Ann + Robyne’s matrimonial paper capers!

Dear Everyone ~

Over the years, I have had the pleasure of making books, albums,
and boxes for many couples celebrating their wedding or anniversary.
I always love being part of these commemorations.
Recently, I made a book and a box for Ann and Robyne to give each other—
without Ann knowing I was collaborating with Robyne,
and without Robyne knowing I was collaborating with Ann.
Their matrimonial machinations had a delicious layer
of stealth between the two gifts.


First: Ann came in at the suggestion of Maria Grillo,
who was designing the wedding invitation package,
including a very special no-gifts card inviting guests to pay it forward by
"doing something kind for someone without their knowing—and tell us about it."
People described their "kindness" on their postcards and mailed them back.
Delightful detail: Maria also created two custom postage stamps
with watercolor illustrations echoing the wedding palette.

Meanwhile: Unbenownst to Robyne, Ann wanted to make a box to hold the cards as a wedding gift.
When Ann came in to discuss this, I suggested that she might like to "delegate"
the responsibility of making the box to me. We selected papers to complement
the cards that would reside in the box. Ann then mentioned that she would be
bringing Robyne by to finalize the selection of their guest book ...
and asked that I not let on about the box.

Then: Ann and Robyne came in for the guest book errand,
and Robyne, who is not a paper person per se, was rather captivated by the shop.
The guest book they chose is a long-stitch binding covered in vintage
Katazome paper in a geometric pattern. They also decided to select an assortment
of my Japanese paper-covered mini-pencils to include in gift bags for their out-of-town guests.

Next: The following week, Ann came by to pick up the box on her way out of town.
Just a couple of hours later, who should show up but Robyne,
bringing a small bag of notes and ephemera they had given each other.
She wanted to make these into a gift!

Here's how Ann and Robyne later described their inspirations
for their gifts to each other—and their no-gift policy for their guests.

bari mini pencils 1 ed.jpeg

Both: We neither needed nor wanted traditional gifts,
and one of the characteristics we most treasure in one another is kindness,
so that became the focus of our ceremony, which was small by design.
Our guests sent back postcards describing beautiful stories offered spontaneously
as well as kindness proffered when reaching out was very difficult.
We were inspired by these narratives. Oh, and we also "responded" to our own request
by extending kindness in serveral situations where doing something good
could make a difference.

bari mini pencils ed.jpeg

Ann: I knew that I wanted to give Robyne a special wedding gift,
and because I love paper and all things Japanese, I wondered if I could find
or even make something. After discussing various options with Bari,
it was clear she realized that as a novice, I was not likely to rise to my own standards
if I were the box-maker. Bari guided me through the process of also creating
the interior of the box that would feature our wedding "logo": XO ROBYNE + ANN,
in foil-stamping. We didn't take the box to the reception because
we had asked our guests to submit their responses just to us,
and we wanted to honor their privacy.


Robyne: I so wanted to give Ann something personal and meaningful as a wedding gift.
We have so many things, and typically buy what pleases us as we go along.
One of the most wonderful things about our relationship is the sharing of notes
and cards that capture our joy and love. For years I've been saving them,
tucked away in boxes scattered throughout the house.
I thought a collection of these mementos would be a wonderful way
to confirm and affirm our love for each other.

bari mini pencils 2 ed.jpeg

For weeks I stole time to look through
these precious memories and carefully re-hid them before Ann would arrive home.
Sorting finally became random—they were all my favourite!
After meeting Bari with Ann, I knew she would be perfect for this task.
Thankfully, Ann had asked me to pick up some extra mini-pencils for our gift bags,
and so I had the perfect opportunity to consult and ultimately
give this project to Bari. Volume One is now completed!
There is so much more and so many years to collect.


* * * * *

And, there is so much more artistic detail and sweet sentiment to this story.
I am in deep bow to Ann and Robyne for their willingness to share
their celebration of love and for their exquisite thoughtfulness.
Traditionally, the first year anniversary is known as the Paper Anniversary.
I can't help but wonder what Ann and Robyne might do for each other next September!



