7 Years Ago I Walked Off My Day Job As A Museum Guard To Make Hollow Books For A Living
I’m a natural introvert, and spending hours indoors with a book has been my favorite activity from the time I was a little girl growing up in suburban Minnesota. My dream was to become an artist or a novelist, and I ended up earning my BFA in painting and drawing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. (Plus I happened to take a book arts course while there which would later prove fortuitous). My paintings were mostly images of difficult relationships from the past.
I didn't feel good about exhibiting my paintings, which I felt were becoming more and more a form of personal art therapy rather than anything I'd want to show or sell. But I continued to love drawing in a sketchbook which could be open when I wanted and closed when I felt more vulnerable. As a struggling artist, I went through years of odd jobs, including horse-carriage driving for two years, selling luggage, stuffing envelopes, a three week stint at The Gap, and of course my last job outside the home, working as a gallery guard at an art museum.
Disillusioned with my own art, I still wanted to get my hands on a project of some kind after coming home from a day of "Please don't touch the art." So, I was surfing the web and came across a hollow book. It just clicked with me and my introverted, bookish nature. Soon I was spending hours making hollow books with just an x-acto blade. On a whim, I put a Nancy Drew one up for sale on Etsy.com. I clicked the refresh button not long after, and it had sold! Other sellers had made hollow books from ugly library discards with titles nobody had heard of. Instead, I started doing beautiful editions and popular titles; soon I found out that booklovers wanted books that meant something to them, to put their treasures inside a beloved book.
In 2010, my husband bought me an electric scroll saw, and after months of trial and error, I figured out how to effectively use it to craft books more smoothly and put all my effort into creating my shop which I named Secret Safe Books. Not long after, Etsy made me a featured seller on their blog which kick-started my business, and I quit my day job to make hollow books full time. As a natural introvert, I finally feel joy and comfort in my current occupation as a hollow-bookmaker running Secret Safe Books from home. (And I still get in plenty of reading time; my latest obsession is the magical realist novels of Haruki Murakami). When my husband got laid off from his job in 2011, he joined Secret Safe Books and now we make our living solely from crafting book safes. Here are some of our favorite ones.
More info: Etsy
This is my all time favorite love story, and I love the beautiful clothbound edition here. (Penguin Classics)