Five Questions with the Founders of Bluegrass Bookbinding

Five Questions with the Founders of Bluegrass Bookbinding
Bluegrass Bookbinding founders Benjamin Kemble and Tess Lindsey (Source: Provided photo)
Bluegrass Bookbinding founders Benjamin Kemble and Tess Lindsey (Source: Provided photo)
Shoppers can get their journals on their website and in several boutiques. (Source: Bluegrass Bookbinding)
Shoppers can get their journals on their website and in several boutiques. (Source: Bluegrass Bookbinding)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Do you remember what it was like when you got your new school supplies for the year? Opening that clean, fresh notebook and feeling inspired?

I bet that's the feeling one gets opening one of the leather handmade journals made locally by Bluegrass Bookbinding.

I was thumbing through the latest Garden and Gun magazine, looking at their section for "Made in the South" Awards, and under crafts saw Louisville's Bluegrass Bookbinding was named a runner-up.

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It's pretty cool that in this digital age Tess Lindsey and Benjamin Kemble started a company making and selling handmade leather-wrapped journals. Even the paper is cut by hand.

Some designs are more involved than others, but generally each journal takes a couple of hours to make from start to finish.

If you are struggling to find that perfect gift, a journal from Bluegrass Bookbinding might be the answer.

Here are my five questions with the founders.

1) Congrats on making the list in Garden and Gun magazine. Has that impacted business?

It has impacted business tremendously! Since the featured issue came out, we have been flooded with orders -- a good problem to have! The response has been overwhelmingly positive! And it feels so good to know that we can do what we love, and simultaneously make people happy or excited or inspired. That was our mission when we started and this has been the most humbling and validating experience.

2) How did you come up with the idea for your bookbinding?

The idea for the business started when we graduated from college. Ben has a degree in Chemistry from WKU and I have a degree in Fine Arts from UofL. During my time in art school, I took a couple of bookbinding classes. After graduation, we put our heads together and both loved the idea of making something that was as functional as it was beautiful -- the notion that our art could inspire others to make their own art. Whether it's drawing, writing, planning, designing, creating -- it all starts with a blank page! What started as a hobby and gifts for friends began to grow into something that we realized more and more people were interested in. We soon launched a website and the rest is history!

3) What do most people use your books for?

We have an Instagram (@bluegrassbookbinding) and get tagged in a lot of photos of the different ways that people have used our books. Right now, we mostly sell blank books (soon to change!) so most people use them for drawing/sketching and journaling. But we have seen everything from dream journals to using them to writing down recipes. Recently, we had someone purchase several so they could write notes of appreciation to the closest people in their life. There are endless uses!

4) What tips do you have for people who might want to launch their own craft business?

This isn't our full-time job yet. Tess works as a barista at Heine Bros. and Ben works for Kertis Creative. My advice to anyone wanting to start their own business is: do it! It's a lot of hard work and late nights and stress, but the payoff is worth it. For a long time we toyed with the idea and planned as much as possible, but at some point you have to trust in yourself enough to take the leap of faith. There will always be unknowns and new hurdles but that's a part of the experience that makes it rewarding in the long run. It's an endless learning process that has turned into one of the most worthwhile decisions I've ever made.

5) Where are your books sold? And how much are they?

Our books are sold on our website,, as well as in several boutiques (the full list is on our website). Locally, they're sold at Awesome Possum Gifts at the Alley Theater on Main Street in Louisville. We also have to give a shout out to Nick and Lynn Boone at Leatherhead on Bardstown Road. While our books aren't sold there, we get all of our leather from their shop and they have been a wealth of knowledge and support for our business. We think it's vital to support local, and it's been a reciprocal support as they have taken us under their wing and been such an incredible help from day one.

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