Zhen Xian Bao · Zoom Workshop

Notes from Beyond

Getting loose with folds, using notebook paper

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.

Playing around with patterns, parts and attachments

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.

Zhen Xian Bao with Beads

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!

Book Artists · exposed sewing

Susan Share at Kenai Peninsula College

By Susan Joy Share, detail

I just received an exquisite postcard from Susan Share, announcing an upcoming show of her recent book work. Here’s the note that came with the postcard:

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to announce my upcoming solo show in Soldotna, Alaska. If you find yourself in the vicinity, please stop in.

This is a show I would love to see. I hope that there will be some on-line coverage of this event. I am green with envy over the luck of the people in Soldotna, Alaska who get to see this show.

Book Artists

Terminal New York, Artists’ Library, 1983: a bit of History


Paula Krieg 1983 Terminal New York Show
1983-Paula Beardell Krieg sending pages down Conrad Gleber’s Falling Sky book Photo by Phyllis Bilick

While trolling around the internet a couple of nights ago I came across an offering  by Robin Bledsoe, Bookseller, for a collection of pages that I had put together in 1983 to accompany a show of books in Brooklyn. Since the bookseller put a $150 price tag on the item (we sold about 80 copies for $5 each) I went in search of the one copy I still have.

This book is a companion to a small part of the Terminal New York show, an ambitious gathering  of about 400 unknown and established artists.

Now, thinking about that show, that experience!, in 1983, I started poking around the internet. Googling , I found that the event is listed in scores of resumes.

The Terminal NY show had many sections to it. It was wild and fresh. My little part, a room with artist books, the Artists’ Library, showed the work of 29 book artists. It was an awesome undertaking. I knew a few book artists at the time, but a connected, generous, and smart guy, Norman Colp, advised me on who else to ask. I met with Grand Dame of artist books Stella Waitzen in her large, dim, overrun-with-art apartment in the Chelsea Hotel. I met and visited with Stephanie Brody-Lederman when she lived outside the city. I had the opportunity to show the work of people who had been by teachers, such as Hedi Kyle, Barbara Mauriello and Mindell Dubansky. People who I was just beginning to know, such as Susan Joy Share and Michael Bartalos exhibited here. (BTW, links posted here are not what was shown by these people in 1983).

Page by Michael Bartalos

The pages of the book  were not meant to be a catalogue to the show. Instead they were a collection of original pages made by the 29 artists. This became a work apart from the show, to accompany, not document the exhibition. I explained this in  the second page of the book.

Page by Hedi Kyle

Now, remember, this was back in 1983, before making good copies of images was an easy thing to do. Most of the pages were in black and white, and, by today’s standards, inferior quality. But the artists each gave me pages that were fun and well thought out. Hedi Kyle, and some others hand-colored their pages.

Page by Martha Carothers

This page, by Martha Carothers, was done with letterpress, as well as hand-coloring. People collaged images, some did rubber stamping: a couple of people played with different levels of opacity with their pages.

As unbelievable as it seems from my current perspective, I don’t think I took even one photograph of the show. The few photos I have were taken by Phyllis Bilick, who, thankfully, put her name on the back of the photos that she gave to me.

Putting together the Terminal New York was an audacious undertaking. It took place in an old Terminal deep in Brooklyn, before artists had moved into that part of the world. I lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which in 1983 was just beginning to be colonized by artists. The Terminal was another 10 miles deeper away from Manhattan. It was so inaccessible by subway that I would bike there daily as we were putting it all together. It is my memory that it was Barbara Gary, a brilliant and gutsy twenties-something artist, who was the driving force that got the ball rolling and held it together.

Photo of Paula with artist books at the Terminal New York Show, 1983. Photo by Phyllis Bilick

By the way, this post is not meant to be an incentive to buy the catalogue from the bookseller who is advertising it. Like I said, most of the pages in the book are low quality B&W copies that look like they were done in 1983, so anyone paying $150 might be disappointed.

That said, there is no amount of money I would sell my own copy for.