Sophy DiPinto had a circuitous route to bookbinding. She graduated from University of the Arts in 1990 with a BA in Fine Arts, journeyed through the underground rock and experimental art scene, and back to one of her original loves.
Her visual art persona BookGrrl is a hybrid, nodding to her shy and bookish side whilst honoring her more extroverted role as the co-owner of Dipinto Guitars whose home storefront currently resides on Girard Avenue in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia. It’s an institution for local musicians, like myself, and I have had my 1958 Electric Kay guitar serviced there and have always found myself googly eyed over the handmade guitars on the walls as I went to drop mine off.
But for this piece, more than guitars I dove into the intricate makings of Sophy’s BookGrrl Bindery and her bound art books.
Her interest in books as objects of art began in adolescence. Raised in a family of academics, her father an amateur binder, she had some amazing tools passed on to her and a love of being surrounded by books as a physical environment. A lot of her pondering deals with our evolving relationship with books, our current digital age, and reimagining how books can be used or perceived. I.e. A piece in her collection that is a reworking of pre-existing books, a kind of spliced and diced patchwork, is rebound and titled, “Your World Explained to You” by The Rich White Men Who Own It. Another piece entitled “Society Face the Future” is a book rebound with old statistical graphs on the top half of the pages juxtaposed by flattened food wrapping sewn on to the bottom half, a kind of stark history meets present visualization.
BookGrrl Bindery is a mainstay in the Philadelphia Craft Scene. In addition to her more esoteric art pieces she also uses a lot of repurposed covers for creating journals, iPad covers, and boxes.
As she says in her artist statement, “Most people are not avid readers and yet they mourn the loss of books, what are they really mourning? With my work I seek to strip down books into the elements that people relate to in order to re-forge the connection, and also maybe point out that the past was not always so great, and maybe some things should be let go.”
What is a career/creative moment you are proud of?
For my BookGrrl work, definitely getting my work picked up by the Philadelphia Art Museum gift shop was a big deal. I have been bookbinding in some form or another since college, it’s only been in the past 5 years or so that I started really making a push to get my work out there and grow it beyond a side project into an actual business.
Above: Sophy is wearing National Picnic's midsection-y modern tee and Tencel palazzos.
As far as DiPinto Guitars is concerned, it’s always a surprise to me when I look back on the company. We have been in business for over 25 years now and every day I am astonished that we are still going strong. The pandemic has been tough for us to be sure, but we have weathered so many storms over the years, it’s just another one to cross off the list.
What are you listening to now? What are you looking at? What recipe you feeling?
I have been listening to way too many news podcasts!! This has been such a stressful and confusing year, in all aspects of life I have been gravitating toward the old favorites, comfort food, things that offer some sense of normalcy and stability.
Right now I have bluegrass and old-timey country in rotation. Ralph Stanley, Doc Watson, Bill Monroe, but also some Holly Golightly and Freakwater thrown in for good measure, that sort of thing. I think right now I’m drawn to the timelessness of that sort of music, it doesn’t feel like it’s stuck in any particular decade or era. And while I’m not listening to much new music, I really really miss going to shows! I can’t wait to see live music again!
What am I looking at? I have a reproduction copy of Owen Jones ‘Grammar of Ornamentation’ that I could look at all day long.
As far as reading, my mom got me started on a Nancy Mitford kick, she was a contemporary of Eveyln Waugh, and has the same lighthearted yet devastating way of storytelling. I also just read ‘Wow, no thank you’ by Samantha Irby, it was a quick, hilarious read.
My new favorite recipe is Korean style oven-fried rice, it’s easy to make and super yum! I am vegetarian, so I just substitute vegetarian sausage, it’s great!
I also just got a big bag of lentils, so I want to try a bunch of lentil recipes this winter.
How do you define your own personal style or approach to clothes?
I can be super fussy about my clothes. I want to be comfortable, but for me a big part of being comfortable is also feeling that I’m put together well. It’s a little bit of a feedback loop, if I feel like I look good, well, that goes a long way to making me feel comfortable. It works the other way too, if I don't feel like I look good that can make me super uncomfortable, so anymore I am very particular about only getting clothes that, as they say, spark joy, and resisting those that don't. And it has to have pockets!!
What would be your advice to a teenage girl clothing and style wise that you wish you had received?
So much confidence comes from how you see yourself, if you are comfortable in your clothes you are that much more likely to be comfortable in your own skin. I don’t mean comfortable as in sweatpants, I mean comfortable as in ‘this is what I want to be wearing’ It doesn’t matter what it is, could be over the knee boots with 5” heels or a pair of old Birkenstocks, if that is what you want the world to see you wearing, your clothes will make you happy.