Saint-Armand chic: 100% luscious, fluffy cotton papers

Dear Everyone ~

I'm delighted to herald the arrival of our inaugural order from Saint-Armand Papermakers
in Saint-Armand, Quebec. Handsome pads are now stocked in two sizes and three colours,
all with a sumptuous natural deckle along the bottom edge.
The smaller pad is 6 x 6; the larger is 9 x 10. The papers are made from tee-shirt
and denim trimmings, with no chemicals at all. They feel as fabric-like as paper can get!
A couple of papery connoisseurs—Janet and Tom—have already enjoyed
experimenting on the Saint-Armand and shared their delight.

Janet—retired English teacher, avid knitter, and watercolour enthusiast—
has shown me some of her new drawings and paintings. She remarked,
"I like its tooth and its heft. The paper's texture is not simply visual.
I'm really aware that I'm painting on Paper with a capital P."
She added "It seems a bit more absorbent than cold press paper,
or at least the watercolour lies on it somewhat differently.
I'd say the colour almost blooms a bit. In fact, my fountain pen also bled a little.
The lines thickened slightly, but I don't see this as a negative—
it somehow adds to the drawing's personality."

Tom, a lifelong artist, "sketched" (as he calls it) in gouache on the Saint-Armand,
and technically but charmingly described its many pleasures:
"the supple thickness," "the attendant absorbency," "the consequent variegated bleed,"
and "such luxurious paper for the likes of me!" He rhapsodized,
"As with all things let's not stint ourselves and others
and make the correct choice."

For the curious: These sketches are Tom's preliminary vision
for an upcoming installation (March 30!) to celebrate
the 40th season of Links Hall.

* * * * *

I couldn't resist buying an assortment of handmade papers from Saint-Armand
for my own bookbinding ecstasy. I agonized (only briefly) over the 32 colour choices,
settling on these four: mineral green, pale blue, plummy eggplant,
and subdued chartreuse. I taught a private limp-vellum binding class last week;
my student selected the mineral green for her cover.
And, I've already used the pale blue as the cover for a long-stitch binding.
If you're able to come by, please take a few moments to see—and touch—
the glorious samples we've received of the other colours.

A bientôt,


A Rio Grande Day at Bari Zaki Studio

Dear Everyone ~

I'd like to tell you about meeting & teaching Raquel, my new bookbinding friend from Brazil.


We met last spring through instagram, after I'd posted an image of a book I'd made with a limp-vellum binding. Raquel insta-messaged me that she'd love to buy the book, but we found that the shipping, on top of the exchange rate, would take all the fun out of it.

Then, I scrolled through her feed and saw that she had experience making books. When Raquel told me she already had a summer visit planned to Chicago, I suggested that she take a private workshop ... and then not only would she have a limp-vellum book she had made herself, but she would also know how to make more!

I knew from Raquel's insta-messages that she is very chatty, and comfortable communicating in English. She is a ball, or maybe a whirl, of enthusiasm. Her husband is Japanese, but wasn't born in Japan and doesn't like sushi. The name of her site, Mãe do Japinha, means "mother of the Japanese boy."

On the appointed day in July, Raquel settled in, perused the shop and studio, and promptly posted a story on instagram about being here. She had brought me a gift of Braziliana—coffee and cashews—in a tote bag she'd sewn herself. In person, Raquel has a delightful accent and a hilarious sense of humor.

When we started to work, I discovered that Raquel was even more nimble than I'd anticipated, so I adjusted the way I taught her. For some steps, we worked in tandem; for others, she took copious notes as she followed my lead. More than once she taught me some things! And her book turned out so beautifully.

IMG_5620 (1).jpg

My absolute favourite descriptions from Raquel's follow-up emails were: "So, it was an adorable afternoon we spent together," and her admiration of the shop as "heavenly displayed." Here are a few things I asked Raquel during our workshop tête-à-tête.

* * * * *

Where have you taken classes previously?

Here in Brazil we do not have a school that teaches bookbinding. I've relied on the experience of other bookbinders, to learn from them. For the last five years, I have taken many classes.

And were those group classes?

