by la Paperie

Letterpress Sketch Book
Letterpress Sketch Book by Surya Designs

Peacock Tree notebook
Peacock Tree notebook by Surya Designs