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.

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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.

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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!

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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!"

Intercontinentally, Bari