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mychal mitchell

Medium: Mixed Media

Booth #: GN9C

Hi y'all, my name is Mychal, and my story is one of blessings in disguise. Back in 1992, upon graduating from Arizona State University’s School of Architecture and Design, I took off on an adventure through Europe.

Five months into my journey, after spending Christmas with a friend in Rome, I had my backpack stolen from where it lay at my feet in Termini train station. My friend Cristiano chased the young boy through the crowd to no avail. Gone were my camera, my walkman, my passport, my money, my plane ticket, several rolls of film I’d shot along the way, and most devastatingly, my journal!

Days later, I was lamenting the loss of that journal with a street artisan in Venice. He responded by leading me down a little alley to his friend’s bookbinding shop where I was shown books that called to me — books in which I’d only dreamt of writing. The bookbinder and I became fast friends, and he shared his knowledge and skill with me.

At the time, it just seemed like an interesting experience to tell my grandchildren about someday, but a year later when I needed a new journal, I recalled those days in Venice and created one for myself from a scrap of leather and handmade paper I found in an art store. Everywhere I went with that book, people would ask me where I’d gotten it, and if I could make one for them. Thus, the beginning of Iona Handcrafted Books.

The craftsmanship I’d learned in design school (making foam core models with painstaking precision until 3 o‘clock in the morning) paid off in my bookbinding endeavors. I started selling my journals at a little parking lot show called the Fremont Sunday Market in Seattle, rain or shine, at a little table with a big umbrella. My books and I were received with much enthusiasm!

So now, more than 25 years after making that first book, I am here in Austin, Texas. Loving it! Life is good here on the East side of town, where I am surrounded by amazing creativity — artists, musicians, film makers everywhere I turn! A truly inspiring time to be an artisan. And if not for that little gypsy boy in Italy, who knows where I'd be?

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