New addition to “Alumni in the Field.” Melissa Chao 2009!


Like most MICA students, I carried a sketchbook everywhere I went. Frustrated by the poor quality of commercially available sketchbooks, I began to explore bookbinding as a way to create the books I always wanted. I made books of all shapes and sizes, and utilized fine drawing and printmaking papers. I took every bookbinding and paper-making class MICA offered, and studied further during a semester abroad in Cortona, Italy.
After graduating, I moved back to my home state of Massachusetts and launched my handmade book business, To Boldly Fold • Handmade Books & Paper Goods. Since day one I’ve been dedicated to high quality materials, meticulous craftsmanship, and functional design, and these foundational principles continue to guide my business today. My flagship products are hand-bound sketchbooks and journals made with acid-free artists’ papers & supple leather covers, and I’m branching out into a line of paper products this year.
For the first few years I sold primarily online and at craft shows, advancing steadily from farmers’ markets and local shows to more high profile events such as Bazaar Bizarre Boston and Renegade Craft Brooklyn. I got my big break in 2012, when I was accepted into the New York International Gift Fair (NYIGF) and was awarded the Carol Sederstrom Ross Scholarship, which paid for my show expenses in full. Suddenly, a show that would have been far outside my price range for another several years became an immediate reality, and my business changed overnight. Thanks to the wholesale buyers I met at the show, my books are now in over two dozen stores across the United States & Canada, including the National Archives gift shop, two wineries owned by Francis Ford Coppola, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum shop in Boston, and a number of wonderful, independently owned stores.
2013 is off to a great start. I’ve been awarded a grant as part of a program called Assets for Artists, which helps promising artists to build their creative businesses through matched savings. I attended NYIGF once again in January, and continue to book new wholesale clients. I also just recently got married! My husband is fellow MICA alum, Mark Grambau (Illustration ’08), who is working as a User Interface Designer & Illustrator here in the Boston area. He also keeps me looking good, designing every aspect of To Boldly Fold, from the website and brand, to packaging and signage.
It’s been an incredible amount of work, but I’m thrilled with the direction in which my business and life are going. Follow along at
This entry was posted by Mica Photo.

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