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[BKARTS] Trends and influences



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I'd be interested in responses to this question-- please post replies or cc to
the list.

One trend I've noticed is the increase in demand for traditional bookbinding
courses.  I believe the plethora of entrants in the field is maturing, and
getting bored with accordion books and other simple structures. The rise in
interest includes raised cord leather binding, coptic binding, tacketed
bindings, girdle books, and the like.

The response to this demand is not only local to the CBA or NYC. SFCB has
expanded its offerings in this area substantially, MCBA has added Coptic and
double raised cord sewing, CCCCBPA offers sewn on cord binding in its Community
Classes.
--
 Richard
 http://minsky.com

<< I believe the plethora of entrants in the field is maturing, and
getting bored with accordion books and other simple structures. >>

Richard - did you really mean to sound quite so dismissive? I've been doing
accordion structures for over 15 years and never find them boring. Also, they
can be as complex as your skill and interest make them. 
Barbara Harman

My guess is that Richard was saying something more like (forgive me for
putting words in your mouth, Richard, especially if I'm wrong!) that folks
are wanting more and more challenging book projects, and that they have
short attention spans sometimes. As has been pointed out, more and more
people are becoming interested in book arts, and that is bound to include
those who are fascinated for a short time and then move on to something
else. I also sometimes have  workshop participants who seem to think that
the only "real" book is a case bound, multi-signature book, with handset
metal type on handmade paper. Get thee behind me, Fluxus!

As to trends, I'd have to say that in the Cincinnati area the workshops that
fill the most, at least at Ars Brevis Press, where we offer just about
everything book/printing related, are the "digital book" workshops. By far.
Those people seem to want to be able to make really nice looking books with
a PC and a word processor and a cheap ink jet printer, and don't want to
hear that it might not be a good formula for the most impressive work, that
they might need better tools and better skills. I think I prefer the ones
who want the "real" book...Sigh..


Katie Harper
I probably should augment my last posting about trends. I realized after I
wrote it, that I was thinking more in terms of extremes, and not of the
norm; so I wasn't really talking about trends at all. It's funny how
instructors tend to remember those on the fringes rather than those who are
making up the majority.

As I said earlier, there is a lot of interest in the digital book, but we
also have a growing interest in letterpress here. What seems to be happening
is that the majority of those "digital folks" are people who  realize that
the computer can be utilized in a richer way to help them produce better
work. On the other hand, some of the ones who sign up for letterpress are in
it as a reaction to the digital work, feeling a sort of sacredness for the
traditional; for example, graphic designers who are sick and tired of theirBravo Barbara! Concertinas have been around for a long. long time.

 However, I think Richard is also right. There is a growing interest in more
 and more complex bindings. Unfortunately (from my point of view) there is
 not a corresponding interest in content. Many bookbinders have shelves of
 beautifully bound books, all blank inside. The interest is in trying and
 mastering each new binding  ( raised cords, coptic, etc etc) then moving on
 to the next.

 What is a book? Is it a binding?

 Judy BarrassBravo Barbara! Concertinas have been around for a long. long time.

 However, I think Richard is also right. There is a growing interest in more
 and more complex bindings. Unfortunately (from my point of view) there is
 not a corresponding interest in content. Many bookbinders have shelves of
 beautifully bound books, all blank inside. The interest is in trying and
 mastering each new binding  ( raised cords, coptic, etc etc) then moving on
 to the next.

 What is a book? Is it a binding?

 Judy BarrassBravo Barbara! Concertinas have been around for a long. long time.

 However, I think Richard is also right. There is a growing interest in more
 and more complex bindings. Unfortunately (from my point of view) there is
 not a corresponding interest in content. Many bookbinders have shelves of
 beautifully bound books, all blank inside. The interest is in trying and
 mastering each new binding  ( raised cords, coptic, etc etc) then moving on
 to the next.

 What is a book? Is it a binding?

 Judy BarrassBravo Barbara! Concertinas have been around for a long. long time.

 However, I think Richard is also right. There is a growing interest in more
 and more complex bindings. Unfortunately (from my point of view) there is
 not a corresponding interest in content. Many bookbinders have shelves of
 beautifully bound books, all blank inside. The interest is in trying and
 mastering each new binding  ( raised cords, coptic, etc etc) then moving on
 to the next.

 What is a book? Is it a binding?

 Judy Barrass
creative lives being dictated by a computer are common in classes dealing
with handset metal type. In both cases, what is common is a quest for
excellence and a reaction against mediocrity. Now there is a trend worth
noting!

Katie Harper

Hi, I belong to a very active artists' book group in the San Francisco South 
Bay Area. We've found that many museums require that books being shown be 
encased in a plastic cube, and/or they may not be touched. Therefore, the 
accordion style works very well in enabling the viewer to see much of the 
book without touching. (or a tunnel book, or a wall piece, or???) 

