From the depths of his parent’s garage, Alistair MacLellan spends hours meticulously crafting handmade notebooks under the moniker MacLellan Baetz Publishing House.
Alistair has been designing and building things since he was a child. “My whole life I have used notebooks to brainstorm ideas and one day I deconstructed a notebook to see how it was made,” he said. “I then became obsessed with making my own notebook.” Thus MacLellan Baetz Publishing House was born.
After a lot of trial and error, he showed a decent-quality prototype to a few people; impressed, they were keen for Alistair to make one for them. After he figured out how to consistently replicate a good notebook, he launched a Kickstarter campaign to see if there was an appetite to support this idea as a small business. He reached his campaign goal in three days and his parent’s garage has been his book-making headquarters since 2014.
The books come in three sizes and three colours, although Alistair is always up for a custom design. The paper is from an American company that offers a great and versatile writing experience, regardless of the instrument you use: pencils, pens, markers or fountain pens. (Pro tip: Alistair uses a Sharpie pen with great success).
Each book can take up to two hours to make, but with an increase in demand, he is making several at one time, which speeds up the process. “The most challenging part of the entire process is waiting for things to dry,” he says. Channeling his inner patience and managing his frustration when he messes things up is slowly getting easier.
Being handmade, each notebook is special. They are based on the same base design but he says he each notebook comes with its own personality, like a favourite pair of jeans or shoes. “The more you use it, the more its personality becomes apparent,” he says.
Part of the notebook’s charms is that it’s made locally so you get to talk to the person who created it. He has shipped notebooks all over the world but is very passionate about being part of the thriving community in Waterloo Region. And being a local maker means it is easier for him to honour his fix-it rule if a notebook gets damaged someway. “I like to think I am not just building a product but also community around that product,” Alistair says.
Interest in his books is growing and he is hoping to ramp up production to 8-10 notebooks a day to meet demand. He also has lots of grand ideas for expanding his publishing house: a personal agenda; a how-to guide for making your own notebooks; as well possible fiction and non-fiction printing. As a self-professed typography nerd, he is also at work on creating his own typeface. But none of these things diminish his quest to make the perfect notebook.
You can see what the books are like and meet Alistair this Saturday, at the Stitch and Kitsch in Uptown Waterloo (11am-5pm). If you can’t make it, ordering books from his site is easy. I did it and love my red notebook.
P.S. Alistair’s favourite topic of conversation: What are you eating? Where did you get it? Can I have some?