I love notebooks. I'm constantly amazed at how pieces of paper of various textures, grains, colours and prints are put together in endless permutations to form myriads of notebook designs.
So just imagine my excitement, when I secured a spot for a notebook-making workshop earlier in November with local bookbinding atelier Bynd Artisan. Atelier is a French word for a workshop or studio.
It was my chance to create; I would have the power to decide how I wanted to combine various materials and colours together.
Although located at far-flung Chin Bee Avenue in Boon Lay, the distance you grumble about having to travel to get to the atelier, fades away to become a minor inconvenience as soon as you walk through its doors.
Opened in October 2014, the store is a cosy, inviting space that comes with a dedicated workshop area. Twinings tea and tubs of candy supplied by Candy House are on the house too.
With a steaming cup of camomile tea in hand, I settle down onto a stool and take my spot at the workshop table, which can hold 10 participants per session.
The three-hour long workshop comes with all materials and tools provided, and costs $78. No prior experience is needed.
Here's my picture-by-picture account of what took place at the workshop:
At my seat, I am presented with a black cardboard stencil, a bamboo paper folder, a snipper, and a piercer. These items are atop a foam board, which is on top of a cutting mat. I don't know it yet, but all these items will come in handy along the way.
Bynd Artisan's master craftsman Chong Beng Cheng, 71, is the one conducting our workshop today.
Bynd Artisan is owned by homegrown paper company Grandluxe, which started as a small bindery workshop in 1942 and now supplies diaries and corporate gifts, and produces notebooks and other accessories. Mr Chong joined Grandluxe in 1973 as a sales and production manager and is now at Bynd as an educator, sharing the secrets of the trade with those who are willing to learn from him.
Mr Chong tells the participants to each take 20 pieces of paper for their notebooks, as well as a piece of leather which will serve as the cover. I take 10 pieces of yellow paper and 10 pieces of white paper, because I want to alternate the colours with each turn of the page in my notebook. I go for a red piece of leather, just because I want my notebook to showcase a bit of my bold personality.
Once this is settled, a paper-folding routine commences. Mr Chong instructs us to fold the paper twice - in half and then in half again. The bamboo paper folder is used to smoothen out any bumps, so as to ensure that every edge is crisp and there are clean lines all around.
I am pretty pleased with how my stack of papers is looking.
When done with folding the papers, the stack is clipped firmly together with the black cardboard stencil on top. The stencil comes with pre-punched holes, for us to drive the piercer through them and through the stack of papers. The piercer has to be wielded at the right angle, for it to go straight through the stack. Brute force does not do.
I manage to get the piercer through each of the holes, but alas! I failed to get the holes in a straight line.
There is no time to lament and no option of a re-piercing, so I laugh it off and move on to the next step - stitching things up. There are several colours of string to choose from, and I opt for pale blue.
Participants are now given a teabreak. I head straight for the candy jars.
While enjoying the sugar rush, I wander around the atelier. The bright colours at one corner of the store call out to me, and I find myself at a section called Customise A Notebook.
Here, you can select your own front and back notebook covers, endpapers, and all other spare parts that go into the creation of a notebook. It's really fun playing mix and match, and once you're done picking out what you want, the craftsmen can put the notebook together within 30 minutes. You can even get your name hot-stamped onto the notebook cover.
A customised notebook will cost you $20, plus another $10 for hot-stamped letters.
Teabreak is over, and I head back to the workshop space to get my notebook's edges trimmed. That's Mr Chong's hand you see in the photo, firmly holding my notebook in place while the cutting machine does its job.
With that done, all that is left to do, is to use the letters from a metal stamp set to hammer my name in place.
Of course, you can hammer your favourite phrase or quote but that will take some time, as each letter needs to be hammered individually.
Ta-dah! I'm the proud owner of my very own, DIY notebook.
Mr Chong helps me to roll up the notebook, and then puts a leather strap around it to hold it in place. I remark that it looks like a graduation scroll, to which Mr Chong says with a kind smile and twinkle in his eyes: "Yes, because you've now graduated from this notebook-making class."
Join me on my lifestyle adventures, snap by snap on Instagram @brybrybanana
If you are interested in the workshop I attended or other workshops that Bynd offers, sign up online (http://www.byndartisan.com/workshops/ ) or head down to the Atelier in person to sign up.
Bynd Artisan Atelier
2 Chin Bee Avenue
Tuesday to Friday: 10am - 7pm
Saturday, Sunday, Public Holidays: 10am - 5pm
Closed on Monday
The entire main line of Bynd Artisan's 'Ready Made by Bynd' products, as well as a slightly scaled-down version of the Atelier's Customised Notebook section and selected items from &Larry's capsule collection 'Sign of our Times' are also available at:
310 Orchard Road, Singapore 238864
Monday to Saturday 10.30am - 9.30pm
Sunday: 11.00am - 8.30pm