Joel Radcliffe, an artisan bookbinder and the owner of Ars Obscura Bookbinding & Restoration Co. has been serving the Seattle community since 1991. After battling the return of cancer, he peacefully passed away with dignity in his Pioneer Square residence, by the side of his loving wife Mie on the dawn of June 22, 2020. His sudden passing has left this very specific form of art community with one less master binder.
Joel was a true artisan until his last breath. Joel dedicated his whole life to the craft of bookbinding, and continued to work until his body could no longer support his efforts. Despite his debilitating conditions, he wanted to get back to work, not just because he loved what he did, but was worried about what would happen to the bindery and to his wife, with whom he built the business to its current level of excellence over the last two decades, if he was gone.
Mie hasn't been able to work in the bindery the past few months because she was Joel’s only caregiver while he was facing his end of life. And now he's gone, there are bills piling up. There hasn't been a moment of time for her to even mourn the death of her beloved husband with whom she had been literally 24/7 for the last 23 years. She needed to get back to work despite the deepest sorrow that was consuming her whole body and soul.
Mie is currently learning Joel’s half of the business from scratch, with all the business matters that Joel had left behind. Meanwhile Mie must continue to restore/bind books for clients as the new master binder, while also being a mentor to an apprentice whose skills Mie must raise quickly in order to make her an official assistant bookbinder of Ars Obscura. It is an impossible task for anyone to overcome, but she's trying her hardest to keep the bindery alive and find sustainable solutions.
Then another blow hit hard on this already overwhelmed, devastated widow.
The property management company of the building where the bindery currently resides has recently informed Mie she must relocate due to renovation within this year.
Mie desperately needs your help, in order to bounce back into business, offering the legacy of a specialized unique service which has been serving the public for the last 30 years. Any little help will be sincerely appreciated, and will remind her of how much people actually care about their humble little bindery and its services to the public locally, nationally and internationally.
Mie expresses her deepest gratitude to those who are able to assist her during this devastating financial hardship.
This fundraiser is being organized by Cara Stuber, Ars Obscura's apprentice and Melissa Gonzales, a friend of Joel & Mie.
Joel's obituary: https://www.elementalnw.com/obituaries/joel-radcliffe/92/
Ars Obscura website: https://www.arsobscurabookbinding.com/
Graduate film student's short documentary of Joel: https://vimeo.com/201244614
To see Mie's work please visit: https://bookbinderschronicle.blogspot.com/
Mie started her apprenticeship under the tutelage of Joel in late 1997 and has become the official assistant bookbinder/restorer since 2003. She had worked behind Joel diligently and is known as “our best kept secret”. As Joel would say, she quickly surpassed him in all skills and knowledge of this craft, and has helped make the shop what it is today. She has been in charge of most binding and restoration works since 2006 while Joel shifted his focus thoroughly on his publishing interest.