BY OLIVIA DORFMAN
Twenty-first century products are typically mass-produced, manufactured from man-made materials, and designed to be disposable. In contrast, Brien Beidler’s books are made in the manner of a pre-industrial bookbinder—they’re handcrafted from natural materials, and they’re meant to last.
“We’re losing the tangibility of so many things, but this has also created a thriving desire and a community of people who want to make things,” explains the owner of Beidler Made. In his Bloomington workshop, Beidler creates historically modeled commonplace books—blank books traditionally used as repositories for ideas, inspiration, and miscellany. He also handcrafts special tools used by artists and bookbinders.
Before moving to Bloomington, Beidler, 27, was a book conservator at a private library in Charleston, South Carolina. In the fall of 2016, when his wife, Katie, began her graduate studies at Indiana University, Beidler decided to devote himself full time to book making. “I always had a huge interest in historic binding,” he says. “I remember in a high school art class it just randomly occurred to me, ‘I want to learn how to make books the old way.’” While a student at the College of Charleston, he learned how to bind books, then honed his skills studying with Jim Croft, a renowned Idaho craftsman.
Beidler is also active in the national Guild of Book Workers, and has taught workshops in the art of bookbinding. Although his degree is in chemistry, he says,
“I knew as soon as I made my first book that this was what I was going to do.”
For a recently commissioned beer-themed book, he carved a hop-shaped brass die to impress the cover. “Bookbinders have always been compilers of other crafts, creating the housing for the author’s thoughts,” he notes. “Many times they couldn’t even read themselves.”
Beidler Made book prices range from $75 to $300. “They are intended to be used every day, to keep notes and recipes and random logs,” he says. “People use them as wedding gifts, recipe books to pass on, heirloom idea-carriers.” In Bloomington, Beidler says he has also enjoyed proximity to an excellent source for inspiration: “I try to go to the Lilly Library every Friday and just look at the bindings.”
For more information, visit beidlermade.com.