I spent an entire day going around to all manner of handmade paper places and book binderies to learn and study about how the Florentines perfect the art. Needless to say, my brain was brimming with new ideas and inspiration.
Going into the trip I was quietly nervous that I would get to Florence, see their master work and just feel utterly diminished by comparison. The more I went from shop to shop though, I became increasingly bolstered.
I learned so many little details and such about inks, paper making, quill making and book binding itself that I felt really good coming away from it. It is very good to see such masterful craftsmanship and be able to identify similar techniques that I use myself. Being self-taught, it is somewhat gratifying to see first-hand that I am 'doing it right', so to speak. I was able to identify differences and pick up clues to make my own work that much better (because there is always room for improvement :).
There can be no doubt that Italian paper and books are premium quality but there was a small kernal of pride as I went from shop to shop that grew up inside me because the more I looked, the more I realized just how unique and artistically original my own books, quills, inks, everything is. The variety of creative vision over there (at least what I saw) always seemed limited to be within a particular spectrum and it made me think, "What is the point of 'handmade', if it is still mass-produced handmade? Isn't the whole point to have something that no one else has, a one-of-a-kind thing?"
Inside, I felt very proud to be a part of the handmade community and sent some good mental juju back home to every artist out there creating uniqueness, upcycling, repurposing and generally making a master craft of imagination.
Perhaps it is just me, but I think that I would prefer something (any day) that was the product of the artist's inspiration (even if moderately flawed), rather than utterly perfect but without its own personal character, you know?
That said, Italy was awesome and I am glad I got the chance to learn a little from them! For now, I think I have to go mow my lawn since it is finally not raining (I actually LIKE mowing the lawn. I used to mow my grandparent's acres for $6 as a kid, there is a certain zen to it :)