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Book binding made breathtaking

Ksenia judges books by their covers – and then she elevates them into works of art.

Hand-crafted, one of a kind, leather-bound novels line the walls of Ksenia Kopystyńska’s downtown limestone brick studio in Kingston, Ontario. The towering windows of Ars Libri Studio (latin for “the art of books”) feature her handiwork, giving passers-by the opportunity to browse beautiful hand-bound books and other leathercraft items. Even the exterior walls of this heritage building seem to breathe a legacy almost forgotten, underlining an important and historical connection to the work she does daily.

Ksenia began her career almost 30 years ago with a master’s degree in Book Conservation and Binding and taught this professionally in Canada for many of these. A sudden but lengthy trip back to Europe to attend to family matters, and a period of unemployment on her return to Canada, meant that she had to essentially restart her career from scratch. Through the EI system, Ksenia discovered Momentum’s Self employment Program.

“When I came back to Canada, Momentum really helped,” Ksenia says, explaining that she found new insights on how to run a business from the program. “I was positively surprised by the program. The information was great, but the instructor and coaches really gave character to it,” she continues. “They are really invested in participants succeeding.”

Breathtaking book binding by Ars Libri.
© arslibribooks.com

Her works of art are more than simple dust covers. Ksenia prides herself in working with many of the most prolific Canadian and American book collectors and academic institutions. The complexity that goes into every piece she makes means that, unlike the business plans of many entrepreneurs, hers do not include any further expansion.

“This is not the type of business that will make me a millionaire,” Ksenia explains, laughing. “Because everything is all done by hand, we cannot speed things up.” Moving towards more mass production, she says, would mean that “the art and craftsmanship of the work we do would be completely lost. Then, what is the point?”

Ksenia’s future goals do, however, include being able to work with the most prominent collections within Canada, and with the collectors who appreciate the value of these significant books and documents.

To launch her business, Ksenia was offered a Micro Business Loan from Momentum. She freely admits that costs of launching a business can be substantial, and that the real value of the program and microloan is in the confidence they give. “It’s nice to know that somebody believes in you,” she says.

With an initial investment of $30,000 from a friend, and the microloan offered by Momentum for some basic materials, Ksenia moved to Kingston where she determined the best market for her wares would be found. Her market research was accurate – over 360 people attended her business launch Open House.

Ksenia’s plans include expanding the brand to offer more hand-stitched designer leather bags and purses. But currently these items are only offered to high end clients seeking specialty creations.

Happy and booked solid for orders, Ksenia explains, “I am busy all year round! I open the studio at 11am, but I’m often working until 1 or 2am!”

To see more of Ksenia’s works of art, check out her business website, Ars Libri Studio.


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