Brien Beidler, a friend and colleague, works at the Charleston Library Society and invited me to Charleston to teach Adventures in Content a month ago to a wonderfully enthusiastic group of people at Redux Studios. In a two day workshop setting, the students would work through their own artist books prompted by a list of three words chosen by me. In order to simulate the creative process from concept to completion, everyone was asked to think about these words before class. Once we all met in the morning, we went around and discussed our ideas for our projects. With those thoughts floating around in our minds, we began by getting our hands dirty with some practical techniques that are useful in many book projects.
Getting traction on a new piece, whether it is an artist book or otherwise, can prove to be more difficult than it seems at the start. There are moments when a particular stage requires an unusual amount of problem solving. Outside of an institution or a classroom setting, where someone is guiding you through the creation process, you have to find your own solutions. When working on your own, it is hard to figure out what you need or how you work. The best solution I found to these moments is the project Kristin, of Space Paste Press, and I developed in 2011. We not only wanted to be able to stimulate new work but also to have a sounding board when certain things caused us to get stuck. Prompting one another with topics, communicating during the creation of each project, and talking about the finished pieces provided me with the most thorough insight into my creative process so far. I reflect on this project and these questions so often that I decided to develop Adventures in Content around this idea. How do you incorporate good content into artist books so that the result is professional and engaging? What do you do when you hit a wall?
In the above photo, you can see everyone trying their hands at paste paper, paste cloth, and book cloth. There are so many ways to customize these materials to take on the feel of each project that they become a huge asset in the book artist’s tool box. The greatest part about working with people from varying professional backgrounds are the wonderful things they contribute. Experimentation gave us great results!
Backing cloth is especially handy for the times that you need durable materials but can’t quite find the pattern or designs you are looking for in stores. Below, one of the students is practicing the technique with a small piece of cotton.
Breaking for lunch, we fortified ourselves and released our brains from the exhilarating morning. Soon as we got back though, we got to a few more decorative techniques before everyone went to town on their individual projects.
Sumi ink and salt used together create a delicate but wonderful design in its wet application.
Acetone transfers are a great way to get imagery or text on a piece of paper that can’t be run through a printer. Citrasolv was suggested as an alternative to acetone. (It certainly smelled better, but caution should always be taken when using any kinds of chemicals in the studio. Gloves and ventilation!)
The rest of the afternoon was spent with everyone working on their artist book mock-ups. Before the end of the day, I brought out the year long project with Kristin and gave everyone a few more things to think about over night.
The second day began with everyone jumping in and getting back to their individual ideas for their books. I made my way around the room, discussing ideas with everyone and enjoying the great projects that were developing.
After a little while, we all grouped together and each person presented their book project to the group. This gave us an opportunity to get immediate feedback…what is strong about the book? What would each of us like to see more of? Is the format working with the content? As an instructor, I couldn’t have asked for a more creative and responsive bunch. Everyone gave great feedback and helped generate a supportive working environment where we could all share these ideas. Thanks to the insightful responses, everyone left with fantastic mock-ups or the starts to their final pieces.