Sunday, May 11, 2008

Review: Penland Book of Handmade Books

I've not written about art-related books on my blog until now, but I thought it might be a good idea to do the occasional review.

Many of my artist friends live in Europe, as I do. One of the disadvantages of that is that it's not easy to find the range of great art books that is available in the US, and ordering US books has, until recently, been expensive. That's changed a little in the past months. One of the few advantages of the strong Euro in combination with the weak dollar is that US books have become very reasonably priced (through Amazon International).

I've been waiting for a long time for the paperback (brochured) edition of the Penland Book of Handmade Books to be published. When it came out last month, it cost me only 14 euros though Amazon International. I was pleased about the price, and I am thrilled with the book.

The Penland Book of Handmade Books contains approximately 400 high quality photographs of the work of book artists who have taught at the Penland school.

If you still think of books as a pile of papers bound between two covers, be prepared to revise your opinion. Among other things, you'll see book sculptures, boxes, scrolls, and objects that take the idea of "book" to the extremes. You'll probably find yourself looking at everyday items in terms of book-makeability!

The book contains tutorials that show how to reproduce some of the books, objects, and binding styles. It's simply full to bursting with book making ideas to ogle and adapt.

One of my favourites from the book is Barbara Mauriello's handmade "Women of the Bible" box. Here's a photo of the box from the Rutgers website.

Dolph Smith's books gave me a bunch of ideas:

And there were many, many more...

Because the artists are professionals, some chapters of the book show fascinating, large scale projects that would be difficult to do in the kind of kitchen table workshops many of us have. At the same time, because the ideas and tutorials are more artistic and ambitious than the step-by-steps in craft books, I felt inspired to stretch my abilities and attempt some of the more complex techniques, and I was successful!

In addition to the images, the book contains short essays by some of the artists in which they write about their materials, processes, and backgrounds.

Though this is an art book, rather than a craft how-to, I found it practical as well as inspiring. Leafing through the book gave me many new ideas to try in the coming months, and it also boosted my confidence. Without wishing to sound boastful, seeing the work in this book made it clear to me that some of what I've done in the past few years is probably as close to being as good as that of professional artists as it can be, given the makeshift circumstances I work in.

If you're looking for a truly great book about artistic bookmaking, this is one I'd recommend, especially if you have to budget. To my mind, The Penland Book of Handmade Books is one of the best bargains available at the moment. Check out your local Amazon.

The Penland Book of Handmade Books
Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher: Lark Books (March 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1600593003
ISBN-13: 978-1600593000

1 comment:

Gena said...

How inspiring this book sounds, right up your alley. I am glad it raised your confidence - I'll look forward to a future edition with your work in it!

Thanks for sharing this. I am eager to check it out as well. I love the fact that it is an art book.