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Re: [BKARTS] People's Interests On Book Arts List

>I'm just starting to grasp what that means but I'm really still
>quite confused as it seems many others are.
Hi Ben, I've read your posts off and on for a little while now,
and just wanted to throw my two cents in...  Yes, a lot of us
are confused, but I think that is as it should be.  Book Arts
seems to be a melting pot of blurred and challenged boundaries,
and I think that is why, even as a sometimes seemingly anachron-
istic pursuit, it has an endless fountain of energy and new ideas.
Here is how I personally see it, and how I came to my conclusions
thus far:

I started making books in 2001, and feel like I've been doing it
for a million years already.  Within three months of starting, and
learning traditional bookforms and binding methods from my
teacher, David Wolfe (Wolfe Editions, Portland Maine), I was
already feeling the need to explode the bookform to suit my
own needs and help me work beyond the two-dimensional
surface of the traditional page (I am an illustration student).  I
jumped outward to different expanded or interchangeable formats
that made books interactive and deconstructable/constructable
for the reader/viewer.  It made everything more interesting to be
able to draw from this tremendous history of work and garner
new ideas from it!

Then after that I decided I needed to hone some of my technical
skills/knowledge -- up until then my constructions, ambitious as
they were, were very fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants.  At this time
David recommended I go to PBI (Paper & Book Intensive
http://www.paperbookintensive.org/) which was legendary in my
mind after reading posts about it on this listserv.  I swallowed any
feelings of intimidation and inexperience and applied, and went
this past May, and learned a tremendous amount (but never enough!
there are always more questions, as you seem to know well).

_Community and Personalities_
Which brings us back to another of your questions, both about the
type of people in the field and about the community.  I have to say
that even the few presuppositions I had about the experience were
vanished as soon as I arrived at PBI.  There were people there
from all over the world, from all different book-related trades.
Each had his or her own slant on books.  Some conservation-related,
others paper-related, some letterpress and other printing-related,
others traditional structure related... the list goes on and on.  It
basically taught me that there was no ONE type of book artist.
Again, which made everything that much more exciting.

Some of them had met at prior PBIs (you may want to look into
going to one of these yourself!) or other book related gatherings.
While there were occasional cliques and cells of interest as there
are at any large gathering, overall the sense of comraderie and
community was writ large upon the whole affair.  Some bond
because of fellow obsessions, whether with handmade paper,
paper engineering, binding styles, or whatever, some because of
geographical locations (I seemed to wind up with other New
Englanders mostly!), but all somehow linked together in our
interest and love of books, in whatever form.  It was really neat
(if I say more than "neat" I will be prone to a profusion of super-
latives that will sound even cheesier, so please excuse).

_List Appropriateness_
As Peter and the others have pointed out, most of the book arts
population has arrived here from different starting points, making
for a widely varied and dynamic matrix of experiences and view-
points.  As such, any of your book-related interests, scientific or
not, seem as though they would be welcome!  Don't think that
items with little or no response did not find a receptive audience.
A lot of us steal time from work or play to sneak a look at the
listserv, and may not have time to respond as such.  It doesn't
mean we aren't interested, and regardless, it *certainly* doesn't
mean the post isn't welcome.

Like any other art trade, adherents to the book arts seem to make
their living anyway they can.  Some get well-known enough or are
persistent enough, or simply find a local reliable niche of trade,
that the book becomes their main source of income.
Others install themselves bit by bit in jobs that relate to books: they
are librarians, conservators, teachers at colleges/universities, or they
find some other way of tying their "professional" life in with their

Your questions about commercial vs artistic products points up
a discussion I have been having at school in my department (Print
Dept.).  It is the long debate over What Is Art?  Basically it is an
unanswerable question (at least in a concrete, this-is-the-end-of-
the-discussion sense).  As far as we can tell, it all depends upon
your intent.  What do YOU think about your book?  When it
comes down to it, that is all that really matters, because it is YOUR
book.  Your art, your craft, your blood, sweat and tears.

Also, in your pricing, think about how far do you want the book
to go?  Would you rather it be widely read, or would you rather
acquire the imagined status and financial rewards that might come
with a change of labels?

It's all up to you, Ben.  :)
Take care,
Michelle Souliere
Book Arts/Illustration/Printmaking Student
Maine College of Art

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