Indie Spotlight + Giveaway: Krissy & Dennis Maksymiw of Kleiner Eisbär

Kleiner Eisbar Freight Street Gallery Handmade Market

In keeping with my second resolution to be social, I’m so happy to introduce you to my new friends, Krissy & Dennis Maksymiw. They’re the husband and wife team behind Kleiner Eisbär, makers of hand bound notebooks & felted trinkets. I met the pair at Freight Street Gallery’s Summer Handmade Market last year — we were booth neighbors! I’d recently begun making a scrapbook for my & Stan’s anniversary, so I asked them a lot of questions {though what I made was nowhere near as artisanal as theirs!} Now that we’ve done several events — and painted ornaments — together, I thought I would ask them even more questions, and share the interview with you. Don’t forget to enter to win one of their hand bound planners! {Details at the end of the post.}

Kleiner Eisbar - hand bound books

Poor & Pretty: Okay, first: What does “Kleiner Eisbär” mean?
Krissy Maksymiw:
It’s German for “little polar bear.” There was a famously adorable polar bear in Germany named Knut and he was referred to as “kleiner eisbär.”

Kleiner Eisbar polar bear stamp

P&P: Yes! I remember Knut! Polar bears are my favorite animal.
Dennis Maksymiw:
  I believe that there are few things bigger than David Hasselhoff in Germany, and Knut is one of them. Yeah, Knut’s that awesome. So awesome that our business name is inspired by him.

Kleiner Eisbar - wedding guestbook

P&P: Back to business: I’m blown away by how gorgeous your hand bound journals are. How did you get into making them?
Dennis:
Krissy and I were getting married and we wanted a guestbook that didn’t suck. Pretty much every guestbook out there is the standard silver one with lines for people to either write their address or to tell us congratulations. I find the idea of guests giving their addresses silly. If they’ve been invited, then clearly we already have their addresses.

Kleiner Eisbar - wedding guestbook 2

So, I watched an incredibly boring video with a guy who resembles Stanley Tucci {in none of the good ways}, ordered some supplies, and set out to make a book a week or so before our wedding. The cover uses banana leaf paper and the end sheets were printed with feathers and made in Italy. We encouraged our guests to draw us pictures instead of leaving us the traditional congratulatory messages. It was fantastic.

Kleiner Eisbar - wedding guestbook entry

Krissy: We tried to keep elements of our wedding as handmade and local as possible. We did many things ourselves, and with help from our incredible friends and family. So making our own guestbook seemed natural.

Dennis & Krissy of Kleiner Eisbar

P&P: As a husband and wife team, who does what?
Dennis: 
Krissy tends to do more of the repetitive tasks, like printing, or stab bindings and I bind the books that take more time and have more steps. Even if I’m making three or four hard cover books at a time, they’re different enough that I feel I’m making something unique. I also manage the website and do the designing.

Kleiner Eisbar hand bound book in progress

Krissy:  I’m terrible at cutting straight and measuring, so if Dennis takes care of that then I’m good for the rest of it. If it’s tedious, I am all over it. I tend to bounce around to different things, so I just adapt to whatever needs to be done. I’m also responsible for the needle felted dolls and critters.

Kleiner Eisbar - felted whale

P&P: So, how long does it take to bind an average book?
Dennis: 
Hardcover books take several hours to make over the course of three to four days. Softcover books can be done a bit quicker, but still probably take around an hour with perfect bound books taking a bit longer than smaller chapbooks. Designs are usually kicking around in my head for awhile before I sit down and spend a few hours drawing them up in Illustrator or InDesign.

Kleiner Eisbar - Scandinavian Inspired Wedding Guestbook

P&P: What inspires you?
Dennis:
 Anything and everything Scandinavian. Mid-century modern design is fantastic.

Krissy: I love art, especially contemporary art with an emphasis on Pop. Children’s literature has always been big for me as well. I can never get enough of picture books and can sit in the children’s section of a bookstore for hours on end. Music has always been an inspiration to me as well. I feel like what I latched onto in my formative years helped shape me into who I am today. I’m a preschool art teacher, so I find that working with young children is a huge inspiration. I gain so much every day just by being around the children I teach. I also find animals {both land and aquatic}, cute things, and miniature things to be inspiring.

Kleiner Eisbar - Coptic Handbound Sketchbooks

P&P: Krissy, I love your felted creatures, but what are a few of your favorite creations?
Krissy: Aw, thanks! All of my favorites are not book related. I have a few paintings that I have done that I’m really fond of. I also have some stuffed kitty dolls I made about two years ago. I also have a couple of large plush seahorses that I made maybe four or five years ago. I designed the pattern for them and they are completely sewn by hand.

Kleiner Eisbar - stuffed kitty dolls

P&P: What does your studio/creative space look like?
Dennis: We don’t really have one. We make all of our stuff on our bed. On a good day, I can set up an ironing board to work on, but it takes up the only space we have and ends up being more of an inconvenience than it’s worth. Here’s a garland that hung on our wall before our cat tore it down:

Kleiner Eisbar - heart garland

Krissy: Darn it, Sami! I was going to ask you for organizational tips! Anyway, Todd Selby won’t be photographing our space any time soon. Right now we’re in an interesting room situation, but we are trying to make the best of it. We don’t have a lot of space. We also try to recycle and reuse stuff as much as possible with our business so we have things in piles. One of our goals for the new year is to redo the space and make it work for us.

Kleiner Eisbar giveaway - planner customization

Krissy & Dennis are giving away two hand bound planners to help keep you and a friend organized through 2013. They’re so cool, they’re even letting you design your own. How do you win? “Like” Kleiner Eisbar on Facebook, then leave a comment below or on their Facebook page about how you’d like to design your planners. Choose from the 7 cover designs and two twine colors above, and select which inside design you like best {below}. See a few examples of finished planners here.

Kleiner Eisbar giveaway - planner page options

Not really sure how you’d like it designed? Tell them to surprise you! If you comment on their Facebook page, please make sure to indicate you’re entering to win their giveaway on Poor & Pretty, to avoid any confusion. The contest is now closed, thank you for entering!

Congratulations to Shannon!

KE winning comment

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