Marenne Laurine Hoeksema was introduced to the art of book binding – the art of physically constructing a book from interior to cover – while studying at Rotterdam’s Art Academy in her home country of the Netherlands. She became instantly hooked, and spent the next five years testing her limits and expanding her skills and equipment, and now, the owner of online store BoekBindBoetiek, she has a vast spectrum of beautiful custom-made hand-bound books under her belt.
When considering what constitutes ‘art’, it’s often easy to overlook commercial ventures like Hoeksema’s, who almost exclusively produces work to be sold via Etsy, as well as made-to-order custom books. Particularly when the finished product is something practical, we consider the object and its utility first, and its aesthetic appeal and the effort and artistry which went into it second. However, Hoeksema’s website could – and should – be considered as much a gallery as a storefront, and while an image online will never be able to capture the tactility of what is essentially a sculpture, we can still enjoy the beauty of the work on display; a broad selection of angles and close-ups ensure no detail is missed. A strong sense of design shows in every piece, from the very commercial floral patterned journals through to books with coins stitched geometrically into the cover and experimental CD-shaped books.
Hoeksema’s use of materials is both eclectic and exciting, encompassing everything from the expected papers and ribbons through to vinyl records, porcupine quills, and circuit boards. She is something of a hoarder, gathering materials and components which interest her without necessarily having a clear goal for them in mind and frequently upcycling what others might just throw in the trash. This leads, she says, to her often already ‘hav[ing] all the materials I need for a newly thought up project’. With this Aladdin’s cave of materials, she uses a variety of methods of book-binding – the pedestrian-sounding Long Stitch, the elegant-sounding Piano Hinge, the mysterious Secret Belgium Binding, to name a few – and in an intriguing and generous move, includes on her website a wealth of information on these methods, rich with examples and work-in-progress photographs, as well as links to off-site tutorials. In a medium such as this, behind-the-scenes ‘bonus features’, if you will, rather than dispelling some of the magic, enhance our appreciation of the artisanship and offer a fascinating glimpse into what many – in this era of e-books and mass production – might consider a piece of cultural history.