Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Book Arts program exhibit explores patterns


In the modern age of e-books and publishing conglomerates, the craft of hand producing a book may seem like a lost art. At The University of Alabama, though, graduate students are keeping the tradition alive through the MFA Book Arts program, which hosts its annual exhibition in Gorgas Library this month.

“Recently, we’ve seen an explosion in [the] craft in America,” Steve Miller, coordinator of the MFA Book Arts program, said. “People don’t just want to be sitting in front of computers. They need to make something that is real. The craft roots you in your hands, in the materials and the process.”

The MFA Books Arts program at The University of Alabama is one of the only graduate-level courses in the nation, and was the first to be established Miller said. The course allows graduate students from a variety of academic disciplines to explore bookmaking from concept to production. Students in the program learn a variety of craft skills including bookbinding, letterpress printing and hand papermaking.

The theme of this year’s exhibition is patterns. Participants have explored the theme through a variety of techniques, employing a wide range of approaches, from papermaking to three-dimensional design and found materials.

“In book arts, we consider pattern as we plan the sequence of the page and image,” Jessica Peterson, juror for the exhibit, said. “We establish pattern through the shape of the page, the size of the margins, the typeface and image used, and consciously manipulate these elements to create contrast in order to excite and stimulate the viewer.”

The exhibition is being hosted with The Southeast Guild of Book Workers, a volunteer organization that seeks to promote book and paper crafts through exhibits and education opportunities. This is the second annual exhibit for the Southeast chapter, which has been running for seven years.

“Many of the members of the Southeast chapter come from the Book Arts program at The University of Alabama, either as students or alumnus,” Miller said. “They have a lot of energy and want to show the best of the work that is happening in the Southeast in book arts.”

Sonja Rossow, exhibition chair for the Southeast Guild of Book Workers, said that in the digital age, many young people may have never heard of book arts.

“Everything in the exhibition and in the Book Arts program has been touched by human hands, whether that be setting the type, binding or sewing the book,” Rossow said.

The winner of this year’s exhibition, Maria Watt, worked primarily with found materials to create her piece, “Eating with Chopsticks.” She uses a wide variety of chopstick wrappers in a twist on a recipe book.

Many of the works in the exhibition also employ digital techniques alongside handcrafting.

“Just because we’re talking about handmade doesn’t mean that we don’t employ modern technologies,” Rossow said. “One of our Alabama graduates publishes his book arts as an e-version on Kindle. It integrates the handmade and the technology and makes it more diversely available for people.”

The exhibition is currently displayed in Gorgas Library on the fifth floor and on the second floor next to the Sanford Media Center. It will run until Wednesday, Jan. 29.

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