Step into Kasey Potzler’s cozy home studio near the shores of Lake Whatcom and you’ll find a collection of handmade leather-bound books, a refrigerator decorated with family photos, and two friendly cats. The deep brown hide of each book cover is smooth and rich, and the meticulous stitching that holds each spine together creates a unique, delicate pattern.
Potzler, a leather artist who runs her own business, Northshore Hand Bound Books, brings years of experience to every journal she makes. A former teacher, Potzler found her passion for book-making and leather work after an artist-in-residence visited her fifth grade classroom and taught her students how to make hand-bound books. Initially, Potzler’s intention was to inspire her student’s creativity, but she ended up falling in love with the craft too.
“While I was teaching in public school there was less and less of an emphasis on arts and and more on science and reading — to pass tests and all that kind of stuff,” Potzler says. “So this was my way to sneak it in.”
Years later, she’s made a career out of it. When Potzler puts together a book, the pages she inserts are empty. For her, that’s part of what makes them special. She gets to play a role in helping others express themselves.
“I consider myself the first artist, and I always look forward with great excitement to find out who the second artist is,” Potzler says. “That’s my favorite part, finding out what other people are going to do with these [books], because they’re only half done when they leave my house.”
Potzler and her husband moved to Bellingham from Minnesota in 1991 with the intention of only staying for a few years. Almost 30 years later, they’ve established themselves in the community. In her spare time, Potzler volunteers with various charity organizations, even traveling to Honduras a few times a year to work with a clean water nonprofit.
When she’s not volunteering, Potzler’s working on her craft, practicing and improving with every book she makes. Part of what she loves about leather work is that she can immerse herself and pay close attention to the details. Still, no matter how much time or effort she puts into a book, there will always be slight imperfections.
“[My books] are like me. They’ve never been perfect…” Potzler says. “But I like to do quality work. I like when a couple of other artist friends of mine say, ‘All your stuff is beautiful, your stuff is really quality work,’ and to me that’s the highest compliment.”
Potzler chose a unique trade to pursue — there aren’t many artists who create hand-bound leather books. But she does it because she loves the process and the satisfaction of being able to share her work when it’s finished.
“Why do I do it?” Potzler says. “I do it because it just brings me such joy. There’s a creative spark in everybody.”
Potzler’s work is available at the Chuckanut Bay Gallery during the Allied Arts Festival and the Whatcom Artist Studio Tour, and she can be contacted for purchases via her website, northshorehandboundbooks.com.
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