Trying to be a Student in the Classes I’m Teaching

Pleated paper mushroom
Morel by Paula

I’m attempting to be a student in the classes that I’m teaching this season. After all, the Paper Unbound classes I’m teaching through the Center for Book Arts, are about working with paper, so it’s not like there is finite acquisition of knowledge and experience to be had. Revisiting the basics of such a vast area of study always reveals surprising nuggets. As I introduce the basics, I get to explore them again myself.

Box Pleats
Pleat Play

The strategy I want the people in my classes to embrace, and what I want to model, is to start small, and get comfortable with the folds we’re making. It’s like learning a new language, starting with short simple sentences, working towards richer expression slowly as vocabulary increases. That is not to say that it’s not possible to make lovely evocative work with a limited vocabulary, it’s just that, at first, the goal is more about learning and gaining ease with skills.

I haven’t said this to this group of classes, but I need remember to say to this: although I very much want to see the folds that they are making, I realize that it’s the work that they do after the class is over, when they’ve had time to process and integrate this way of working, that these skills will evolve into something more personal.

Here’s what I wrote about the Paper Unbound class on twitter today.
Decorated paper by Anastasia Nute

Personally, whenever I’m a student in an arts related class, I feel that my work is dull, in the below average range, and it probably is. Over time, when the new way of working comes together with everything else I do, that’s when the magic happens.

Speaking of magic, here’s a fun, magical piece by Sarah Barton, first in the partially opened state….

Sarah Barton’s accordion book, partially opened.

and next in the fully opened state.

Sarah Barton, fully open 6 panel accordion

The surprise of the complete visual transformation of this piece is such a delight. Sarah made this in the most recent Accordion 101 class. At my request, Susan Joy Share did the instructing this week. Some time ago, Susan had shown me simple and efficient way to divide a paper into thirds, then fold each third in half, to make a six-panel accordion. Susan’s method is so satisfying that I asked her to show it to the Accordion 101 group. After dividing up the panels, Susan then modeled peek-a-boo panels. Even though the group only had a short time to work, it was stunning what people came up with. As Sarah pointed out, “this process of rapid prototyping is very effective.”

Photographing my artwork in the laundry room

The twelve week Accordion 101 series will come to an end in two weeks, on February 5. I’ve enjoyed these short little sessions immensely. Now it’s time for the next great adventure: Susan and I will be teaching two sessions of our twelve week, Center for Book Arts zoom class, Zhen Xian Bao & Beyond, starting on February 15 and 16. The first session is full, the second one is filling.

Making book structures and teasing out the secrets of paper folding on zoom suits me. I realized recently how suddenly appropriate the name of my blog is: bookzoompa. It guess, now, that stands for making books on zoom with Paula.

2 thoughts on “Trying to be a Student in the Classes I’m Teaching

  1. I love paper…folding it, drawing on it, cutting it… but it is one of many toys/tools in my creativity sandbox.
    Your comment ‘Trying to be a student in the class I am teaching’ should be on the agenda of every teacher. To be open to learn as one teaches gives the learning/ teaching process LIFE. Without it, teaching becomes stagnant, dull, maybe even boring. If it becomes boring to the teacher…. it might be a miserable experience for the student.

    How I happened onto your blog, I don’t know 😁
    I am grateful I did


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