The Hobart

Local Lad Rob Flehr

by Stephanie Williams
Local Lad Rob Flehr

Where in Hobart do you live? North Hobart.

What’s the best thing about Hobart? Hobart feels like a place where anything is possible.

And the worst thing? Rental prices.

Tell us a little about your work? I run a small bookbinding studio in central Hobart, specialising in hand-bound journals and marbled paper. Sustainability is important to me, so I source my materials locally or from other small-scale producers and busi­nesses. Where possible I use recycled materials, whilst keeping to archival quality.

How did you get into bookbinding? Growing up, I found something inexplicably magical about old books. I was particu­larly fascinated by books like our family bible, with its large metal clasps and gold tooling. Book binding runs in my family and something I’m passionate about reviving. It has been a lifelong obsession. As COVID-19 began to hit, I made the most of lockdown to practice my craft. Like many people, I became unemployed, which in turn made me eligible for the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS). Through the NEIS program I was able to develop the skills to turn my craft into a viable business, which is now my full time work.

Your books are very detailed – they’re not your run of the mill journals. What is the market like for bespoke bookbinding?

The market for fine booking is very diverse. It ranges from simple well-made journals to more ornate, customised books, albums and marbled papers for special birthdays, anniversaries and weddings. My main clientele is a mix of local and interstate professionals who value small-scale/ high-end production with detailed customisation. I, myself, desire books that are beautiful yet very durable; being designed for high levels of use. These values are at the core of my practice. My current turnaround for commissioned books is 6 to 8 weeks, however this can vary depending on the level of complexity.

What’s your dream project to work on? To be honest I’m really content with what I’m doing right now – working in my studio every day in the pursuit of perfecting my craft. As circumstance permits I would love to travel a little to learn from Master book­binders to further my practice.

Where can readers find your work or talk about a project? I have a small collection of books available to purchase at the MONA shop, however the full range of my work can be followed via my Instagram @rflehrbindery. Consultations at my studio are available by appointment.

I’m inspired by… Master craftsmanship. There’s something in the precision of traditional hand-crafts that is hard to replace. From the intimate knowledge of each material that is worked with, to then how that material comes together with technique to make a finished work. The whole process of the making. There’s so much incredible beauty to learn about.

What do you love doing outside work? When I’m not making books, I love writing in them! Calligraphy and illuminated texts have always been a passion of mine. There’s also nothing quite like yoga after being hunched over books all day.

Where’s your favourite Hobart eatery? We are so spoiled for choice when it comes to places to eat here in Hobart. Some favourites are Shoebox Café, Bar Wa Izakaya and Faro Tapas at MONA.

Drink of choice and where do you head for it? I really enjoy wine. Cool Wines has the most incredible selection.

Guilty pleasure? I collect amber.

What do you never leave home without? My lucky rabbit foot.

I’d like to travel to… the UK, France, Scandinavia.

If I didn’t live in Hobart I’d live… in New Zealand or Wales.

Favourite Hobart secret? The Hobart Gem show

Quote to live by? “Seek wisdom that unties your knot. Seek the path that demands your whole being’’. -Rumi

Where can readers find your work or talk about a project? I have a small collection of books available to purchase at the MONA shop, however the full range of my work can be followed via my Instagram @rflehrbindery. Consultations at my studio are available by appointment.

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June 2024

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