Book Arts Workshop

Dr. Cindy Malone




Deckles.  Quoins.  Couching.  These are some of the terms that five English professors learned in a three-day August workshop on book arts.  Sister Mary Jane Berger, Sister Mara Faulkner, Sister Eva Hooker, Ozzie Mayers, and Christina Tourino, along with painter Elaine Rutherford from the Art Department, became acquainted with these terms while up to their elbows in vats of paper pulp, cases of lead type, and pots of glue.

The workshop began with an introduction to papermaking.  By the end of that day, all of us were speckled with pulp, drenched with sweat, and literally red-handed; the deep red pigment we added to our pulp adhered much more readily to our skin than to our cotton fiber.  But when we opened up the dryer two days later and took out vibrant, textured sheets of handmade paper, the dyed skin and bone-deep exhaustion of Papermaking Day seemed worthwhile. 

On the second day, we spent the morning setting lead type and printing on the Vandercook press.  Each person created a title page for a handmade book and printed several copies, learning along the way to pull out damaged letters with tweezers and to stabilize wiggly lines with tiny slivers of brass and copper.  The damaged letters went into the Hell Can, a feature of every letterpress shop. 

In the afternoon, Mary Jo Pauly, Artistic Director of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and a CSB alumna, gave an overview of the first artist's book created in the BAC Book Arts Studio, Mirror of Simple Souls.  For it, Anne Carson wrote the libretto, basing it on the work of thirteenth-century French mystic Marguerite Porete.  Kim Anno, a painter, created the visual images; Mary Jo Pauly printed the text; and Sara Langworthy, a printer and bookbinder from the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, bound the books and made a box for each of the forty copies in this first-ever edition from the Book Arts Studio.  Mary Jo then introduced the group to the process of developing polymer plates for letterpress printing.

On the final day of the workshop, we bound two books.  First we built our confidence with a simple sewn binding, creating a pamphlet-stitch book with a paper cover.  Then we undertook  the beautiful and more intricate Coptic binding, a daunting challenge that provoked a few remarks I won't repeat here.  Both the gluing and the sewing phases of bookbinding sparked occasional spasms of panic.  But since then, workshop veterans have been showing up at my door with new handmade books and cards.  Their dedication, their pleasure in learning, and their ambition made the workshop a true success.