This is a continuation of my notes and thoughts on the 2011 CBAA conference. A discussion on Friday’s panels can be found here and the first half of Saturday’s panels can be found here. Again, the abstracts for all panels (as well as other conference information) can be found in the conference’s program’s .pdf.
The next panel had some of the presenters I was most excited about: Helen Hiebert and Lynn Sures. Hiebert is one of the most well-known hand papermaker; in fact I had purchased her book Paper Illuminated before I had ever even applied to the program at Columbia. Hiebert and Sures gave a survey of hand papermaking in contemporary book arts, and while the focus was on showing the medium’s uniqueness in book arts, I felt that Hiebert and Sures failed to make a strong argument for why handmade paper fulfills a role that commercial paper can’t fulfill. (Wait y’all now, hear me out: ) It’s not, of course, that I don’t believe there isn’t such a role; just that the benefits of handmade paper over commercial paper weren’t strongly presented. It might have been that Hiebert and Sures wanted to present the overview to be more for swaying non-handmade-papermakers into the field rather than rehash some arguments that us more experienced papermakers users, but nonetheless, I’m going to throw in my thoughts for some things that could’ve been stated outloud to move the thoughts along:
- There are many conceptual possibilities for using handmade paper, from the fiber being related to the project (like Combat Paper or Jon Risseeuw’s work) to the act of the labor itself being important (something Dard Hunter would appreciate I’m sure), especially with techniques that simply cannot be made with already produced paper, like:
- laminations: where objects are embedded in between two wet sheets of paper to fuse and become part of the paper. Amy’s thread book was a great example of this, especially considering that threads through a book related itself to the fibers making the paper;
- pulp painting: a form of adding color and form into a sheet, like printing, but where the dyed pulp is part of the paper rather than merely on top (a distinction that I rarely feel the need to use in my work, but some people do);
- and my favorite, watermarking, which conceptually is rather juicy; watermarks can’t be seen until held to the light, requiring a viewer’s interaction, and the varying levels of transparency allowed by watermarks can be integrated in all kinds of lovely ways to projects.
Some of the best and most well integrated examples of handmade paper and bookarts were the student work towards the end of the presentation, but unfortunately the images cut out before we could be shown many of them. It made me consider how to really work on integrating handmade paper into my work in ways that I couldn’t simply mimic with commercially made paper.
Frank Brannon then presented his work on the Cherokee Phoenix, a historical Cherokee newspaper that was letterpress printed in the 1820s-1840s, with some disruptions because of the Trail of Tears. I originally wasn’t sure what to make of this when I read the abstract in the conference guide (despite being partially Cherokee myself), thinking the amount of back information I would need to understand would be overwhelming, but the talk really just gave me a lot of ideas that I was glad to chew over. The process of reviving not only a newspaper from the 19th century but also recreating and casting type from a currently-dying language is a task that I’m glad someone realized the importance of taking on. I look forward to stopping by Asheville Book Works and possibly the center where Brannon prints this newspaper on my summer roadtrip!
The last presentation I had the honor of seeing was Andrew Huot‘s discussion of teaching bookbinding through an online course. Given that the field of bookarts is generally so hand-on, Huot jokingly thanked us for not all walking out of his presentation at the mere mention of teaching book arts online. However, he did have a compelling argument for how, in some ways, teaching it online had definite improvements over teaching it in person. For one, when you are teaching multiple students in person, it’s hard to see up close the techniques when everyone is crowding around, but with a decent webcamera, you can film the technique demo at the angle that best suits the viewer. Students can also view demo videos over and over instead of asking for a technique to be repeated. Also, having the instructions typed out online made Huot think of ways to explain and demo techniques with more clarity. Overall, it did make me consider more about teaching myself things from online sources, though, as Huot noted, some video demos are fantastic and some are really poor, so I’ll have to use my in-person-taught-knowledge to weed through them. :)
And that’s my CBAA thoughts! overall I had a lot of fun and I’ll post my scanned notes in a pdf for tomorrow if anyone wants them. :D