A book becomes a blank book as thousands of letters make way for empty pages to which you can entrust your own life story. Kjell Betlem turns old books into beautiful new notebooks.

How did you get this idea?
“I was lost the moment I saw a stack of old books in the library that had been written off, a few years ago. The covers of the books were so beautiful and, somehow, their smell was special, too. Some of the books really reminded me of a favorite sketchbook I used to draw in, and that’s how I got the idea. In the end, it turned into a business because more and more people I knew also wanted to have a book like that.”


Where did you learn how to make a book like this?
I have a background in graphic design, but I soon discovered that bookbinding is a profession in its own right. At first, I just started trying to do it by reading all about various techniques, but many books ended up as failures or falling apart halfway through. For example, I didn’t even know you have to take the grain of the paper into account. While experimenting like this, though, the books became better and better, and now they’re really good quality. The books are also being made in a social workplace now, where they have professional machines. I have learned a lot from that, too.”

Do you use many notebooks yourself?
I got my first sketchbook when I was a little boy and participating in an art course called “De Schat van Katrien” [Katrien’s Treasure]. We learned how to sketch, how to find inspiration and how to gather ideas. And I never stopped doing it since. Negligible details can grow out into great sources of inspiration and the most creative of ideas. But I also use notebooks for to-do lists and shopping lists!”