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Andrew Huot peruses an old book to be restored at the Big River Bindery in Norcross. This unique business offers the repair of family Bibles and other books plus print and paper workshops and the ability to create special printed items.

“I was an art major in college specializing in photography and printmaking,” Andrew Huot said. “A friend suggested a book making workshop in town, and I took it as a lark.”

That “lark” introduced Huot to an entirely new group of art forms that include the use of a 100-year-old press, beautiful papers, the creation of personal books, the preservation of old books and family heirlooms and much more.

Big River Bindery is Huot’s business, but it is more than a place to earn a living. It is a fascinating workshop where the old crafts of bookmaking and printing are preserved and taught. The shop is located at 6500 McDonough Dr NW, Ste C4, in Norcross.

“We specialize in the conservation and repair of books and paper documents. We make one-of-a-kind books, do small editions (sets of books,) and offer workshops in bookmaking and printmaking techniques,” Huot said.

Most of the work is done by hand.

“The equipment we have is from the late 19th and early 20th centuries,” Huot said. “We practice what is called bookbinding, using techniques that would have been more common 100 years ago. We’re slower than most industrial binders, but we try to ensure better materials and quality.

“In the shop, I work for local museums, libraries, and private individuals in the area. Most of the books I see have a high sentimental value, such as family Bibles, personal Bibles and hymnals that have been loved and used to tatters.”

Old cookbooks and children’s books are also brought back to life under Houy’s skillful hands, ready to be passed down to the next generation or to book collectors.

“I do new bindings of these and family histories,” he said. “Most of them range from the 19th century to only a few years old. But we occasionally get books originally printed as early as the 17th century.”

When he gets the chance, Huot enjoys being creative with these old tomes.

“It’s fun to make a specialty binding, taking the insides of a printed book and making a new cover that reflects what is happening in the story on the cover itself,” he said.

Huoy always wanted to share the craft of bookmaking with others. He has taught the art form at craft centers and folk schools around the country. Before the pandemic, he offered workshops at the Norcross location and at other locations in the region. Subjects included bookbinding, pop-up greeting cards, case bound book making and tunnel book making.

“Recently we’ve put a hold on the workshops in person and have moved to online teaching at bookpaperthread.com where you can learn new techniques and get feedback on the way, all in your own kitchen or living room,” Huot said. “Instead of video calls, we also have recorded segments that students can access any time that’s convenient.”

Huot said, however, “I look forward to the time that I can welcome students back into the shop.”

For more information visit www.bigriverbindery.com

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Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@ mindspring.com.

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