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Turning Pages Intensive Introduces Students to Book Arts

UPrep students create 15 different types of handmade book structures during this winter intensive.

Creating an experience around the message of the book

By Nancy Schatz Alton, Writer/Editor

Librarian Anne Bingham brings her skills and passion for making books to the winter intensive she teaches to 8th–12th grade students, Turning Pages: An Introduction to Book Arts. “One great part of working at UPrep is that you can bring all of your skills to school and expand upon those skills,” she says.

Anne has taught the Book Arts intensive for three years; before that, she taught book making skills to students during units in an array of UPrep classes. Her love for this art began while working on an archaeological dig the summer before she attended graduate school. The dig evacuating a medieval village in North Yorkshire was the largest dig in Europe at that time. As she met people who worked in archiving in museums, historical societies, and universities, she became fascinated with the documentation of history. “That led me to work helping to fix books in the Mendery and Conservation Lab while I attended grad school at the University of Washington [UW]. The people I worked with said if I want to learn how to fix books, I needed to know how to make books,” says Anne.

This led her to work at Tabula Rasa Press, a small, letterpress-style bookmaking operation that was located in Pioneer Square, for five years. Then she worked as a conservation technician at libraries at the UW for five years before becoming a librarian at UPrep. Anne still makes books by hand, using a letterpress from 1890 that is in her garage. (Look for her work here in the UW Libraries search engine.)

During this year’s intensive, due to the pandemic, students are focused on work they can do at home. With a focus on creating a portfolio of 15 book structures, students learn the basic elements of bookbinding by creating models that build progressively. Anne presents a slideshow about each book type the students make, along with a video that includes step-by-step instructions. Students received all the materials and necessary tools before the intensive began.

“The first book we make is a gratitude journal, and the students do a prompt and add to that journal every day of class,” says Anne. Students work in breakout rooms on Zoom, so they can help each other. Anne says the students are incredibly creative and they always go way beyond her expectations with their work.

Students also learn about multicultural history of every book they make, along with contemporary trends in book arts. “When I first proposed this intensive before the academic council, someone asked if anything the students learn in class isn’t European history. Actually, all of the book art structures students learn are based out of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and South America,” says Anne.

Students also gain an appreciation of the universality of this way of sharing and showing information. “Handmade and small press book binderies still matter in the digital age. There’s a huge appreciation and resurgence in handcrafting right now, and book arts have exploded over the last 20 years. Making books by hand is very meditative and satisfying, too,” says Anne.

Ninth grade student Ellie A. says one of her favorite projects so far is the vellum indenture paper book made with a medieval style binding. Anne explained to students that indentures are legal land contracts handwritten on animal skin paper, and the paper they used for this project dates from the 30th day of December 1868. “The history behind the paper itself made the project more meaningful and putting the book together was very exciting,” says Ellie. “I haven’t done very much sewing in the past, so I was a bit nervous to sew a complex book together with historic paper, but I’m happy with how the book turned out.”

For one of her final projects, Ellie plans on making an edible book to enter in an edible book festival that happens in March. “My plan so far is to recreate Shel Silverstein’s book The Giving Tree out of cake, frosting, and homemade fondant because gratitude was a focus during these past few weeks,” she says.

Ellie’s project exemplifies Anne’s belief that when you make books by hand, you’re not just handing the readers something pretty. “You’re bringing people a sense of place; you’re adding meaning to the text; and you’re creating a whole experience around the message of your book,” says Anne.

Read more about the 2021 January intensives here and here and watch the winter intensive video.


Carilyn B.’s Head in the Clouds tunnel book creates distance, a space aloft, and a dreamy, 3D atmosphere that reinforces the gentle draw of imagination.



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