Student art exhibit celebrates the art and beauty of book making

| Judy Berthiaume

Think college students today are too connected to technology to appreciate the joy of holding an actual book in their hands?

Think again.

More than a dozen Blugolds are sharing the books they made in a class during a monthlong exhibit on campus.

More than a dozen Blugolds are sharing the books they made in a class during a monthlong exhibit on campus.

Makenzie Schellinger and a dozen other UW-Eau Claire students like books so much that they’ve spent the semester making their own in a class titled “Artist Books: Image & Text.”

Yes, they are making books.

“The course is exactly how it sounds — we make books from start to finish,” says Schellinger, a junior graphic communications and journalism major from Mayville. “We make books from conceptualizing ideas of our own, which allows us to have more freedom in how we want to bind the book and how long it will be. We’ve learned different ways to bind books, how to make hard and softcover books, and we are currently learning how to Coptic bind.”

Wanrudee Buranakorn teaches courses in photography and bookmaking.

Wanrudee Buranakorn teaches courses in photography and bookmaking.

The class is taught by Wanrudee Buranakorn, a professor of art & design who teaches courses in photography as well as bookmaking.

The course is an interdisciplinary exploration of art in the book form, Buranakorn says, adding that it examines the conventions of the written word, the image and image-text relations.

“Students work on a series of exercises that consider how images form narratives and how bookbinding can be complementary to content, rather than an afterthought,” Buranakorn says. “Students are expected to use the course as a vehicle to help advance, topically and conceptually, their ongoing artistic practices. Book structures and designs are explored through bookbinding demonstrations and hands-on practices."

Individual projects focus on the relationship between form and content and employ a range of media and materials for text and/or images, Buranakorn says.

“This class has been such an amazing learning experience for me, especially since I came into it with no real desire to make books,” says Schellinger. “I signed up for this class because I needed an upper-level elective and because I really love Wanrudee as a teacher. I heard good things about the course and I am so glad I took it. I really have learned so much.”

Students now will share their book creations through a monthlong exhibit at UW-Eau Claire.

The “Glued & Bound” student-made book exhibition will run from Nov. 18-Dec. 17 on the first floor of McIntyre Library.

An opening reception — the only time visitors can handle the books and talk with their student creators — is slated for noon-2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18, in the library.

By sharing their books, the students hope to help people understand and explore the art of bookmaking, Schellinger says.

“We want to showcase the work we do in this class and show how intriguing it can be to actually see and hold your work that also is usable,” Schellinger says. “We work very hard in class and have learned so much that we want to share that knowledge and the beauty of the bookmaking process.”

So far in the semester, each of the 15 students have learned three different types of bookbinding techniques, and have created two conceptual books, Schellinger says, adding that they’ve made case-bound hardcover and softcover canvas books.

During classes, Buranakorn demonstrates each step of the process, and students then complete the task on their own demo book.

“Each class session is three hours long, so we work on anything from creating covers for the books, gluing pieces of the book together, sewing, weaving and more,” Schellinger says.

The process of bookmaking is much harder than she ever realized, she says, noting that she, like most people, had never taken time to think about the way a book is made.

The student-made demo books have empty pages since they use them to learn how to bind different kinds of books, Schellinger says. However, their conceptual books are filled with images and text, with book concepts varying from student to student, she says.

The students’ first conceptual book was titled "This Book Is (our concept)."

“Some students did illustrations, graphic design, photography, painting, drawing, physical sculpting or other things,” Schellinger says. “We could do whatever we wanted for the first conceptual book, and we had to bind it ourselves.

“Some students pushed the boundaries of what a book could be. Someone made a box, others had one piece of paper French folded into a book. The books varied in media.”

Schellinger’ s first conceptual book, titled "This Book is a Collection," focused on the collection of thoughts and what it means to be human.

“I did my work digitally, as I am a graphic communications major,” Schellinger says. “I included pieces of poetry throughout my pages and asked questions on humanity. I used a complementary color scheme and did a French fold to ‘bind’ my book.”

For the second conceptual book, students worked collaboratively as a class, with each student making a page.

The book’s theme is Greek gods and goddesses, so each student made a page to represent the god or goddess they were assigned.

For her goddess, Athena, Schellinger created a text-heavy graphic page on one side and an illustration of her hand holding a snake on the other side to represent that Athena killed Medusa. Her color scheme is black, white, red and yellow, all strong colors to visually represent Athena’s strength.

The students then bound the book, which is titled "OMG(oddesses)."

In addition to learning the actual process of making a book, the course helped her better understand the amount of work and detail that go into the creation of books, Schellinger says, adding that she was surprised by the amount of math and precision involved in book-making.

The Blugolds now are excited to sharing their creations with the campus community through the “Glued & Bound” exhibit.

“Some of the words I would use to describe the books we’ve made would be tedious, creative, precise, detail-oriented, beautiful and aesthetic,” Schellinger says.

For more information about the “Glued & Bound” exhibit, contact Makenzie Schellinger at schellml5468@uwec.edu.

Top photo caption: Makenzie Schellinger is among the Blugolds who is learning to make books during an art class.