Zhen Xian Bao · Zoom Workshop

The SDBA Connection

One of the best parts of teaching, for me, is having the excuse to make beautiful paper designs to work with.

I suspect that the people at San Diego Book Arts didn’t know what they were getting into when they asked Susan Share and me to teach our in-depth class on the Zhen Xian Bao through them this year. I just want to say that I’m glad that they picked us.

They curate a fabulous line-up of classes. Susan and I are both honored to be included.

Putting on an extended class is no small feat. It requires a great deal of commitment from quite a few people, It can be a lot to manage. We’re a month away from the start date, but already the folks at SDBA are in high gear, promoting the class, welcoming participants, and figuring out all the backstage stuff. They also have to deal with me. It’s a good thing they are patient (thank you SDBA).

For people who are not members of San Diego Book Arts, it’s worth becoming a member, which costs $50 a year. I generally shy away from membership fees, but this organization gives you a good bit of value for your buck. The membership fee gives a deep discount to classes, and since they offer so many fine classes, the yearly fee will seem to melt away. That’s not all, though. You will be reminded of their monthly membership meeting, which they obviously put a good bit of time and thought into, to make it an enjoyable and informative event. The people who run SDBA pour their hearts into being responsive to their members.

I’ve been lucky enough to get to work with people through zoom that I had previously worked with in-person. This is a Center For Book Arts workshop, 2019

This will be the third year that some form of this class has been offered on-line. It’s also the third year that people who have already studied the ZXB have taken the class. I’m feel confident saying that experienced ZXBers learn at least as much as students who studying this form for the first time. This reason I’m so sure of this is that each time that I co-teach this class with Susan, I learn an enormous amount. The people who take the class show up with so much wisdom, so many good questions, so much insight and skill, that I can’t help but learn as we work together. Susan, too, takes anything and everything that I bring to the class, and makes it deeper, richer, and more interesting.

Susan and I both bring decades of book arts and teaching experience to the class, so, although this class focuses on the Zhen Xian Bao form, what people get is everything we can manage to fit into each 2.5 hour class.

Here are some of the specifics about what we do.

A short clip showing my model of the Zhen Xian Bao with Accordion, based on a traditional model

Because of Rebecca, who took our class last year, we’ve come to appreciate how much people like to see historical examples of the Zhen Xian Bao. We, therefore, spend time looking at historical examples of the structure We look at them, teach how to decipher them, and watch people make their own variations. Last year a student, Sarah, pointed us towards a historical model that Susan and I immediately became enamored with, because it has an accordion fold out between layers. We couldn’t rest until we made our own. Then we helped others to figure out how to make it.

My four column ZXB

Another participant, Amy, shocked me when she made a four panel ZXB that has three big box layers. It was something I had made, but I had advantage of having been able to handle one to unlock its secrets. Amy did it all without my help, looking only at historical photos.

Zhen Xian Bao by Susan Joy Share, 2022

We have a great deal of playful fun in the class, exploring closures and messing around with surface design. Susan has done so much with these modes of working that I sit in awe. My favorite closure she made is one with a crocheted closure embedded in a methyl cellulose stiffened mesh cover. Where does she come up with this stuff?

ZXB using Shizen Design Handmade Papers for covers

One of my favorite things that Susan and I have done in this class, and which we are building on, is making simplified ZXBs. The idea is to learn one kind of collapsible box (and closure) per week, then use it in repeatedly in different folders. People seem to love this way of learning, as they have something finished to show and to remake after most classes.

Since it’s such a magnificent experience for me to be part of this class, I feel really good about recommending this class to people.

Addendum for the people who are signed up for the class: Optional paper pack is now available! https://etsy.me/3QmWyym

2 thoughts on “The SDBA Connection

    1. HI Nina,
      I make mine to use. I have a large one made from sturdy wallpaper, that I will take with me when traveling, to keep my scissors, papers, bone folders and handy and organized. Around the house I will use one or another to keep various on-going projects together with the materials I use to make them. I’ve given them as a baby shower gift, and put all sorts of things in the boxes that a mom would find useful to carry around. Since I don’t do much sewing, I don’t use it as a sewing kit. Turns out, as I study this form more, there are many traditional ways they were used that don’t have anything to do with sewing. thanks for commenting! Paula


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