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A picture of Lisa Muccigrosso

Lisa Muccigrosso

Bookbinder

in artist, windows

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Lisa Muccigrosso and I'm currently one year through a two-year, full-time bookbinding program at North Bennet Street School in Boston, Massachusetts. My undergraduate degree was in art and was where I was first introduced to bookbinding and letterpress printing. Through my work as a curatorial student assistant, I was introduced to art storage and handling, and was first exposed to the idea of art conservation as a career path. These experiences, combined with a lifelong fascination with books and ephemera, led me to study for my MLS and focus on archives and special collections.

My graduate studies offered many opportunities; as a result, much of my early professional experience was in libraries, archives, and museums. I worked in the Wisconsin Historical Society conservation lab, mostly on manuscript materials and photographs, with the odd scrapbook thrown in here and there. I served two years as Library Assistant at UW-Madison Memorial Library's Special Collections, and also as an LTE cataloger in the same department working with Italian imprints from the 16th-19th centuries. I also served as Conservation Archivist for the Wisconsin Veterans Museum Research Center, performing repair treatments on books, maps, and other paper materials.

As is often the case working in a MLS-saturated market, finding long-term work was challenging in the area in which I lived. To make ends meet, I transitioned to the software industry and spent seven years crushing it/working with rockstars/dogfooding/etc. It was a great experience, but over the past year, I decided that it was time to return to my roots. It was a big and scary leap away from something that had become comfortable in a place I had called home for most of my life, and I'm really glad I did it.

What hardware do you use?

I use a Lenovo Yoga 730 laptop and a Google Pixel 2 phone. I use my phone far more than my laptop.

My tools, though - where do I begin? My apron pocket has a bone folder, a small measuring tape, a mechanical pencil, and a Sharpie at all times. Every student gets a workbench. My bench holds various and sundry small hand tools, from needles, scissors, sandpaper, a variety of folding tools, and glue/paste brushes to steel key stock (useful as measuring jigs) to handmade leather paring knives (from our coursework with guest instructor Jeff Peachey) to a cobbler's hammer for rounding and backing book spines. I have glue pots, microspatulas, Olfa knives, and a cast-iron copy press - in fact, there's a press on each bench and more scattered throughout the bindery.

Around the bindery we have cast-iron board shears for cutting down paper, book cloth, and book board. There are job backers for rounding and backing, a total of four hot foil stamping machines: two Kwikprint Model 86s, one Model S-2, a Kensol K36, and the requisite brass type for use in the three smaller machines. We have two ploughs that can serve many uses, and a handful of razor blade leather paring machines (such as the Felsted Skiver). For hand-titling and hand-tooling, we have handle letters, myriad finishing tools, and finishing stoves.

And what software?

I use Instagram for a mix of light self-promotion and general tomfoolery. The G Suite is my friend for email, photo storage, document generation and management, calendaring - you name it. I've registered a domain that I plan to stand up with Squarespace once I have a suitable arsenal of quality images and a goal for what I want a website to do for me.

What would be your dream setup?

I think I'm living it right now. I'm lucky to have access to the equipment that NBSS has. If I were to set up my own shop from scratch, I'd need many thousands of dollars to get my hands on the stuff I get to use every day. Besides, I still have a lot to learn - my dream setup may change by the time graduation day rolls around.