Studio Visit: Tedra Ashley-Wannemuehler

Studio Visit: Tedra Ashley-Wannemuehler

Tedra Ashley-Wannemuehler, 45, of Champaign is a book binder and metalsmith.

When did you first start making jewelry?

I started around 2006. I took about six years of classes with Robert Laible at Parkland before he retired from teaching. He's such a great teacher. I also took several electives in metalsmithing at Indiana University, when I was getting a bachelor's degree in fine art, in photography.

How do you make your jewelry?

It's made from silver wire and silver sheets, and it's hand-forged, heated and hammered. You heat it into shape, and elements are soldered on.

So far, I've been sticking to pendants and leather wraps — bracelets with silver clasps. I make all my jewelry in my garage and sell it at etsy.com/shop/RedEmberForge. I do all my book binding here at Lincoln Bookbindery.

Do you work with other metals?

I do copper. You can see copper elements in some of the books I bind. I like to hammer metal. I have a variety of old antique hammers that are beaten up, and they leave certain marks on the metal. I'll do my first silver closure on a book in a month or two.

How did you get into book binding?

Also at Indiana University. The very first time was when a photography teacher asked us to take several photographs in sequence and make a book out of them. That was the first time I made a book as an adult, probably around 1991.

Then, a friend in a photography class got me a job in conservation in the main library so I learned a little more and did that part-time for a couple of years. After college, I worked in photography for a few years at a photo store in Indianapolis. After we moved here for my wife's job, I worked in custom darkroom printing. I did black-and-white prints for artists and others.

What kinds of books do you make?

Handmade blank books, which could be journals, albums, travel journals, guest books. I also do fancy rebinding of already printed books. The difference between myself and the Lincoln Bookbindery, where I've worked for 20 years, is we bind pages people bring us. We're considered a service business because we're binding books people already own. We're not selling books. My books are products.

Where do you sell yours?

I sell them at fineblankbooks.com. I do several shows throughout the year, though I need to sell indoors because the books don't do well outside. I've done the Urbana-Champaign Craft League Fair at the Urbana Civic Center for several years. But mostly I do custom orders online. I don't do a lot of in-person sales.

I have customers from all over the world. I've done work for people in Australia, Singapore, Japan and all over the U.S. My website has lots of examples of past custom orders. I have a lot of finished books on my website, too.

What will you be making as part of this year's Community Supported Art program?

I will make 25 copper rings for the covers of 25 small books. The surface textures on the covers will all be different.

Are there many people making or binding books anymore?

No, a bindery this size, where I work, I would guess that are probably 20 in the United States. There are individual artists like myself. Then there are book binders employed at institutions like museums and libraries.

Even though the book-binding industry is being impacted by electronic devices, it's my belief that books will come to occupy a space like vinyl records do now. There will always be collectors. I think there will always be a future for it.

Topics (2):Art, People

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