John DeMerritt owns a bookbinding studio in Emeryville, California just across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco. He focuses on short run edition binding and boxmaking for fine press printers, publishers, galleries, graphic designers, and artists.
Originally DeMerritt wanted to be a writer, but at an early age he was also very crafty, and good with his hands. His mother was the manager of a bookstore in Denver in the 1970s, and he took advantage of all kinds of crafts classes that were offered down in the basement. As he got older he left that all behind, though he was not surprised that he did eventually return to working with things made by hand. Bookbinding he feels is a wonderful trade for him because it satisfies all kinds of interests both literary and visual, and deals in a world of ideas.
DeMerritt began his bookbinding career in 1986, working for Klaus Roetzscher in San Francisco and later worked at Taurus Bookbindery in Berkeley. John feels lucky that he got into the field in the first place. He was living in San Francisco and at the age of twenty-four and was looking for a job at the time. Someone he knew was sharing a space with a remarkable bookbinder by the name of Roetzscher, who had honed his craft in Lepzig, Germany. John met Klaus and pestered him until he finally hired him. Together they worked for a number of years, including work on artists’ books for Ed Ruscha, David Hockney and Francesco Clemente.
John went on to eventually form his own bookbindery in 1995 which he continues operating to this day, expanding into publishing as well. He is the past President of the Hand Bookbinders of California and board member of the Pacific Center for the Book Arts. John has taught countless workshops over the years for the SF Center for the Book, The Kala Institute, The Guild of Book Workers and for Mills College. From 2000-2012, he taught bookmaking in the Photography Department of the San Francisco Art Institute. John and his wife, Nora Pauwels, have been Artists in Residence at the SF Center for the Book. In 2014, John and Nora founded DeMerritt | Pauwels editions, a small imprint focusing on publishing books with visual artists.