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Tucson, Arizona, United States
I work as Panther Peak Bindery and am a bookbinder, conservator and instructor working outside Tucson, Arizona for individual and institutional clients across the country. I am a two term President of the Guild of Book Workers, was a Fulbright Scholar, taught at North Bennet Street School for over nine years and was the fastest in my middle school class at running up and down a flight of stairs (really!).

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Monday, August 29, 2016

years ending in 6 have been good... part 2

1996

It all really started in the late 1800s when so many Scandinavians moved to Seattle that English wasn’t even spoken in some neighborhoods and households. Norwegians, mainly, who moved there to do what they had done in Norway: fish.

My grandmother, born in Minnesota, moved to Seattle in 1901 when she was two. She spoke only Norwegian at home, with friends, shopping—until she started school—all Norwegian.

So many Scandinavians moved to Washington State that part of the charter for the University of Washington required the school to have a Scandinavian Department. The charter calls for, not just a few classes covering that part of the world, but a whole department.

Another result of this migratory influx was that my high school offered Swedish as a foreign language. I took it for three years. Swedish appealed to me because my father’s father came from Sweden (settling in Denver), while my mother’s four grandparents were from Norway.  Norwegian was taught at Ballard.  Danish was also available at a high school, but I can’t remember where.

Because of my high school Swedish classes, I managed to be in the receiving team to greet the king of Sweden when he came to Seattle. Didn’t actually shake his hand, but if I remember right, I wore platform shoes, just to be extra fancy. I certainly didn’t cut my hair, though.

After high school I attended the University of Washington and took Scandinavian classes—mostly because they were smaller than classes in my major. I accidentally took enough classes to get a degree. Anyway, as an undergrad at Washington I spent a semester in Linköping, which is not pronounced “Link-o-ping,” as my wife believes, but “Lynn-shipping,” as the Swedes say. Linköping happens to be the very town from which my grandfather had emigrated illegally. There I met Lasse who is still my dearest friend, even though he is so inconsiderate in that he and Maria have the nerve to live about ten thousand miles from Arizona. I love them, but clearly they are bad people. Well, just for that reason.

I loved it there.

Fast forward to 1992, when I finished at North Bennet Street. My goal upon graduating was to get more training but without having to pay for it. First I wanted to take the time to relearn everything we had covered in school, which I did in my evenings for a few years. After I had gotten comfortable with most of what we had covered at NBSS, I applied to several grants to study in Sweden somewhere.

In 1996 it happened. Thanks to the graciousness of Per Cullhed and Lars Munkhammar (and the Fulbright program) I had the opportunity to work and study in the library at Uppsala University. Their graciousness was equally spread amongst the others in the lab: Adam Larsson, Lars Bjordal, Bosse Carlsson and Åke. (Åke was 63 at the time and had started in the field when he was 13!) It was a fantastic year amongst even more fantastic people, in a great country. Even taking the wrong bus en route to Linköping was kind of fun. Ended up in Lidköping. Clearly my Swedish wasn’t so great.

It was the year that made everything else possible. What did I do? I made books, studied structures, laughed, swore in Swedish because it didn’t sound like swearing to me, went to Helsinki and Copenhagen, and made more books. I also bought as many books as I could afford. At the end of the year, one of the other Fulbrighters told me that I was the only one of us who had done what I set out to do. I think that was probably true, but it was only true because the folks who hosted me, helped me do it.

One example is shown here with Bosse teaching me proper safety practices in a conservation lab:


People ask me what the year in Sweden was like and I tell them this story, which perfectly sums up the spirit of the entire year: By the end of the year, my finances were smaller than slim. When packing to come home, I tried to get a bunch of stuff into three suitcases each less than 30 kilos (maybe it was 25, not sure). Gave everything else away. I knew I’d have to pay for the third bag, and probably for all the bags, which were overweight a tad—a real concern given my empty pockets. When Lasse and I got in line at the airport a man walked up and asked where I was going. Seattle, I said. He said, Come with me. We lugged my bags over and set them down next to a counter. The computers had just gone down, he said, and they weren’t charging for extra bags or extra weight. I just had to weigh the suitcases and put them on the conveyor. Pretty much the whole year was like that.

After finishing, I went back to the University of Washington and began working part time so that I could do more private work. I was looking forward to doing that for years. The Mendery at Washington was a nice place to be—gave me great experience and I got football tickets. The Huskies were even good at the time. I was preparing to work at UW half time and looking forward to that arrangement very much. There was lots of interesting work up in Seattle for private practice.

But then, and I think because of the time in Sweden, NBSS called and asked me to run the bookbinding department. I went out for an interview, it all worked out, and then I flew back to Seattle where I spent the final few weeks working until two or three in the morning to finish off my private work, Mendery work, and pack. Slept a few hours a night; managed to keep eating. It was a bit tiring but an exciting time. Early August I drove out in a rental truck to a new life.

Taught at NBSS for almost ten years. Probably should have moved on in 2006 to keep up the decade theme, but we moved to the desert in 2007 instead. A move that was possible because of my time in Sweden. A Fulbright carries some weight, even if folks don’t really know what it was for.

During my time in Massachusetts, I helped get Adam over here to teach; first at NBSS and helped some on a grand tour, maybe cracked opened some doors for him. I was able to see Per and Bosse when they came over for meetings. And for several years students from NBSS went to Uppsala for a couple of months in the summer. They all loved being there as much as I had.  And when I think about that year those are the things that I'm happiest about.

One really nice thing that reminded me of it all happened last Spring when I was teaching in San Francisco. I saw that someone I’ve never even met was teaching a binding technique that I had brought back from Sweden. I had taught it to Juliayn, who had taught it to them, and they were now teaching it to others.

That’s what the year 1996 was really about, after all. It wasn’t so much about me spending time in Sweden, but more about sharing knowledge across borders. And that’s what it did to a T. But I’ll take all the other benefits as well . . . .

And to think it all started with Norwegian fishermen heading out of Ballard looking for salmon a hundred years ago.




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