making the (un)familiar, a book of runes poems by Ingrid Kincaid

Creating a book, from start to finish, can take a very long time. I met Ingrid Kincaid last October, when she contacted me about a book project. A little way down the road toward beginning the work, she commented on her blog, "In this age of instant everything it's easy to forget that we can't live faster than we breathe. Our minds want us to believe that everything is possible, instantly. Our bodies know that isn't true."


Now that the leftover binding thread is stashed away, and the scraps bagged, now that the books are making their way into the world, finding homes, I can reflect on the hard work we put into this project. I know that I'll miss every step, the sureness of the daily work, and the materiality of the leather and the handmade paper. But now the books are bound; they are destined to evolve and grow in the hands of others.

The (un)familiar book of runes is 33 poems, each containing 33 words, a poem for each of the 24 Elder Futhark plus the nine runes of the Jotun written by Ingrid Kincaid. (These are things I knew nothing about when I met with Ingrid the first time, but the way she talked about them sparked a deep interest in me.) You can read about Ingrid's process here.

My instinct about the book was that it should be earthy and uncomplicated, which was precisely what Ingrid wanted as well. She was strongly drawn to handmade papers, which we were lucky enough to be able to source locally from a St. Johns studio, Pulp & Deckle. Working with the papermakers was such an amazing and gratifying experience. To witness the creation of the papers from start to finish, and to support a local small business was the absolute bee's knees. Jenn and Gary worked long weekends to fulfill our paper order, (which we actually doubled in the middle of things!) and the cotton paper was a joy to print on.

Of the printing, I handset the type in Bembo 11 pt., 11 poems at a time due to shortage of spacing material. And of that doubling of the paper order? Well, sometime during the process of having the paper made, Ingrid was inspired to arrange the order of the poems differently for each separate book in the edition, so that every book is unique. I do love a good puzzle. The way we went about this, while keeping the long-stitch binding style we'd originally decided upon, was to double the page number. Through folding and leaving each alternating page blank, we could arrange each book individually. The numbers of the edition correspond to the rune represented in the poem that starts each individual book.

Finally, the covers are cow hide from our own local Oregon Leather. Ingrid and I met at the shop and selected the hides together, and she explained that cows have special significance in the Norse ancestral mythology from which the runes arose. The binding is long-stitch, a style that I must admit I've seriously undervalued in the past. I now stand educated and humbled by the long-stitch, and will cheerfully embrace it from now on. 

I also want to gratefully acknowledge my bindery assistant, J. (I'm not sure if she'll want her name posted publicly - you know who you are!)

There are currently 12 copies still available of the edition of 33. You can inquire about the book through Ingrid's website,