I have only taken three private classes so far, including this one with you. A private class allows me to get to know better the teacher, to ask more questions—and to have exclusive attention.

And how did you find out about my studio originally?

I googled for Chicago Bookbinders ... and your name was the first on the list. Then I started to follow you at IG and found out about your gorgeous taste for making things pretty.

I'm flattered that you chose to spend one of your Chicago days in my shop with me!

I thought it would be a better invested money than taking a tour somewhere in the city!!! LOL! But I am taking tours too! I would say to anyone traveling: book an extra night wherever you go, to take time to do something you would love, new or not, and could not only have the experience, but also bring back home a part of this trip, like a handmade book. My book is the best souvenir I could bring back home and it will always make me think about the time we spent together. And I had a paper knife on my shopping list but you included it on the workshop! That is awesome! I never got tools included on any class before!

* * * * *

Raquel deployed her new bonefolder and shipping clerk's knife before she even left Chicago. She spent part of a day in her hotel room, smoothly folding 100 full sheets of Stonehenge paper she'd bought to take home. They travelled safely in her luggage ... and some of them have already been put to perfect use. Here are Raquel's photos of her newest book with limp-vellum binding. She jokes, "Soon I will have the Bari Collection!"



Washi this: the tape of things to come

Dear Everyone ~

mt on a rope.jpeg

Robert Petrick was in the studio last weekend
and bought a few new rolls of washi tape.
On Monday, he sent me an email titled "On the Ropes",
with this photo of his "fledgling (but growing) mt collection."
I wrote back, asking whether I could share the photo,
and he replied that it would be fine to talk about
his "washi tape infatuation." He noted,
"My usage so far doesn't come close to the imagination and
variety on display in The Book of Masking Tape and MT."
Robert had been one of the first customers to buy a copy
of this extraordinary book.


I asked Robert a few questions about the role of washi tape in his creative life.
He is a graphic designer and a highly specific communicator.
He included a handful of wonderful photos to illustrate his replies,
and he actually labeled them "figures"
—we love that touch!

What exactly are you using your washi for?

My applications fall into two basic categories: decoration and duty.
(Yes, he really bolded his two categories.)
Sometimes both at once. At the most basic level,
I love using it to label things—binders, books, file folders,
and almost anything in the kitchen that either doesn't have a label,
or would benefit from a better looking one. (fig. 1)

  figure 1:  my homemade pepper infused vodka

figure 1: my homemade pepper infused vodka

Do you use washi for wrapping?

I do use washi tape on occasion to wrap presents.
I typically wrap in plain paper: either white shelf liner,
the Sunday New York Times or old maps of midwestern states.
So the tape provides the perfect amount of visual detail necessary
to elevate the package to "gift" status.

Do you do anything "designerly" with washi?

Well, I recently used it to obscure the title marking
on a sketchbook that has been reborn to serve another purpose (fig. 2),
and to affix my identification details to the first page of my journal. (fig. 3)

  figure 2:  a repurposed sketchbook  (old label is under the blue)

figure 2: a repurposed sketchbook
(old label is under the blue)

  figure 3:  making a title page

figure 3: making a title page

My favourite use, however, is to effectively remove
from sight offensive logos that come, by default, on products.
As an example, this gesture
greatly improved the look of my desk stapler. (fig. 4)

  figure 4:  a greatly improved, logo-less stapler

figure 4: a greatly improved, logo-less stapler

* * * * *

Inspired by Robert's photos, I decided to experiment ... and discovered
how amusing it is to display rolls of washi directly on the wall.
I love being able to see all the elements of each pattern at once.
The rolls tended to unroll a bit independently as gravity had its way ...
and Emmy, my nimble shop assistant, suggested that I use a tiny piece of tape
on the wall so that the rolls don't slide downward. Aha!


And of course a snippet of washi provides the perfect finishing touch on my shop packaging.

Sticking to my story,

Bari's Boston Report

Dear Everyone ~

Last weekend, I taught two bookbinding workshops in Boston at the studio of my dear friend Angela Liguori. Here are some highlights (and the lone low point!) of my time in Boston so far.

