Gwen Diehn is all about journals–handmade journals. She designs each one with a specific purpose in mind, the purpose itself being the driving force and inspiration behind the book’s design and functionality. She uses some journals to capture ideas, designs, and thoughts before they flit away. Others help her organize, remind, and document. Gwen knows first hand how journals can streamline your life while opening doors to creativity. I was able to catch up with her and ask her a few questions before she began her annual pilgrimage to teach a journal-making class in a tiny town in Tuscany, Italy.
LK: How long have you been making journals/books and how did you get started?
GD: I’ve been keeping a journal since elementary school and a sketchbook since I was in college art classes. I started making my own journals around twenty years ago, when I took a couple of bookbinding workshops as part of my art-making. I had begun to see books as a new way for me to express art ideas, an extension of my printmaking and drawing practice.
At first I used the blank books I had made in the workshops as journals and sketchbooks. I liked the way they looked, but in some cases they weren’t really what I needed for the way I worked. Gradually, I began to draw on an idea from the field of artists’ books–that the form of an art piece is a part of the content and needs to be determined by the concept. I wondered how modifying the form and materials of a journal would affect the use I made of it and the way it worked.
At the time I usually carried around a small sketchbook in which I drew and wrote components, so I experimented with making a book the size that would fit into my pocket. Inspired by a favorite journal where I had already used most of the pages, I toyed with a leather cover since it would be sturdy yet still flexible, and added more pages than was in my much-loved journal.
From then on I considered the purpose of a book when I designed it. Many of my journals are travel or project journals. In the last twenty years I’ve moved to combining images and text in my journals. The figures in this article are of some journals made with purpose in mind. One is a travel journal from Ireland. It has a small piggyback journal that slips into a pocket on a page and can be used when the big journal seems too cumbersome.
Another is my on-going clay-pigment-collecting project journal. Its