North Redwoods Book Arts Guild

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Joys of Monthly Book Exchanges

Valentine Card Exchange
Our guild provides many activities that encourage our members to become more involved and creative book artists. One such activity is our voluntary monthly book exchange. During a recent workshop members were asked what they liked about the exchanges. Here are their very interesting responses, regrouped and synthesized:
  • They are always inspiring. One: for new ideas. Two: It's always nice to have a deadline. (Editor: All three were mentioned more than once!)
  • I usually need some time to come up with an idea for a book. Knowing ahead what the monthly themes are allows me this 'thinking time'.
  • The books I receive are great to show friends who wonder what an artist book is. 
  • I love seeing the different interpretations of a theme.
  • The exchange pushes me to think, plan, do art work and calligraphy for the theme. The theme sometimes pushes me to learn about a subject I may not have explored during my life. 
  • The exchange helps me to 'turn on' my creativity.
  • Making books help me to remain sane. The exchange is very motivating. It's sometimes horrifying and sometimes a huge guilt producing machine but worth every minute!
  • Once a decision is made as to what you will have as a theme, the ideas of what to do with it explode.
  • Self confidence grows as each project is completed.
  • (I get) a new book for my collection. 
  • Making a books is one thing. Decorating it is another thing entirely. I love seeing how creative the group is and actually getting to take something home from someone else is so inspiring. 
  • I sometimes worry about my skill level, but it's fun.
  • I enjoy making Holiday cards.
  • I always learn something new that inspires me to try another structure, use a new product or tool, or complete a project that I was stuck on. 
  • The subject matter of some exchange books I've received have inspired me to visit a new place, read a certain book, or try a new recipe. 
  • When artists describe the creation of their book, I enjoy hearing about their problem solving process. 
  • Making a book based on a theme I didn't choose sometimes helps me to break through artist's block.
Pat describing her exchange book during a meeting.
The particulars of the exchange are highlighted on our website. This is a great opportunity for our distant members to be involved in the guild's activities. Participants are encouraged to work with the designated theme but it is not required. You do not need to sign up in advance, just bring your book and colophon at the start of the monthly meeting. You can choose not to have pictures of your book posted on our Flickr site or in the newsletter. If you live out-of-town you can mail your book and colophon to ( mail your book so that it arrives in plenty of time prior to the meeting, which is the second Saturday of each month):
PO BOX 225
CUTTEN, CA 95534

For more encouragement to participate in exchanges, read this!

"The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pound of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B", and so on. Those being graded on "quality", however, needed to produce only one pot - albeit a perfect one - to get an "A". Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes - the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay."
 From Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland

So, another item on the list of the benefits of an exchange might be:
  • We may go beyond our comfort zone, explore with wild abandon, and then present our books to an appreciative and supportive group of like-minded artists. Yeah.


  1. The collection of responses and the anectode about the pottery class made for an interesting reading: thanks!

  2. Some of my most creative books (at least in my mind) were assembled with little time (but not little thought) with materials that I had on hand. I had to improvise, challenge my idea of the outcome, and use materials in an innovative way. The pottery "story" inspires me to do more of the same!