What Color Are Your Beans?

Anna Low of the Purple Bean Bindery lights up a room with her enthusiasm and generosity.  A self supporting artist living in Portland Maine, she makes blank books that others will treasure for a lifetime.  What do you do with a blank book?  You write in it, doodle in it, draw in it…just use it!

We sent our interview questions to her a few weeks ago and this is what she said:

When I was 16 I thought…

I had to look through the sketchbooks I kept when I was a teenager to answer this questions. I worked for my dad the summer I was sixteen and while I really appreciated the opportunity, I didn’t appreciate every aspect of the job, especially phoning people to answer survey questions.

This poem and doodle are in a sketchbook my then boyfriend made for me.

My favorite time of the day is… My favorite time of day is morning. I love the cool, quiet atmosphere. I’m the most productive in the morning, when their are few distractions and I feel like I can put off the rest of my ‘to do’ list and just make art. I love being in the garden before the rest of the neighborhood wakes up, or walking the dog without seeing another soul – except the other early risers who also understand the value of quiet time. And I love breakfast…

Proudest career moment…I’ve had several careers (art teacher, photographer, bookbinder, 16 year-old receptionist) and all of them have been rewarding in different ways. As a teacher I love seeing my students celebrate their success. I’m proud to say that my photography is in private collections around the country and I’ve been exhibited in a museum. As a bookbinder, especially one that loves making blank books, my proud moments are a little more humble. I absolutely love when people share how they fill my books. They often share strikingly personal things, and I am always touched that something I made inspired them.

The song/book/movie that changed my life…A few years ago I started what I like to call an apocalyptic reading list, including ‘The World Without Us’ by Alan Weisman, ‘Collapse’ by Jared Diamond, ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’ by Michael Pollan, and ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’ by Barbara Kingsolver. All of these books are great a pointing out how we wrecked the environment, our food system and our health. I unexpectedly found they all revived my faith in (the restorative power of) nature and that individuals can make changes that effect the world.

Guiltiest pleasure…Oh man…admitting this feels really guilty, especially after the paragraph above. On cold, sleepy afternoons in the winter, never more than once a month, I walk up to the gas station and buy one of those totally disgusting, very fake cappuccinos. Mmm, warm, sweet, cheap goodness.

My favorite item of clothing…My monster slippers, made by Linda Whiting, acquired in a trade at my first Fiber College. They’re green, fuzzy, fun and warm.

I still get nervous when… I still get nervous when I have to speak to an audience about my art. I would much rather teach, have a conversation, or streak naked through the room than stand behind a podium. Daily practice… Each January I make a new years resolution to do something specific every day. Two years ago I wrote in a journal every day. Last year I took a photograph every day. (To see a slide show of these, please visit www.alowphotography.com.) This year I am doing a series of different art projects every 3 months. Right now I am photographing found object that fit into a little wooden box.

The art tool I couldn’t live without… I love my bone folder.

Words I live by… Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read. Groucho Marx

What makes me happy… A million things make me happy. Gardening, especially growing food, makes me happy. Cooking for family and friends makes me happy. Being outside in the weather makes me happy. My sweet, feisty pup Blackbird makes me happy. Making art, looking at art, talking about art makes me happy. A nice cup of tea makes me happy. My husband makes me happy, especially when we’re laughing together.

The lesson I keep learning… The lesson I keep learning is that there is always something new to learn as long as you keep your eyes, heart and mind open. You can never have too many… Plants, inside or outdoors. And books.

Favorite spot on the planet… I can’t possibly pick one favorite spot on the planet. I love traveling and experiencing different cultures. I love living Maine too. I guess my favorite spot might be anywhere there is a nice view, some new food to try, and a good friend to share it with.

This year Anna will be teaching a at Fiber College on Thursday from 9 AM to 4 PM

Don’t throw out that TV Dinner box! Make it into a Book! Bookbinding with Recycled Materials

When she’s not teaching you find her on the Shopper’s Boulevard with lots of creative books to sell!

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