Susan Share and I are entering week 9 of our 12 weeks of the Zhen Xian Bao and Beyond classes that we are teaching through the Center for Book Arts. It’s pretty extraordinary to watch people develop over the weeks.
Susan and I have begun most classes by spending a bit of time showing a selection of historical Zhen Xian Baos. The people in our classes seem to have fully embraced the idea that Cathryn Miller expressed so well in the comment section of her first post about the Zhen Xian Bao, which is “there are almost as many variations as there are books!” After our students learn the basics parts of the structure during instructional time, they learn how to size the components to work together, then they experiment with their own creations. What people make retains the conceptual armature of the traditional thread books but are still decidedly unique . We specifically teach how to be flexible and innovate with the elements of the Zhen Xian Bao, which is why the word “beyond” is part of the title for this class.
I have to say that co-teaching this class with Susan Share has been just brilliant. Some days I learn as much as any other person in the class. Even though we worked together many times before, we have our own styles of doing things, and noticing things. Susan sees and works out details that raise the bar in everything we do. She is also like royalty when it comes to thinking about closures. For instance, in the Zhen Xian Bao variation above, she just naturally suggested using the cord from the sewn pamphlet to extend around the folder to hold it closed (see below, left). She is also giving us some insights into Nag Hammadi closures, magnetic closures, crocheted closures, and there’s more to come.
There are so many avenues of inspiration to follow as I take cues from people in the class. For instance, a woman who I will refer to as Sarah B pointed Susan and me to a video of an historical structure, from Yunnan, SW China, which Susan and I went absolutely gaga over. We call it the Sarah B ZXB. After watching the video about 30 times, both Susan and I made our own copies of the structure, and now some of people in our classes are making their own models too.
I have taken to making most of my new pieces in miniature.
Here’s an unadorned model of Sarah B’s ZXB which is only about 4 inches high. What I love so much about it, besides everything, is how accordions are paired with standard Zhen Xian Bao boxes, and how the accordion fold-ins can open up to make a new box.
Here’s another structure I made that shows the influence of Susan, who has gotten me to print designs on my papers from various sources. Also, Jo, a person in the class, has gotten me to think about embellishments in a different way, and another student, Rosemary, who considered using a pocketed side of some folds to add little pamphlets, inspired me to use those hidden pockets for my own little pamphlets.
Zhen Xian Bao with hidden pamphlets
One of the challenges of doing zoom classes is creating a space where people can inspire each other. When we are learning, there is no reason to have all the learning be top down, from instructor to participants, which is especially true when the rest of the people in the zoom are interesting and talented people. Even though class time is for teaching, we inspire and influence each other by posting examples of work on the class page for all to see. Susan and I have also facilitated a “playdate” page where people can post zoom links for times outside of class to gather, fold and talk. It’s simply outrageously wonderful to see people gather outside of class to further develop their work.
Only a few more weeks left to this class. Can’t believe the time is going so fast.
Here are a couple of Instagram treasures, posted by a couple of people in the class. Enjoy!