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Jack Sinclairs post re: MFA vs ...

Jack and others, valid question. THis is where I'm really glad to be able to
go to the archives and see exactly what was said, by whom in what context...

This discussion started with someone (Jenifer Hunter) asking as to where one
could get instruction in bookbinding... Rommel John MIller, who also loves
books and wants to learn, replied by comparing and contrasting several
programs as well as "a really nice "crafts" school in Boston, Mass" From
other posts I have seen of his he wishes to learn to save old books as well.
This is primarily what I was responding too, initially. I am a professional
book conservator and traditionally (German/Misc) trained and have had the
priviledge of having worked with some of the best binders in the country.
The two I would single out are Frank Mowery and Bill Minter, both of whom
pushed to me strive for the highest level. Both are also traditional
binders, but ones who also push the envelope in terms of structure as well,
without sacrificing quality. There are alot of individuals out there who
take a few classes and workshops and think they know it all. Well workshops
and classes are great ways to enhance skills and develop new ones, but I
don't think they are the greatest source of primary eduction unless done
over a long period of time. What I would love to see is the same sort of
apprenticeship model I loathed when in it, of working in a shop learning
from the ground up, how to handle materials (with out damaging them...) work
on a production basis, which is how you learn, by doing over and over, and
over... I think we in this country think too much along the lines of "I'd
like to dedicate my life to..., could I apprentice with you for 2 months...,
so you can teach me everything. (Bill remember that one).

If one wishes to do conservation or "rebinding" of traditional books, to
learn sound traditional structure, how a book works and why, how to work
with materials and then find a position in that profession working with
books then North Bennet or an apprenticeship of at least 1-2 years with one
person is the way to go. If I was to hire someone, NBSS (North Bennet St.
School) is the first place I would look along with U of Iowa. From what I
have seen MFA programs teach you to be artists 1st and the book is a vehicle
for that art, or maybe an inspiration to be de-reconstructed. The examples
of press work I have seen come out of many of these programs are second to
none and many ore worthy of siginificant bindings. I have also seen some
wonderful artists books out there by individuals such as Hedi Kyle, Dan
Kelm, Ed Hutchins among others. I have also seen alot of BSO's (book shaped
objects) which were interesting as art, but I would not consider books. I am
speaking for myself now. A book needs to be handled and function, it has a
message to convey. If it does not do that than to me there is a problem with
it. All this leads back to a thread from 1994 about what is a book.

The direction of the book arts is changing. That isn't by itself bad. The
Guild is changing from what used to be a very conservative group of very
traditional binders, none of whom had to do it to pay the rent to a amixed
group of people interested in book arts of whom the newest generation is
much more "out there" in terms of artists books, with an anything goes
philosophy. Anything does go, except "sloppy" workmanship. Just because
something is "art" does not excuse it from functioning properly, having no
glue stains on the covers or endleaves... or not self-destructing prior to

I guess what concerns me most is that standards of quality in terms of
workmanship and strucuture(function) are going by the wayside and it is all
becoming an "Oh-Ah" thing where we work for ourselves as an audience. My
opinions, you don't have to agree with them or you might. I just believe if
one is starting out that it is important to understand the fundamentals
forwards and backwards before inventing new structures. Hedi Kyle can do
that, others I'm not sure about. If you want to practice art or learn first
class typography and presswork, go to an MFA program. If you want to be a
good bookbinder and still be able to experiment, go to NBSS. You'll learn
how to work with the materials and just plain work. From What I saw of the
New England Chapter of GBW's last show that didn't stiffle any of the book
"artists", if anything I thought the quality was first rate!

I guess it comes down to what you wan to do with what you learn. Now I know
I've opened pandora's box, again, but flame away if you wish. Jack, I hope
this clarified things a bit. An maybe to conclude, I am developing a taste
and liking for some artists books, and Joanna Drucker's as well as the MOMA
catalog are helping me to find what I like, and reinforcing what I don't.

Well I guess this makes it open season.


ps. I invite others to respond to this. What do we think of bookarts/binding
education. Pro AND con. I've talked with some of you about this topic,
programs, classes workshops,.... Let's talk about it here. Some egos may
well get bruised, but that's life, I guess.

Peter D. Verheyen                                 <wk> 315.443.9937
Conservation Librarian                           <fax> 315.443.9510
Syracuse University Library        <email> pdverhey@mailbox.syr.edu
Syracuse University             <www> http://web.syr.edu/~pdverhey/
Syracuse, NY 13244           <listmgr> Book_Arts-L@listserv.syr.edu

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