The art of book making has been around essentially since the concept of communication emerged. Anything from scrolls to tablets can be considered a book and in a historical context, books have been crafted by humans for a variety of different purposes. On Tuesday, Oct. 3, studio art professor, Jo Yarrington’s Investigation of Text and Images course hosted a book making workshop with guest artist, Elizabeth Sheehan.
“Book-making is such an old practice, so for people to get involved with this lush, historical artform can be really special,” said Sheehan.
Sheehan’s enthusiasm for book art began from a young age and was fostered during her time at Memphis College of Art. She explained that she shifted her focus from printmaking to book art largely due to the fact that once she graduated college and no longer had access to machines and presses, she had to pursue something that required less tools. Sheehan’s work has been exhibited internationally, including shows at Abecedarian Gallery in Denver, Colo., Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., the Center for Book Arts in New York City and El Minia University in El Minia, Egypt. Her work can also be seen in major private and public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Robert C. Williams Paper Museum and the George A. Smathers Libraries at the University of Florida. Yarrington explained that she took a book making workshop taught by Sheehan at New York City’s Center for Book Arts, and wanted to bring her charisma and talent to Fairfield’s campus.
Throughout the two and a half hour workshop, students and faculty were able to make six different types of books including: an instant accordion, simple accordion, simple accordion with tabs, land and sky accordion and a concertina fold used for both a tag book or a tunnel book. Students were both engaged and excited to learn how to makes these different types of books.
“My Digital Photography teacher is actually the one who encouraged me to come to this workshop,” said studio art major Adrienne Guzman ‘20. “I thought this workshop was super cool. I never knew that people actually do this type of art as a career. I had a really positive experience and I hope to incorporate my other artwork and art skills into this book making format.”
The tools required for book-making are extremely minimal and Sheehan emphasized how easy it can be to continue practicing this art form from the comfort of one’s bedroom. Throughout the workshop, the only tools that students used were paper, pencil, a ruler, an exacto-knife and a bone folder — a type of stick made out of bone that has one pointed side and one rounded side made specifically to create an ideal fold when working with paper. Students in the workshop ranged from those who have been practicing printmaking and book making for years, to students who have never been exposed to book making.
Senior Jordan Bacon is a studio art major who explained that he has never worked with book-making before, yet was still able to enjoy the workshop. “I’ve never made an accordion book before and I didn’t know that there were so many varieties of these types of books,” said Bacon. “I’m excited to start the tunnel book project that she described and I thought this experience was a whole lot of fun.”
Comparatively, Eleanor Sgaramella ‘20, explained that she pursued an art major in high school, and even though she has previously engaged with the printmaking and bookmaking processes, she still had a positive experience during the workshop.
“It was really interesting to revisit the skills I learned in high school,” said Sgaramella. “This is definitely something I hope to continue to pursue in the future, even though the book making course offered by professor Yarington didn’t align with my schedule this semester.”
It was eye-opening to see students and faculty so engaged with this old artform, since 21st century technology has recently encouraged the practice of digital design and graphic art. However, Sheehan explained that it’s this precise phenomenon that is bringing more attention to the art of book-making.
“With the rise of the technological age, handmade books are becoming more valuable and desirable,” explained Sheehan. “Now is really the perfect time to become exposed and involved with the art of print, book and paper making.”