The Art of the Journal

The Plum Umbrella Studio: owner Emily Schmidt creates journals and photo albums, using only acid-free materials, in a variety of designs including lined, unlined, dot-grid, or mixed media pages.

By Carol Wills

Famous diarists like Virginia Woolf and Thomas Merton would have been the first in line had the beautiful journals that Emily Schmidt makes been available in their day. Her artistic journals are handcrafted to the most exacting standards.

Schmidt, who studied journalism and mass communication/graphic design at UNC–Chapel Hill, currently works full-time as the conservation lab manager at N.C. State University Libraries. Her task is to care for the physical health of the library’s collection, repairing and rebinding well-worn books. She’s been practicing the art of bookbinding for 15 years.

“It’s a fun job,” Schmidt says, adding that there is always more to learn about bookbinding. In 2014 she took her fondness for bookbinding to an artistic level and started The Plum Umbrella Studio—named for her love of rain and the color purple. Schmidt creates journals and photo albums, using only acid-free materials, in a variety of designs including lined, unlined, dot-grid, or mixed media pages. The journals are sold online and at craft fairs.

“My ultimate goal,” says Schmidt, “is to create journals that function properly, using bold colors and patterns that make them beautiful, too.” In this digital age, when few people print out the photos taken with their cellphones, a photo album with real pictures would be lovely to have in your home or to pass on to future generations. Schmidt also creates sketchbooks and pocket notebooks. She makes her own book cloth from fabric she carefully curates, and she does all the cutting, folding, punching, and sewing to bring her vision into completion.

A relatively new way of recording tasks accomplished or future plans is the bullet journal. Instead of daily entries in paragraph form, the bullet journal is a collection of lists that are meaningful to you. It could even include a calendar with birthdays of family and friends circled. And, as with all journals, you can include pictures, art, poems—whatever you want to keep, remember, and enjoy.

In this computer age, the art of writing by hand is often neglected, but it is a much more intimate experience than typing on a keyboard. If you are interested in seeing Schmidt’s handmade journals up close, look for her booth at the Lazy Daze Arts and Crafts Festival on August 25th in downtown Cary.

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