Diane Cassidy

As a new student to book arts, I have been experimenting with different
approaches. It seems to me that many people on the fine arts side of print
production are realizing that although the computer has incredible
possibilities, it is just a tool and one of several that a book artist may
choose to employ. Working digitally has its advantages, but traditional
methods have different advantages. I have been working in the publishing
industry for the past several years, and as I explore book art in my
personal work, it has been something of a challenge to reconcile the two
extremes.

I do see trends in instruction because I seek them out and also work at an
art and design school. I agree with Richard that learning some of the more
esoteric aspects of bookmaking are becoming available to the general public,
such as coptic, sewn to cord, photopolymer plate, and sculptural works. As a
beginner, the prospect of studying these can be very exciting, but also
intimidating. My intuition tells me to build vocabulary of techniques
starting from the basics, but since some of these "sophisticated" courses
don't require much experience, there are a lot more choices open to me than
I had thought.

Also, Judy is certainly right that very few of the courses out there focus
on content. This is unfortunate because what's so interesting about the
variety of bindings is how the content might inform it, and vice versa. I'll
be studying this aspect of bookmaking for the first time at Haystack this
summer.

Perhaps someone could comment on what kinds of trends have been seen
content-wise, such as exhibits and call for submission themes? I'd be
interested to hear more about what book artists have been making their books
about, not just how.

Lani Labay

 Bravo Barbara! Concertinas have been around for a long. long time.
 However, I think Richard is also right. There is a growing interest in more
 and more complex bindings. Unfortunately (from my point of view) there is
 not a corresponding interest in content. Many bookbinders have shelves of
 beautifully bound books, all blank inside. The interest is in trying and
 mastering each new binding  ( raised cords, coptic, etc etc) then moving on
 to the next.

 What is a book? Is it a binding?

 Judy Barrass

Hi,
As an artist and book artist here in Oklahoma I've seen tremendous interest in
'Artist Books'.
In general of all of the classes I teach, my 'how to make a book' classes are
the most popular.  They fill up to the attendance limit every time.  Many of my
attendees are artists themselves and they are wanting to create their own books
for everything from 'sketching' to making 'portfolio's' - not to mention
content filled artist books.

Some of the books I've seen them make are relatively simple bindings, simple
content - sometimes it's digital/graphic/copier created.  I've seen some
absolutely gorgeous books created with hand done calligraphy, or letterpress
etc.   Many books approach the feeling of a 'Zine' - hand done cartoons and
collage etc. to tell the story.  Other books have the feeling of ancient
manuscripts.

I have done, and taught, both 'simple' bindings and 'complex' ones.  I find, in
general, that people are seeking to bind books in ways that complement or
accent the content or intended use of the book.

I also regularly sell both my bound blank books - and my content filled 'artist
books' in various art galleries.  They sell fairly well.

Over time, I have been forming an opinion that people in general are looking
for more personal ways of interacting with their world.  Creating books seem to
be more 'possible' as a personal self-expression method - even more so than
drawing or painting.   So both artists and non-artists seem more interested in
creating a book as a method of self-expression and sharing the book - rather
than making a painting and trying to get into a gallery etc.

I don't know that this is exactly true, but it is my general impression that
people are tiring of 'cookie-cutter mass-produced pabulum' found in chain book
stores, Walmart and shopping Malls.  They want something unique and different -
something personal.  I am also forming the opinion that the Internet, and it's
'instant publishing' possibilities have affected peoples reactions/responses to
books.  Now they are wanting to create or 'publish' (if you will) their own
book, much like they want to put up their own 'web site' and say to the world
"I'm here, I matter and I've an opinion about.....".

For example, sometimes people want to collect and 'bind' email's they've
recieved from someone who is now no longer living.  I think in general people
are realizing that a 'digital' or 'paper-less' correspondance is easily lost if
it is left in 'digital' form - due to computer virus', or computer breakdowns
etc. - so they are trying to remedy that by 'binding' their digital
correspondance.  (even tho it's not a sophisticated bound book - it's a
meaningful one to them).  Much like people in earlier times collected postal
letters and other momentos from loved ones in boxes or cedar chests.

Obviously some websites are better done than others.  Same with books, some are
better done than others.
But I've been seeing a trend in a desire for 'self-expression' in a more
'permanent' fashion -- and afterall a book is more 'permanent' than a website.

Thanks,
Sue Clancy

It was pleasing to see discussion on the importance of book content.

I know of many friends who have made splendid books and then wonder what
on earth to write in them. It seems to me that it is a far more worthwhile task
to wrap your content in a suitable binding. I too have blank books which I
made during bookbinding classes many years ago which have never been
written it. To me they are completely soul-less.

