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

Grad student gives away handmade books


Ally Nevarez is no ordinary graduate student. Not only is she pursuing two degrees – one in book arts and another in library science – but she is also giving away 75 books for free, all of which she made entirely by hand.

Nearing the end of her three years as an MFA student in the book arts program, Nevarez has put together a one-night-only interactive exhibit at the Alabama Art Kitchen on Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. It is at this exhibit that she will be giving away her books, which are based on the art journals Nevarez has been keeping since she was a child.

“They’re more ‘zine’ in that they’re about components,” she said. “Each piece has a corresponding poster and a corresponding piece of ephemera, like a sticky note. As you walk through the show, you look at a poster, pick up a piece of ephemera that helps decode the poster and put the piece in your book. It gives [exhibit goers] a physical representation of their experience of walking through the exhibit.”

Claire Siepser, co-founder of the Alabama Art Kitchen and a book arts student herself, said, “[Nevarez] is one of the more experimental people in [the book arts] program. Her exhibit is interactive and involves the community, and her piece is about making art available to everyone.”

Nevarez, who considers herself to be primarily a papermaker, used 10 different kinds of paper in her books.

“A lot of what I do involves repurposing, which involves reusing T-shirts and other things as material for making paper,” she said. “For artwork, I might reuse a linoleum block by manipulating an image, changing a color or layering, but the idea is to have it be used more than once.”

Nevarez’s love of books began before she was even an undergraduate, but it has been since attending college that she has pursued her passion so strongly.

When she moved from Houston, Texas, to Tuscaloosa to pursue an undergraduate degree in English, she already knew that she might want to earn a graduate degree in library science. It was only after coming to Tuscaloosa that she realized she wanted to pursue book arts as well.

“I’ve wanted to be a librarian since I was a little girl,” she said. “When I was looking for student employment, naturally I sought positions in the library. I worked for acquisitions, government documents, special collections…

“While I was working at Gorgas, someone said to me, ‘You should check out the book arts department.’ I didn’t think anything about it at the time. But then I went to the fifth floor and looked at the studios, and then I took an intro class. After that, I knew that’s what I had to do.”

When asked how she finds time for both programs, she said, “I don’t. I went to sleep at 6:30 this morning.”

But fortunately for her, she said she’s studying two things she loves.

“The [book arts] MFA speaks to the side that needs a creative outlet. It speaks to my more expressive side. The MLIS speaks to my love of academia and research and, well, books.”

With her exhibit, she wanted to give books away because doing so exposes people to the relatively new art of making artist’s books.

“People don’t know how to interact with an artist’s book,” she said. “You look at a painting. You walk around a sculpture. With an artist’s book, it’s not as clear, especially because they’re often displayed in museums. My exhibit shows that it is first and foremost a book… I want them to be sitting on people’s coffee tables.”

Nevarez will graduate with her MFA in book arts this May. Next May, she will also have completed her master’s in library science.


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