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Re: MFA vs ...

I am a lurker with two left hands and ten thumbs, but I lurk hoping to glean
a bit here and there, hither and yon, etc., but this story left me with
tears of joy.  It is the most wonderful story.  You are a true success in my

>I'm a believer that a book artist, conservator, papermaker, printer or
>binder should have basic training in all of the above. Even if you're not
>going to make your books by casting your own fonts and shredding your
>clothing, it's likely you will work with people in the other book trades,
>and should have a solid foundation so you don't get screwed up in
>misunderstandings. If you get nothing from a two or four year program but a
>desire to continue and a broad competent vocabulary, you are on the right
>path. And if in addition you know how to make something, all the better.
>That's the concept behind Center for Book Arts. Many students there have
>their graduate degrees, and many teachers don't (or have them in scholarly
>or artistic disciplines other than what they teach). It's a place for
>practical training, where the faculty is drawn from the local and
>international creative and productive professional book art community. Hedi
>Kyle was the first outside teacher I hired in 1975. Many people on this
>list have taught and studied at the Center. For several years we did offer
>an MFA (and BFA) with Pratt Institute (which also had the country's oldest
>Library School after Columbia closed theirs). But it didn't mean that
>people who were in a degree program knew more than the others. In the end,
>how well you do depends on the quality of your work.
>Over the last twenty one years the Center's Board has considered several
>other relationships with academic institutions, but has always opted for
>independent not-for-profit status. Something happens when you get tied to
>the requirements of academic bureaucracy. The edge that the Center has
>always maintained doesn't quite fit with that. Bringing together the active
>artists and the crafts traditionalists, the students and the professionals,
>the conservators and the creators,  in New York City, produces an
>environment like the cauldron in Macbeth.
>There are books by artists and books that are art, books that are
>stationery products, and art that is about books. It all influences (the
>current vogue word is *informs*) each other. That's what's so exciting! I
>just came from the Center's annual Holiday Open House and Fair (on until 6
>pm), where this is more apparent than ever. Even the line between
>stationery and art is becoming blurred at some of the exhibitors' tables.
>And the people who were trained at the Center have gone into all of the
>book trades and art at all levels. People who came as artists have become
>conservators, and vice-versa. Have you read my article "Innovation From
>Tradition in the Book Arts" in *American Craft* magazine (Oct/Nov 1993)?
>It's very much about this thread.
>So while I have some time, I'll digress autobiographically (=E0 la Desert
>Fox). The Center for Book Arts actually came from my Bar Mitzvah. It was in
>January, 1960. Those days it was about a religious event, in the Temple,
>with a small reception at home. Not the kind of Junior Wedding event that
>people do today. At 13 a Jewish boy becomes a man in the congregation. The
>traditional gift in my neighborhood was $25 savings bonds. I collected
>about $350 of them.
>That August my mother died of cancer. My father had died of a heart attack
>in 1957. I was left with very little to pay the bills--  Social Security
>and a small amount of insurance (administered by my grandmother as guardian
>jointly with the guardianship clerk of the Surrogate's Court). The
>necessity of earning a living was in my face. At 13 I had become a man in
>responsibility as well.
>In those days we were taught that you work until you're 65, then you retire
>and do whatever you enjoy. Both my parents had died at age 47, so Ididn't
>think I would make it to 65. I decided to do what I liked starting then,
>and what I liked best was Graphic Arts Shop at Russell Sage Junior High
>School, taught by Mr. Joseph Caputo. So I cashed in my savings bonds (you
>got about half the face value), went to Zimmer Printing Equipment on
>Beekman Street and bought a 5 x 8 Kelsey hand press, and went across the
>street to Damon & Peets and bought six California job cases of used foundry
>type. Mr. Damon was missing a finger on his left hand that had gotten cut
>off in a paper cutter.
>I set up the press in my apartment and gave my homeroom class a 15% sales
>commission to get me work. Soon I was printing social and business
>stationery, announcements, tickets, programs-- all the usual job work. I
>was in competition with commercial printers, so the work had to look good
>and be done on time. This supported me through high school and into
>college. That 5 x 8 Kelsey press which got me started is at the Center for
>Book Arts, and is still a good press.
        Jerry Blaz/The BOOKie Joint
        7246 Reseda Blvd.
        Reseda, CA 91335
                Outside of a dog, a man's best friend is a good book.
                Inside of a dog, it is too dark to read.
                                G. Marx

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