Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Book Binding and Calligraphy

I had the wonderful opportunity to take a workshop with British book artist, Paul Johnson last week in Portland.  Actually I had two opportunities to learn about what Paul does with paper.  The Baxter Society hosted his lecture at USM where he showed dozens of colorful three dimensional books that just popped out into space from his large suitcase!  What was astounding about his work was the intense color and that nothing was folded.  He ingeniously used dovetailed paper slots to hold things together!

One of Paul's Pop Up Books

Paul Johnson demonstrating how his books work at Baxter Society Meeting

Paul Johnson Pop Up Book
Another bit of interesting information about Paul was that he didn't feel his books were too precious to open it up and pass it around the room.  Can you imagine?   His books not only looked spectacular but their stories were fun and humorous.  He was a huge fan of taking a fairy tale and making it his own in silly, unexpected ways.

The following morning 12 of us piled into The Strong Arm Bindery Studio to take Paul's Spirit House Workshop.  The workshop wasn't long enough for me!  It was just the teaser for what could be done with his technique.  Paul showed us the basic structure of his Spirit House design and then it was up to us to alter it and make them our own.  The photos below show student work of Spirit Houses that are roughly 15" high by 6" wide.  The fascinating thing is that all fold down flat!
Spirit Houses:  Student work with Paul looking on

Spirit Houses:  Student work (mine is the center one)

Artist and Student!
On Saturday I had the distinct pleasure and privilege to teach a basic calligraphy workshop to some folk at Shaker Village in Gray, ME.  I combined Italic calligraphy with pressed herbs and flowers to make cards of various sorts.  I gave a tour through the Shaker herb garden where students collected specimens to press and take home for future projects.  Calligraphy isn't something you can get proficient at in a day but those 5 students certainly tried!  They worked tirelessly learning how to hold the pen at just the right angle, how long the ink would last with one dip, and how practice makes perfect!  We discussed things like our dismay over the fact that cursive writing isn't being taught in schools anymore and how kids are losing out on not using their hands in creative ways.  I was delighted to learn that a couple students had already purchased their own supplies the following day!
Student Calligraphic Cards at Shaker Village

Student Calligraphic cards at Shaker Village
 After a full week of creative endeavors outside the studio, I am looking forward to being in my own studio and creating more.  This last photo is a Spirit House I did using Paul Johnson's basic template only I reduced it considerably in size.  The height of this one is only 8" tall!  Before I cut out the pieces I calligraphed each section and used permanent markers to make colorful designs.  This is just a prototype of things to come.  I find that my hands need to make a new book structure a few times before I really learn it's language.
Spirit House by Bonnie

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