The Etsy Blog

Featured Shop: Boarding School handmade and vintage goods

We are Erik and Ashley Flanagan, the brother and sister team behind Boarding School. I live in Seattle, Washington, and Erik lives in Libson, Maine. Our love for the woods, fiber, and book binding sparked a desire to combine our crafts while living on opposite ends of the country. Together we create wood-covered, hand-bound journals and photo albums.

I started bookbinding during a summer abroad program in Florence, Italy. The pure vibrancy of the artist culture and palette there was so memorable that I needed to recreate that feeling through my work. Seattle has been an abundant resource for finding old topographic maps for end pages, along with unique textured paper and fabrics. Erik has had a love for making things ever since he can remember. He gained his experience in furniture and cabinetmaking. The linear nature of the business was a little mundane, and he wanted freedom to celebrate the natural beauty of the wood­. It’s nice to know that our finished product is a combination of both our talents.

Our process starts when Erik selects wood in Maine that is rich with story. He prides himself on finding unique pieces that have character to them, and often each book is inspired by a type of knot or a grain pattern in the wood. After he creates the book covers in his woodshop, he ships them to me in Washington. I add various papers and hand-bind the books with waxed linen thread, hand-torn textured paper, and topographic map end pages. All the boards are finished with natural tung oil and are custom letter stamped.

The satisfaction of holding a book that we made in our hands is always so creatively fulfilling. The quality and character in each journal is bound with care and individuality, capturing the beauty of tangibility. We strive to keep the concept of “fibrous arts” alive and well, and hope that our work inspires people to keep creating, writing, learning, and growing.

Our business has been a great way to connect with people and branch out. Our work keeps us grounded, while lending the opportunity to explore a wide variety of opportunities. As we see our business grow, we want to find ways to create products that will fit into different lifestyles.

Etsy has always been such a huge inspiration for us. We’ve made so many connections with fellow artists here, and are constantly amazed at what people can do. It makes it hard to buy from anywhere else when you know that you’re supporting someone straight from the source.

We’ve also been inspired by creating custom work for our customers, like the book we once made for a restauranteur (pictured above). He wanted the wood to capture the wonderful smells and spices of the food year after year, so we worked together to make a custom cover for his Moleskine datebook. That project opened up a whole new door which has led us to a lot of new and exciting ideas.

Our great-grandmother kept journals, and that glimpse into the past is a powerful thing. By merging our two crafts, we want to create something that people can emotionally connect to and use to tell their story. In a world that is continuously becoming more and more digitized, we try to take a step back. As much as the computer age is a part of us all, there is something wonderful about being able to hold and touch something tangible – to feel the fibers in your hands, and write down memories that will be passed on.

First maker photograph by Ben Hudson Photography, all other photos by Boarding School.

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