Artist Visit: J. Seivers

Claudia is connected to an astonishing number of book and paper artists in the south and many are near the Nashville area- not far from where we live. One thing Claudia decided would be an integral part of the Master/Apprentice program was visiting paper and book artists and talking to them about their process, their perspective on their work, as well as their larger outlook on the field of paper and books.

For our first field trip, we visited Joyce Sievers. Her studio is within her house which is located near Smithville, TN. She is an accomplished book artist and shared her collection of books with me. She had many works that were completed museum quality pieces, some pieces in progress, and many many ideas about the nature of bookbinding. She is a member of Book Babes- a group that meets at the Liberty Paper Mill, and she also teaches workshops on bookbinding.

Joyce's work really is exactly what bookbinding can be when it is at it's best. Her materials are well chosen and meaningful. She spoke about how books are about containing and revealing content, that opening and experiencing a book is what it is all about. A good book artist controls how that content is revealed to the viewer: the process of experiencing the physical, tactile materials and the visual information in time. (Until meeting with Joyce, I never realized the importance of time in the experience of a book.)

Me and Joyce, Joyce's studio:


Work Makes Work

Claudia and I have our 30-day evaluation via conference call tomorrow-- a check-up for the grant we received. We are excited to report how well things are going. We got off to a rolling start because about a month ago, Claudia taught a workshop at her mill and there was a lot of pulp left over and I was able to crank out a lot of paper with the leftovers. In the process, I learned how to operate the restraint dryer and how to mix formation aid, I refreshed my memory of how to use the press (which uses a 6 ton bottle jack), and I experimented with moulds and deckles. So.. already we have a lot of material made and a lot to report.

After making all that paper, we have yet to clean the studio. We are waiting for the wood stove to be put it before we get back in there. In the meantime, I've been learning simple book forms from Claudia. I'm very good at doing my homework.

This is Jemima. She and another cat and three dogs live at the mill and are great companions.



For those that do not understand the power of handmade materials.. I give you exhibit A. This is an origami book form. I made a demo book (the one on the left) out of regular Canson paper and then created the same book form out of handmade paper (the one on the right). The blue paper has been digitally printed with a map of constellations. Because of the material, and partly due to its scale, the handmade paper has a buoyancy and fluidity when it is opened that is very different than the crisp, hard commercial paper.

More of my paper:


My Julia Child

Claudia Lee is my Julia Child. I am working through Mastering the Art of French Cooking- except my veal stock will be a bundle of plant fiber boiled in soda ash, and there will be Abaca pulp pureed in a Hollander beater with a dash of pigment and a cup of formation aid. We will also explore presentation: handmade sheets served up in a Coptic stitch binding or origami fold. I can picture little text blocks of signatures like layers of phyllo dough. I plan to further develop my taste for paper, and maybe move a small step closer to synesthesia.

Claudia Lee (owner of Liberty Paper Mill) and I applied for and received the TAC/ TACA* Master Craft Artist and Apprentice Program grant. Our proposal was to create handmade papers for handmade books. This blog will document my experience as her apprentice. Essentially (and unlike a traditional apprenticeship), the plan is to teach me as much as possible about papermaking in the time we have, binding books along the way- which will then determine what to try next in terms of fine-tuning my paper.

According to TACA, the Artist/Apprentice program is intended to "facilitate concentrated learning experiences that encourage and invest in the continuation, advancement and creation of Tennessee craft." We emphasized in our application the traditional methods we would be using and while they will be the foundation of the program, I hope to expand and develop my personal voice in paper and book forms even beyond the scope of the grant. I agree with Bruce Metcalf when he wrote that “To craft, tradition is not necessarily backward, corrupt or a restraining force in civilization; it is not an anchor, but a rudder.”

*(TAC= TN Arts Commission, TACA= TN Association of Craft Artists)

Some photos of the mill: