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This article was published 23/8/2016 (1807 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In a small room in a small home in the North End, 32-year-old Andrea Davis stands at her work desk, a steady stream of mid-morning light from the open door catching the colours of her book-binding textiles and tools.
She explains how she meticulously hand cuts different sizes of paper and leather, pre-punches dozens of tiny holes and stitches everything together with threads she describes as "both esthetic and supportive"; how the paper she uses is artist-quality, and how she tries to source as much of her material as she can from Canada and the U.S.; how she started binding her own books as a way to decrease purchasing products mass-produced in factories overseas and how that skill resulted in creating her own online business, We Are Bound Together.
And, how the catalyst for it all came from an unlikely place— a life-altering diagnosis of endometriosis.
In 2008, Davis was diagnosed with the painful (and somewhat complicated) disease in which tissue that normally grows on the inside of the uterus instead grows elsewhere, often in the abdominal region, causing inflammation and adhesions that can make it agonizing to move.
"One morning I woke up and I was in so much pain I couldn’t go to work, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t do anything, so I went to the hospital and eventually it lead to a diagnosis of stage four endometriosis," she says, noting the severity of this disease, like many others, is graded in stages. Her surgeon said it was the worst case she had seen up to that point.
Daily activities became much harder, and it is difficult to peg which days will be good and which days will be bad, and which days will start off good and end bad. So Davis was forced to quit her job — working 9-5 became impossible.
After a two-year stint abroad with her husband of 11 years, Joey, the pair returned to Winnipeg and Davis decided she needed to occupy her time with something productive since she could not work. She had already been honing her skill of book binding, so it felt like a natural progression to turn her hand-made leather notebooks into a small online business. We Are Bound Together is run through Etsy, a peer-to-peer e-commerce website that focuses on handmade and vintage goods.
"I’ve always been a figure-it-out kind of person, I’ve always been artsy, and if you can do it with your hands, I can learn it. So I just looked online and self-taught myself how to make books," she says. "I had been making books for friends — it’s something that I liked doing and knew how to do, so I started with that. It took me six months to make my first sale, but since then it’s really taken off."
In the four years her company has been active, Davis has sold more than 300 of her hand-bound books in various sizes, along with a handful of other products, including cardholders and notebooks made of old floppy disks, to customers all over the world. In the last two years, she has managed to turn a more sizable profit, all of which gets donated to two charities that support persecuted Christians, a cause Davis is passionate about contributing to.
"When you have a disease or you’re sick you really feel like there’s not very much you can do, you feel left out of life. This has let me do something," she says.
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Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.
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