In my life, there has never been a shortage of paper to write on … but there has always been a desire for more.

My dad was a printer, and regularly brought home paper in various forms: stacks of paper, scraps of paper, pads of paper… and assorted printed samples. This was my absolute FAVOURITE part of the day.

In my childhood bedroom was a little walk-in closet, where I regularly hung out for hours, amusing myself by arranging and re-arranging all my paper samples. I think of my bookbinding studio today as a much larger version of that closet.

I hope you will enjoy this retrospective of memorable moments in my evolution from paper collector to custom bookbinder to shopkeeper.

1987 – I receive an Italian blank book from a friend. He has made the first entry in it for me: an endearing doodle. In retrospect, this was my first Dorothy Moment, when I found my way home to my earlier love of paper. (Yes, I still have the book.)

1988 – One afternoon, I am shopping at Paper Source (in its original incarnation as a small, independently-owned shop) for drawing papers. Inside a plexiglas cube, I see a handmade book. I am amazed and curious.  Somebody in Chicago has made this by hand?! I am incredulous. And I need to learn how to do it too.

1989 – I take a series of classes at Artists Bookworks in bookbinding and box-making.

1990 – I purchase a board-cutter, a bookpress, and tons of paper (text paper, cover paper, printmaking paper, watercolour paper, Japanese papers, hand-marbled papers, and other decorative papers). I set everything up in a tiny corner of the basement at my dad’s printing company. And I begin making book after book after book.

1991 – I am in awe of the papers (and the owners, and the everything) at Aiko’s, a Japanese art materials shop downtown. I become a frequent shopper.

1992 – I ask artist Audrey Niffenegger (who will go on to write “The Time Traveller’s Wife”) to draw a bookplate for me. She does. I love it immediately – and still use it today (at the top of every page on my website, for example).

1995 – I marry Michael Zaki in Italy. We return with an extra suitcase laden with paper treasures from Venice, Florence, Fabriano, Siena … and England for dessert.

1996 – I graduate from my father’s company’s basement to a teeny tiny storefront in Roscoe Village, which I initially share with a letterpress printer. We hang beautiful gauzy linen curtains in the display window. I work on private commissions, primarily for photographers, graphic designers, artists, and other people who love paper. I see clients by appointment only.

1997 – I start collecting additional related accessories, including stationery, postcards, vintage postage stamps, books, and ribbon. And pencils. O, and did I say pencils? I begin to dream of having a studio/shop/salon.

1999 – I hold my first annual holiday sale. I send elaborate invitations via mail. Decorating and organizing and wrapping ... fuels my desire to have a studio/shop/salon.

2004 – I learn to email.

2005 – I launch barizaki.com.

2007 – I enter into the world of e-commerce.

2009 – I hold my tenth annual holiday sale.

2011 – I begin collaborating with my mom designing beaded jewelry.

2012 – I add beaded jewelry to my studio sale.

2013 – I am intrigued when Leigh Deleonardo invites me to be the “paper purveyor” at her new collective, Union Handmade on Lincoln Avenue. I go to visit the space and swoon with delight. I experience my second Dorothy Moment.

2014 – I hold a jewelry trunk show at Union Handmade. Its success further encourages my recessive retail gene.

2015 – I am offered the space next door to Union Handmade! I open Bari Zaki Studio on June 28 … and start offering classes, taught by [several someones], in September.

2016 – I am delirious when the Cubs win the World Series! I receive a grand commission to create a one-of-a-kind, two-volume commemorative album.

2017 – I launch my new website. You are here now.

Photo by: Michelle Litvin

Photo by: Michelle Litvin