Regarding the preservation of digital material. My son has been travelling
overseas since last October. As well as the many "can you please
send......" etc., emails, every few weeks he writes a detailed account of his
travels which he bulk emails to the family and all his friends. His writing is
colourful, amusing and very descriptive, and talks in depth of the many
people he meets and spends time with - even though they do not speak the
same languages. These emails seemed far too precious to be lost, so I have
collated them and printed them into a book. I kept his opening greetings and
his sign offs, such as 'Timbo of Arabia', and drew small illustrations, relevant
to the text, to fill empty spots at the end of some pages. I used double folded
paste papers as covers and a coptic binding. My son was so surprised that
his 'scribblings' had been thought worthy of such a labour intensive
excercise. To the family members who received these, they are highly
treasured.

Cecilia

To me they are completely soul-less.

I have come to considering bookmaking precisely from the opposite end of the
spectrum, I have been looking for ways to present a series miniature
tapestries in an alternative form, and it seems that some book forms could
lend themselves to this, with the opprotunity of a particular bookform
relating to the content/theme all enclosed in one form of presentation
rather than as separate tapestries presented in a more conventional way.  It
would enable the tapestries to be handled, which is not the usual practice,
the order/way the tapestries can viewed in some bookforms is decided on by
the viewer not the artist or the curator.
regards
Dorothy

I find an increased interest in the "personal" - both
in the book arts classes I teach related to personal
narrative, as well as an increased interest in my
artwork and those of book artists engaged in
narratives relating to personal experience, especially
since 9/11.  I get contacted for slides to be used in
lectures and workshops that are not necessarily
art-related.  I also find there is a great interest in
books with a more intimate content, especially when
presenting slides and work on contemporary book arts
to college-aged students.
Hope this is helpful.

Mindy


1. Barbara: Sorry if I sounded dismissive of a book form, that was not the
intent. It was, as Katie suggested, more about students, artists and artisans
wanting to advance their knowledge of book structures. It was not, however,
about short attention spans. Diane is correct about the advantage of the
accordion in displaying content, even when not in a "plastic cube" as in
http://minsky.com/paper1976.htm
2. Judy and Patricia: I have made lots of blank books, and to me they have a lot
of content, remaining blank. Besides the book artchitecture (intentional "t" in
spelling) or design of the binding, they often iconify particular paper, like
1947 Whatman, etc. such as
http://minsky.com/11.htm or
http://minsky.com/snake.htm
Some have been created for particular manuscripts, like
http://minsky.com/6.htm
or have been made as a guest book for a particular house
http://minsky.com/chateau.htm
Many of these books of exquisite paper have remained blank, because they
challenge artists and writers to make marks which are better than the blank
page. Those that have been filled have perhaps raised the level of the artist's
work through the care that went into their making.

 Richard


Book arts has never seemed to me to be about trends
--unless one looks to Sumerset Magazine.  What makes
book arts so exciting is the range of expression,
the means of making that happen, those that care
about form, those interested in content, function
and everyone in between.

How can one tire of looking at accordions, or any structure
for that matter, if it engages, informs or entertains
with content, images and skilled workmanship?
And, I believe, almost nothing compares
to the accordion structure for show-ability.
What's more frustrating than to look at
a double-page spread of an artist book?
Or the cover of a content filled book?

I would challenge the book arts community to
demonstrate the creative possibilities of
one project within an accordion structure.

As book artists attempt to be more and more inventive,
sometimes to the point of kitsch, I believe we must be careful
not to lose the focus of our ideas.

Alice

Hi Folks:

I am one of the lurkers on this list but this is a very interesting thread I
thought I might have
something to contribute. Not that I have been around for years or that I see
any emerging trends, but because I think I am one of those people with a new
interest in book arts.

I am not an artist in that I do not derive any income from making books. I
came to making books because I started taking photographs (1976) and ran out
of space on my walls. I also wanted to group certain pictures with text and
present them as a story. That led me to take a book binding class (1998). So
it was content that brought me to book binding.

I make all sorts of empty books because I like to experiment. Finding unique
materials and trying to combine them does not always work but as it is for
my leisure and creative outlet, why not? I have a closet full of ideas and
"stuff" I hope some day will see the light of day in the form of a book, but
for now with my family and day job, they will have to wait.


