Book Artists

Books In Black: Creating Books, Creating Community

An opening of artists’ books created by the members of Books In Black opened this past Friday in rural Salem, NY. at the Old Washington County Courthouse . Considering that other openings by this group have taken place in decidedly non-rural venues, such as the Center for Book Arts in NYC and as far away as Brazil, I felt more than a little lucky to have had to drive only five miles to attend.

What's in the Fridge" by Ruth Edwards, honoring John Standard for inventing the ice-box, an early refidgerator

I’ve intended to write about this show, and, as is my nature, had walked into the opening with a template in my head for this post. It’s taken me a couple of days to begin to write because, after viewing the work, listening to a presentation by the artists, and asking for details of their journey, I can confidently assert that there is no template that have in my head that can properly contain my experience of this event.

 While there are an abundance of varied and inspiring books to photograph and write about, this show is absolutely more than a sum of its parts.

A Revolvin' SIT-U-ATE-tion, by Irene M. Mays, honoring Daniel Johnson's rotating table with attachable chairs for close quarters

Revealing and honoring the inventions of persons of African ancestry through book arts is one part of what is going on here.

A Better Baby Buggy, by Brenday H. Falus, honoring W.H. Richardson’s invention of a safety brake for the baby buggy

 It is fitting that the inventiveness of the work shown here is paired with inventions. But this nuance is further developed by the copies of historical artifacts that accompany many of the pieces.

Patent drawing for Granville T. Woods contribution to the Incandescent Lamp

I have to say that I loved seeing these reproductions of old drawings that are part of the patent applications of the inventors.  

Creating Moses (detail,with reflection) honoring Harriette Tubman, by Paula Holland

But that’s not all….

About Harriet Tubman

The books are also accompanied by text, thus giving the works context.

Debrilla's Lightweight Luggage Carrier, honoring Debrilla M. Ratchford's invention of a suticase with wheels and transporting hook, by Shimoda

Furthermore, photographs of the artists who contributed to the show, are on display along with their work.

Iona, talking and singing about Harriette Washington-Williams book honoring Aretha Franklin

I had arrived at the show at 6pm sharp. About 45 minutes later there was an announcement, inviting us to convene in the old courtroom above the grand hallway where we were all mingling. For the next half-hour or so we were all treated to a presentation by the artists that was part theatre, part storytelling, part oration and all passionate, expounding on the work that we had been viewing downstairs. Another part of what the artists offered was about diverse backgrounds of the people who created these books. Included in their ranks are a physical therapist, a choral director, a literacy consultant, and a musician. The group that created these works seemed to have come together organically, hearing about the project from someone else who heard about the project. The members of Books In Black came together, from what I can tell, because they had something to say, and Ruth Edwards, the founder of Books In Black, had the vision and talent to bring it all together. And now, here it is in Salem, NY.

Ruth Edwards, founder of Books In Black
Now,  how awesome is that?
Here’s an info card about Books In Black

4 thoughts on “Books In Black: Creating Books, Creating Community

  1. Hi Paula,
    Thank you so much for all of your information and your writing. I am so glad we had time to talk. Your article is good and I will pass the word on to the VT Book Arts Guild.
    I hope we can get together when I return from my intense class in Main,July 24-31. We can do a show and tell!. Keep folding paper! Aloha,Allison


    1. HI Allsion,
      My daughter was none too pleased that I took down your info on the back of her sketchbook, but it was worth it have made this connection with you. I look forward to hearing about the class you are taking in Maine, and I am always up for a Book Arts Show and Tell. Thanks for spreading the word about Book arts in Salem.


  2. Hi Paula,
    I’m sorry to say that I was not able to come to the Salem, but I see you did but my book on your blog (suitcase). Thanks so much. I heard it was a wonderful event. I’ll see if I can make it before it comes down.



    1. HI Shimoda,
      Your suitcase book is a gem. I just looked over your website, and it makes sense that you created a travel accessory for your piece in the show.
      The jewelry you show on your site is outrageously loverly, though what I am most taken by are you fiber art goddesses. Please drop me a line when the set is complete.


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