Analogue Crafts 4/6: Samsiah Jendol And Book-Binding

·3-min read
Samsiah works from her studio in Titiwangsa
Samsiah works from her studio in Titiwangsa

Once a thriving designer in the corporate world, Samsiah had left her cushy job of 14 years to chase her interest in bookbinding. Today, she’s accomplished her goal of doing what she loves, while having the flexibility to care for her children.

Upon quitting her job, Samsiah continued to rely on freelance design work to make ends meet, as her clients still sought her design expertise. However, as time went on, she found herself wanting to leave this life behind.

“There’s not a lot of money involved in bookbinding,” Samsiah says, “but it does provide a decent living. So I wanted to focus on it.” It’s due to her sincerity and dedication to her craft that she began to draw people to her work, even without extensive marketing or hard-sell tactics.

The turning point in Samsiah’s journey came when she started selling her handmade books on Etsy. This is when she realised that her passion projects were bringing in enough money to support her expenses. From then on, she hopped from one success to another to become the authority in her field today.

Wrapping the book cover with glue and cloth
Wrapping the book cover with glue and cloth

Samsiah derives immense joy from her ability to prolong the life of a book. In an age where books can be easily purchased, she understands that it’s the volumes with sentimental value that are truly irreplaceable. These restoration projects, coupled with the unique notebooks that she creates, means that each day brings a sense of novelty and excitement to her work and banishes monotony from her usual routine.

Even with her current expertise, Samsiah continuously seeks to improve her skills. Her dream is to one day have her notebooks become instantly recognisable due to their quality alone.

Samsiah’s personal connection to her craft goes even deeper than just creating and selling – she also uses her own products, giving her valuable insight into the entire experience. This allows her to have more conviction behind what she sells.

However, selling and being an artist, done at the same time, presents its own challenges. For Samsiah, it’s the calculations that sometimes throws her off her game. There are various stitching techniques involved in bookbinding, some more labour-intensive than others.

There are various stitching methods involved in the craft of book-binding
There are various stitching methods involved in the craft of book-binding

But what customers tend to look at are paper quality and notebook size. Because of that, it would be unfair to price two A5 books differently solely based on the stitching method. So she makes up for it by making sure that the average hours spent on all her notebooks come up to a justifiable amount.

She continues by stating that business isn’t easy, but the tradeoff of waking up and feeling joyful about the day ahead is priceless to her, so that takes away the business burdens that weigh her down.

Her passion doesn’t stop at creating beautiful books too – she’s also dedicated to sharing her knowledge with others. Samsiah regularly conducts workshops and classes, inspiring new generations of bookbinders to embrace the art. Through her teachings, she hopes to preserve the ancient craft and foster a community of like-minded artisans.

So the next time you find yourself in a bookstore, take a moment to appreciate the craftsmanship behind every book. And perhaps, like Samsiah, you too may find inspiration in the most unexpected of places.