Garry Dodman

This thread is bringing out us lurkers for sure...As a bookbinder, and
specialising in limited editions and one-of-a-kind books, I think I speak
for many of us when I say there simply isn't the content out there to bind
that is suitable to a theme we may have in mind, or suitable to the
pocketbook.  Books in sheets, especially good ones, are frequently
expensive. It reminds me of a musician waiting for a libretto for her opera.
Many of us are dependent upon the artist or the fine press printer. I am
having to consider binding a blank book simply to perform a binding I have
wanted to do for years now, but cannot find a text for. Yet I hesitate to
bind a blank book because the binding I want to do is quite beautiful and
complex, one I would not want to repeat if a text came along after the blank
work.  Finally, I bind blank works for the practise.  A good binding is
accomplished only through repetition.  Because of this, the presence of
blank book bindings on a bookbinder's shelf are a fact of life.

KT Pardue

Dear Katie,

I read your reply to the question of trends and influences in bookmaking
today.

Regarding the idea of a "real book", I recall reading that, in the first
years of printing from movable type in Europe, people would buy a printed
book and take to to a scriptorium to be copied in manuscript, at that time
considered a "real book". The printed book was then discarded. The book
from the printing press was considered cheap, as we who remember mimeograph
would consider that medium and today, photocopied books. What is a "real
book" is dependent on aesthetics, I think. The idea is to learn to use the
medium, whether manuscript, letterpress, photocopy, computer and printer,
or whatever else we come up with, to its best advantage in making our
statement, which included not only the book's content but the design,
materials, and medium in combination. Look at what the Russian Futurists
did with carbon paper, rubber stamps, and potato prints bound in wallpaper.

Richard K.

I had not read this e-letter before replying to Katie's first e-letter on
the topic of trends and influences. Still, I have to comment on the idea of
"mediocrity". Please do not construe this to be a derogatory reflection on
Katie, her press, or her classes because I do not mean it to be so taken:
mediocrity is not in the medium, it is in the person who does the work or
for whom it is being done.

Richard K.

Regarding the idea of a "real book", I recall reading that, in the first
years of printing from movable type in Europe, people would buy a printed
book and take to to a scriptorium to be copied in manuscript, at that time
considered a "real book". The printed book was then discarded. The book
from the printing press was considered cheap, as we who remember mimeograph
would consider that medium and today, photocopied books.....

Richard K.

I agree with Richard Minsky's assessment that there is a growing interest in
traditional bookbinding techniques.  Unfortunately, as this interest is growing,
the opportunities of learning traditional bookbinding is getting smaller by the
day.  Recently, both Rhohampton and Guildford Colleges in England have closed down
their bookbinding courses.  Not because of lack of interest, but because it is
more economical for the Colleges to fill the same room with computer courses.
This coming year, The Hand Bookbinders of California will not be offering their
year long course in San Francisco because of lack of teachers.  If this trend does
not stop, soon the art of "traditional" bookbinding will vanish.

Many of the techniques in traditional bookbinding can be adapted to modern book
arts.  I have made several modern design bindings using traditional methods.  I
would be sorry to see these techniques die.  Many traditional methods cannot be
learned in the "workshop" setting of a few days.  They need to be reinforced on a
weekly basis with lots of practice in between.  I don't know if it is within the
charter of the Guild of Bookworkers to promote teaching, but if so, the time is
now before these skills disappear.  I would love to see the Guild, working in
conjunction with Colleges or Universities, setting up several year long courses
across the nation.  I don't know if this is feasible, but it is the only way that
I can see the traditional side of bookbinding surviving to acceptable standards.

Frank Lehmann

One significant trend that I have seen in the last several years is a change
in attitude throughout the _artist book_ world. There is less of the political
infighting and propagandizing that was evident in the earlier history of the
movement. There is also a growing acceptance of craft concerns and traditional
techniques. Only a few years ago one of the leading artists book journals was
still spelling craft with a capital K and the traditional _fine press_ book,
though clearly a straw dog, was a designated opponent.

Much critical writing on artists books has attempted to find historical
precedents while at the same time associating the contemporary fine press book
to its historical past. As a fine press printer-publisher for over twenty-six
years I have been troubled with this as I have never thought my work or that
of my contemporaries ever had any significant connection to traditional
rationale as much as it had with the entire _book arts_ phenomenon of the
last-third of the twentieth century. One of the few collections that I know of
that seems to see the book arts movement in this perspective is the V & A.

It was such a hard fought struggle to get libraries and museums interested in
maintaining collections of artists books in the first place. Now it is just as
difficult to get them to think outside of the box. I recently had a major
institution (that maintains an artists book collection) reject my books
because they have subject/content.

As far as I have been able to find, there has been little critical thinking
that the entire contemporary book arts movement is a post-war generational
phenomenon unique onto itself and, except for aesthetic patterning, without
actual historical connection. I suspect if it were thought of in this way
there would be much more solidarity throughout, and significance accorded to,
the entire spectrum of the movement.
All best

Gerald

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