North Redwoods Book Arts Guild

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Conversation with Julie Chen and Lois Morrison

“Intersections of Art and Life: A Conversation between Julie Chen and Lois Morrison and moderated by Sandra Kroupa”, the Book Arts and Rare Book Curator in Special Collections at the University of Washington Libraries in Seattle, was held on March 18 at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art and attended by NORBAG members Robyn Teske and Bonnie Julien.

Left to right: Julie Chen, Lois Morrison, Sandra Kroupa

Julie Chen, a professor of book arts at Mills College in Oakland, CA, is an internationally known book artist who has been publishing limited edition artists books for over 30 years. In 2009 she was a guest artist for a NORBAG workshop.

Julie met Lois Morrison 40 years ago when she dated Lois’ son. Although that relationship didn’t continue, the one between Julie and Lois did. Lois was already an artist and Julie was intrigued by her work. Lois’ background comes from fabric—first quilts and eventually fabric books. Later she began making paper books as a way of making her work more accessible since she can make an edition of 25 whereas she only makes two fabric books, one to keep and one for sale. Julie and Lois have worked together on three artists book collaborations including their most recent work: A Recuerdo for Ste. Ostrich.

Snakes Are Not Nice by Chen & Morrison 2005

When Julie first began teaching she mostly taught book structures because book art was still new and there weren’t many “how to” books, classes, or instructions (via the Internet) on how to make artists books. That has since changed and she now concentrates more on content in her classes. Teaching is very important to her as she strives to foster interest in book art as well as how to express oneself through text and imagery. In one of her artists books she defines a book as an experience. Her books definitely appeal to the senses since some are games or require some manipulation besides turning pages and reading. When asked what comes first for her with a new book she mentioned several factors. It could be something in the news, student comments, or life experiences. It’s a process involving text, images, and structure and there comes a point when she says the book itself takes over and “tells her how to proceed”.

Both above photos are works by Julie Chen

 Lois said that it is easy to teach someone how to draw, but what she inspires to do is teach “how to see”. She seems to always be thinking about art. It isn’t really conscience thoughts but just little ideas that come to her and she collects them until inspired to put them together into a book. Like Julie, whose books “tell” her how to proceed, the text/story for Lois’ books seem to flow from her brain like a memory, even though it isn’t.

Deep In The Yellow Woods by Lois Morrison, 2015
When asked if they will continue to collaborate on books, they left the prospect open. It seems that when the right subject comes up, both of them will realize it and they will just naturally come together.
For anyone interested in taking classes from Julie at the Mills College Summer Institute they will be having four five-day workshops this June. Classes will be taught by Julie (The Mother of all Boxes, June 5-9); Karen Kunc, (Innovations in Color Woodcut Printing, June 12-16); Kathleen Walkup, (a Suite of Broadsides in the Letterpress Studio, June 5-9); and Colette Fu, (Popping Up and Out: Advanced Paper Engineering for Book Artists, June 12-16). For more information check this link:

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