Walking into Hollander’s, a bookbinding store nestled in historic Kerrytown, one is instantly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of paper hanging in wooden racks, row after row. Simple solids are juxtaposed next to splashes of shimmering metallic and intricate patterns. Every sheet radiates a vivid signature, bearing that raw, rustic appeal of the handcrafted.

That same appeal permeates throughout the shop, each nook and cranny filled to brimming, from the wall of bookbinding supplies, to the racks of stationery, to the squeak of aged hardwood underfoot. Cocooned under the gleam of soft lighting, Hollander’s is one lasting example of the rare places still catering to such a niche market. It is one of the few remaining stores to offer a hands-on approach to such time-honored traditions as handmade papermaking and bookbinding.

Book arts is devoted to perceiving the book as an art object. For purveyors of the craft, the form and touch of a hardcover tome is just as important as the content inside.

Hollander’s has become nationally recognized for its vast selection and exclusive workshops devoted to the art of the book. Through the workshops, which are conducted in the basement of the store, students learn and create beautiful pieces of history, surrounded by old-fashioned printing presses and other equally enthused pupils of book arts practices.

Covering an immense array of subjects, and with names from Foundational Calligraphy to Japanese Books and Boxes, the workshops offer a distinctive setting for acquiring these atypical and unconventional crafts. Generally spanning one or two days, the workshops cater to both novices and experts, offering a one-on-one setting with the instructor. These instructors come from all over the country. Even nationally recognized pioneers of the burgeoning modern book arts movement, most notably Hedi Kyle, have traveled to Ann Arbor to teach at Hollander’s, according to owner Cindy Hollander.

Eric Alstrom, instructor of the Japanese Books and Boxes class, has been teaching at Hollander’s for seven years. Alstrom is also the head of the Florence G. Wallace Conservation Laboratory at Michigan State University, where he is currently working with other book arts faculty to create a definitive book arts program.

“There’s just something about the feel of a book, being able to hold that and read it versus seeing it on a screen,” Alstrom said, elucidating on the importance of keeping these papermaking and bookbinding of traditions in practice in modern society.

There is certainly an exotic charm to the handmade journals that the students create in this class, with their beautifully vibrant covers and exposed stitching. These distinctive creations are part of what is keeping the book arts movement alive today, exemplifying the inherent contrast between what can be digitally appealing and what is alluring — not only in appearance, but also assembly.

“I think that people always like to make things, to work with their hands,” owner Tom Hollander explained, as an illustration of how Hollander’s has remained such a steady force in Ann Arbor. “There is a part of the population that just really wants to be involved with making something from scratch, making something by hand and making it visually interesting. Not just functional, you know, but beautiful and interesting to look at.”

The Hollander’s workshops have helped to shape what the store has become today. Since opening its doors in 1991, the family-run shop has steadily grown with each passing year, becoming one of the largest providers of decorative papers and bookbinding supplies in the country. It even ships internationally to customers in places as far as Argentina and Japan.

Though Hollander’s currently resides on the ground floor of the historic Kerrytown Market and Shops, the store did not always have such permanent lodgings: It began not in a retail space, but in the free-flowing venue of the Ann Arbor Art Fairs. Tom and Cindy Hollander used to work out of their home, creating desk accessories from the same decorative paper prevalent in the shop today, and then selling these creations in various art fairs.

“It just got to the point where we thought, ‘Boy, it would be nice to have someplace where we could keep it all set up.’ And there was just a real small space in Kerrytown and we thought we could give it a try,” said Cindy, who worked in a corporate job for 10 years before opening the shop. “We thought we could do it, and it just kind of grew from there.”

Of course, the Hollanders weren’t initially certain of the venture. With no direct knowledge of the burgeoning book arts community already established here in Ann Arbor, their decision was a veritable stab in the dark. Fortunately, they were in the right place at the right time, and Hollander’s continued to grow steadily as the years passed.

There will always be the passion to create, whether from paper or from pixels, and as long as such passion endures, Hollander’s will continue to offer a place to facilitate the exploration of such creativity. With the continuing emergence of a book arts community in Ann Arbor, Hollander’s is sure to always have a demographic to cater to.

“Book art, you know, (in the past) you would say it to somebody and they would have no idea what you’re talking about,” Cindy Hollander said. “But it has come into its own being, so we were just ahead of the curve, fortunately.”

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