First, The Parcel Vanishes! I had shipped ahead a very large, very heavy, very precisely packed box with all the materials for both workshops. It was scheduled to arrive at Studio Carta on Wednesday, but pursued a mysterious path of its own for two days, finally arriving at 4:30 on Friday afternoon ... after I had gone to Dick Blick and Paper Source to purchase replacement book-board, decorative papers, etc. The missing shipping clerk's knives were actually my biggest anxiety. You can't just buy these knives at any hardware or art supply store, so I had racked my brain trying to figure out what we could use instead ... and improvised that butter knives would do the trick in a pinch. Happily, the shipping clerk's knives and their companions materialized in time. Whew.


Angela is the consummate hostess, and her tiny studio has beautiful everything, from natural light to towers of chromatically arranged spools of ribbon, twine & cord. The beribboned backdrop beyond the table with colorful cover papers at each student's place ... reminded me of a kaleidiscope. It was slightly intoxicating—as I hope you can sense from Angela's fabulous photos.

Saturday's Buttonhole Stitch workshop had seven students— the largest class I've ever taught, in the smallest space. We were shoulder to shoulder, happily working in unison, and the mood was calm, focused, and incredibly congenial. Angela magically served up espresso and iced Pellegrino. Several people commented that they spend so much time on the computer, that making something with their hands they can actually touch is so satisfying. (As you know, this is a big theme with me.) Everyone was thrilled to be taking home a completed book and their essential bookbinding tools— and I am delighted to be shipping a much smaller box back to Chicago.

Cat Bennett, who will be teaching at my studio in Chicago in two weeks, was one of the five students in Sunday's Longstitch workshop. As she was folding down her signatures, she smiled and said that now she understood why xacto blades, which she had suggested, couldn't have filled in for the shipping clerk's knives. Later this week, I will take a field trip to Cat's studio and will report!

Beatific in Boston,


A Blank Book Becomes a Beautiful Backdrop

Dear Everyone ~

I recently had a delightful visit from Sarah Bader.
She is a local longtime customer and the managing director for Gensler, a global architecture firm.
Four or five years ago,
she had purchased one of my Coptic-stitch bindings with a vintage book cover.
A couple of weeks ago,
she came by to show me what she had finally put in her book.
And it is so fabulous that I asked if I could photograph it and share some details.

Her finished oeuvre is a wonderful travelogue,
a beautifully arranged sequence of ephemera collages, sketches,
washi tapes, hand lettering, little notes,
and touches of coloured pencil just for the joy. 
When I asked Sarah if I could interrogate her about her creative process,
she laughed, and said OK.

Did you collect these bits in some particular way?
Hmm well, we always plan our vacations to make sure we don't find out
we were only a block from some architechtural icon or a quirky landmark (that we missed),
so I always have a folder with me. As the days go by,
I gradually replace all of the reference materials I brought with me,
with those bits of stuff I want to take home.

Had you had the intention for a long time to arrange all these bits in a book? 
Your book inspired me to make something special.
I thought of all the things I had collected and felt they would be a perfect match.

You must have had some "process" for laying out your pages.
Your book is too beautiful not to have had some forethought! 

Sorry to say there is no forethought other than
trying to be as chronologically accurate as possible.
I like to center each spread with one idea or image and build around that.

* * * * *
Seeing Sarah's book was such a treat, and an inspiration, for me.
I would have swooned no matter what sort of journal or album she had used for her travelogue,
but the fact that she chose something I had made, just thrills me.
As I have said countless times,
there is something about using a handmade book that feels so perfectly personal;.
(You can read bookbinding details for Sarah's travelogue in the Project Gallery.)


In wanderlust,
~ Bari

Put a calligraphy class on your calendar

Dear Everyone ~

Julie Wildman and Becka Bravo will both be debuting new workshops this fall.

Saturday, September 29, Julie will teach Luxe Lettering Materials.
In this "experimentation extravaganza" you'll have a chance to practice with several
different pens and inks (including metallics and superfine black)
on an array of Julie's favourite papers, all stocked in our shop.

