Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

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.

Uses This is supported by ZSA, makers of the Moonlander, ErgoDox EZ and Planck EZ keyboards. They also publish an awesome newsletter.