What I love about book arts is how varied the work is, how many ways there are to approach the making of a book that would never occur to me in a million years. Above is The Folded Forest by Elizabeth Sanford, two painted interlocking accordion pages, with tiny bits of the forest cut out, casting bits of light and shadow, the upper edge of the book similarly cut and shaped. The book creates a little forest, an interior environment experienced from any angle, and invites your hands to move it and see it differently each time.
This week I got my creative batteries jump started by visiting a traveling “trunk show” of artist’s books presented by 23 Sandy Gallery of Portland, Oregon. Gallery owner and book artist Laura Russell (above) was in our neighborhood for the College Book Arts Association conference and brought along a suitcase bursting with books. At the Foothill College classroom of Kent Manske, students and visitors alike were treated to all manner of bookish excitement.
This is called Nested Book, by Susan Collard, and uses heavy wooden planks for its covers, and hinges for its binding. Another photo can be seen on a 23 Sandy Gallery page here. A big key in the opening page spread is used to unlock the back cover, wherein other treasures and secrets are discovered. Ingenious.
Some of the books Laura shared are so new to the gallery’s inventory they have not even made it onto the website yet, but they are a testament to Laura’s enthusiasm for new work and new artists. Above is one such, called Good People, by Camille Riner, using a Turkish map-fold structure, and featuring a single quotation by Hildegard of Bingen, a lovely presentation. Laura mentioned that books that are colored on the front are often improved by the addition of some color on the back of the pages too, which I have also found to be true.
The great thing about the 23 Sandy Gallery website and other great book arts sites is that they archive their past exhibits. Laura just concluded one of her most popular exhibits, “Uncommon Threads,” books which included fiber and textile arts in some way. The book above, Green Fields by Marian Crane, is a book of this kind. Hand and machine stitched and beaded, it was a delight to hold.
Many members of the Bay Area Book Artists tribe were in attendance and the enthusiasm in the room was electric. I am sure the new book arts students were as stimulated as we were by the great variety of unusual materials, used in unique ways, and unexpected structures.
The scribes are gathering in Portland this June for the 31st annual calligraphy conference, and 23 Sandy Gallery is planning a juried exhibit of book art called “The Poetic Pen.” The gallery website has more details about the call for entries. This should be a stellar exhibit, with its focus on poetry, bringing together the literary, scribal and book arts communities. I’m turning over poems in my mind already.