Thanks to everyone for leaving such thoughtful comments on our first Making Handmade Books giveaway, and congratulations to this week’s winner, Pam. Your copy of Making Handmade Books plus the You Are It tags by author Alisa Golden are in the mail.
For everyone else, don’t dismay: Enjoy the following Q&A with Alisa Golden, and leave a comment on this post by 11 pm EST on Tuesday, February 1st, for a chance to win this week’s Making Handmade Books giveaway. Any comment will do, but maybe you would like to ask Alisa a question of your own.
We’ll select a winner at random, and announce the results on February 2nd, along with Alisa’s answer to your question. Official rules are here.
Tell us a little bit about your education and background.** People used to ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I’d say, “a writer and an artist.” Then I would get a lecture about how you couldn’t make a living being a writer and an artist. I also wanted to be a teacher, but was told by my favorite high school teacher not to do that either. Meanwhile, I always had art lessons, I always wrote, and I worked with kids constantly.
When I enrolled in Betsy Davids’ letterpress class and her creative writing class at California College of Arts and Crafts (now California College of the Arts) I found that finally I could merge both writing and art by making books. During my two-and-a-half years at CCA(C) I made about twelve books, some with linocuts, some with screenprints, some with handmade paper, but all with handset type printed via letterpress.
Where did you learn how to make books?* I used to put books together on my own, as a child. Then I learned a single signature binding in a calligraphy class in high school taught by Kitty Maryatt, now Assistant Professor of Art and Director of the Scripps College Press. Betsy’s class was the main place where I was exposed to many binding possibilities; I became fascinated with book structures. After I graduated I learned through the few bookmaking books that were available at that time, then began designing my own bindings.
Do you make up the bindings?* Sometimes I do. More often, though, I modify an existing binding to meet my needs for a particular book. I like bindings that are not too fussy and don’t draw a lot of attention to themselves. My goal isn’t for someone to say “That’s a cool binding.” I’d rather someone say “I can relate to this book” or “it really made me think.” Content is much more important to me.
I’ve never made a book before. What book do you recommend I start with from Making Handmade Books? I’d start with some basics (not necessarily in this order): side binding (page 90), single signature (page 95), circle accordion (page 119), X book (page 32), Pants book (page 36). There’s always perfect binding (page 61), which is just gluing a stack of paper together. Some other easy ones are the palm leaf (page 86) and the fan (page 86). Another thought is to just pick one, any one, and keep making it, over and over, until you understand it and master it.
What does being a book artist mean to you? What is an artist’s book? As a book artist I am constantly thinking about new ways of reading, how language and imagery can merge, different ways of creating an interactive space, how a narrative changes when it is put into a different book structure, and basics like how to attach two things. In short, I solve puzzles, which I enjoy. Each unique idea presents a unique puzzle to solve. This may be true for other artists, I just happen to be focused on the book as my expressive medium.
As I explain in Making Handmade Books under Basic Terms, an artist’s book is “a book made by a person who likes to make art. The artist controls the work from start to finish, making all the decisions about text, binding, illustrations, and design.” I originally wrote those words in 1997, and I’m finding it harder and harder to define an artist’s book in words. Pictures work much better. Making Handmade Books has pictures.
Where can you buy artist’s books? www.vampandtramp.com www.donnaseagergallery.com. You can also look at books in the Special Collections Departments of University and Public Libraries across the country for free. These are the primary collectors of book art.
What are you working on now? What will we see from you in 2011? Actually, I’m working on my MFA in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University, which makes me very happy! During winter and summer breaks I work on new one-of-kind books made out of handmade felt and try to create at least one book edition made of paper that I letterpress print so I can keep in touch with my printmaker side. I learned how to felt from my sister-in-law in 2003. Since 2007, I have been primarily focused on exploring structure and concept possibilities…for felted books.