Friday, December 23, 2005

Ngaere's Guillotine

My friend Ngaere is modestly famous in Wellington for Maiden Voyage, her upper-Cuba Street shop where she designed and made interesting clothing selling alongside interesting creations by others. I used to walk past her shop every day on my way to and from work, and once I even bought a 70s rhinestone necklace there, but it wasn't until I started making books that I got to know Ngaere.

In addition to her talents as a designer and seamstress, Ngaere is a skilled and imaginative bookbinder. She is also a generous mentor: sharing tools, materials and advice; introducing me to the Association of Book Crafts (together we lower the average age of its members by some decades); and generally encouraging my emergence as a book artist.

Ngaere's shop closed down when Upper Cuba Street was stripped of life in preparation for the infamous "Bypass". Her loyal customers pleaded with her to open another clothing shop but instead Ngaere has been indulging her passion for books, and especially her passion for collecting book equipment. The latest aquisition is a set of old wooden planning drawers to keep her extensive paper collection flat and safe. I'm terribly envious, as I have been looking for the same thing for a long time. Her second most recent purchase is this old guillotine, another covetable item.

Ngaere has generously offered to let me use it whenever I want, and this week I had my first play with it. Cutting is a completely different experience than when using a knife. Instead of hunching over a table carving out one piece at a time, the guillotine engages your whole body. Spinning the big wheels, like steering steamship, positions the paper and holds it in place. Pulling a lever as long as I am tall brings the blade down with a satisfying snap. A whole different set of muscles are left aching afterwards.

Ngaere's a true friend and a best book buddy. You can see some of her handmade blank books here.

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