Saturday, November 3, Julie will offer Luxe Lettering Materials Too:
the same opportunity to experiment but with a different range of pens and inks
than those in Julie's September workshop. You'll experience lettering on
Julie's favourite papers, all stocked in our shop.

* * *

Becka will offer two sessions of Watercolor Brush Lettering,
on Sunday, October 14 and Sunday, November 11.
She will introduce you to the art of lettering with an actual brush (rather than a marker),
using vibrant paints and inks. You will learn to handle various brush types,
including Becka's favourites, to form basic shapes and a full lower-and-uppercase modern alphabet. All supplies are included and are yours to keep.

Becka will also be teaching several sessions of her popular
 Modern Calligraphy workshops this fall,
starting with Beginning Modern Calligraphy on
Sunday, October 14 and Sunday, October 21.

* * *

We look forward to seeing you soon,
& to sharing the love of paper, pen & ink.

~ Bari

Awesome Autumn Workshops (Awww)

Dear Everyone ~

Visiting instructor Cat Bennett will be in town from Boston the first week in October.
She'll teach three workshops: Wild Botanicals, Drawing Faces, and Bold Still Lifes.
Then, on Sunday afternoon, October 7, from 2 to 5pm,
Cat will hold a tea-and-conversation party at the studio
for all the weekend's workshop participants.
It will be a lovely interlude for creative camaraderie.

* * *

We are debuting a new boxmaking workshop: Essential Accessory Box.
You'll make a box with three compartments and a ribbon closure
that allows you to secure your delightful stuff inside,
as you may decide to take the box everywhere you go.
We are offering this workshop twice:
October 13 & October 27

* * *

We are also offering a new session of Simple Keepsake Box on October 20.
This box makes a glorious presentation for any gift you might put inside.
It also makes quite a splendid present with just a card or note within.


* * *

PS—Later this week, we will announce
Julie Wildman and Becka Bravo's autumn workshops.

* * *

We look forward to seeing you soon &
sharing the love of boxmaking, painting & drawing!

~ Bari

Papers from far-flung lands

Dear Everyone ~

Our shop is home to a truly global assortment of pads and envelopes,
made from a veritable alphabet of papers,
from Aquarella to Zerkall.

We are sometimes uncertain how to pronounce them,
but that doesn't stop us from writing, doodling, drawing, painting,
sketching (you get the idea) all over them.

O, we forgot to mention mailing!
We have created sampling sets of Deluxe Notecards with Matching Envelopes,
from three different European papermakers.
The cards measure 4 x 5¾", perfect for a quick & lovely note.

From left to write:

Pastelli Rivoli
Tower of Bugra
Sumi Cum Laude

Come on in if you're in town,
to try our Best Test Pens on sample sheets of these papers.

We hope you will pad on over soonish!

~ Bari

Fresh Summertime Classes

Dear Everyone ~

We are delighted to debut a new boxmaking class!

Simple Keepsake Box


Learn how to make a flat-lidded box that is handy
for small desk accessories,
dandy for keys, & smart for jewelry.
It is very versatile.

AND the class will take a mini-field trip to Soutache, two shops down,
where you will select your own button
(or two) to affix to your lid.

Saturday, August 18 (or 25) – 11am-2pm

Read a detailed class description & register here.

PS 1 – This Saturday's Introduction to Boxmaking is full.
We won't be offering another session this summer,
but the Simple Keepsake Box is AOK for a beginner.
(No previous experience necessary, truly.)

* * *

PS 2 – Three bookbinding workshops still have seats available:
Coptic Stitch with Case Paper Cover (left),
Butterfly Stitch (center), & Buttonhole Stitch (right).

* * *

PS 3 – Expressive Cursive Handwriting, taught by Julie Wildman,
still has space available. Register here.

ExpressiveCursHand (1).jpg


"Graduates" of Becka Bravo's Introduction to Modern Calligraphy
will be delighted to read that she has just added an Intermediate class.

Sunday, July 22 – 1-4pm

Register on Becka's website.




We look forward to seing you soon
and sharing our love of paper, pen & ink with you!

~ Bari