Bookbinding & Journal Making

Little Mountain Bindery in Fayetteville

By Lacey Thacker

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Lesha Shaver grew up in Benton, Arkansas, and says, “I’ve been journaling since high school.” It’s no surprise, then, that her interests led her to earn an MFA in creative writing from Purdue University in Indiana. After completing her MFA, Lesha moved multiple times before resettling in her home state, this time in Fayetteville.

While living in a camper in Biloxi for three months—an adventurous way for Lesha and her husband to live while he completed his externship in optometry—Lesha finished learning to sew a codex, a complex type of bookbinding. When life events conspired to have the couple move to Albuquerque, New Mexico, Lesha took on a one-year apprenticeship in bookbinding with Mita Saldana of Against the Grain Center for Bookbinding Arts.

When the Shaver family moved to Fayetteville, it didn’t take long for Little Mountain Bindery to be born. The private studio started in 2005 as a full-service, traditional hand bookbindery. For that reason, “most of the equipment falls into traditional bookbinding.” Customers send in bibles, rare books, children’s books and genealogies for repair, and Lesha also makes custom display boxes and portfolios to show off nearly anything a customer can imagine.

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While about 50 percent of Lesha’s time used to be spent teaching, now that Lesha’s kids are eleven and nearly fourteen, she finds herself teaching a bit less and making a bit more. About five years ago, Lesha began making what has become her signature product—the Fillion. The Fillion is made from beautiful high-quality leather that is sourced from some of the oldest tanneries in the United States. It is also a workhorse, allowing a person to carry multiple notebooks for different subjects or purposes, as well as a planner, and still have lots of room for doodling and dreaming. The Fillion comes in three standard sizes and can also be custom cut to a customer’s specifications. 

Lesha says she always has multiple notebooks going so she can divide them by subject, and she often has one going for “junk” writing. “I take the junk ones camping and use them for kindling,” she explains. Like many Arkansans, one of Lesha’s favorite places to camp is the Buffalo River. In fact, Lesha will be sending out postcards of the Buffalo River as part of an upcoming marketing campaign.

To make the Fillion, Lesha first cuts the leather to size. She laughs and says, “I’m kind of a control freak. I look at each piece of leather and kind of envision how the Fillion will look.” Thus, while employees may work on a Fillion’s construction, it’s Lesha who cuts each piece of leather. 

From there, the corners are rounded off and the edges of the leather painted. Holes are then drilled into the leather to hold the cording. Finally, they are branded and shelved, ready to be shipped. Each Fillion can also be stamped with a name or other word, per the customer’s order.

It’s evident what pride Lesha takes in her art, and in the use her customers make of her product. “Everyone from business persons to archaeologists to salmon fishermen in Alaska to moms use Fillions,” she explains. And she’s always happy to hear from customers about how they’ve integrated a Fillion into their lives. 

For more information, visit littlemountainbindery.com.