Member Profile: Debrah Gai Lewis
This post begins a new feature to profile IFOB members. We learn more about Debrah who was last year's runner up for the Woboda raffle. Thank you, Debrah for sharing your bookmark stories. If you would like to be "interviewed" for a profile, please contact the IFOB editor. We are interested in all of our members!
Tell us about yourself – where you are from, your occupation, etc.
I was born in 1955 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia and from the age of 7 lived and revelled in Sydney's Northern Beaches, living mainly in beachside Warriewood, until age 19 when I departed for my first adventure overseas to the UK, Europe and the Middle East, including living and working for 6 months on a kibbutz near Tel Aviv. My subsequent overseas travel has been overland through many countries of Asia, two subsequent trips to India, and most recently, two trips to the west coast of the USA, both inspired by SoulCollage® of which I am a Trained Facilitator. I have also travelled extensively in my homeland of Australia and I have lived in four Australian states (New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia) and the Australian Capital Territory, for varying periods of time. I currently live in the beautiful Camden Haven area on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales.
I have an undergraduate honours degree in Information Science (B. App. Sci. Info.) from the University of Technology, Sydney (1990) followed by a 17-year management career in information services and libraries, in both the private and public sectors.
Sixteen years ago, after intensive training and practice I became an accredited Yoga Teacher and taught yoga for many years, sometimes solely and sometimes while also working another job.
I am now retired from full-time mainstream work and yoga teaching, but I continue to facilitate SoulCollage from time-to-time through SoulLight Collage and spend, my now more available time, on my various hobbies and projects, including family history.
How did you start collecting bookmarks? Do you remember your first bookmark?
I have been a keen collector of bookmarks from about the 1970s - at first serendipitously or by accident, and then more intentionally! One day I simply realised I had amassed numerous bookmarks, especially ones from bookstores, art galleries and museums and that I wanted to treat them with the respect they deserved! So, I started to focus more on them and to better manage and preserve them. I then started to intentionally look out for and collect bookmarks to add to my collection. I also started to research bookmark collecting and the history of bookmarks. This led me to some wonderful websites, especially the Mirage Bookmark website and its links and ultimately to connections with bookmark collectors all over the world.
Do you have any favorite types or special emphasis in your collection?
I enjoy collecting all bookmark genres, but my favourite genre is bookshop (bookstore) bookmarks, that is, bookmarks promoting bookshops, the ones they give you for free with your purchase(s) or even for just being a browser in their shop. I also enjoy collecting Book Depository (the online bookseller) bookmarks and have managed to complete a couple of sets and almost complete others. I also love bookmarks from libraries, art galleries and museums. In regard to format, I prefer collecting paper/cardboard bookmarks, but I do have some plastic, metal, wooden, leather and cloth bookmarks in my collection.
Here are a few of my most favourite bookshop bookmarks from my collection:
How do you acquire your bookmarks?
The bookmarks in my collection are (1) ones I have freely and personally gathered from bookshops, libraries, museums and other places and events in Australia and overseas; (2) ones I have discovered left in some of the used books I have purchased; (3) ones I have found left abandoned in libraries and library books I have borrowed; (4) ones I have chanced upon in a variety of weird, wacky and wonderful places; (5) commercial ones that I have purchased from bookshops and elsewhere; and (6) ones I have received through swaps with other bookmark collectors around the world. More recently, some of my bookmarks have been gifted to me from family and friends here in Australia and overseas. Certainly, I find that many of my bookmarks, especially those I have personally collected, are enduring and treasured mementos of favourite bookshops, books, places, people and events in my life. My other bookmarks, the ones that have been donated to me or swapped with me, have been sources of learning as they have initiated my research into where they are from or what they are about. (Yes, I am a bit of an information / research junkie)!
What has been your experience in using the IFOB Swap List?
Totally positive! It is a wonderful service! I have thoroughly enjoyed swapping bookmarks with fellow collectors from all over the world. I also get contacted by people for swaps via my Mark My Place website, but it is also great to be listed on the IFOB Swap List.
What do you enjoy about IFOB? Anything you would like to see IFOB do in the future?
I enjoy everything about it! The community of collectors, the information on the website and its links to more information, the articles, the Swap List, the aim to increase public awareness of bookmarks, and World Bookmark Day! IFOB is already doing a lot of great things and I hope it continues to exist into the future.
Do you have any plans to celebrate World Bookmark Day next time?
Most definitely! I will be participating in the events offered by IFOB, including the bookmark raffle. I also plan on mounting a Bookmark Collecting / World Bookmark Day display at my local public library and giving a free public talk on bookmark collecting at the same venue. It is a large and busy public library and I am sure it will generate some interest. I will be talking with the library manager and am hopeful of gaining her support and permission for this to go ahead.
Do you collect anything else?
I have been an avid reader since childhood and an enthusiastic book collector since my early teens. Collecting books and bookmarks goes hand-in-hand really! Now I have thousands of both! In addition, I collect other book ephemera such as bookshop business cards and postcards. I am also interested in bookplates and bookends, but I only collect those virtually on Pinterest!
Outside of book, bookmarks and other book related items, I collect postage stamps on women that fit with my project theme of “ I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR! Women’s Suffrage, Women’s Rights, Equality and Liberation: A Postal Herstory to 2015”. This is a huge project which I have been doing since the mid 1980s and am hoping to bring to culmination in the next couple of years. My plan is to eventually donate the several large stamp albums to a relevant women’s organisation and to share the whole project with the world via a website which I will create.
Anything else you would like to share?
To me, bookmarks, in addition to their function of marking the place one is up to in a book, are small works of art and beauty or whimsy and many of them share inspirational, important and educational messages in a compact, effective and meaningful way. Part of me loves, enjoys and relishes this hobby of bookmark collecting and part of me thinks it is dorky, nerdy and a bit of a waste of time! The first part wins out though, by far! Like all people who have the collection bug, whatever it is they may collect, there is no point trying to rationalise, explain or justify it. I have decided to just enjoy it and to share some (but not all) of my bookmarks with interested people via my Mark My Place website and blog.
I also collect (pin) bookmarks of all kinds on Pinterest. As of August 2018, I have almost 16,000 bookmarks, of all kinds, pinned on my board and nearly 3,000 followers, many of whom have re-pinned my pins. There are clearly lots of bookmark fans out there!
Finally, I can’t end this profile without sharing the front and back images of two favourite Aussie (Australian) publisher bookmarks from my collection.