Artist Profile: Mary Carol Koester

Bookbinder Mary Carol Koester of Azalea Bindery shares her collection and talks about the business side of craft.


Mary Carol Koester in the Studio


ABI:  How has your bookbinding evolved over the years? 

MCK:  I took my first class in 2000. I quickly found the art of fine binding is highly technical. I started with simple spine treatments and progressed to more difficult structures such as clam shell boxes. I now do two and three piece sets combining, for example, a guest book and wedding album in a matched presentation box.


Azalea Bindery Wedding Album


ABI:  What influences your work in the book arts?

MCK:  My first love is fashion but I’m drawn to things that are both beautiful and utilitarian. I combine silk, linen, goatskin and fine papers to make an attractive and durable collector’s piece that is often kept for generations. Persons who inspire my work include Jackie Kennedy, Diane Von Furstenberg, Georgia O’Keeffe, and William Morris.


Bookbinding by Mary Carol Koester


ABI:  What markets are you currently pursuing? 

MCK:  I have organized my business around four product lines – wedding pieces; journals, assorted notepads and cards; milestone event pieces; and custom binding. Each line has a different niche market where I wholesale, retail, and consign. I have had a couple of years now market testing my work and am currently reformulating my marketing strategies based on that critical feedback. What are my best sellers? Where is the best profit margin? How do I gain entry to such and such a market? These are the questions I’m answering so that I can focus my time and money in the best possible ways.


Urns by Mary Carol Koester


ABI:  What have you learned from workshops that has helped your business? 

MCK:  In the beginning, I took workshops in all things art related– design, color theory, drawing, marbling, calligraphy, book binding. Now, I’m very motivated to understand how a small business is run. In the last two years, I’ve taken classes on business planning, accounting, taxes, record keeping, pricing, branding, marketing, advertising, even my elevator speech. I feel focused workshops are a critical step toward good business management.


Waterfall Book and Box



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  1. Great to see you featured in this beautiful and resource-filled site for artists Mary Carol! I admire your clarity of vision and focus in building your business as an artist. And of course, the quality of your work is so incredibly refined and skillful. Anyone who holds one of your creations in their hands will see it and feel it immediately. I wish you continued success in growing as an artist and entrepreneur!

    • Dito to everything Chris stated about Mary Carol. As stated, holding these masterful works of art says ALL – your work is elegant and excellently created…..much heart as well as beautiful ! David

  2. Your work is a marvelous distillation of the things you love, combined with skill garnered over many years. Your work is art and craft and it vibrates with your kind and generous spirit. I loved this interview- great guidance for people new to the world of the business of arts and crafts.

    • Flora Marr says

      Flora, thanks so much for your response to ABI’s article. I never thought I would enjoy this part of my life so much. I guess I really love a challenge and this has filled my cup. Mary Carol

  3. By God, she’s got it!
    -Henry Higgins

  4. Chris, Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Your take on marketing has been among the best teachings I’ve received. I recommend anyone with a goal of building quality relationships in their business to work with you. Mary Carol

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