CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio
CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

Friday, September 5, 2014

Ephemeral Centers: Bookmaking!

Two years ago, a 6th grader made a series of books right after I opened a “Bookmaking Center.” Last year, she had no interest in this activity, even after I set everything up hoping to entice her. Now an 8th grader, she asked: “when are you going to open the bookmaking center?” My response? “Tomorrow” of course!

Temporary center occupying flex-table

Sometimes these “ephemeral centers” pop up overnight like a flush of mushrooms on the lawn. I try to keep one table free for this sort of flexible use. This week, the Bookmaking Center appeared here. When interest wanes, a new offering will take its place.

The center contains tools, materials and references of the bookmaker. For tools we have; an awl, large needles, a bone folder, beeswax, binding clips, double-sided tape, hole-punches, a Japanese book drill and an antique book press. There is a box of “cover stock” (mat board and cardboard donated from the local frame shop), a box of papers in various sizes for pages, and another box containing my collected hand-made books which serve as inspiration and models for possible books styles and designs. Several books about bookmaking are there too, including “how-to's” and a collection of amazing artist-made books. 
Artist-made books and classroom experiments

Instead of providing “how to make a book” lessons for everyone, interested or not, I encourage interested students to browse through the sample books, leaf through the instructional manuals and then engineer their own book in their own way, for their own purpose. 

Today a 6th grader asked for some help binding her book. She already designed a cover and a back and selected her page-papers. She needed a way to secure the pages within her beautiful cover. Together we worked, private-lesson style, to find solutions to her technical issues while also addressing aesthetic considerations. Together we learned to create a hinged front cover so the book could open freely. After examining several of the model books, this artist decided to try an interesting Japanese binding which would hold the covers in place and secure the pages. I was needed to tug the needle through the holes that she drilled with an awl – a job that required considerable hand-strength and a pair of pliers!

"E's" beautiful book
While we worked, I kept an ear an eye on the rest of the class, which was buzzing happily along. The fact that each artist in the room could work with autonomy allowed me to focus on the one-on-one bookmaking lesson. In the future, this new bookmaker will be able to help peers by sharing what she now knows and coaching others, just as I coached her. 

In this way, the studio-learning setting cultivates both learners and teachers: all teachers can be learners and all learners can be teachers.