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Photograph: Nicole Radja

LoveLeaf Press

Wicker Park bookbinder Amanda Love creates a mecca for material lovers.


Amanda Love reached a pivotal moment in her career 13 years ago while ripping the tag off her Levis. She’d been working as a designer in North Carolina creating graphics for disposable materials like jean tags and coffee-cup sleeves when she realized she wanted to spend her time producing items that people would relish.

“It was this weird moment of like, What the fuck am I doing?” Love recalls. “[I thought], why am I spending my life designing things for people to throw in the garbage?”

One week later, she quit her job and decided to reevaluate her goals. Inspired by a few workshops she’d taken in Asheville on letterpressing and bookbinding, Love homed in on the world of book arts, and after three years of working as a creative director at an ad agency to save up money for school, she enrolled in Columbia College’s Center for Book and Paper Arts. Following a hodgepodge of apprenticeships and jobs—from teaching bookbinding in Italy to decorating cakes at Alliance Bakery—she started her own design binding business, LoveLeaf Press, in 2003. Love began with a focus on letterpressing and custom stationery but gradually moved into design binding, essentially creating the binding, book covering and overall production of photographers’ portfolios and artists books.

Her current office in Wicker Park, which shares a plot of land with her home, is a testament to her goal to become a designer of keepsakes. Uniform white boxes line the shelves with bookmaking materials—from threads to glue to sample papers. And while the made-to-order books can start anywhere from $200 to over $2,000 per copy, even the thank you notes from Love’s letterpressing days, contained within thin wood sleeves and translucent envelopes, would be hard to discard.

As for the space itself, it’s remarkably simple, defined by clean lines, a monochromatic color scheme and a flood of natural light.

“Maybe it’s my Virgo [personality], but mess freaks me out,” Love says. “We pull everything out and it’s chaos [during the day, so] at least we’re staring at a neutral, calm, quiet point.”

The 6-by-12-foot work table where she and her coworkers Loni Diep and Erin Paulson bind, glue, fold and trim occupies the majority of the space; heavy machines dating back at least 100 years, like the guillotine and hole puncher, sit and stand in the periphery, their hulking form a pleasing contrast to LoveLeaf’s crisp, inviting aesthetic.

“We don’t have a whole lot of decoration if you look around,” Love says. “It’s really all of our functioning objects that look like decoration.”

The few pops of color appear in materials used for the books—sheets of felt, hand-dyed leather and cloths—rolled in the top shelves and the jars of hand-mixed ink used for letterpressing. Otherwise, the predominantly white palette highlights the bevy of interesting textures: from the rubber tube bud vases and gauzy curtains to the silk-cocoon lamp above the shiny aluminum one-armed stools and concrete tabletop.

The most surprising detail in the room, perhaps, is the south-facing wall composed of about a thousand books stacked like bricks and glued to the wall. They’re remnants of an art project in which Love used 7,000 books to create an installation several years ago for a gallery show.

“It’s a lifestyle, from food to art and culture,” Love says. “Myself and the girls have a real old-world appreciation of qualitarian things. I’d rather have three amazing things than a hundred mediocre ones.”

1 Love’s husband gave her this box of historic wooden typefaces—featuring 47 different fonts—as her graduation gift.

2 The dozen mostly nonfunctioning typewriters on display comprise just a portion of Love’s collection.

3 The texture of the books mimics and complements the exposed brick on the adjacent wall.

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