Book artist Sandy Weisman gives workshop Tuesday, Sept. 26, at Camden Public Library

Bound and determined: The gorgeous art of ancient bookbinding

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 10:30am

    CAMDEN — Traditionally bound books, those dusty volumes that sit on a library shelf, are about as visually exciting as a piece of furniture. But not in the hands of book artist and poet Sandy Weisman.  On Tuesday, September 26, at 7 p.m., Weisman will demonstrate at the Camden Public Library that a book can be much more than the sum of its parts  — the writing, the visuals, even the cover. With an open mind and a willingness to imagine alternative forms, a book can be a stunning piece of art.

    Weisman has been making books and hand binding them through traditional methods for a number of years. Before moving to South Thomaston in 2010 and building an artist-writer retreat on her property called Split Rock Cove, Weisman was the Director of Gallery Education at MassArt, where she learned many of her techniques. She spent time at Boston University, where she studied textiles and she also picked up additional book making skills in courses at the Museum School in Boston.

    Her homemade sketch books and journals are bound in a variety of methods, including Coptic binding, employed by the early Egyptians, as well as hard case binding (the kind of hardback or “perfect” book binding traditional and modern books are typically made from).

    “There are traditional ways of making and binding books, but then, by using the book’s structure, you can really push the notion of what a ‘book’ really is,” she said.

    On her work table in her house studio is a pile of oversized paper “leaves” with stitched binding that looks like the binding is trailing messily behind.

    “This is called stab binding,” she explained of the art piece. “It doesn’t really function as a ‘book’ per se, as you can’t read it. But, you can open it like a book and turn the leaves. What I want to do in my upcoming workshop is to deconstruct what an artist’s book is. So, we start by look at what a book may traditionally look like and how the sequence of it flows.”

    She opened a tiny pie-shaped book with no words.

    “You can turn the pages of this little book and it doesn’t have a sequence, but it does have a structure and a certain feeling, like a moth opening its wings,” she said.

    She held up another book she made with Concertina binding, which allows the book to unfold like an accordion, with sections of poetry and collage visible on individual pages.

    “So, in essence, a book can just be sculptural and visual,” she said.

    Inspired by a miniature volumes of Shakespeare she’d seen in the Boston Public Library, Weisman also made a series of tiny “Troubled Books.” One tiny book measures one inch wide and the pages look waterlogged.

    “This one is called Impenetrable,” she said. “The pages won’t open.” Another tiny book looks like Silly String has shot out of its colorful pages. “That one is called Inscrutable,” she said.

    This one truly challenges the notion of how a book can be interpreted.

    Weisman’s artworks and books have been shown in a number of galleries in the Midcoast as well as Boston. She will talk about the process of those different possibilities through a hands-on exploration of what it means to treat word, image, and structure as co-equals in the creation of making her artist books.  For more information or to register for the event visit: Craftswomen of the Midcoast

    Kay Stephens can be reached at