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Re: If it's good, it's art ...

A friendly warning...this message is a little longer than most. Skip at
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Greetings Book Arts folk,

I'm new to the list and seem to have arrived just in time for a juicy
thread. While I was drawn to this list simply out of a love of books, the
question of labels, titles and/or professional credentials interests me
particularly because while I claim many labels for myself, I spend most of
my time feeling like none fit me particularly well. As a student of words
(among other things), I certainly recognise the power of words when used as
titles and professional calling cards. But I also recognise their
limitations -- they are, after all, only labels.

First off, I am neither an artist nor a craftsperson when it comes to book
arts. The closest I've come is winning a book sleeve design contest in
sixth grade. I am merely a fascinated biblioholic who enjoys hearing about
leather bindings and glue (or paste, as the case may be) from people who
know the craft. I appreciate the art that results. Does that distinction
work for anyone?

I studied/study English Literature in university, and worked for the campus
newspaper as production editor. I wrote essays, scholarly and creative. I
wrote poems. I wrote editorials and drew an occasional editorial cartoon.
Am I a writer? A poet? An editor? A hack? Now I am working on a Master's
thesis in English on how the design and materiality of a book is integral
to the meaning of the literature it contains. Am I a scholar? A
bibliographer? A book design "expert" though not fully a practitioner?

My "profession" (company? career? current job?) is that of "graphic
designer" though I have but one week of formal training in the area. I do
have many years of on-the-job training and now people pay me well to do
this job. Am I an artist? A desktop publisher? A design professional? I do
design book covers and interiors. Am I a typographer? A book designer? A
book "artist" (a title suggested by the title of this list)? I am a member
of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada. Does their approval qualify
me to the "designer's" title?

I also design web sites as part of my "professional" career. One title
being bandied about nowadays is "information architect" -- the designer of
spaces, flow, overall effect, not just the picking of colours and layouts
for the "rooms" in the "site" like a virtual interior designer (not my
personal judgement of interior design as art/craft/profession, but rather a
reflection of the hierarchy I often see operating over who is more the
artist). Yet there are high school students earning more than me designing
web sites. Wherefore the qualifications? The "artistry"? The "craft"?

If I could pick only one title, my business card would read "Winston Pei,
Artist." Whether I am writing, designing, cooking, painting, sculpting,
making pottery, gardening, drywalling, plumbing, computer programming, or
perhaps one day "crafting" a book, I would strive to bring artistry to that
particular project. To me, artistry by necessity includes professionalism,
craftsmanship (if that is still an acceptable though non-PC term),
proficiency and commitment, plus vision, inspiration, imagination. And
sometimes a little luck, magic or divine intervention as your life's
philosophy would lead you -- can anyone's skill, however vast, account for
the one time the marbling on the end papers comes out _just so_?

But then, that's just me. I do agree whole-heartedly with Charles
Alexander, "it can be endlessly illuminating to ponder."

Do pardon my verbosity. I'm new. I'm enthusiastic.

Winston Pei

Black Riders Design

  or find us on the worldwide web at http://www.blackriders.com/

 "I like to look at it, merely sit and look at it,take it all in without
moving an eye. It gives me more than rhymed poetry. It rhymes in my eyes.
   Here are Black Riders for me at last galloping across a blank page."

                          - Robert Carlton Brown
                             on his optical poem "Eyes on the Half-Shell"

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