by Lindy Gamolo
As you probably know, bookmarks don’t always have to be made of paper. It can be made out of many things: wood, metal, plastic, ceramic, fabric, leather, resin and other materials I have no idea you could make bookmarks out of. And as varied as the materials are, bookmarks also come in different shapes and designs.
So today, as we open our birthday month, I chose to feature wooden kinds of bookmark from all over the world.
Wood is a good material for a bookmark as long as it’s thin and smooth so as not to ruin the pages. Different manufacturers use different kinds of wood for bookmarks. Some of these companies claim to be using only sustainable wood, meaning their wood comes from ‘sustainably’ managed forests.
Unfortunately, I haven’t yet received a wooden bookmark from any of my exchanges with Western collectors. This got me thinking that maybe wooden ones are more common in Southeast Asia or Asia in general. Or it’s probably cheaper and more accessible for us. (But then I should still remember to ask collectors from the other side of the pond next time we arrange an exchange.)
Before I show you some of my wooden bookmarks, let me establish that bookmarks don’t only help us locate the last page we read, but is also a source of knowledge itself.
Bookmarks carry all sorts of information. Some feature stores, events, tourist attractions, people, campaigns/advocacy and products besides books. And I don’t necessarily mean only through written words but it could simply be a picture or a representation of something else. You get the idea. If you’re curious enough, you’d be surprised to see how many interesting things you can learn from bookmarks.
This is how I came to learn about the Hill Tribes. Maybe you knew about them from school or from your travels. (Lucky you!) I only knew of them when I got some from a Thai exchange partner. I was given a set of Hill Tribe inspired tiny dolls showing their colorful costumes.
“The term Hill Tribe is used in Thailand for the tribal people who inhabit the mountainous areas in the north and west part of the country, including the borders between northern Thailand, Laos, and Burma. The six major hill tribes within Thailand are the Akha, Lahu, Karen, Hmong/Miao, Mien/Yao and Lisu, each with a distinct language and culture.”
These next ones I found in Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. The Kebaya is made by ARCH Collection. ARCH products are mostly made from wood veneer and are hand-assembled.
“A Kebaya is a traditional blouse-dress combination that originates from Indonesia and is worn by women in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Burma, Singapore, Southern Thailand, Cambodia, and the southern part of the Philippines. It is sometimes made from sheer material such as silk, thin cotton or semi-transparent nylon or polyester adorned with brocade or floral pattern embroidery. A Kebaya is usually worn with a sarong or batik.”
A former colleague of mine went to Langkawi, Malaysia and got these for me as pasalubong. It’s made by Paradise Craft, also a maker of wooden handicrafts.
While strolling in a night market in Beijing scouting for bargains, I stumbled upon this unusual find. Who would expect to see a bookmark set in a flea night market? When I bought it (jumping up and down and wanting to scream inside), I didn’t have any idea what the characters said. I didn’t care. All I cared about was that it was an interesting set of bookmarks. That is, until a friend of mine decoded the Chinese characters for me. And this lovely set has never been more special to me. We call this the Chinese Calendar Girls, with each month representing a flower.
And finally, wooden bookmarks from the sunny Philippines! Most of them I got from souvenir shops in Davao and SM Kultura. As observed, the common features of our own wooden bookmarks are the T’nalak inspired designs and the tiny brass bells. Which make the entire look so sophisticated and intricate. Don’t they look so fashionable?
“T’nalak is a traditional cloth woven by the T’boli women of Lake Sebu and to them this unique fabric represents birth, life, union in marriage and death. It is often used as blankets and clothing and on rare occasions it is used in the royal wedding ceremonies.”
If you’re feeling crafty and want to make your own wooden bookmark, you should remember to make it as thin—but not to the point of breaking—and as smooth as possible. If you’re painting it, make sure the paint won’t stick to paper and of course, that it’s free of toxic substances. And remember, if you’re planning on producing many pieces, remember to buy only sustainable wood.
Do you have any wooden bookmarks? Share them in the comment section below! ☁