finds her niche with leather
makes hard-bound books
out of recycled materials
Helen E. McKinney
(September 2012) When Melissa Oesch came up
with an idea for creating hand-bound books, she didnt know it would
catch on like it did. After more than two years of working at it fulltime,
she enjoys the creative process and the eco-friendly aspect of her artwork.
Oesch, a resident of Lexington, Ky., creates hand-bound books out of recycled
or repurposed materials. Her creations include journals, photo albums,
wedding albums, book necklaces and book ornaments.
Ive kept a journal since I was 6 or 7 years old, said
Oesch, 29. Writing has been a large part of my life.
by Emily Ward
Oesch of Lexington, Ky.,
has been creating hand-bound
books since someone suggested
she make her own.
While attending college, someone asked Oesch if she would
like to learn how to make her own books. She decided this idea would be
worth pursuing and has since turned it into a lucrative business.
As a self-taught artist, Oesch said she primarily works with fabrics.
She uses leather, coffee and rice bags, and paper to produce her distinctive
books and journals. She loves mixing stitching and sewing with these materials
and learned to sew by trial and error.
She gathers her materials from many different places. She has gotten scrap
leather from manufactures that have shut down (such as car manufacturers),
and coffee bags from local coffee roasting businesses. She has been able
to find the old book covers she uses in a variety of places.
Oesch is so good at what she does that she was the First Place Craft Winner
in the 2011 Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art. This was her first time
to participate in the event, and Oesch said she was very surprised
and excited to have won.
She said she has a super unique craft that is texture-based and
appeals to the senses.
Oesch was encouraged by other artists to enter the Madison Chautauqua.
She thought my work would do well there. Oesch had visited
Madison before and was captivated by its setting and the quaintness
of it all, she said.
The folks that run it did a great job. I really felt welcomed,
Oesch participates in many such fine art festivals, staying mainly in
the Midwest. There are so many amazing events in this area that
Im still tapping into them, she said.
Many customers who purchase her items already keep journals,
said Oesch. And many are people who are book lovers. Her creations
are great for graduation and birthday gifts and even for artists who want
an inventive sketch book.
Steven Moore, a nature artist from Lexington, Ky., is one of her repeat
customers. He first took notice of her artwork at an art fair after he
had been struggling with taking sketch books and tools (like pens,
pencils, erasers) into the field, he said.
She helped me create a custom sketchbook, and I am very happy with
the results, said Moore. He believes her work has a good consistency
and is nature inspired. The fact that it is also made from recycled products,
makes it more appealing to me, said Moore.
She has taken her craft beyond just bookmaking and branched out,
he said. She produces a broad variety of functional items that carry
a big appeal.
The craftsmanship on her work is superb, Moore said. Everything
is custom made. I would expect the leather journal to need repair, but
Moore compares her hand-bound journals and books to ceramics.
Some you display and some are only for drinking coffee from,
he said. Her work is a good blending of attractive aesthetics and
Oesch also took part in this years Melwood Art Fair in Louisville
and plans to participate in the upcoming St. James Court Art Fair on Oct.
5-7 and the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmens Fall Fair in
Berea, Ky., on Oct. 13-14.
For more information about Melissa Oeschs
artwork, visit: www.reimaginedonline.com.