Book artist: Mychal Mitchell

Artist: Mychal Mitchell
Website: Iona Handcrafted Books

My story is one of blessings in disguise…back in 1992, upon graduating from Arizona State University School of Architecture and Design, I took off on an adventure through Europe…5 months into the journey I had my backpack stolen in the train station in Rome. My friend, Cristiano chased the young boy through the crowd to no avail! Gone were my camera, walkman, passport, money, plane ticket and several rolls of film I’d shot along the way…but most devastating was the loss of my journal!


Days later, in Venice, I was talking with a street artisan and lamenting the loss of that journal….he responded by leading me down a little alley to his friend’s bookbinding shop where I laid eyes on books that truly called to me, and I was completely seduced! The Italian bookbinder and I became fast friends and he shared his passion for bookbinding with me….at the time it just seemed like a wonderful experience to tell my grandchildren about someday…..but about a year later when I needed a new journal I recalled those days in Venice and created one similar to the ones I’d been shown. Everywhere I went with that book people asked me to make one for them…thus, the beginning of Iona Handcrafted Books. The craftsmanship I learned in design school ( staying up ’til 3am building foamcore models ) paid off in my bookbinding endeavors.


I started selling my journals at a little parking lot show called the Fremont Sunday Market in Seattle rain or shine, at a little table with a big umbrella… books and I were received with much enthusiasm!


Now, more than 14 years after making that first book, here I am in Austin,Texas…a long way from Venice, Italy. East Austin is wonderful! I am working out of an old bread factory surrounded by amazing creativity…artists, musicians, film makers everywhere you turn…an inspiring time and place to be an artisan …..and if not for that little gypsy boy in Italy, who knows where I’d be…….

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    • Angie Platten

      Love this interview. What a great story! A great message for all of us to look at things that happen in life in a new light. And the journals are stunning!

    • frazzledsugarplummum

      Thanks for this link Cyndi. Absolutely beautiful work.

    • Jon-Eric Garza

      Have been buying these books for years now! I have given a few as gifts but have kept most of them for myself; I can be a bit selfish! The are simply pieces of art!


    • YellowCatArt

      This is a great interview and these are my FAVORITE journals… they are exquisite. I love the paper, the leather and just the whole Iona “experience”. It took me years (literally, years) to make my first mark in one but I finally got over that! I am now looking forward to purchasing my third journal soon!

    • Cyndi Lavin

      It’s inspiring, that’s for sure! And the work is exquisite :-)

    • Cyndi Lavin

      I would simply like to run my hands over these, Shirley!

    • Cyndi Lavin

      I don’t think you could be considered selfish…who *wouldn’t* want to keep these for themselves? :-)

    • Cyndi Lavin

      I can understand that! I don’t make anything nearly this nice, but I still have a hard time getting going in each new journal. Bite the bullet, make the first mark…