All book artists jury-rig tools from time to time. Shanna Leino is one of the few who creates tools with the same skill and creativity she applies to her artist books.
People come to book arts in many different ways; for Shanna it began with an inspirational figure. "I stumbled into it really," she said. "Always interested in art, I had an art teacher in high school who was working on an epic artist book project and that was my first exposure to the concept of actually making a book. Right away I was exposed to the work of Keith Smith, Gary Frost, Hedi Kyle, Daniel Kelm and Timothy Ely...it was all over! I fell totally in love and still am."
Her books show a strong interest in historical forms, going back as far as Coptic and Armenian models. Shanna is particularly fascinated by working with metals of all kinds. Recently she's been exploring textiles as well: "not sure where that's going to go."
Becoming a tool maker seems to be a logical extension of Shanna's work in book art. "In high school and college, I had taken some basic metals and jewelry classes and found those very simple skills could be pushed and stretched and applied easily and naturally to book work, too. So when something came up while making books that needed that little something to make the job easier, a brass finishing tool, a specially shaped bone folder, a steel punch etc. it seemed like making a tool was the best thing to do." She was introduced to elk bone, "an exceptionally dense, white bone that carves wonderfully and polishes well.... Then one thing led to another and it has become a life-saving, bread-and-butter business for me, for which I am very grateful."
Her tools--bone folders, awls, steel punches, and others--are available through Talas.com.
Shanna Leino will conduct a PCB-sponsored bone folder making workshop on Sunday, April 13. For details, see philadelphiacenterforthebook.org.